How KBIA podcasts with Core Publisher

Nov 5, 2013

The logo for KBIA's news explainer podcast CoMo Explained
Credit KBIA

Core Publisher automatically builds podcasts using the NPR story API. This streamlined podcast creation for us, but it causes some limitations in customizing podcasts and gathering podcast data.

Scott Pham,  Content Director at KBIA, has shared with us his method of customizing podcasts. Thanks Scott!

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At KBIA.org in Columbia, Missouri, we've always "podcasted" our shows online, but it wasn't always as smooth as it is now. When I started working here, we were manually writing XML code into a php file via Dreamweaver. No joke!

Core Publisher makes things a lot easier, but there are still some things you can do to customize your podcasts and make them work better for you. Recently, we've been experimenting with podcasts and have created our first online-only podcast dedicated to explanatory news: CoMo Explained. Starting a new program means you get to set things up the right way. So this guide is really just an explanation of how we manage CoMo Explained.

It's not the only way to do this, and it might not even be the best way, but it works for us right now. Let me know if you do it differently!

Getting your links

Whenever you create a program (tag, topic, category, or person) page, Core Publisher will automatically create an RSS feed. If any posts on this page have audio, Core Pub will also create a podcast. Look for a link to the podcast in the sidebar of your program (tag, topic, category, or person)  page:

When you click on "podcast" you get two options, but they're essentially the same xml file. One just has a URL prefix: "itpc." Slap that guy on any URL in place of "http" and your browser will try to open it with iTunes. Pretty neat!

If you click "Use a different player" you'll get raw markup designed to be read by podcatching software. Nerds and experienced users know to copy and paste that URL into their software but others might just be confused. You can't change what this link contains, so your hope is that nobody clicks it that doesn't already know what they're doing.

Here's what it looks like when someone subscribes to my new podcast by hitting the iTunes link:

I filled out the custom image and title fields in CP, so those carry through to iTunes. You want your cover art to be a 1400 x 1400px jpg or png.

It looks decent, but the fact that it's in iTunes' podcatching software does not mean users can find it in the store. It is "in iTunes" but not yet "in the iTunes store." Ugh, semantics, I know.

Metrics

I'll show you how to get into the iTunes store in a moment, but there's one important thing to consider first: Apple won't measure your downloads for you and neither will CP. So if you want metrics, you'll have to put something in-between CP and iTunes.

There are two great services that you should consider using. One is Feedburner and the other is Podtrac. Think of them as filters, or "pass-throughs." You put your CP feed in and out comes a different feed. That's the feed that you put into iTunes. It's like your old feed but better, stronger, prettier. The main advantage is that all traffic touches the pass-through servers, where it's logged and tracked.

Either service will allow you to customize metadata. I uploaded images both in CP and in Podtrac just in case. You can also update your description and title. Other pieces of meta-data are a crapshoot. For instance, I can change the "website" field in Podtrac to KBIA.org, but not in Feedburner. 

Both services seem to be well-liked by podcasters, but if I had to start over I'd go 100% with Podtrac. Google's Feedburner hasn't been updated in years, which makes me worry it'll some day go the way of Google Reader. Podtrac is prettier, easier to navigate and it has relationships with ad-networks, so if you can muster 20k or more listeners, you have a chance at your own stamps.com promotion or whatever.

A note on podcast metrics: "Subscribers" are difficult to count and the numbers software will give you shouldn't be trusted. When people ask me how may subscribers I have, I will usually just tell them average downloads per episode.

After you've chosen your pass-through, you're ready for the iTunes store:

Getting in the store

You'll need an Apple ID. You may want to make a separate ID for your station that's connected to a station email account.

  1. Open up iTunes and click "iTunes Store" in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Enter your Apple ID if you haven't already.
  3. Go to the "Podcasts" page.
  4. Click on "Submit" a podcast.
  5. Get directed to this weird blue page.     
  6. Enter your Feedburner or Podtrac URL.
  7. Wait.

The iTunes store needs to approve your podcast. They're mostly looking for correct XML formatting, so if you used a pass-through you shouldn't worry. A couple of days later they'll send you a confirmation email and that'll be the last time you ever speak.

iTunes can be kind of a bummer like that. There is no dashboard, no settings, no nothing. If you want to change how your podcast looks in the store, you do that on your end, with the feed itself. If you want to change the actual URL associated with your show, do that with your pass-through.

Do as I say, not as I do

Here's the messed up thing I did with a lot of podcasts. I'm showing you here because it might be helpful if you are in this situation, but hopefully you are not.

Podtrac has been around for a while but when I started at KBIA two years ago, I didn't know about it. So I set up all existing station feeds with Feedburner. I submitted those to the store, which locked me in. I wanted to move to Podtrac, but I can't change the fact that iTunes uses my Feedburner feeds.

Thus: 

Yes, that's a Podtrac feed nested in my Feedburner feed. It totally works. But please don't do this on purpose, because it's ridiculous. It probably adds some lag, and doubles the server downtime. But if you have to do it, you can.

So that's how we do podcasting at KBIA. If you've got a better set up, we'd love to hear it! And if you've got some original podcasts you're working on, we like to listen to those too. Hit me up on twitter.