Copyright 2006 Sharon Housley
Create Podcast Sermons
The Internet has made spreading faith significantly easier. In the past, community residents were limited to the churches, temples and houses of worships that were available within driving distances. Coordinating schedules with sermons could be challenging for busy families.
The Internet has opened the doors to a diverse congregation that exists beyond the traditional borders that communities have become accustom to. Using technology as a communication medium has not been lost on spiritual leaders and many have embraced the Internet as a medium to spread their faith. It is rare to find a house of worship that does not have a website or Internet presense. Expanding upon this theme, parishes looked to podcasting to further expanded the reach of their spiritual counselors and ministers. Many preachers record homilies, hymns, services, sermons or gospel teachings, for parishioners and interested listeners.
Podcasting allows followers to listen to mass or sermons on their way to work or at a time and place of their choosing. Integrating technology into spiritual messages has become a modern solution to chaotic schedules in an online world.
The first step to creating a religious or spiritual podcasts is to record the sermon or material. There are a number of both hardware and software solutions that facilitate the recording of audio content. Many Churches and Ministries already record many of their sermons. If that is the case, its just a matter of properly formatting the file for podcast distribution. In order to maximize the sermons compatibility, the recorded file should be saved as an MP3 file and transferred to the Internet.
A podcast feed is an RSS feed that contains audio enclosures in the feed’s items. To create a podcast, the URL of the audio files must be placed in the enclosure field of the RSS feed. RSS feeds can be constructed manually by using a text editor.
A step by step guide is available at http://www.make-rss-feeds.com . If you are not comfortable hand coding an RSS feed you may opt to use desktop software to create the podcast feed. An easy tutorial for creating a podcast can be found at http://www.feedforall.com/podcasting-tutorial.htm .
Most desktop podcast solutions provide free evaluation versions that can be used for 30 days. This allows users to determine if the software meets their needs prior to making a purchase decision. In other words, you can create an entire podcast using a free download, if you wish to continue to update the podcast with the software each week or month you will need to purchase the software.
Once you have constructed a podcast, you will need to transfer the RSS feed to your server. This can be done using a standard FTP client (FTP clients are often integrated into desktop podcast creation applications). The feed is usually placed in the domain’s root directory like this: http://www.mydomain.com/nameoffeed.xml or a sub directory like this http://www.mydomain.com/rss/nameoffeed.xml .
Now that a new communication medium is available for followers, it is important that you properly promote the podcast as a communication channel. Be sure to share information related to the podcast with parishioners, placing notices in the congregations weekly bulletins or monthly newsletters. Add a mention of the podcast on your community website.
In order to increase exposure of a religious podcast, religious organizations can submit their podcasts to podcasting directories and RSS search engines. This can be done manually. Just as you would submit the URL of a website or web page to a search engine, or you can use software to automate the process. There is even a portal specifically designed for religious and spiritual podcasts.
Religious Podcasts – http://www.religious-podcasts.net
A List of podcast search engines. http://www.podcasting-tools.com/submit-podcasts.htm There is a large list of RSS directories at http://www.rss-specifications.com/rss-submission.htm that you can submit your feed to.
If you prefer to automate the submission process, consider evaluating RSS Submit available from: http://www.dummysoftware.com/rsssubmit.html.
There is an add-on module for submitting specifically to podcast directories, that can be purchased for an additional fee. In order to signal to website visitors that a podcast containing content related to the website is available, include a colorful graphic on the website. Religious feed buttons can be customized by selecting the text on the button and the color scheme of the button. Once the color and text is entered, a custom graphic is instantly created. Webmasters can easily match the style of the RSS button to a website’s theme.
Custom Podcast Graphics – http://www.feedforall.com/public/rss-graphic-tool.htm or locate ready made podcast graphics here: http://www.feedforall.com/podcasting-graphics.htm
Many website visitors who have RSS readers/aggregators installed will automatically detect an RSS feed on the website if you add a small portion of text to the header field of your HTML web page. Use the following format to assist RSS readers in auto-detecting the location of the RSS feed. [link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”Insert Title” href=http://www.yourdomain.com/rss.xml] Replace the brackets  with less than and greater then symbols <> and replace http://www.yourdomain.com/rss.xml with the URL to the RSS feed. Also change the information contained in the quotes following the title= to a descriptive name that relates to your podcast or faith.
Update the Podcast.
Add new items to your podcast daily, weekly or monthly. Simply add a new feed item and link to the audio enclosure as new sermons or teachings are made available. As the feed is updated and posted on your website, subscribers will automatically receive the new content in their aggregator or podcast receiver.
In order to maximize the benefit of podcasting be sure to archive older podcast sermons so that listeners can optionally download older sermons. Because podcasting is a new phenomenon, you may have to educate your audience about how they can listen to a podcast. Include a simple webpage on your site that walks them through the process of subscribing. There is a sample web page that you can add to your website and edit at http://www.podcasting-tools.com/podcast-subscription.htm .
Additional tips to promote podcasts can be found at http://www.feedforall.com/tips-promoting-podcasts.htm and http://www.feedforall.com/podcasting-tips.htm .