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ChurchSquare
Podcast Tips

More and more organizations are finding that church podcasts are a convenient way to communicate with their memberships or to add resources to their site. Whether you are adding your latest event announcement or uploading a sermon audio, church podcast are an effective and easy way to communicate.

If you have the Interactive Plan or above you can add a Media Library page to your site with an automatic church podcast for your media files. You add the Media Library by going to the add page function and selecting the Media Library page on the right. If you have the Starter or Basic plan or want to cast something other than a media file, you can use the manual church process outlined below.

What do you need send a church podcast?

  • Your message or sermon converted to a compressed MP3 file
  • An XML file that defines the content 'CHANNEL' and 'ITEM'

Both of these are loaded to your ChurchSquare web site.

What does the listener need to receive your church podcast?

  • The URL for the XML file - i.e., where you loaded it on the site and the file name
  • A Podcast Receiver - a software program the most well know of which is iTunes from Apple
  • An MP3 Player - most commonly Windows Media Player on your PC but a Smart Phone is the most fashionable!

How do I create the MP3 File for the church podcast?

Assuming you have the file in a digital format, you will need to convert the file to MP3 and compress it for the web. Voice files can be compressed to low Mono quality. I use 20 Kbps Mono for 33.6 Kbps Modems and that gives me about 4-5 minutes of voice for every 1MB of space. I use Sony Screenblast Sound Forge 7.0 but there are many other converters available.

Upload the file (no spaces in your file name) to your Media (M) directory on the web site and then click on the properties link and copy the HTTP: link. Paste the link into a text editor like Microsoft Notepad and save that for you next step. Also copy the size of the file and paste that into Notepad as well.

How do I create the XML file for my church Podcast?

About.com has a good primer on creating the XML file, if you feel you need more information click HERE.

Here is the skeleton that About gives you; copy and paste it into Notepad or your text editor:

 

<?xml version="1.0"?>

<rss version="2.0">

  <channel>
    <title>My Program</title>
    <link>http://www.mywebsite.com/myaudio.mp3</link>
    <description>My first podcast</description>
    <language>en-us</language>
    <copyright>2006</copyright>
    <lastBuildDate>Today's Date*</lastBuildDate>
    <webMaster>youremail@whatever.com</webMaster>
    <ttl>1</ttl>

      <item>

        <title>Today's Radio Show - Monday</title>
        <description>Here's my Monday podcast. Hope you like it.</description>
        <pubDate>Today's Date*</pubDate>
        <enclosure url="http://www.mywebsite.com/myaudio.mp3" length="4834743" type="audio/mpeg"/>

      </item>

   </channel>

</rss>

Note the code for the church podcast basically has 2 areas. The first is the Channel area, just like a radio channel, that identifies your channel, perhaps the name of the church and content type, 'Faith Church Sermon'. This information, aside from the build date, does not change often. Add specifics to the channel code:

    • My Program (like "Faith Church Sermon')
    • The link - this is the HTTP: link for the MP3 file you just uploaded (no spaces in the file name!)
    • Description - this might be something like 'Latest sermon from Faith Church'
    • Copyright - you can add in the copyright holder like '2006 Pastor John Smith'
    • lastBuildDate - enter the date and time in this EXACT format, 'Fri, Apr 21 2006 16:00 -0600'. Note the time is added using a 24-hour clock and also the number of hours different from UCT, New York is -0500, Houston is -0600, etc.
    • webMaster - add your email address

The item refers to a file that is available for download for your church podcast. If you have more than one item you want to broadcast you add more item code sets - refer to the About.com site. Add the title of the sermon or message (not the file name), the description (for example the date of the sermon) the pubDate (same date format as the lastBuildDate) and then the enclosure information. Add the URL of the file, the same http: link you used before, add the file size in the length variable and leave the type as is.

Now save the file with the xml extension. In Notepad click on file > Save As and click the pull down menu on the Save as type window and select All Files. Type you file name and use .xml as you file extension or suffix and click save.

Finally, upload your XML file to your site into the HTML directory. Login to your site, click on File Manager and click on the HTML tab. You can upload it to the main file or create a sub-directory.

If you have a Multi-ministry plan you will also have the site name after the domain name. Test your URL in your web browser - your XML file should be the only information on that page.

 

Making the Church Podcast Available

The first thing you probably want to do is submit your church podcast to the iTunes store podcast directory. Those who use iTunes as their podcast receiver can then subscribe for free to the church podcast through the iTunes store.

To submit the church podcast you will have to have the iTunes software on your PC. Click HERE and then on the Free Download button. Once you have loaded iTunes, click on podcasts in the left source column and then click on Podcast Directory at the bottom of the page. Next click on the "Submit a Podcast" button in the middle of the page. Apple will review and approve your podcast in 2-3 days.

Once you receive notice that they accepted your church podcast, test that everything works!

After approval from Apple you can load information on your web site informing users how to find your podcasts. You can tell them what to search for to find your church podcast in the iTunes Store. You should also list the URL for your XML file. Users who use another podcast receiver will need that URL.

NOTE: If you are using the Media Library and want to list it on the iTunes library use Feedburner to create a feed URL:

1.       Make sure your Podcast description is completely filled out on the RSS/podcast feeds tab within the media library. Your iTunes listing will not be approved unless the description is complete.
2.       Login to your Google account. If you do not have a Google account you will need one.
3.       Go to Feedburner.google.com.
4.       In the window “burn a feed right this instant” paste in the URL from the podcast feed page – the page you go to after you click the orange podcast button.
5.       After you create you feed you will get a feed URL like http://feeds.feedburner.com/YOURFEEDNAME, this is the URL you will use for your iTunes listing.
What Do I Do For My Next Church Podcast?

If you are podcasting church sermons you will want to upload and podcast the new sermon each week or more often if you have mid-week lessons. First decide how many sermons (or audio files) you are going to make available through the church podcast, just the latest one? Maybe the last 2? The podcast receiver will only download new material that is not in the library but a new user will download all of the sermons (which might take them quite awhile to do!) One or two is probably fine for the podcasting community, especially if you also have links on your site to click and play sermons.

If you are adding one new sermon you would first open your XML file that you create in Notepad. Next save your compressed MP3 file (using a different name than you used for other MP3 files) and upload your new sermon to your podcast directory on your site (you can delete the old sermon MP3 file). Now copy and paste into the Notepad XML document the file length and http: reference replacing the old data (remember the http: reference is in the channel and in the item). Change the other information in the item and channel, such as the build date, and item description and item title. Save and upload the file keeping the SAME name and REPLACING the old file on the web site.

To add a second file to your podcast first copy all of the code from "ITEM" to "/ITEM" and paste it prior to the first "ITEM". Now change the code that you just pasted and follow the procedure as above but do not delete the old sermon MP3 file. Both files will now be contained in your podcast.

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