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Creating Your First iTunes-Compatible Podcast

Have you created a podcast? A podcast is traditionally a recorded show in MP3 format. You syndicate the show by creating an XML document you place on your web site. The XML document contains meta information about your show, such as the name of the file, show information, and artist information. The following XML script demonstrates a simple podcast syndication:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!-- must include xmlns:itunes tag -->
<rss xmlns:itunes="http://example.com/DTDs/Podcast-1.0.dtd" version="2.0">
<channel>
<title>Matt's Podcast</title>
<itunes:author>Matthew David</itunes:author>
<link>http://www.matthewdavid.ws/podcasts/show/default.aspx</link>
<itunes:subtitle>This week: Podcasting for iTunes</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:summary>This is where I can add a summary</itunes:summary>
<language>en-us</language>
<copyright>&#x2117; &amp; &#xA9; 2005 Matthew David</copyright>
<itunes:owner>
  <itunes:name>Matthew David</itunes:name>
  <itunes:email>mdavid@matthewdavid.ws</itunes:email>
</itunes:owner>
<!-- iTunes prefers square images 300x300 pixels or larger -->
<itunes:image href="http://www.matthewdavid.ws/podcasts/show/mdavid.jpg" />
<!-- iTunes Browse Podcasts Category -->
<itunes:category text="Technology">
  <!-- iTunes Browse Podcasts Subcategory -->
  <itunes:category text="Gadgets"/>
</itunes:category>
<item>
  <title>Episode 2</title>
  <itunes:author>Matthew David</itunes:author>
  <itunes:subtitle>All about iTunes Podcasting</itunes:subtitle>
  <itunes:summary>This is where you add a show summary</itunes:summary>
  <enclosure url="http://www.matthewdavid.ws/podcasts/Episode2.mp3" length="4989537" type="audio/mpeg" />
  <guid>http://www.matthewdavid.ws/podcasts/archive/aae20050601.mp3</guid>
  <pubDate>Wed, 22 Jul 2005 12:12:12 GMT</pubDate>
  <itunes:category text="Technology">
  <itunes:duration>3:59</itunes:duration>
  <itunes:keywords>Podcasting</itunes:keywords>
</item>
</channel>
</rss>

This XML file contains both standard podcast tags and special iTunes tags. The iTunes tags are only picked up by iTunes 4.9. You can tell which tags are which because the iTunes tags are identified as <itunes:parameter>. (For details on the various tags and their purposes, see Apple's breakdown.)

It may seem a little overwhelming to create all of these tags. The good news is that tools are available to help this process. You can use Blogger.com or Feedburner.com to help broadcast your MP3 podcasts.

Creating Chapters in iTunes 4.9

The work you've done so far will be fine for MP3 podcasts, but if you want to add chapters you'll need to take some additional steps.

Chapters in podcasts are very much like DVD chapters. When you're viewing a chapter-enabled podcast, such as iTunes New Music Tuesdays, you'll be able to click a thumbnail from a menu and jump to the section of the broadcast you want to hear.

To add this feature to your podcast, you'll need to use the podcast chapter tool, which only runs on the Mac (sorry, Windows users).

The first step is to create an audio file formatted as AAC, an open standard file format for audio. You can create an AAC file with GarageBand (Apple has a great tutorial) or you can just convert an MP3 file that you already have to AAC. Conversion is easy with iTunes' built-in converter:

  1. Find the MP3 file that you created in iTunes.
  2. Right-click the file and choose Convert to AAC from the contextual menu that pops up. This process converts the MP3 file to an AAC file.
  3. Choose Get Info to locate the file on your hard drive.
  4. Copy the file and move it to a folder that you'll be able to find easily later.

The next step to creating podcast chapters is to know exactly, to the millisecond, where the breaks are going to come in your show. Record the breaks on a piece of paper for later reference.

Finally, you'll want an image for each section of the show. You can use either JPEG or PNG images.

Now you're ready to create the show.

Creating Chapter-Enabled Podcasts

The easiest way to create chapter-enabled podcasts is to use one of the free tools available on the Internet. Here are just three of them:

All three of these tools are available only for the Mac. The tools will do all of the conversion and management needed to create a chapter-enabled podcast. If you're curious as to how this process is accomplished, check out Voxmedia's PodcastChapterTool wiki for more details.

Broadcasting from Your Server

The final step is to move all of your files to your web server. Once you've done this, submit your podcast to iTunes. You can do this directly in iTunes 4.9—just go to the podcast directory and choose Submit Podcast. Your site will be submitted and you'll become one of the growing numbers of podcast syndications available through iTunes.

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