Podcast, Getting Started

Podcast Glossary

There are many terms and phrases regularly used in the podcast industry. Some are more self-explanatory, while others are so specific it seems like another language. So, we're going to define some of the most common terms and phrases in this glossary of podcast terms.

If you are looking for a particular term, press CMD+F (Mac) or CTRL+F (Windows) and enter your term.


AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)
A type of audio file format that is of higher quality and broader frequency ranges than MP3, and is only playable on Apple devices and software.

Bandwidth
The amount of data that can be transferred in a given period, measured in bits per second (bps).

Bed
A bed is usually a piece of music that you place underneath someone talking as background music. To find music for podcasts, see our article here.

Bit
The most basic unit of information. Bits are either “on” or “off” and represented by a one (on) or a zero (off).

Bit Depth
Bit depth determines the quality of your audio. Common bit depths are 16, 24, and 32, but for spoken word, 16 is just fine. Bit depth is usually determined before you begin recording.

Bit Rate
How many bits of data are in a single second of audio. Bit Rate is measured in Kilobits per second (Kbps). When converting audio from WAV to MP3, the higher the bit rate, the larger the file will be. For a normal talk show podcast with a few jingles, 96kbps mono is sufficient. If you use a lot of music, 128kbps may be best.

Byte
A set of 8 bits.

Clipping
When you’re recording audio, you’ll see a waveform on the screen most of the time that shows you the volume levels of your audio. Clipping is when the audio is so loud that this waveform spikes so that it touches the edge of the recording window and can't go any further. This can cause glitches in the audio. The most common solution is to reduce your gain/input levels while recording.

Codec (compressor/decompressor)
A set of rules that converts data from analog to digital and back.

Compression
When you apply compression to an audio recording, you are bringing the loudest and quietest parts of your recording closer together to create a more balanced volume.

Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that regulates the copyright licenses on different creative works. This includes some licenses where you can freely use the creators work as long as they are appropriately credited. For more information, see their website.

Condenser Microphone
A condenser microphone uses a phantom power source or battery to work, for example a mixer or preamplifier. These microphones tend to be more sensitive and pick up more background noise.

DAW
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. This is whatever software you’re using to record, edit, and mix your podcast, such as Adobe Audition or Audacity.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
The DMCA is a United States digital rights management (DRM) law enacted October 28, 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton. The intent behind DMCA was to create an updated version of copyright laws to deal with the special challenges of regulating digital material. Broadly, the aim of DMCA is to protect the rights of both copyright owners and consumers.

Directories
A podcast directory displays podcasts to potential listeners so that people can easily find and listen to shows. Typically, you must submit your own podcast to directories. There are tons of directories out there, so check out our list of directories here.

Distortion
When the sound quality of an audio signal is poor. This is usually caused by equipment overloading or an incorrect setup.

Dynamic Microphone
Dynamic mics don’t require an additional power supply to work and are generally less sensitive than condenser mics. This can reduce the risk of peaking or clipping audio.

Equalization
Often shortened to "EQ," equalization is a tool you can use to adjust certain elements of different frequencies of the audio. For example, you could adjust a background hissing noise using the EQ so that it is barely noticeable, making your audio sound much clearer.

Fade In
The audio level of a track gradually becomes louder until it reaches its proper level. Fade ins are commonly used for smoother transitions to segue into the next portion of your podcast.

Fade Out
The audio level of a track gradually becomes quieter until it disappears altogether. Fade outs are commonly used for smoother transitions to segue into the next portion of your podcast.

Fader
A sliding dial on a mixing desk to control the audio levels.

Feedback
Feedback is a rumbling or whistling noise caused by a sound system. Loud environments tend to have feedback as audio is picked up from a speaker through a microphone.

Formats
Digital files of all kinds are stored in formats, such as MP3, txt, or MOV.

Frequency
The rate at which a sound vibrates. It is stated in cycles per second (Hertz or Hz).

Gain
The gain is what you use to adjust the sensitivity. Add gain to get a stronger signal, reduce the gain to get a weaker signal.

GB
Gigabyte, one billion bytes.

High-Pass Filter
This reduces or eliminates any low frequencies from your audio. This could be things like wind noise or microphone handling.

Imaging
Imaging refers to the concept of using audio effects, spoken phrases, or music to create a brand or "image" for a podcast.

Jingle
A short piece of audio generally used to introduce your show or to introduce different segments of your show. Usually a piece of music no longer than 20 secs.

Kbps
Thousands of bits per second.

Lossless Audio

When a piece of audio is converted to a digital file format, sometimes the audio is compressed in order to reduce file size. When frequencies are not lost, and a digital copy of a piece is identical to the original recording, this is referred to as "lossless" audio. Lossless audio formats include WAV, AIFF, and FLAC.

Lossy Audio

When compression happens, frequencies at the very highest and lowest ends of a recording can be lost to make the total file size of a particular piece smaller and more manageable, which results in "lossy audio." Lossy audio formats include MP3, MP4, WMA, and AAC.

Low-Pass Filter
This reduces or eliminates any high frequencies from your audio. It can be helpful with fixing distortion in caller segments if they’re calling in from Skype.

MB
Megabyte, one million bytes.

Metadata (ID3 Tags)
Information attached to your mp3 file, such as the podcast title, episode title, your name, cover art, etc. Your DAW should give you an option to fill all this data in once you’ve finished mixing it and go to export the episode.

Mid-roll Ad
A mid-roll ad is an advertisement which is included in the middle of media content. These may be product placement, reviews inserted as part of a regular broadcast, or they may also take the form of sponsorship breaks or commercial breaks.

Mix Down
Your mix down is the audio file after you have mixed all your audio together and you’re exporting it. The final single audio file is your mix down of your episode.

Mixer
An electronic device that allows a user to combine, route, or change the level, tone, or dynamics of two or more audio signals. Check out some of the best mixers here.

Mono
Mono audio means that everything that’s recorded is equally balanced on one track. There are no separate Left and Right channels, all audio is equally spread across one channel that’s played on both the left and right channels.

MP3
An audio-compression format that can reduce a file to as little as one-tenth of its original size.

MPEG-4
Audio and video coding standards for broadcast television, streaming audio, and other media.

Multitrack
When you work with multiple (more than one) audio tracks during the editing process, this is called a multitrack.

Narrowcast
A narrowcast is referring to content that is aimed at a specific niche/target audience, rather than a podcast which is aimed at a wider, mass audience.

Noisefloor
There will always be a very low level of noise in your recordings, such as a light hissing, buzzing, or ambient noise. Noisefloor is this static from your recording equipment in the background.

Normalization
Normalization alters the size of your waveform, meaning it will adjust the levels of the audio based on the original waveform's peaks and troughs to even everything out.

Peaking
The tops of waveforms are referred to as "peaks" and the bottoms are "troughs." Peaking is when your peaks go a little too high, generally because of a louder noise, like an excited comment or a cough.

Phantom Power
Most condenser microphones require a stronger power supply to work. Phantom power is around 48 volts DC. Mixers usually provide enough voltage to power microphones.

Podcast Host
A podcast host is where your podcast lives. There are many different podcast hosting services out there that all have slightly different offerings at a variety of price points. However, generally speaking, you create an account and fill out your show details (title, description, etc.), and your podcast host will provide you with bandwidth, storage, support, automatic RSS feed, and extra features (websites, directories, mobile apps, statistics, monetization options, video capabilities, embeddable players, podcast transfer tools, etc.). Check out our article on hosting and sharing your podcast here.

Podcast Network
A podcast network is a network of podcasts connected by a similar theme, genre, partnership, or ownership.

Polar Patterns
Every microphone has one or more polar patterns, which change how the microphone picks up audio. Depending on what polar pattern you switch to, the microphone will change the areas around the mic that it will pick up audio from. For example, a figure 8 polar pattern will only pick up audio from the front and back of the microphone.

Post-Production
Post-production is simply the mixing and editing process. For information on editing, see our articles entitled How to Edit Your Podcast and Podcast Editing: 9 Time-Saving Tips.

Post-roll Ad
A post-roll advertisement is an advertisement that's included at the end of a piece of media content. This can be self-promotion at the end of the content, credits which include recognition for sponsors and supporters, ads embedded into the audio, or ads embedded into the site which trigger after the content plays.

Pre-roll Ad
A pre-roll advertisement is an advertisement that's included at the beginning of a piece of media content. Pre-roll advertisements can be audio ads at the beginning of a podcast, pop up ads before a video plays, embedded ads before a video player launches, as well as ads attached to the media, such as advertisements embedded by the content creator for self-promotion.

Room Tone
General noise in the room you’re recording in. Even seemingly silent rooms will generate some noise that the mic will pick up. It’s good practice to leave 5-10 secs of room tone before you start talking on your recordings to help with the noise reduction process.

RSS Feed
An XML-formatted file that specifies information and items contained in a blog or podcast, and allows users to subscribe to that blog or podcast to read, view, or listen to it without visiting the website where it is located. Aggregators, or directories, such as iTunes, look for and gather feeds so users can easily view, play, and subscribe to them. Your podcast hosting service provides you with this feed when you sign up with them. Then, when you upload your podcast episodes, they will be automatically added to your RSS feed.

Sample Rate
A sample rate measures how many data points of a sound wave in comparison to the frame rate of the piece. As a guide, the higher the sample rate, the better your audio will sound to your listeners. However, high sample rates do mean that the file size will be larger.

Sponsor
A sponsor is a business that agrees to pay a podcast a certain amount of money or benefits in exchange for the podcast promoting the business and potentially a specific product or service. For information about sponsors, take a look at our How to Find Podcast Sponsors article.

Stereo
Stereo audio means that the audio is split across a left and right channel. Anything on the left channel will come out of the left headphone or speaker, and anything on the right channel will come out of the right headphone or speaker. This way, you can have separate sounds on the right and left, creating a vivid mental image of a scene for a listener.

Stinger/Sting
A short piece of audio, usually used as punctuation to split up certain parts of the show.

Tag
A word or phrase used to identify a digital file and make it easier to find online.

Target Audience Demographic
The age, race, gender, interests, lifestyle, etc. of the audience that you believe is or would be interested in your podcast topic. You target that audience and specifically want them to listen to your podcast. For information on figuring out your target audience demographics, check out our article here.

Timeshifting
The act of recording and storing data to listen to, watch, or read later on. Podcasting is the perfect example as you’re not live, you are just recording, editing, and then setting the episode to upload at a later date for your listeners.

Waveform
The waveform is the display you see on your DAW of how your audio is recording.

WAV File
This is the high quality recording of your audio that sounds exactly as it was recorded. When you edit, you should always edit using WAV files, then export to the smaller MP3 file afterwards. A little bit of quality is lost in the conversion, but this is barely noticeable.

XLR
A three pin connector for audio equipment. An XLR cable is commonly used with microphones and other audio devices.


We hope that this glossary has cleared up any confusion you may have had about any podcast terms. We will be sure to update this article with new terms whenever possible, so keep it handy for reference! Happy podcasting!

For a variety of informational articles on podcasting, check out our Podcaster page!


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About Michelle Ruoff

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania