After Hours

DIY: Add podcasts to a WordPress site without paying a dime

Jack Wallen describes how he was able to use the WordPress Audio Player plugin to embed a podcast in a WordPress site as a promotion vehicle for his next zombie book.

I was recently handed the brilliant idea of creating a website to serve as a PR "stunt" for my upcoming book My Zombie My. The idea came out of a plot device called "Zombie Radio," which was an Internet radio station that served a very specific function.

I didn't want to have to front the bill to host a true streaming server, so I searched for a way to add audio to posts on a WordPress site. I was surprised at how easy this is to do. In the end, I hope to migrate this experiment to a true streaming server (like a Shoutcast server), but until then, I am happy to say, the system I outline works pretty well.

What this system will do

With this addition to your WordPress site, you will be able to embed sound files (music, instruction, podcasts, etc.) into the actual posts. These minimal embedded players allow the reader to start and pause audio files linked within the post.

What this system will not do

You cannot offer a streaming Internet radio station with this system. The user has to initiate the playing of the music in the form of a single .mp3 file.

What you will need

Installing the WordPress Audio Player plugin

There are two ways to install a plugin on a WordPress site: manually and automatically. The easiest method is to install automatically, but to do this you will need the username and password of a user with upload permissions to your host. Once you have that, you're ready to rock.

Follow these simple steps for installing the plugin:

  1. Go to the administrative page for your WordPress site and log in as the administrator.
  2. Go to Plugins | Add New.
  3. Enter Audio Player in the search field and click the Search button.
  4. Click the Install link associated with Audio Player.
  5. When prompted, enter the credentials for the user who has FTP permissions to your host/server.
  6. Wait for the installation to complete and then create a new directory in the document root of the server to house audio clips.

Using the WordPress Audio Player plugin

The Audio Player plugin will work just fine by default, but you'll want to make a couple of tweaks. To get to the Settings, click the Settings link in the WordPress control panel and then click the Audio Player link in the expanded menu.

Once you're in the Audio Player Settings panel (Figure A), you'll want to configure these tabs in particular: General, Display, Feed Options, Podcasting, and Advanced. Figure A

Make sure to go through each of the tabs and configure Audio Player to suit the needs of your site. (Click the image to enlarge.)
General

The most important configuration here is the directory (created earlier) to house the audio files. This configuration is under Default Audio Folder location. You should make sure the domain is correct and then enter the proper directory. After this is configured, you should click the Verify button to ensure the folder and the permissions are correct.

Display This tab allows you to configure how the player will look within the documents. The player is fairly innocuous and can be configured to suit nearly any WordPress theme. Figure B shows that the player is simple yet effective. Figure B

You won't find anything terribly slick about this player — it just works. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Within this tab, you can do the following:

  • Change the color scheme of the player.
  • Enable/disable animation.
  • Show remaining time.
  • Disable Track information.
  • Switch to RTL (right-to-left) display.
Feed Options

This tab allows you to configure what is included in your WordPress RSS feeds. The available options are:

  • Download Link: Choose this to allow subscribers to download the file.
  • Nothing: Choose this if you don't want your feed to contain any reference to the audio file.
  • Custom: Choose this option to tell subscribers that they can listen to the audio file if they read the post on your blog.
Podcasting

This tab allows for a couple of very handy features. You can enable both pre and/or post-appended audio to every file. This allows you to include intro and outro tags for your site or podcast without having to add them to every audio file you post.

Advanced

This tab allows you to manage the following:

  • Alternate content for excerpts
  • Initial volume
  • Buffer time
  • Policy file
  • Encoding
  • URL enclosures

Enabling audio in a post

There are two ways to enable audio in a post: by using a URL or a simple tag. The tag method requires the audio file to be located in the default audio folder. If that is the method to be used, the code for a post looks like:

[audio:intro.mp3]

If you'd prefer to use full URLs for files (or have an isolated instance where URLs must be used), the format is similar to the above:

[audio:http://ADDRESS_OF_SERVER/audio/intro.mp3]

(where ADDRESS_OF_SERVER is the URL to the server, and intro is the actual file name of the .mp3 to be included with the post). Either option will embed the same player into the post. A user can then click the Play button in the player to listen to your included audio.

If you're looking for a great tool for hosting a podcast and you don't want to spend any extra cash, the combination of WordPress and Audio Player just might do the trick. I'm saving money while saving fictional lives (well, at least in the case of Zombie Radio).

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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