Archives to Earbuds: Podcasting Digital Collections at the Kansas Historical Society

Michael A. Church
June 18, 2009


In October of 2007, the State Archives & Library Division of the Kansas Historical Society (KSHS) in Topeka, Kansas (hereafter referred to as the “Archives”), launched a digital memory project called Kansas Memory.1 As a comprehensive digital archives, the site features a growing number of digital surrogates of the Historical Society’s rare and unique collections. The Archives made its initial foray into podcasting in January 2007, in an effort to promote the launch of the new site. The Kansas Memory Podcast presents historical vignettes of periods, issues, and events in Kansas history through oral histories, dramatic readings of texts, and interpretive narration (see figure 1). Podcasting at KSHS grew out of the Archives’ efforts to reach a non-traditional, but core, audience where they are. Increasingly, that place is the Internet.

Fig. 1. Kansas Memory Podcast logo.

Fig. 1. Kansas Memory Podcast logo.

Context of the Case Study

As an extension of our digital collections initiatives, the Kansas Memory Podcast is intended to enhance access to primary sources for K—12 teachers and students and the general public, who have been core, but hard-to-reach, constituencies for the Archives. Founded in 1875, KSHS is a state government agency with a legislative mandate to preserve and promote the history of Kansas. One of six KSHS divisions, the State Archives & Library includes the records and publications of the state government, a manuscript repository, and map, photograph, and audiovisual collections. While KSHS manages sixteen historic sites throughout the state, it operates one central collections repository in northeast Kansas. Reaching the statewide audience that KSHS is mandated to serve has always been a challenge, especially K—12 educators and students. Podcasting and other Web 2.0 tools provide the Archives a means to serve these groups. In doing so, we fully agree with Julia Hendry’s assessment of recent trends in K—12 education and the Internet that, in her words, “represent an opportunity for archives to expand their patron base, establish contacts in the community, contribute to the vitality of public education in their communities, and cultivate the next generation of archives’ users, donors, and supporters.”2

Brief Description of Podcasts

Podcasting is the syndicated delivery of audio or video files over the Internet for use with mobile, Internet-based media devices. The core of this new concept is syndication: automatic file downloading through live links or “feeds” that update whenever new content is available. The term “podcast” originated with the delivery of content for Apple’s iPod and other MP3 players in 2000, and joins the iPod brand with the “broadcasting” concept employed by more traditional media (i.e. radio and television). While podcasting is typically associated with low-quality audio files (i.e., MP3), continued advances in mobile technology mean that file types used in podcasts are increasingly diverse, as evidenced by the growing number of mobile media players on the market and the number of file types they support.3

In December of 2005, Oxford University Press announced the word “podcast” to be the New Oxford American Dictionary 2005 Word of the Year, citing its rise from arcane “techie” obscurity to its then-pervasive media presence.4 In fact, the phenomenal popularity of the word may somewhat belie podcasting’s actual use. A recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Podcast Downloading 2008,” shows that only “19% of all internet users … have downloaded a podcast,” and of those users, only 17 percent do so on a daily basis (just 3 percent of all internet users). On the other hand, podcast users have increased 12 percent since spring 2006. The Pew report shows that frequent podcast users tend to be male, under fifty years of age, and have a higher socioeconomic status. Internet users who have a broadband connection, and users of portable media players are much more likely to use podcasts. The report shows that 61 percent of young adults between eighteen and twenty-nine years old own MP3 players. Parents, those with broadband, and persons with higher income and education are also more likely to own portable media players.5

The Pew report confirms a similar study by the market research firm Edison Research, titled “The Podcast Consumer Revealed, 2008.” The Edison report shows that 18 percent of Americans have reported downloading a podcast, and that the time users spend listening to podcasts is increasing. The report also notes that the most frequent podcast consumers are attractive advertising targets that can be difficult to reach through more traditional media.6

The Technologies Behind Podcasting

While the posting of audio or video files to the Web for download is certainly possible without syndicated technology, it is syndication that puts the “broadcasting” into podcasting. Syndicated feeds and feed readers provide the technical foundation for automating the delivery and downloading of audio and video files.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is the primary format used for creating syndicated feeds, and the omnipresent orange RSS icon has been an industry standard since 2005 (see figure 2). The RSS feed is a standard Extensible Markup Language (XML) format that uses tags to define elements of the channel (or feed), much like HyperText Markup Language (HTML) defines elements of a Web page. Feeds may be created manually (using a combination of elements and tags as in any markup language), or through a feed creator (such as Feed For All software). Once created, the feed automatically updates a link in the feed reader with new content and even allows for preference-based settings that may automatically initiate the downloading of new content.7

Fig. 2. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) icon.

Fig. 2. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) icon.

At the other end of the podcasting continuum, the RSS reader and aggregator provide the virtual stage upon which podcasts are accessed, organized, and, in some cases, judged. A “reader” is any Internet-based application that facilitates automated updating (or downloading) of files through syndicated feeds and the management of those feeds. A reader allows you to subscribe to a feed and organize the feeds to which you have subscribed. A basic reader, like Google Reader, allows you to create a space of your own and manage your automated feeds in ways that are useful to you. An “aggregator,” on the other hand, harvests available syndicated programs for you, organizes them into a directory by topic (or some other arrangement), and some even review them or allow users to review them. iTunes was one of the first and most popular aggregators of podcast content, developed specifically for delivering commercial and non-commercial audio (and later video) content for Apple’s popular iPod portable media player. Other popular podcast aggregators that automate the delivery of podcast content include Juice Receiver, Podcast Alley, Switchpod, Podbean, PodcastBlaster, and many others.

Implementing Podcasting at KSHS

Once the Archives decided to develop a podcasting program, the initial challenge was deciding on an appropriate style and focus. The podcasts would be used as a tool for marketing a growing number of digital, text-based collections, and would draw on these collections for source material. But how to present that material aurally?

The Cool Things Podcast by the Kansas Museum of History (the Museum division of KSHS) provided a convenient example.8 Begun in 2006 as a way to reach a younger (twenties and thirties) audience, the Cool Things Podcast was chosen as the number-one Museum podcast in its first year in publication by MuseumPods, an aggregator of museum podcasts and social media network. With a loose and engaging interview format, indie music, and eclectic topics, the Cool Things Podcast presents a relaxed and edgy, behind-the-scenes look at artifacts in the Museum collections. Subsequent awards in 2007 by MuseumPods, and 2008 by the American Association of Museums, affirmed the appeal this approach has with podcast users.9 Survey results of the Cool Things Podcast for 2008 indicate it was reaching its target audience, with 80 percent of listeners surveyed identifying themselves as under thirty-nine years of age. Initially, the Archives considered the Museum’s loose, conversational format for podcasts. With source material limited to current digital collections available at the time, podcast topics were confined to Kansas’ territorial period (1854 to 1860) and the struggle for “Bleeding Kansas.” Archives staff had difficulty conveying the significance of the materials and topic in the same glib, jocular manner used by the Museum. Further, the richness of text-based collections lay in the meaning and diction of the language itself and was difficult to convey aurally outside of a reading. This difficulty led the Archives to adopt a programmatic approach to podcasting, with dramatic readings of documents and carefully scripted narration. While this approach likely has less appeal to young adults, presenting the text in the author’s voice allows listeners to interpret the meaning of the text for themselves. The topical focus on territorial Kansas that began in January 2007 ended in October of that year with the launch of the Kansas Memory digital collections website. The availability of a large number of additional digital materials allowed staff to considerably expand the podcast topics to include materials from all historic periods and regions of the state. An outline of the major steps and considerations for this type of podcast will follow.

Topics are exclusively chosen from textual (manuscript or printed) and audio materials available on Kansas Memory, so sources are limited by the selection criteria for the digital collections. To a large degree, these criteria are defined by state K—12 curricular standards and research requests, and meet the stated goals of the podcast program. Materials not already digitized might be converted especially for use with an upcoming podcast, but demands on our imaging lab from patrons or other programs may make a quick turnaround of this material difficult.

Time and familiarity are also limiting factors when selecting topics for a podcast. Staff generally focus on topics they are already familiar with or material that is fairly self-explanatory in order to reduce the amount of time required for production, though some research is required in order to prepare the narrative. If the topic is too unfamiliar or requires a considerable amount of research, the topic may be avoided or put on hold until a qualified volunteer or intern is available. Priority may also be given to material that has already been transcribed. Over the last two years, the selection of podcast topics has evolved considerably, due to continuing staff reductions. Written narration has become less detailed and more focused on the materials themselves, while less time is spent portraying the larger historical context.

Audio recordings also provide ready-made material for podcasting. As available staff and time increasingly become limiting factors in podcast production, more use will likely be made of audio collections currently being prepared for conversion and delivery on Kansas Memory, though the range of topics available in audio formats may be limited. Selections of audio recordings can easily be interwoven with narrative description to create a quick and engaging program. We have recently taken advantage of several oral histories created in the 1990s with persons involved in the landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court case, such as the Christina Jackson interview.10 The downside to using audio collections, and especially field recordings, is the sound quality, which is often very poor. Sound levels can be adjusted with editing software but little can be done to make a poor recording comparable to narration recorded in a studio. While recording quality is often the biggest limiting factor with these materials, if staff and listeners are willing to tolerate the imperfections, then these can be very poignant and timely sources. For example, in 2008 the Archives created a public recording booth to accompany the Museum’s “Forces of Nature” exhibit on Kansas weather events. The exhibit ran from March 2008 to January 2009. Visitors to the exhibit used the booth to record their own stories on Kansas weather. A data form in the booth’s computer terminal prompted visitors to create the requisite metadata themselves before recording. The recording quality varied a good deal, depending on the person operating the recorder and the events occurring outside the booth at that time. Still, a number of very germane stories were collected, including accounts of recent floods in the Smoke Hill Valley of central Kansas and an account of the 2007 tornado at Greensburg, Kansas, by a first responder. A number of these recordings have been added to our permanent digital collections, and several have been featured in recent podcasts.11

In order to facilitate recording, we prepare the text and hand out staff reading assignments well ahead of time. Manuscript materials are usually transcribed by volunteers and must be reviewed for accuracy. A number of decisions must be addressed here. Do you translate the text verbatim to spoken word, or do you correct the text so the reading sounds intelligible? A garbled sentence in a hastily written letter makes even less sense when read aloud. The proper pronunciation of names should be established and decisions made regarding how to handle abbreviations and other non-verbal characters (i.e., a dash that replaces a profane word). An interpretive narration needs to be written identifying the topic/materials and explaining their broader context. We then prepare a reading copy of the script and transcriptions that are given to the readers.

Staff constructed an improvised sound booth in our digital imaging lab for recording the narration and readings. The recorder we use is a digital, flash media field recorder (Marantz PMD660), that produces 16-bit WAV files at about ninety minutes of stereo per one gigabyte of memory. The recorder’s memory card can be removed and files transferred to a desktop computer easily via a USB port, but expensive recorders are not necessary to create audio for podcasts. There are a number of audio recording and editing software packages on the market that are very reasonably priced, like Windows Audio Recorder or AVS Audio Recorder, and some that cater to podcasting, like Record for All. Open source software, like Audacity, is available online as a free download and presents another good option.

We conduct a brief sound check with each reader and adjust the intake levels on the recorder accordingly, depending on how loud the reader speaks. Our readers pause if they make a mistake and pick up where they left off with the recorder still running. We found this to be easier than starting the recording over or starting a new file as a second take. Recording through the mistakes allows each reading to be edited as one file and reduces the confusion involved with managing/editing several takes into one reading. We use Audacity to edit the readings and narration. Files are transferred to a desktop and opened with Audacity. The finished narrative and readings are spliced together into one track and the music is added as a background track. We save the original recordings as WAV files. Projects edited in Audacity are saved in AUP, an Audacity format that is not compatible with other programs. In order to export the completed project as an MP3 file, we download a separate MP3 encoder, such as LAME, to convert the file.

Finding historically appropriate music that can be used legally in a podcast can be challenging. We have taken two different approaches. Local/self-published performers are a good source for recordings of historic music, and will often allow the publication of pieces of recordings in return for acknowledgments. Our podcasts have used local groups like The Free Staters with this arrangement, but non-local groups with self-published recordings, like Curly Miller and Carole Anne Rose, Paul and Win Grace, and Sweet Honey in the Rock, have also been receptive to this agreement. We have also used music-licensing companies, like Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and the American Society of Performers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), that collect license fees and pay royalties to their members for performances of their music. Obtaining a license with BMI or ASCAP gives you access to limited use of thousands of recordings from their member catalogs. These files can usually be downloaded directly from the website for use in digital productions. Some independent record labels, like Rounder Records, handle their own licensing agreements and make such agreements for individual songs available on their website.

When choosing music, keep in mind that there may be several parties who have an interest in the recording of a particular song or piece of music, including not only the performer but also the composer and lyricist, and you may need permission from all interested parties before using a recording. To help alleviate this problem, several “podsafe” music sites are now available that provide access to music permissible to use in podcasts. Sites like the Podsafe Music Network, Podsafe Audio, and GarageBand allow registered podcasters to use copyrighted music posted by artists free of charge. The podcaster must report the use of the music and provide a link to the artist’s profile; often, the artist’s profile will also include a link to the podcast.12

To be very effective, podcasts should be delivered at regular, frequent intervals. Podcasts that are too irregular or too infrequent may risk losing the interest and commitment of the audience. Initially, the Kansas Memory Podcast released a new program every two weeks. By the second year, however, staff reductions made the demands of a regular two-week release untenable, and the Archives switched to a monthly schedule. Continued reductions will undoubtedly lead to a more efficient production schedule and necessitate a more streamlined approach with less narration and interpretation. Ultimately, frequency will be a reflection of the amount of staff time and resources able to be devoted to the project.

The Kansas Memory Podcast has, from the beginning, relied on volunteers to create transcriptions of manuscript materials and, in some cases, write the narrative descriptions. In an era of ever-diminishing resources, dedicated and talented volunteers can often make or break a program like this. Further, volunteers need not have technical savvy in order to participate. There can be many opportunities to involve volunteers at a variety of ages and skill levels. Similarly, we’ve been able to involve many different staff in the project as readers. This has helped spread out the work and add variety and diversity to the final production.

As with any archival program, care must be taken to ensure that the reproduction and dissemination of the materials presented in the podcast do not infringe on the rights of current copyright holders or other interested parties. Several “roadmaps” to the legal issues involved with podcasting and blogging are available online from groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit, digital rights advocacy group. These and other resources raise important issues that may be easily overlooked. What is the difference between the reproduction, distribution, and performance rights of digital materials? What do publicity rights have to do with my podcast? Is my podcast violating or diluting a trademark? Questions like these are best addressed in the development stages of a podcast, but a careful review of the issues after the fact may help minimize careless or unknowing violations.13

With few exceptions, KSHS hosts its own Web content on servers owned and controlled by the agency. Although the Kansas Memory Podcast promotes materials available on Kansas Memory, the podcasts are hosted on the main KSHS website.14 The links to the MP3 files are embedded in a hard-coded index page using Dreamweaver HTML encoding software; the index page lists all podcasts. New podcasts are added sequentially in a tabular format that includes brief descriptions of the program and links to the digital collections on Kansas Memory. A “play” button opens the MP3 file in the default media player (see figure 3). Each podcast also appears on an item page by itself, making it easier for Web browsers like Google to index (see figure 4).

Fig. 3. The host site for the Kansas Memory Podcast. Taken from the Kansas Historical Society, “Podcasts of the Kansas Historical Society,” Kansas Historical Society, (accessed May 12, 2009).

Fig. 3. The host site for the Kansas Memory Podcast. Taken from the Kansas Historical Society, “Podcasts of the Kansas Historical Society,” Kansas Historical Society, (accessed May 12, 2009).

Fig. 4. The host site for a single podcast. Taken from the Kansas Historical Society, “Kansas Memory Podcast,” Kansas Historical Society, (accessed May 12, 2009).

Fig. 4. The host site for a single podcast. Taken from the Kansas Historical Society, “Kansas Memory Podcast,” Kansas Historical Society, (accessed May 12, 2009).

While visitors can download podcasts directly from our host site as described above, most visitors access new programs through syndicated feeds or through an independent podcast aggregator or directory. To allow for syndication, we copy the accompanying metadata into an XML directory that supports subscriptions by RSS readers such as iTunes, Google Reader, My Yahoo!, Bloglines, Rojo, and many others. Users can select one of these popular readers or copy the URL of the XML directory to their preferred podcasting tool (see figure 5). Subscribers to the Kansas Memory Podcast can monitor the feed in their RSS reader for new programs and download those programs for use in their preferred media device (such as an iPod or MP3 player). Subscribers can also listen to the programs in their RSS reader directly through an audio flash player included as part of the update.

Fig. 5. The XML directory supporting subscription by RSS readers. Taken from the Kansas Historical Society, “A Kansas Memory: The Kansas Historical Society Library and Archives Podcast,” Kansas Historical Society, (accessed May 12, 2009).

Fig. 5. The XML directory supporting subscription by RSS readers. Taken from the Kansas Historical Society, “A Kansas Memory: The Kansas Historical Society Library and Archives Podcast,” Kansas Historical Society, (accessed May 12, 2009).

Many archives may not be in a position to host their own podcasts, and, depending on the popularity of the podcast and the available bandwidth of their Internet Service Provider (ISP), they may decide to host their podcasts on a separate site with a link from the archives’ Web page. Fortunately, there are many podcast aggregators, like Switchpod, Podbean, and others, that provide free hosting and syndication services, and these may meet the needs of many archives. If the limitations of free Web hosts do not allow the level of control needed, there are also fee-based hosts that provide a broad array of services. When shopping for a Web host, you should consider the size of bandwidth needed to support your podcasts, the size and type of files you will be using, the frequency of your podcasts, and the size of your audience. The ability to control older content is also an important issue, as is the ability to create multiple feeds from a single podcast to accommodate different topics and file formats.15

Assessing Podcasting

While the assessment of any digital program is essential to developing a sustainable media relationship with an audience, in many archives, the actual implementation of that assessment is often an afterthought to program development. This is certainly true in our case. There are many downsides to not having an effective assessment tool, including a lack of direct communication with the audience and little foundation for making continued improvements. More importantly, in a time of shrinking budgets, the most pointed difficulty may be the lack of adequate data and feedback to justify the continuance of the program.

In cases where audience surveys and feedback are not available, there are other ways to acquire statistical and anecdotal evidence. Web statistics (also referred to as Web analytics) can, at the very least, provide the number of downloads for each program and a means for assessing various qualities of audience participation. Depending on how the data is parsed, it may be possible to determine downloads per user session (visits), program preferences, and the point from which the files are accessed (host site or aggregator), among others. We use Web Trends, a proprietary Web analytics platform, to mine the data generated by the KSHS website. The Kansas Memory Podcast produced its second full year of podcasts in 2008. Our data for 2008 shows 34,654 downloads for the thirty-five programs produced that year, at an average of 990 downloads per program. Since all of the programs remain syndicated from the time of their release, podcasts released early in the year had as many as ten times more downloads than podcasts released later in the year. This indicates that new visitors have been accessing older programming in addition to more current releases, considerably improving the effectiveness rating of the older content over time.

Web alert tools, like Google Alert, can provide important anecdotal Internet-based evidence in the absence of direct feedback from user e-mails or other sources. Google Alert is a free notification service that sends e-mail updates on the latest Web content for a specific query. We have used this tool to help monitor the use and reception of the Kansas Memory Podcast on the Internet. We created several comprehensive alerts that monitor content from news sites, blogs, and Web pages and notify us once a day of any related content for “Kansas Memory Podcast” and variations. The results can be insightful. If a student mentions use of our podcast in a blog post, we are notified. If a teacher includes the podcast in a lesson plan or syllabus published on a Web page or wiki, we are notified. One alert notified us of a post on, a blog by Sean Flannagan, that appeared on February 16, 2007, shortly after releasing our third podcast. Flannagan, then of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, expressed interest in the growing number of podcasts by historical societies. Highlighting the Kansas Memory Podcast, he noted: “Real stories culled from letters, diaries and other historical documents. Who knew Kansas history could hold my attention for longer than one minute? Well done.” Flannagan’s compliment was a backhanded one to be sure, but more importantly, it testifies to the effectiveness of our podcasts—they are reaching a diverse audience, they are promoting our institution, and they are prompting people to think more carefully about Kansas and its history.16

Nevertheless, however attractive anecdotal evidence like this may be, it cannot replace accurate user statistics on the target audience. While we can measure the receptivity of the Kansas Memory Podcast to some degree using the tools described above, we still do not have accurate data on its use by K—12 educators and students.

Lessons Learned

While there may be many ways to create a successful podcast, it is important to find a format and level of production that is sustainable for the institution. A dramatic reading format has worked well for us but other institutions might have more success with an instructional or behind-the-scenes approach. The trick is to find a format that is interesting and engaging for your audience but does not require enormous amounts of staff time. A production schedule that requires many staff hours to complete is probably neither efficient nor sustainable. Further, a flexible production model that can adapt easily to new situations and use volunteer labor for key steps in the process is much more likely to survive a period of declining resources than one that is not. We have had to adapt our production model repeatedly in response to changing circumstances in order to keep it viable. Currently, approximately eight hours of staff time are required to produce each Kansas Memory Podcast at a cost of about $200 per podcast.

On assessments, we regret not having produced a more comprehensive assessment of the podcasts through syndicated surveys and feedback forms available with each podcast. More data on how the K-12 population in Kansas is using the podcasts would help assess if the program is reaching its target audience and suggest changes in content or format that would make the podcasts more useful for that group.

On the data management side, our podcasting experience has underscored the importance of using a content management system for the hosting Web site. With a database-driven site (as opposed to hard coded pages), we can manage the addition of new content quicker and generate the XML document that supports the RSS feed automatically instead of hard coding the new releases and copy-and-pasting the data into the XML document, which often results in errors or a broken feed. While the Kansas Memory Web site is already database driven, where the podcast is hosted is not. We are currently in the process of a Web site redesign that will implement a content management system for and simplify the delivery of our podcasts.

Future Plans

Given falling state revenues, agency budget cuts, and a shrinking workforce, the first future plan we recently had to decide on was whether there would be a future for the Kansas Memory Podcast. Fortunately we decided to continue podcasting with slight modifications to streamline production and involve fewer staff. Beyond this, we would like to feature more selections from our audio collections in our podcasts. These materials, for which we already own copyright or can obtain permission to publish, will likely include oral histories, radio announcements, radio shows, promotional materials, and field recordings. Much of this material will likely correspond with other agency programming like museum exhibits, journal publications, or education programs. As previously mentioned, the recording booth available in special museum exhibits will continue to play a key role in delivering patron generated content audio recordings on various topics.

At some point, we would like to experiment with video podcasting through the Kansas Memory Podcast. To make this viable, we would likely need additional storage space for hosting the files and a streaming server to ease delivery of the files. We currently host several video clips on Kansas Memory where we use a form of streaming, but our current platform would not easily support the addition of hundreds of additional video files. Feeds are available for the videos currently on Kansas Memory by subscribing to the category Collections—Audio-Visual in the faceted browser. Public domain materials, or those for which we own copyright or have permission to publish will be made available on our Kansas Memory You Tube channel where viewers can also subscribe to a RSS feed. Some videos for which we have limited publication rights will be delivered only on Kansas Memory. Most of our film-to-digital collections will involve films produced by Kansas state government agencies, like the 1936 Kansas Emergency Relief Committee accomplishments movie, which is currently available on Kansas Memory and our You Tube channel, or films made by private entities for which we can obtain permission to publish, as in the promotional films of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.17

Lastly, we are considering ways to centralize participation in Web 2.0 tools by separate divisions within the Historical Society while at the same time allowing for separate feeds to accommodate the specialized services and audiences of those divisions. A centralized effort may benefit the agency as a whole by allowing us to present a single identity to the public while separate feeds within that framework would allow us to meet the needs of our diverse programs and audiences. Tagging the content of a centralized podcast or blog with separate feeds for each category may be one way to address this issue.

Resources About Podcasting

Articles and Books

Griffey, Jason. “Podcast 1-2-3.” Library Journal 132 no. 11 (June 2007): 32-34.

This helpful podcasting start-up guide models the podcasting experience at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and provides useful pointers and references lists.

Holtz, Shel and Neville Hobson. How to Do Everything with Podcasting. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

This informative how-to guide leads you step by step through every aspect of podcast production. Easy to read and navigate.

Jowitt, Angela L. “Creating Communities with Podcasting.” Computers in Libraries (April 2008): 14-15.

This case study of podcast at the Universal College of Learning in Palmerston North, New Zealand, reports on a podcasting trial and its use by library patrons. The trial shows beneficial results when using podcasts for library instruction.

Lamb, Annette and Larry Johnson. “Podcasting in the School Library.” Teacher Librarian 34 no. 4 (April 2007): 61-64.

This article walks through each step of producing a podcast with students but is a useful overview of podcast production in general and provides a helpful reference list as well.

Madden, Mary. “Podcast Downloading.” Pew Internet & American Life Project (August 2008). (accessed May 8, 2009).

This study documents podcast usage through a random telephone survey of 2,251 adults (18 and over) between April 8-May 11, 2008. The results show changes in podcast usage over time and by demographics.

Ratcliffe, Mitch and Steve Mack. Podcasting Bible: Your Comprehensive How-To Reference for Producing, Distributing, and Marketing Revenue-Generating Podcasts. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publichsing Inc., 2007.

While the business model endorsed by this book may not be relevant for many archives, it offers a thorough overview of all the issues related to podcast production and would be a useful instruction manual.

Vogele, C. “Podcasting Legal Guide: Rules for the Revolution.” The Berkman Center Clinical Program in Cyberlaw, Harvard Law School, 2007. (accessed May 11, 2009).

This guide provides a detailed overview of the legal pitfalls associated with podcasting and gives a surprisingly thorough history of the technology.

Webster,Tom. “The Podcast Consumer Revealed, 2008.” Edison Research (April 2008). (accessed May 8, 2009).

This study looks at podcast users through a random telephone survey of 1,857 people age 12 and older from January 18-February 15, 2008. The results show changes in podcast usage over time and by demographics.

Web Sites, Services, and Applications

Apple, Inc. “GarageBand.” Apple, Inc. (accessed May 18, 2009).

This is Apple’s desktop recording studio that allows you to record and edit music and audio files. It is primarily for creating and mixing digital music but can also be used to record voice tracks.

Apple, Inc. “iTunes.” Apple, Inc. (accessed May 18, 2009).

The original podcast aggregator, iTunes is a free digital audio and video application with more than 100,000 audio and video podcasts available for free syndicated download.

Audacity. “Audacity: Free Audio Editor and Recorder.” Audacity. (accessed May 19, 2009).

Audacity is a free audio editor and recorder available for download to your computer. You can use it to record and edit your podcast content.

Podbean. “ Podcast Hosting, Social Subscribing.” Podbean. (accessed May 18, 2009).

Podbean is a podcast host site and social network that provides and free and fee-based podcasting and hosting services.

Podcast Alley. “Podcast Alley: Free the Airwaves.” Podcast Alley. (accessed May 18, 2008).

Podcast Alley is a podcast aggregator and host site with free tutorials and an active forum on podcast issues.

Podcasting News. “Podcasting News.” Podcasting News. (accessed May 18, 2009).

This blog features up-to-date issues on podcasting with frequent posts, featured articles, user comments. A great way to stay informed on podcast issues. Subscribe to this blog using your favorite feed reader.

Podcasting Tools. “Podcasting Tools: Resources for Podcasting.” Podcasting Tools. (accessed May 18, 2009).

This Web site is a free online resource for information on podcasting. Besides numerous how-to guides and articles, the site features an active podcasting blog and a list of sites that accept podcast submissions (i.e. podcast aggregators).

Podsafe Audio. “Podsafe Audio: Music for the Revolution.” Talldude Networks, LLC. (accessed May 18, 2009).

Podsafe Audio is a forum that allows independent music artists to share their music with podcasters in search of original music available to use in podcasts.

Podsafe Music Network. “Podsafe Music Network.” (accessed May 18, 2009).

This site brings podcasters together with artists interested in promoting their music.

RSS Specifications. “RSS Specifications: Everything You Need to Know About RSS.” NotePage, Inc. (accessed May 18, 2009).

This site provides comprehensive information on syndication issues including tutorials, how-to guides, and an active blog.

Switchpod. “ Podcast Hosting.” Switchpod. (accessed May 18, 2009).

Switchpod is a podcast host site and aggregator with free and premium accounts. You can use its online tools to create and submit your own podcast, generate syndicated feeds, or just search other user-generated podcasts.


1. For more information on Kansas Memory see Michael Church, “Kansas Memory,” Microform & Imaging Review 37, no. 2 (2008): 74-78.

2. Julia Hendry, “Primary Sources in K-12 Education: Opportunities for Archives,” American Archivist 70, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2007): 114-129.

3. Wikipedia, “History of Podcasting,” Wikimedia Foundation, (accessed May 8, 2009); Wikipedia, “Podcasting,” Wikimedia Foundation, (accessed May 8, 2009).

4. Oxford University Press, “‘Podcast’ is the Word of the Year,” Oxford University Press, (accessed May 8, 2009); Mathew Honan, “Podcast is 2005 Word of the Year,” MacWorld (December 6, 2005), (accessed May 8, 2009).

5. Mary Madden, “Podcast Downloading,” Pew Internet & American Life Project (August 2008), (accessed May 8, 2009).

6. Tom Webster, “The Podcast Consumer Revealed, 2008,” Edison Research (April 2008), (accessed May 8, 2009). Laura K. Brooks compares podcasting to other Web 2.0 media in school media programs in “‘Old School’ Meet School Library 2.0,” Library Media Connection (April/May 2008): 14-16.

7. For technical specifications on RSS and an open source validator for RSS feeds, see the RSS Advisory Board, “RSS Advisory Board: Really Simple Syndication Specifications, Tutorials and Discussions,” RSS Advisory Board, (accessed May 18, 2009). For information on creating RSS feeds see RSS Specifications, “RSS Specifications: Everything You Need to Know About RSS,” NotePage, Inc., (accessed May 18, 2009).

8. Kansas Museum of History, “Cool Things Podcast,” Kansas State Historical Society, (accessed May 8, 2009).

9. MuseumPods, “Top Ten Best Museum and Cultural Podcast Winners 2007,” MuseumPods, (accessed May 18, 2009); Media and Technology Committee, “MUSE Awards,” American Association of Museums, (accessed April 13, 2009).

10. Kansas State Historical Society, “A Kansas Memory Podcast: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka,” Kansas State Historical Society, (accessed April 13, 2009).

11. For some of the user generated, oral history recordings featured on Kansas Memory, see Kansas State Historical Society, “Kansas Memory [Oral Histories],” Kansas State Historical Society, (accessed May 18, 2009). These recordings include Kansas State Historical Society, “A Kansas Memory Podcast: Stormy Weather: Tornadoes in Kansas,” Kansas State Historical Society, (accessed April 13); Kansas State Historical Society, “A Kansas Memory Podcast: Stormy Weather: Floods in Kansas,” Kansas State Historical Society, (accessed April 13, 2009).

12. Podsafe Music Network, “Podsafe Music Network,”, (accessed May 18, 2009); Podsafe Audio, “Podsafe Audio: Music for the Revolution,” Talldude Networks, LLC., (accessed May 18, 2009);, “GarageBand,”, (accessed May 11, 2009).

13. C. Vogele, “Podcasting Legal Guide: Rules for the Revolution,” The Berkman Center Clinical Program in Cyberlaw, Harvard Law School, 2007, (accessed May 11, 2009); Rebecca P. Butler, “The Changing Web and Copyright,” Knowledge Quest 37 no. 1 (2008): 76-78; and Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Legal Guide for Bloggers,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, updated February 11, 2009, (accessed May 12, 2009).

14. Kansas State Historical Society, “Kansas State Historical Society,” Kansas State Historical Society, (accessed May 18, 2009).

15. Though quite dated by now, Jo Ann Sampson’s 2006 article chronicling her introduction to podcasting addresses many issues related to podcast hosting and would a good introduction for anyone considering off-site hosting of their podcast or vodcast. See Jo Ann Sampson, “Launching into the Podcast/Vodcast Universe,” Computers in Libraries 26 no. 10 (Nov./Dec. 2006): 11-15.

16. Sean Flannagan, “Historical Society Podcast Roundup,”, entry posted February 16, 2007, (accessed May 11, 2009).

17. See the Kansas Memory YouTube channel at YouTube, “KansasMemory Channel,” YouTube, LLC, (accessed May 18, 2009).

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