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Designing, writing and producing a short podcast


Audio is an important vehicle for many messages. Traditionally, you could produce an audio argument and distribute it via tape, radio or CD. Now, the Internet offers a different choice the podcast. A podcast is an MP3 or other audio file that is posted to the Internet. It changes periodically, so people subscribe to it through an RSS feed. When creating a text for distribution through this medium, you have to consider the technical aspects of its creation and its reception. You also have to consider the contextual benefits and drawbacks of the medium. The idea is to get a message across to your intended audience in three minutes and post it to the Internet in the form of a podcast.

For this project, you will be tasked with creating a recruiting or informational podcast. Through a series of steps, I hope you will create an interesting and informative podcast. Ideally, this will be a work that the English Department would consider using. You will be graded according to a rubric we develop as a class. Your graded presentation will include the podcast itself along your written script and a written reflection that includes a rhetorical analysis and justification of your choices, as well as ideas about how this project may have enhanced your understanding of electronic rhetoric, audience, strategy and arrangement.


The purpose of creating a digital podcast is multiple:

(1) to give you exposure to new forms of digital media and software;

(2) to have first-hand experience with copyright issues;

(3) to learn more about a topic of interest to you and to show how that topic relates to what we've been discussing in class; and (4) to have fun and be creative.

Your podcast must be suitable for class presentation, so please avoid obscene language and meaningless sexual or vile audio. 

The materials you will complete for this project will

1. Making Your Podcast

It's helpful to tackle a creative project in stages, such as

  1. Conceptualize your podcast;
  2. Begin researching the topic and outlining the script
  3. Begin collecting your samples and clear copyright;
  4. Record the voice portion of the podcast
  5. Mix your samples into a final podcast.

A. Concept
Start by brainstorming to help give your project focus. Write out a few notes to yourself describing your overall concept. Be sure to hit all angles (sense of purpose, audience, context, statement of purpose, strategies, medium, arrangement, production and testing). It may help to create an imagined list of questions and answers between your intended listeners and you (For example: Q What kind of help can I get for my CRTW classes? A In my podcast, I will explain that the Writing Center is housed in the English Department. I will describe the Center and ) It's not to soon to start thinking about the about the audio samples you would like to collect. Do you want this to sound like a regular radio show? Then you'll want to create intro and exit music. We'll discuss your plans in class on October 10.

B. Begin researching the topic and outlining the script
Like most written documents, initial planning is essential--you'll want to do an outline, storyboard, or some kind of design plan to lay out how you will arrange material to achieve your purpose. Your written script does NOT need to be word-for-word, but rather an idea of each topic covered and how long it takes on the podcast. You should also include notes on any background music or noises you will incorporate in each section. Any music or sounds you include must be copyright free (
http://www.podsafemusicnetwork.com  for some options) or you must have the rights to them. You will also produce an audio file (in Audacity or Garage Band) for the class to listen to on the due date.

C. Samples, Copyright
Your project must have at least three audio samples that you will manipulate or mix; at least two must be samples that you did not record or create. You will need to consider the copyright concerns of each sample.

D. Record Voice
You'll need to have a script for this portion of the project -- the amount of detail in the script is up to you. It can be an outline, or it can be a word-for-word script. We'll talk about the difference between writing for the ear and writing for the eye, if you think you want a fully-scripted recording. Just know that it's an art to make a recording like this sound "natural."

E. Mix!
Now's the fun (creative!) and challenging (time!) of the project. Continue to work the script, and put these audio bits together to form a whole. Note on the script which audio files you've used and the relevant copyright information associated with each. Use your samples and your concept to create a recording that reflects your communication goals. Use the hardware and software of your choice. Have friends (or fellow classmates) listen to your samples and give you feedback. Be sure to save your work often -- and give each version a different file name, so that you can easily "revert" if you don't like a change.

2. Creative Resources (with thanks to Kathy E. Gill, Communications Department, University of Washington)

1. Tools, Equipment, Software
There are many tools for creating and recording samples for your podcast. I have a few portable digital recorders which I will be happy to lend you for your work but your mobile phones, PDAs or laptops may have all the recording capacity you need. A significant amount of audio editing software can be found at
Download.com, which catalogues the freeware and shareware software available for you to experiment with:

Please note that many software companies provide free, trial downloads. Examples include Pro tools (music mixing), FruityLoops, WavePad 1.2 (record and edit sounds files, add effects, amplification, and noise reduction), Rhythm Rascal 2.0.2105 (create drum tracks on your pc), Audio Edit Magic 7.5.8 (record and edit audio files and create special effects). Do note that some of free trials may not allow you to save your files (such as FruityLoops).

2. Audio Samples
With Windows, you can use
Sound Recorder to capture any audio playing on your computer. Ditto Garage Band for the Mac. There are many web sites that offer audio with creative commons licenses (restricted use) as well as royalty-free compilation CDs and free royalty-free music. Some of these web sites require a small fee for use.

3. How To Guides

Copyright Guidelines

One of the goals of this project is to consider issues regarding copyright and new technology. Winthrop's copyright policy is available at www.winthrop.edu/copyright. Especially when you're importing published sound files, you'll want to consider these issues:

  1. Public Domain - Music and lyrics written prior to 1922 in the United States are considered Public Domain.  No one can claim ownership and therefore you can arrange, reproduce, perform, record or publish it. If you use work created in other countries you should refer to that particular country's copyright laws concerning public domain.
  2. Royalty Free - Royalty Free music is music you can use in any creative project after paying a one-time license fee. Often, these fees are very small. There are a number of web sites offering royalty free music such as Shockwave-Sound.com, Royalty Free Music.com (which also offers a selection of free music on their web site), and The Music Bakery.
  3. Creative Common Licenses - Creative Commons Licenses are designed for musicians (digital and otherwise) to offer their work to the public but under particular conditions. Often these works can be used for free, as long as the original author of a sample of music is noted where the work is published. A great resource for learning more about Creative Commons Licenses is the Creative Commons web site and in particular, their list describing the types of licenses you will encounter when searching for audio samples at ccMixter (a community music site featuring thousands of samples licensed under Creative Commons).
  4. US Copyright - General US Copyright Law requires that you ask for permission from an author to record, copy, alter, reproduce, arrange or publish any part of their work in your own creative project. Often one must pay the musician or their record label (or both) for the rights to use their work. 

Be aware of the various types of licensing and laws when collecting your samples. This will not only make you aware of copyright issues but will also give you food for thought about the Creative Commons license you decide to use with your podcast.

You cannot use music from CDs you own (copyrighted) as background music unless it is made available under a license for such use! It is not fair use. You can, however, use clips from radio, TV or CDs to illustrate points you are making in your podcast.

Resource Links

Marshall Jones' handout on how to use Audacity: http://coe.winthrop.edu/jonesmg/lti/podcasting/podcast_audacity.pdf

For basic practice, I recommend either Jones' handout or Dan Eliot's tutorial: http://www.edhsonline.org/other/audacity/.

Eric Rice, "How to build a 10-minute Podcast," http://blog.ericrice.com/blog/_archives/2005/6/4/909411.html (Think of this as an attempt to adapt the five-paragraph theme structure to a podcast)

Jake Ludington, "Recording a Podcast," http://www.jakeludington.com/podcasting/20050222_recording_a_podcast.html (Step-by-step instructions in Audacity)

Blending sound files--advice to metal musicians, but it also works for us:


Podcasting 101 from About.com: http://podcasting.about.com/od/podcasting101/ht/makeprompod.htm