I think it was an article in the excellent Internet Newsletter, from Delia Venables which first gave me the idea to put sound files on Landlord-Law. I was also inspired by the podcasts on the i-legal.info site from solicitors Fisher Jones Greenwood, plus of course the pioneering work done by Justin Patten (although irritatingly I never seem to be able to access his blog site).
But would these solutions be right for Landlord-Law? How could I best use sound files to help members and prospective members? One obvious use (it seemed to me) was to provide answers to the questions which people thinking of joining often ring me up to ask. Explanatory pods (as I originally called them) scattered around the site with help and information. Perhaps people would be more likely to listen to these, than to read the information which is already there and which the people who ring me up (irritatingly) never seem to have looked at. Plus, maybe it would make them more likely to want to join. (!!)
What about our members? How could sound files help them? Well I know that many people do not like reading. This seems strange to me as I seem to have spent most of my life reading one thing or another, and can’t imagine not reading, but I am told that this is the case. And, some of the Landlord-Law articles are a bit long. Perhaps it would help the non readers if they could listen to them instead. Plus some people with busy lives do not have time for much reading. It might be helpful for them if they could download sound files and listen to them on the move.
But how to do it? My experience is only with word files. I needed to learn about sound. I am enormously indebted here to Claire Sandbrook, the CEO of Shergroup who very kindly invited me to a brilliant training day being done for her company by Karen Ainley of Mosaic Publicity. This gave me that initial injection of information and confidence which I needed to start. I bought the equipment recommended by Karen (basically a Marantz PMD 660 solid state recorder and mike), three books on podcasting (reading again!), and got going.
It is actually much more work than you would think doing sound files. First you have to write the scripts (I tried doing it ‘off the cuff’ but kept forgetting what I needed to say). Then you have to record it. This is also harder than you would think, plus you have to find somewhere to record where there is no background noise (my office was no good – too much traffic outside). Then you have to edit the sound file, and cut out all the coughs, clicks, sniffs and gurgles that always creep in and sound ghastly, as well as all the places where you get it wrong!. Then you listen to it and decide that it is not good enough and needs to be done again …
So I had sound files. Professional sound engineers will probably wince if they listen to them, but they are at least fairly clear and you can hear what I am saying. (And I will learn more and get better over time!) Gill, my web-designer had once again come up trumps with some fabulous new icons, and sorted out the site so it could take mp3 files. By this time I had decided to call the files ‘audios’. ‘Pods’ sounded silly, and the files are not podcasts in the normal sense.
So there you have it. We have audio. I hope you enjoy them and do not get too fed up with the sound of my voice. Why not go to the Landlord-Law site and have a listen now?