A podcast is:
- a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.
Podcasting is becoming more and more popular and there are lots of reasons why.
They’re easy to find, easy to listen to, and easy to make.
They’re also a great way to reach your audience – be it your members, your followers or your niche market.
They’re exploding in popularity for two big reasons – smartphones and broadband.
These devices with a myriad of internet-enabled apps make it easy for listeners to find podcasts in one click on a smartphone – tens of thousands of them in niche subjects and interests from sport to technology to medicine and everything in between.
Everyone from top radio stations, to newspapers, bloggers and influencers are making podcasts these days.
For the producer, making podcasts can be simple and low tech – and therefore inexpensive.
Costs depend on what you want to achieve – but you can certainly make your own podcasts easily and quickly – without spending a fortune on equipment and editing.
Just with a smartphone microphone, and using good recording techniques, you can make your own podcast right from your car (a very good sound booth, actually (when it’s parked and the engine switched off)!. Or a quiet carpetted room.
As an independent radio producer, I tend to use good digital recorders, and get the best conditions I can for podcast, with audio soundwalls which are portable and bring a studio quality to an average location. (see photo).
For wildtrack and sound effects for radio documentaries, I have occasionally used my iPhone to record good sound – mainly interiors.
Recording outside with my iPhone I have used an additional stereo microphone with a windshield – such as the Shure MV88. (add visual – we can take a photo of Aileen’s if necessary).
So do you want to make a podcast and don’t know where to start?
If you are considering either making them yourself, or hiring someone, here are my five top tips.
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE AND KEEP IT NICHE.
With an estimated 700,000 active podcasts and 29m episodes available now, you need to be found and you need to know where your podcast belongs. Ask yourself: who is your audience, where can they be found, and how do I reach them? Social media is the obvious place, but so is an email list. If you are part of a membership organisation, then you have a head start.
2. DECIDE THE STRUCTURE AND KEEP IT CONVERSATIONAL
Podcasts differ from most radio programmes in that they are less structured and more conversational. So remember that your listener should feel the presenter is talking to them directly, in a language and tone that they relate to, North Americans seem to have a natural ability to do this – at great length!
Performers such as Blindboy – a very popular podcast – are able to talk directly. Blindboy makes it clear that he records it himself on his own computer – he sounds authentic and real and like other popular podcasters, he has the knack of capturing your attention while also being eclectic. Blindboy has recently started to record live podcasts – well worth a listen for an example of this style.
3. LISTEN TO WHAT WORKS.
Have something to say that adds to the knowledge or entertainment of your listener. So it could be a conversational diary, or an educational podcast. It could be personal, or businesslike. It could be just you, or be an interview, or a group chat. But it must work for the listener. So listen to lots of different types of podcasts and see what works for you.
4. DECIDE ON A CHANNEL AND VISUALS – LET PEOPLE KNOW
Give your podcast a name – a title that will help people find it – and decide where you are going to host it. ITunes is the obvious place as it’s the biggest channel, and I do recommend that. Every iPhone now has the Podcasts app installed. But for Android users, it’s not so easy to decide – there’s Google Podcasts, which is growing all the time but still a fraction of the size of Apple, – and Soundcloud is also very dominant.
Don’t forget Spotify – its podcasts are really exploding numberswise.
I like Podbean because it’s dedicated to podcasts, and enables you to generate an RSS feed – the code you need to have Apple host your podcast.
Remember also to think about a visual for your podcast – a square shaped visual that will give your podcast an identity. As simple as a photo or a logo – but a graphic designer can help you with that.
5. RECORD ONE ON YOUR PHONE AND LEARN FROM IT
Yes, just make one! Take the pen and paper first, and write down six ideas for six episodes. Put a few thoughts down in bullet points – they give you a basis for a structure of episodes. Consistency is key, and remember you could record a batch of episodes in one go, which will also save you time.
Think about your budget and whether it’s best to hire someone or a studio to record in.While this can be a significant investment, you are working with professionals who can guarantee high quality sound and help you deliver your content to your audience.
Aileen O’Meara is an award-winning ex RTE broadcast journalist, who has produced many of RTE Radio One’s top broadcasters. She has produced podcasts for organisations including the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the National Library of Ireland, and the Irish College of General Practitioners.
She provides podcast production and training services at www.aileenomeara.ie. Her occasional podcast series (in which she ignores Tip no. 5) is called Clarence Street Stories.