Podcasting for the Complete Bozac

We radio and internet stations are total content factories, but its not always easy for people to find our content. And as it stands now, each station hs to reinvent the wheel making their podcast system. That can lead to some fun variety, but it just as often leads to really shitty looking podcasts. I learned the hard way that it takes a lot of work to come up with a system to make podcasts look decent, and we all benefit from making that experience easier for listeners. Hell, maybe some day people will listen to us as much as they listen to pandora, if we can just make it easy for them. We won't even shove ads down their throats. One can dream. So here's a few tips I learned along the way. If you want to add something, feel free to email me, maybe we should start a wiki or something.

Customizing Directory Listings

Lots of stations are just uploading MP3s and calling it podcasting, which is fine, but at least make those directory listings look decent.

For example, here's a screenshot of what Mutiny Radio's podcasts look like as I type this on July 14, 2011:

Ugh! Ours used to look like that too. After lots of Googling I learned that you can customize a directory listing to look something like this:

Not saying that's the prettiest thing in the world, but at least it doesn't cut off filenames (including the air dates!) and you can have a logo with link above it all.

The secret is using an .htaccess file. You can just download this template I made, unzip it and put it in the root of your podcast directories and you'll be most of the way there. Open the .htaccess file in a text editor and make some edits if you want to customize it. By the way, if your FTP program is hiding the .htaccess file from you, you need to tell it to show hidden files. I have no idea why they all hide them by default, I think its the gods testing us.

Anyway, here's the contents of Radio Valencia's .htaccess file, with comments:

# set some formatting
IndexOptions IgnoreCase FancyIndexing FoldersFirst NameWidth=60 SuppressHTMLPreamble SuppressDescription

HeaderName /header.html

IndexIgnore podcasts.xml thatshowihate whatever.php 

See what I'm saying? Feel free to email me if you don't. Hell I'll even install it for you, it takes all of 5 minutes.

Podcasting in the Literal Sense

Going beyond simply uploading MP3s and into true podcasting took a crapload of work, and I'm a little surprised there isn't something out there to make it easier. Maybe there is?

But there's a few stumbling blocks:

  1. you need to record your shows and upload them. For whatever reason, the podcasting standard doesn't allow for multi-part shows, so if you're archiving in hour long chunks, which I think is what most stations do, you need to stitch those files together before uploading them.
  2. after uploading the content, you need to enter it in a database
  3. ideally you want to make some front-end for the DJs to edit the details of their shows (i.e. the database), so they can add setlists, images, titles, screeds, etc.
  4. you need to build an XML file for each show. You probably want a script (PHP or whatever) to build your XML dynamically from the database
  5. you need to build some script to display your shows, and each show's episodes
  6. you need to submit all this to iTunes so its searchable on iGizmos (I haven't gotten there yet)

I solved most of the above issues with the one true power of the universe, which is of course Python, and I'm glad to share my scripts if anyone else wants to get involved. Maybe we should make an open source podcasting system? My scripts would need to be tidied up a bit, since there were lots of times where it was late enough for me to say "that works well enough for our purposes". But after installing on a few other radio stations it would probably be pretty clean.

Anyway, email me if anyone's interested in going that route.