Podcasting Basics for Churches

Why Apple Podcasts?

Quite simply, Apple Podcasts is the master copy other directories use. I personally use an app called Overcast to listen to podcasts but Overcast pulls episodes from Apple Podcast’s directory. Essentially, if the podcast is on Apple Podcasts, every other podcast app will have it as well.

Hosting the podcast

There are a number of platforms to host a podcast with. This is essentially a platform which takes hosts your RSS feed (what podcasts are built on). This is similar to you pay for website hosting which you pay for. There are a few good options out there that I’ve worked with, specifically Soundcloud, Podbean and Libsyn. Whichever solution you choose, you’ll need to upload at least 2-3 episodes for Apple Podcasts to review and approve the podcast.

Libsyn

Libsyn has been around forever and offers a great 5$ a month plan. You get 50MB per month of storage. This plans lacks robust analytics but I think that is okay for right now. It can always be upgraded if the podcast is getting a lot of attention.

Setting things up in Libsyn

To get started, hover over Settings and hit Show Settings found along your main menu bar across the top of your dashboard.

Next, you’ll be prompted to fill out recommended information, which is not required in the Libsyn system, but may be required fields for directories like Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Make sure to have some artwork for the podcast. Something like your logo would work fine, so long as it meets the following guidelines:

  • 1400x1400px minimum
  • 3000x3000px maximum
  • Under 500kb in file size
  • Use sRGB Color space
  • Be a JPG, JPEG, or a PNG file

For more on this click here.

Publishing an Episode from Libsyn

To publish an episode, hover over Content and click on Add New Episode. Click Add Media. After selecting the file you want to upload, you can add some details like an episode description or show notes.

You can select artwork specific for the episode or continue to use your main logo for your artwork. You can then select to schedule your episode or to publish it immediately.

You can then select to publish the episode or to save it as a draft. Note that if you have not scheduled your episode, this will push your episode out to your destinations immediately. If you have scheduled your episode, hitting Publish will initiate that schedule.

For more on this click here.

Submitting your podcast to Apple Podcasts from Libsyn

To submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts for approval, you’ll need to:

  1. Log into Podcasts Connect using your Apple ID. (It might be a good idea to use a church related email if possible, that way the Apple ID is associated with the church rather than with just one individual)
  2. Hit the plus sign in the top left corner of Podcast Connect.
  3. Copy and Paste your RSS feed URL (found on the Libsyn destinations page) into Apple Podcast Connect.
  4. Validate your podcast (hit the validate button).
  5. Look over the details on this page. Make sure everything looks correct. The Status should show a green icon and the words “Prepared for Submission”. If everything looks good, hit the Submit button in the upper right-hand corner. If the Status has a red icon, the system will tell you the specific errors it is finding.
  6. Submit your podcast.

Once you have submitted your podcast, you’ll receive an email from Apple Podcasts acknowledging receipt. You’ll receive another email after it’s approved. If you need help submitting your podcast to Apple Podcasts, Libsyn’s help article can be found here.

Podbean

Podbean has a free podcast plan but note that it is limited to 5hrs total storage. Not a lot to work with here. Their next level plan is 9$ per month (on an annual billing plan) and is unlimited in terms of storage, which is great. They also have some basic analytics which are useful, but not a necessary thing.

Setting things up in Podbean

On your settings page, set your podcast title, your description and logo. The logo image must meet the iTunes specifications: 

  • Cover art must be in the JPEG or PNG file format with appropriate file extensions (.jpg, .png). Be sure the file name is letters, numbers, underscores or dashes only. Do not include an extra period (e.g. myart.V1.jpeg will fail validation).
  • In the RGB color space with a minimum size of 1400 x 1400 pixels and a maximum size of 3000 x 3000 pixels, 72 dpi.

Publishing a new episode in Podbean

  • At the dashboard click the Episodes menu item. The click Episodes List, then New Episode. Select a file to upload.
  • Edit the episode title, description and upload an episode specific image if you wish.
  • Finally, click Publish to release the episode, schedule the episode, or save as a draft.

For more on this, click here for a Podbean support video.

Submitting your podcast to Apple Podcasts from Podbean

To submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts for approval, you’ll need to:

  1. Log into Podcasts Connect using your Apple ID. (It might be a good idea to use a church related email if possible, that way the Apple ID is associated with the church rather than with just one individual)
  2. Hit the plus sign in the top left corner of Podcast Connect.
  3. Copy and Paste your RSS feed URL by clicking on Settings, then Feed on your Podbean dashboard. Click View RSS Feed at the top of the page and copy and paste the URL once it appears. Paste this link into Apple Podcast Connect. For help finding your RSS Feed URL click here.
  4. Validate your podcast (hit the validate button) on Podcast Connect.
  5. Look over the details on this page. Make sure everything looks correct. The Status should show a green icon and the words “Prepared for Submission”. If everything looks good, hit the Submit button in the upper right-hand corner. If the Status has a red icon, the system will tell you the specific errors it is finding.
  6. Submit your podcast.

Once you have submitted your podcast, you’ll receive an email from Apple Podcasts acknowledging receipt. You’ll receive another email after it’s approved. If you need help submitting your podcast to Apple Podcasts, Podbean’s help article can be found here.

For more on this, click here for Podbean’s support article.

Soundcloud

Soundcloud has a free plan w/ 3 hour’s worth of storage per month. It lacks analytics but that shouldn’t be a major issue for starting out.

Setting things up in Soundcloud

After you’ve created an account go to your profile and click Edit. You’ll need to upload a logo or image, create a description of your podcast. This will be your RSS feed description. From the Settings page, click Content and proceed to choose a category for the podcast, language, and enable the RSS feed settings. For more on this click here.

Publishing a new episode in Soundcloud

  • Under the Settings tab, click Content and click Include in RSS Feed.
  • Click the Upload Button on the top navigation menu. You can edit some of the content associated with your episode like the image, the title and description, etc.
  • To make sure your episode is included in your RSS feed, click on the Permissions tab within the edit page and make sure the option to include it in your feed is selected.

Submitting your podcast to Apple Podcasts from Soundcloud

To submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts for approval, you’ll need to:

  1. Log into Podcasts Connect using your Apple ID. (It might be a good idea to use a church related email if possible, that way the Apple ID is associated with the church rather than with just one individual).
  2. Hit the plus sign in the top left corner of Podcast Connect.
  3. Go to the Content Settings Page of your Soundcloud dashboard. Copy and Paste your RSS feed URL into Apple Podcast Connect.
  4. Validate your podcast (hit the validate button) on Podcast Connect.
  5. Look over the details on this page. Make sure everything looks correct. The Status should show a green icon and the words “Prepared for Submission”. If everything looks good, hit the Submit button in the upper right-hand corner. If the Status has a red icon, the system will tell you the specific errors it is finding.
  6. Submit your podcast.

Once you have submitted your podcast, you’ll receive an email from Apple Podcasts acknowledging receipt. You’ll receive another email after it’s approved.

Hosting the podcast with Squarespace

There are a number of platforms to host a podcast with. This is essentially a platform which takes hosts your RSS feed (what podcasts are built on). This is similar to you pay for website hosting. Squarespace provides an all-in-one website management platform and has podcasting features built in. The limitation with using Squarespace is that your web hosting and podcast hosting are tied together. Should you move website hosting, you’ll also need to find new podcast hosting. Squarespace is also more limited in its analytics offerings, but I would consider that a minor concern. To get a short overview of podcasting with Squarespace click here.

Setting it up in Squarespace

To setup your podcast on Squarespace you’ll need to create a blog page. To add a new blog page, go to Home Menu, then Pages, and finally click the + icon to add a blog page. For each episode you will create a blog post using Squarespace’s audio blocks. 

You’ll have to manually enter some details about the podcast by going to Home Menu, then Pages, the settings icon for the blog page, then Feeds, then finally Podcasting. You’ll need some artwork for the podcast. Something like your logo would work fine, so long as it meets the following guidelines.

  • Square .jpg or .png file
  • At least 1400px × 1400px, but no larger than 3000px × 3000px
  • RGB color format
  • 72 DPI

Posting an episode

Before submitting the podcast to Apple Podcasts, we need to have posted a few to Squarespace. To do so, go to the blog page we’ve created for podcasting. Click the + icon to create a new post and in the page editor select and audio block. In the embed tab, click upload file (.mp3 format). You’ll have the opportunity to edit the file name here, and you should take this as an opportunity to make sure the file is named something relevant to the content, whether that be the date, the date and the speaker, etc. You’ll need to add some tags for information about the episode that Apple Podcasts requires. You can do this by clicking the podcasting tab within the Audio Block editor. After you’ve done this, click Apply to add the audio block to the blog post.  Click Done and Publish to save the post and publish it to your feed. By hovering over Done you can also choose to schedule the post in the future. For explicit details on this step please click here.

Finding your RSS feed URL

Your RSS URL is based on your built-in domain and blog page name. Using your built-in Squarespace URL, which Squarespace recommends. You can use a custom domain, i.e., (http://yourwebsite.com/blogname?format=rss), Squarespace suggests that using the built-in domain name is more stable. The URL won’t be visible anywhere on Apple Podcasts or to your subscribers, so it is likely best to follow Squarespace’s suggestion.

You can read more about this in this Squarespace article, Finding your RSS feed URL.

Submitting your podcast to Apple Podcasts

To submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts for approval, you’ll need to:

  1. Log into Podcasts Connect using your Apple ID. (It might be a good idea to use a church related email if possible, that way the Apple ID is associated with the church rather than with just one individual)
  2. Copy and Paste your Squarespace RSS feed URL into Apple Podcast Connect.
  3. Validate your podcast.
  4. Submit your podcast.

Once you have submitted your podcast, you’ll receive an email from Apple Podcasts acknowledging receipt. You’ll receive another email after it’s approved.

New Episodes

Now that you have your podcast and blog page setup for the podcast, each blog post with an audio block will be published on Apple Podcasts as a new episode. Don’t add multiple audio blocks to a single blog post page as Apple Podcasts will only read and publish the first one.

Additional Resources

Apple Podcast Best Practices

Other useful tools:

Podbase checklist – This will help ensure your podcast won’t get rejected by Apple Podcasts for a technical error

Otter.ai for translation – This is a great way to get transcripts for your episodes if that is of interest to you. 600 minutes per month free.

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