Frequently asked questions on podcasting (FAQ)

The following questions are answered below:

What is podcasting?

A podcast is group of episodes packaged as a a series of digital media files. The term podcast, like 'radio', can mean both the content and the method of delivery. Podcasting in this way provides a method of distributing audio or videos files over the internet for future playback. When users subscribe to a podcast series, new episodes are automatically added via RSS web syndication to the users preferred podcast application or downloaded to the user's local computer. A particular advantage to podcasting is that the media is easily created by most recording equipment (a computer with a mic and camera) and is encoded into an industry standard (MP3, MP4) that is universally read by computers and portable media devices. 

How does podcast publishing work?

Podcasting uses an XML-based technology called Really Simple Syndication or RSS (more information on RSS). Each podcast is delivered like a news stream, and when you subscribe to this podcast stream, the latest podcast media file is added to the sequence and comes packaged with its title, description, date, and any keywords.  The items then can be either downloaded separately, or there are many other services which make subscribing, downloading and/or streaming each podcast very easy. 

How can I listen to podcasts?

You can listen to audio podcasts, or watch video podcasts, via a huge variety of websites and apps. These sites and apps read podcast series' RSS feeds and present the podcasts in an easily navigable way. They allow you to subscribe to series, download episodes or just stream episodes. 

Most smartphones, tablets and computers come with a podcast manager app:

More options for podcast consumption which offer websites, apps or both:

To find more search the web for "podcast readers" or "podcast services" or "podcasting apps". 

How does Oxford use podcasting?

Educational Media Services (homepage) is responsible for the University of Oxford's podcasting services, as well as all of the University's audio-video production and editing needs. We manage the MediaPub podcast publishing portal. Publishing to MediaPub generates the RSS feeds that populate the two sites where Oxford podcasts can be found.

Firstly, Oxford podcasts are published to the University of Oxford Podcasts website, where users can search and listen to/watch podcasts direct from the site.

Secondly the University of Oxford's site on Apple Podcasts, which became available on October 7th 2008. Apple Podcasts requires the listener/viewer to have a podcast reader application such as the Apple Podcasts app (see How can I listen to podcasts?)

How do I get started publishing a podcast?

The best way is to read through our Podcasting - Getting Started guide. This guide will provide an overview to the steps required to get podcast content created and published. Briefly, you must download and have the podcast "speaker" sign the release form; create a relatively high-standard mp3 audio or mp4 video file; send us the media file to place it online, create a series into which you may catalog your podcast episode and link to the file (using MediaPub), and then have us review everything before we approve the episode for publishing.

What is MediaPub?

MediaPub is a Drupal site that has been developed for University of Oxford users to publish audio and video (and in some cases ePub books and PDFs) files for podcasting. MediaPub allows user to create a podcast series with an album cover, series description, and the Oxford division/unit to which it belongs. When a user is responsible for a series, they may also add individual podcast episodes to this series. When episodes are added, the user must describe the episode with  metadata about the episode: its title, description, the people speaking, an Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes U) category, the legal contribution form, and the media file itself. When this episode it published, MediaPub produces the RSS feed that -- after about 24 hours -- provides the "latest" updates to both Apple Podcasts and the University of Oxford Podcasts website.

For more information on MediaPub and the publishing process, please visit the MediaPub Publishing Guide help pages. 

How do I access and use MediaPub?

All Oxford University members have access to MediaPub by logging in with their Oxford single sign-on (SSO) at the MediaPub website. However, you must first have certain permissions enabled to create a new series or view any series that you are a 'maintainer' of.  To gain this access, please email us at podcasts@it.ox.ac.uk to request edit access to a particular series your unit/department is responsible for, or to request the ability to create a new series. 

For more information on MediaPub and the publishing process, please visit the MediaPub Publishing Guide help pages. 

How do I create a new podcast series?

If you are already a maintainer of an existing series, this series will appear on your dashboard when logging into the MediaPub website. If you want to create a new series, you must have special permissions, and these can be requested by emailing podcasts@it.ox.ac.uk 

Once you are provided these permissions, you will then see an olive-green tab appear on MediaPub entitled 'Add New Series'. By clicking on this link, you can then enter the title, description, associated unit/department, and album cover for a new series. This does not publish the series, it only provides the thematic container into which you can begin to create particular episodes that belong to the new series. 

For more information on MediaPub and the publishing process, please visit the MediaPub Publishing Guide help pages. 

What should I name my new series?

This is one of the most important parts of publishing a podcast. A series is the way the world will (or will not) decide to subscribe to the podcast episodes it contains. It is what a user sees first, both on Apple Podcasts and on the University of Oxford Podcasts website.

For this reason, it is the series that must first attract a new subscriber/listener. The series title should be infomative, short, meaningful, descriptive, and thematic of the episodes it contains. The title, its corresponding cover image, and the series description should invoke an accurate portrayal of what the subscriber/listener should expect to hear/watch/learn if they choose to subscribe and start listening to or watching the podcast content.

The title and description should also appeal to a global audience, not just an audience within the UK or within Oxford University.

For more advice visit our MediaPub writing and discoverability guidelines webpage. Heed these in your own interest, as a series with a strong and meaningful title/description is what creates higher viewership statistics to pass on to your department or project group.  

How do I create a new podcast episode?

You can do this by logging onto our podcast publishing platform MediaPub (website) using your Oxford single sign-on.  If you are already a maintainer of an existing series, this series and any others you maintain will appear on your Mediapub dashboard. To create a new episode, click on the series you maintain under which you wish to publish the new episode. On that page, you will see a "Create a new episode in thes series" link.

For more information on MediaPub and the publishing process, please visit the MediaPub Publishing Guide help pages. 

How many episodes are permitted per series?

We encourage series growth. However, there are technical constraints to our publishing platform and to Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes U). There are two loose ways of conceptualising our service: series as fixed subject and series as growing collection.

  • Series as fixed subject: We encourage the development of podcast series based on a specific, subject-based theme, and that contain a finite number of episodes (e.g., much like chapters that make up a book, or modules that make up course). In our experience, it is these kinds of series that are usually the most successful (i.e., generate the most number of views and/or downloads), and they usually contain 10 to 35 episodes. 
     
  • Series as growing collection: Many successful series, on the other hand, operate more like a growing collection, to which one subscribes for the "latest" release. Some of series we publish have more than 100 episodes, and have been growing since 2009. 

Lately, due to technical constraints, we have had to manage the number of episodes in these growing series. Apple Podcasts, our main publishing channel (second to the University of Oxford Podcasts website) has for the best experience recommended no more than 50 episodes per series. This is not strictly enforced by Apple, but as of 2016, our largest series have experienced severe technical issues due to size. For this reason, we have started explicitly asking the maintainers of large (100 episode +) series to find ways to break these up, in the following two ways, or a mix of them:

  • Large 100+ series are divided up thematically into a fixed subject; and/or,
  • The oldest episodes from 100+ series are removed and placed in a dated archival series with the same series title. The current growing collection is otherwise not changed. For instance, if "Series XYZ" contains over 150 episodes from 2010 to 2017, in order for this series to keep providing the "latest" podcast release, the episodes between 2010 and 2013 should be removed an placed in a series entitled "Series XYZ (2010 - 2013 archive)", resulting in two series:
    • "Series XYZ"
    • "Series XYZ (2010 - 2013 archive)"

These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, and will not occur without the cooperation of a series departmental maintainer.

What is a "speaker release form" and where can I find one? 

Publishing podcasts requires that participating speakers provide permission for their talk to be released. For this reason, Educational Media Services provide a "Speaker Release Form" that all speakers must sign before we can publish this material on the University of Oxford Podcasts website or on Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes U).

You can download the Speaker Release Form here. All participants on a podcast must complete and sign an individual form.

On the form, there is the option to tick a box that additionally makes the podcast available for re-use under a Creative Commons License, which makes the content frree for re-use, remixing, and redistribution within an educational context worldwide. While ticking this box when signing the contribution form is optional, we encourage this practice. More information on Creative Commons.

The signed original(s) can be posted to: Educational Media Services, 13 Banbury Road, OX2 6NN

Alternatively signed, scanned copies can be emailed to podcasts@it.ox.ac.uk

Will my podcast updates be published instantly?  

In short, no. We do not offer an instant publishing service, and make no exceptions to this, as per our service agreement.

After the required steps have been taken to publish your podcast (i.e., pay particular attention to steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 on our Podcasting - Getting Started overview page), only Educational Media Services can "publish" your new podcast or podcast updates. Once we publish, however, for technical reasons it takes an additional 24 to 48 hours before your updates will appear on the University of Oxford Podcasts website or on Apple Podcasts.

Thus, when managing your project, always count on an additional day after we approve and "publish" your material before it will appear as properly published and online for public consumption.

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For help with podcasting and publishing contact Educational Media Services

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Educational Media Services

13 Banbury Rd, Oxford, OX2 6NN

Tel: (+44) 01865 289983

Email: media@it.ox.ac.uk