A great way to disseminate timely information in manageable chunks that's largely been untapped by the legal aid community is podcasting. I recently did some research into tools and best practices for podcasting substantive immigration law updates, and wanted to share my results. In this post, I have summarized a few steps to getting started. In a later post, I will share some best practices on how to schedule, record and produce podcasts.
First, if you haven't already, listen to a few podcasts so that you understand their general structure and flow. Most podcasts are short (under 30 minutes) and involve either one person discussing a topic or a moderator interviewing a guest or guests. I prefer the latter approach because it provides a variety of viewpoints and, importantly for such a condensed format, the moderator can help to clarify and summarize what's being said.
Next, do some research into the various approaches to recording your podcast. The direction you take here depends on both your resources and where your guests are located. Because I wanted to invite guest from around the country, a phone-based approach was necessary. My first instinct was to look to Skype and an add-on recording service (out of all of the options, I liked Pamela the best). However, I decided against it because, having used Skype for our home phone for some time, I was concerned about the overall call quality. I then looked at phone recorders. I started with a cheap Radio Shack mini recorder, quickly returned it because it produced an audible buzz, and purchased a Dynametric telephone transmit patch. It works like a charm and is also great for recording the audio portion of webinars. You can even use it to play audio on the phone, which comes in handy if you ever find yourself demonstrating multimedia during an online presentation.
Finally, you'll need some software for recording/producing your podcast, as well as a place to store them so that they are accessible online. For capturing audio, I use Audacity, which is a free and fairly robust audio editing software. You can learn the basics of using Audacity here. I add a clip of royalty free music to the beginning, and then use the basic Effects to raise or lower the volume of portions of the audio so that it's consistent. I then convert it to MP3 format and upload it to my account at Screencast.com. It isn't the only good podcast host, but after looking at many of the options I like it the best. Not only does it allow you to restrict access, but it also lets you to provide a link for users to subscribe to your podcasts and a player that you can easily embed on your website so that listeners can hear it instantly.
All of the software, equipment and a yearly subscription to Screencast.com can be had for under $150, and you'll also be able to host screencasts and record and host webinars. More on those later... -M