Getting started

This is WordPress. It’s about the most popular blogging platform in the world. It powers around a quarter of the Web, and it’s insanely flexible. Podcasting is a medium that gets its roots from blogging, so using the world’s most popular blogging platform to run a podcast, just makes sense.

In this chapter, we’re going to look at the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, finding a way to host your own WordPress site, and getting a domain name for your podcast. If you’ve already got hosting and a domain name setup, feel free to skip to chapter 2.

WARNING: The following video contains advice of a technical nature. I’ll guide you through the sticky patches, but if you’re worried about getting it right or you just don’t want to deal with it, find a friendly web developer to help you.

Before we dive in, there’s a crucial difference we need to address, between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. While you can technically host a podcast through WordPress.com, it doesn’t give you a great deal of flexibility and, depending on the route you go down, it may end up costing you more. With WordPress.org, you can choose the themes and plugins you install, you can customise your themes using the interface but also via code, and ultimately you have control over your content.

If you’re not used to dealing with web hosting, running your own site can seem daunting, but that’s partly what this course is all about. Ultimately, there are two things you need:

  • a domain name (a .com, .co.uk or something similar which is the address you’ll point your listeners to), and
  • a web hosting package, which is where your WordPress site - and its podcast files - live.

You can separate out the hosting of your site from the MP3 files of your podcast, but for now we’re going to keep everything in the same place. That means you’ll need a hosting package that gives you enough space for your audio files. Let’s pause and talk briefly about the space you need.

For MP3s of roughly CD quality, a good rule of thumb is to allow 1 megabyte of space for each minute of audio. So a half-hour episode of a podcast will take around 30 megabytes of space. Halve the quality of your MP3 audio, and you can get twice the time for the same amount of space, but this only really works for speech, as it makes music sound wobbly.

Let’s say you’re doing a weekly, half-hour show and you’ve been running for a year. That means you’ll need around 1,560 megabytes of space, or 1.6 gigabytes. That’s not a lot nowadays, but you’ll need to choose a plan that gives you plenty of headroom to expand the show past the first year. I reckon 5 gigs is a good place to start.

One final consideration is bandwidth. Hopefully, you’ll only ever upload each episode once, but your shows will be downloaded multiple times, so you need to pick a plan that’s generous in the amount of data it’ll allow you to transfer. If your show has 100 listeners a week, each listener downloads your 30 meg file independently, so you need to allow 3 gigabytes of outbound traffic per month.

I know it sounds like a lot to consider, but if you put just a little bit of research in at the start, it’ll cut down on future headaches once your show is up and running, and you’re drowning in fan mail.

OK, so, your hosting provider needs to give you:

  • a server that can run PHP, the language WordPress is written in, and at least 5 gigs of space
  • a generous amount of outbound traffic
  • a MySQL database, which is where the text and settings for your podcast is stored
  • an IP address
  • an FTP username and password, or
  • an SFTP username and password (if you get given both FTP and SFTP details, use SFTP as it’s more secure)
  • a directory to upload WordPress

If you’ve signed up and don’t know - or can’t find out - whether you have any of the above, contact your host’s support staff. It’s all pretty standard stuff.

Finding a web host is like finding a plumber or an electrician. You can look online or follow an ad, but you’ll probably find a better fit through a personal recommendation, so ask your friends or colleagues who they host with, and start comparing prices and features. I’ve put together a price comparison guide, which you can find in the resources section of this chapter, but you should do your own research to find the best fit for your time, budget and level of expertise. Choose a plan, and once you’re signed up, you should have some web space with an IP address and some login information.

Your host may be able to setup WordPress for you, but if they don’t, you’ll need some FTP software, to transfer files from your computer to your new hosting environment. FileZilla for Mac or PC is a great free option. Just type in the information given to you by your hosting provider, and you should have a directory that you can upload files to. This is where we’ll install WordPress.

Go to wordpress.org and click the blue Download WordPress button. Unzip the downloaded file and drag the contents of the folder over to your new environment. After a few minutes, you should have WordPress ready to go.

Your host will give you either a temporary web address or an IP address. Type either of these into your web browser’s address bar, and you should see the WordPress installation screen. If your host already set WordPress up for you, you’re a step ahead of us, so we’ll catch up to you in a sec. If you don’t see this screen, contact your host’s support staff, or look up the documentation they provide. Usually there are good pointers given to you in the welcome email they send, so start there if you’re stuck.

What we’re doing here, is telling WordPress where to find your database. For this, your host needs to give you

  • a MySQL host name
  • a username
  • a password
  • and a database name

The control panel of your host can provide some of this, but you may need to create a database yourself. Again, the support pages for your hosting package will tell you everything you need to know, so if you don’t have that, pause here, set that up and come back when you’re ready.

Now that we’ve got a website running, we’re going to setup a domain name, which is the address you’ll point your new listeners to. You buy a domain name from a registrar, which is a company that exists to sell domain names and provide services around them.

Choosing the right domain name for a podcast is important. Firstly you need to find something that hasn’t already been taken, but you also want something that’s easy to understand when read aloud. Avoid words that can be confused with numbers, or with other words, if you can. For example, a phrase like “coast to coast” might be confusing because some will assume it uses the number 2, whereas others will type the letters TO. Don’t use a lot of dashes to separate words, because they sound clunky when you say them out loud. It’s more important to have something that’s easy to remember and to type, than something short, so don’t confuse listeners by removing vowels or spelling words in unusual ways if you can avoid it. None of these are cast iron rules, but good things to bear in mind.

And one last note: you don’t need the WWW part of your domain name anymore. It’s a throwback to a slightly older time. People will often still type it, so test that your domain name works with and without it - and contact your registrar if one of them doesn’t work - but it’s tedious to say aloud, and your site works just the same without it.

Just as with hosting, there are lots of places you can get a domain name from, but unlike with hosting, I’m going to make a flat out recommendation to you. I use iwantmyname.com, because it’s quick, clean and doesn’t push me to buy stuff I don’t need, which is what a lot of registrars will do. I can connect up my domain name to my hosting account very simply, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Wow, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this first instalment, but we’ve done the hard part, and I promise you it gets easier from here… well, certainly a lot less technical. If you’ve still got the energy, I’ll be waiting for you in chapter 2, where we’ll finish off the WordPress install and lay the foundations for our new podcast’s website.

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