Seeking an integrated audio podcasting solution

I want an integrated audio podcasting solution, for both personal and professional use. Requirements are a decent embed media player for individual postings and a podcast channel.

Blogger
Blogger advertises a feature whereby if you provide an .mp3 file URL (as Blogger does not offer any file hosting), it will “enclose” it so that it will be presented in an embedded media player in your posting and in RSS readers (like Google Reader). The video demonstrating this looked impressive. This is the solution I’m looking for, so I followed the instructions. Unfortunately, my repeated attempts to make it work failed (trying several external file hosting sites).

audioBoo
audioBoo provides a handy iPhone app, whereby you link your iPhone to your audioBoo account. When you ring in, your ❤ minute message is promptly published as well as autoposted to your Facebook, Twitter, and Posterous account (all optional). audioBoo’s embed player is clean and reliable.

Downside of audioBoo are no manual uploads, iPhone only (its phoneBoo service is unreliable), no manual date posting, no direct access to original .mp3 file (but discoverable in embed code), no .mp3 file download. audioBoo seems geared more towards the casual blogger.

UPDATE (5/1/2010): audioBoo has since enabled manual uploads of pre-recorded .mp3 files, which makes a big difference.

iPadio
iPadio is clearly a more robust service than audioBoo. iPadio offers both dialup (iPhone, Android, landline (global numbers)) and manual .mp3 upload. You can save voice recordings for later publishing (useful when you are out of mobile network range). Up to 60-minute audio episodes/postings. You can directly download original .mp3 file.

Downside of iPadio is large sized embed media player. However, the original .mp3 file URL is discoverable (to use in an alternative media player). There is no manual date posting nor personalisation of user profile page. (And “phlog” nomenclature is dreadful!) If iPadio would improve player and offer user colours/skins, it’d be great. iPadio is geared towards a more professional/non-profit audience, and I think it has potential.

Posterous
Posterous will encode any .mp3 file attached to an email message sent to your account at Posterous (e.g. post@mrulster.posterous.com), and display it in a Posterous media player at our Posterous blog. Nice bonus is that this encoding is retained within Posterous’ Facebook application, i.e. if you display your Posterous blog in a linked Facebook Page, a Facebook user doesn’t have to leave Facebook (go to external link) to listen to your audio posting.

Downside of Posterous method is that you can’t embed its media player anywhere else. Also, any external blog service that you autopost to (a key feature of Posterous) creates a link back to the original Posterous blog. At least you can discover the original .mp3 file URL via direct download option.

I contemplated just uploading my .mp3 files to other services, then using the .mp3 file URL in other media players. This took me down the road of some alternative services and options.

Box.net
Box.net is primarily used to share files with collaborators and the general public. Its embeddable file browser widget is excellent and, so far, unique for this type of file sharing service. If you go for a paid monthly subscription, you’re given access to the static URL to any file you’ve uploaded (e.g. .mp3). This works fine in media players.

But reasons why I shied away from using Box.net this way is because (a) it’s a relatively expensive service per GB and (b) the fear of breaking your URLs if you change your Box.net file directory.

iPernity
iPernity offers a pleasing integration of all your files — photos, videos, audio, docs — with a included blog feature. When you add an uploaded file to your blog posting, iPernity (like Posterous) adds an embedded media player. However, (like Posterous) you can’t embed this in any other site. iPernity does provide a playlist of your uploaded audio files.

iPernity isn’t helped by its woeful blog feature (no control over page elements, no html/widgets, no import/export feature).

twaud.io
twaud.io advertises itself as “Audio for Twitter”, and it does that well: upload or record audio and it can promptly autopost to your linked Twitter account. twaud.io offers RSS feeds of your twaud.io postings.

Downside is no manual date posting, no embedding of its media player on external sites, no profile page customisation. Your original .mp3 file is not directly downloadable, but is discoverable.

TalkShoe
TalkShoe is meant for global conference calling. You can host a call-in event and up to 250 people can call in, live, to participate or just listen. In this way, it’s a revolutionary service. Your past call-in events are saved and presented as podcasts.

But you can also use TalkShoe fo ryour own individual podcasting. TalkShoe’s strengths are manual uploads and manual date posting. Direct download of original .mp3 file. Its pop-up media player is gigantic (c. 600×400 pixels, opens in new window). There is no page customisation, but does offer embeddable podcast badges for external sites.

Problem is that I can’t get access to the widget code, and I don’t understand how the call-in feature works. TalkShoe is close to being great, but if I can’t figure it out, I’m not going to burden others.

Podbean
Podbean is a clever application of a WordPress module. It offers strong encoding to get your podcast listed at the iTunes Store. Podbean embeds a clean media player in your Podbean blog posting, but its offering for external sites is uncustomisable. Worse, surprisingly, when you use the external embed code, the .mp3 file link is lost in your external site’s RSS Feed. Like TalkShoe, this is close to being great, but it needs more consideration on its external embedding offering.

QuickTime
In all cases, the easiest way to embed an audio file in a Blogger post is through a small QuickTime Player, with the following code:

http://MUSIC%20FILE%20URL

Replacing “[” and “]” with “<” and “>” and “MUSIC FILE URL” with your actual .mp3 file URL at your online file sharing service (e.g. Box.net).

This does indeed work, but you’ll lose any RSS feed linkage of the audio file. That is, if anyone subscribes to your blog’s feed, there won’t be any embedded playback or even link to listen to the file. Serious shortcoming of this method. Also, your visitor will (a) need QuickTime plug-in installed and (b) the QuickTime Player (at least on Blogger) occasionally disappears from your posting, requiring a browser refresh for reappearance — not ideal.

Conclusion
After all this evaluation, which solution have I gone for? I’m miffed that Blogger’s advertised embed/RSS Feed solution doesn’t work for me.

I’ve chosen a two-tier solution: (1) Posterous for my third-party scraping (brief audio clips from elsewhere) and (2) iPadio for my self-generated podcasting.

Main reason for both choices is simplicity.

For Posterous, you simply attach an .mp3 file to an email and send it to post@yourusername.posterous.com. Posterous encodes the file and provides an embedded media player; on external sites this player is a linkback, but at least is retained in your external blog’s RSS Feed. There is no podcast channel, but remember that I’m using this for third-party clips only. I tag such postings as “audio”, so they can be found on my blog that way.

For my own podcast, I chose iPadio because it is easy to ring in live, or delay publish, or upload an .mp3 file (and up to 60 minutes long). iPadio’s embed player, while not aesthetically great, works well enough (though not on your Blogger main page; you have to go to the individual Blogger posting).

Upon request, iPadio provided me an embed channel player for my Blogger site, which certainly helps my presentation.

And the iPhone app is a treat (and more reliable than audioBoo’s).

UPDATE (5/1/2010): I’ve gone off Posterous (email is easy way to get items into Posterous blog; amending thereafter is too frustrating!). I still use iPadio, but am warming to audioBoo. Neither (none here) offers private audio posts (i.e. for a private diary or password-protected audience). The first that offers this feature will gain my loyality.

Overall, while photo broadcasting has Flickr and video broadcasting has Vimeo, I’m surprised there is no clear leader for audio broadcasting (Web 2.0 style). I see audioBoo and iPadio as contenders, with the winner being whoever can develop their service offering better, faster. I suspect, like Flickr and Vimeo, there’ll be a paid premium service, but that’s alright (so long as what’s offered is worth paying for).

Still a case of wait and see.

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