So You Want To Start Podcasting?
As many of you are already aware, I am a veteran podcaster. I have been recording and producing a podcast consistently since January of 2009. Though that length of time does not compare to how long others have been podcasting, it has awarded me with some knowledge, experience, and opinions on the matters of podcasting. In fact, I often get asked about my thoughts on podcasting and how one should approach it, which is why I decided to write this quick article which honestly started as email response to a listener.
As far as my podcasting advice goes, here are some random thoughts on the matter…
First off, there could be better options than what I recommend here so despite what I say, you may need to do your own research to find out which options are best for you.
Make sure you have something to say. Sounds odd, but if you have nothing to say, no opinions, thoughts, etc. then you do not have a show. Period.
Keep your show format simple. You will have all the time in the world to work on your first episode, but not while doing the second or third episode. Keep that in mind. The format should be easy to work with and not very demanding.
Have an angle. What is your show about? Will that focus provide you with a list of at least 12 topics for discussion? By the time you get to all 12, you’ll probably have sparked more topics.
Production quality is key! No matter how good you are at speaking or what you have to say, if you sound terrible, then what you have to say has no momentum or traction. Remember that the better your equipment and software is, the better your production quality can be.
Get a decent USB microphone as this contributes heavily to your show’s audio quality. I currently use a Snowball which is made by Blue Microphones, but their Yeti Microphone is also very nice and extremely popular. Also, learn how to use your mic. Know where and how to speak into it and from what distance.
Recording software… I have a PC and I use and prefer Adobe Audition 3.0 which is a semi professional level of recording software. Those who have a Mac usually use a program called GarageBand. There is also a free program called Audacity that can be found online that a lot of podcasters use.
You will need to host your show online somewhere that can handle the download numbers and bandwidth. Practically all the professional shows use Libsyn as their host and so do I. Libsyn is awesome! I have been with them since the beginning of my show and I have had no complaints about them. Their customer support is awesome too and very prompt. They do charge a monthly fee depending on the storage level you want, but it is minimal and they do a lot for you, so it is worth it. Some people go the free route by using MixCloud or prefer to host the show themselves through websites like WordPress. If you go this route, you will need to get an RSS Feed for your show, which is how services like iTunes know that you have a new episode out. Libsyn just takes care of all that and they will provide you with numbers, download stats, etc. so you have a better idea of what is going on with your show and which episodes people liked versus what they did not like based on the numbers.
In the beginning, strive to get over the 10 episode hump. Most shows barely hit 5 episodes before podfading. Use some of the early episodes to create a foundation of info about you and the show. Doing this builds credibility. Your listeners will appreciate knowing who it is they are listening to.
Don’t expect to make money from your show. Podcast because you want to do it. Do it because you have something to say or want to share or entertain, but do not do it to for attention or because you want to make a profit. Use the show as a fun hobby or as a way to brand/make a name for yourself. Use it to make money in other, indirect ways like if you eventually want to write a book or sell a product or be involved with something else that would benefit greatly from already having a public following.
And before you ask, making a name for yourself IS different than just wanting to get attention. It is the difference between wanting to sit at the table with others as opposed to standing on the table while people are trying to eat. Attention-seeking is annoying and no one appreciates it.
Have a good catchy title for your show that conveys an idea of what the show is about. Also, have a good visual icon for the show that stands out and is eye-catching at 150×150 pixels among all the other podcast icons. A part of what will draw listeners in the beginning is simple blink of an eye aesthetics. Grab them instantly or you will work harder for it later. Also, there is something to the notion that if the name is good and the icon is good then the show may be good too.
Have a website for the show that has a custom domain associated with it. Having a nice short custom domain insures that your web address can be easily remembered by your listeners. Also other people and podcasters will be more likely to share your website if it is short and sweet rather than being full of forward slashes and sub-directories.
Have a good intro and outro for the show. Your intro shouldn’t be too long because if it’s too long and/or not interesting, it will turn people off. It should be instantaneously catchy and draw the listener in. You should be entering the actual episode part of the show at around 30 seconds. Any longer than that and you risk people turning the show off.
Do not expect instant listenership and/or feedback. Power through the loneliness you may feel after releasing your early episodes and then hearing nothing from listeners. It happens. Remember it is not about attention. Advertise your show. Get the word out. Get it up on different websites. Get it heard. etc. The listenership will come if you are putting out good consistent work and after a while they will do that work for you because they want others to hear your show too.
You will never know how many subscribers you actually have. The best you can do is know an average number. Accept that. The only thing you will have to go by are your downloads and dividing your total number of downloads by the number of episodes. This will give you and idea of your average listenership. That is all you can really be sure of.
Post Production is important and it will take longer to do than you expect. Edit and review the show material before releasing an episode. If you’re doing interviews, edit out unnecessary sounds or phrases that disrupt the flow of the conversation. Remove mouth sounds, periods of silence, repeated words when you can, or sentence stumbles that get corrected by the speaker. Take out the stumbles because they are often unnecessary and can be confusing to listen to. Just keep in mind that sometimes you have to leave in a stumble because the shifting content or the audio moment is rooted in that stumble and the stumble actually adds or carries the content better than an edit will. As long as the edit sounds good and the content is not changed one bit, then everyone will be happier for it. Also, record and edit while wearing headphones.
Podcast and podcaster resources… Yikes. There are so many books, awards, blogs, articles, emails lists, groups, podcasts about podcasting, conventions, etc. out there it can be overwhelming. I am sorry, but I am not going to even attempt to list them all. This you’ll have to find out for yourself, but at least now you know that they are out there so I have fulfilled some portion of my end of the bargin.
I think that is enough of my rambling on the matters of podcasting…
I hope this helps and good luck!