Careers Toolkit: A step-by-step guide on how to start a podcast

About to venture into the world of podcasting? Need some professional tips to up your game? Follow our step-by-step guide by Lucia Scazzocchio.

Coined in 2004, the term ‘podcast’ is a combo of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’. So basically, it’s a downloadable radio show without the confines and constrictions of ‘radio’ broadcasting.

Primarily an audio show (there are also video podcasts), usually spread across a series of episodes, which can be downloaded and listened to either on a computer or an MP3 player / Phone.

In this tutorial Lucia Scazzocchio, a radio and podcast pro, and founder of Social Broadcasts: a podcasting company, whose client list includes The Guardian, V&A, and Kings College London; shares her top tips on how to create a podcast from planning to the techy bits of recording.

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STAGE 1. PLAN

Before you embark on a podcasting adventure, be warned: like maintaining a blog, it does require some dedication.

Of course there is no reason why you can’t do a one-off podcast but on the whole – like radio shows – they work when they are broadcast with regularity.

A FEW THINGS TO CONSIDER

a) Who and what is this podcast for?

– Just for fun or because you have something to say

– To promote something

– As additional content (to accompany a magazine / blog, etc.)

– To add value to your professional expertise (counselling, coaching, finance)

The above will help you define the format, theme style, length and regularity.

There are no rules, but…

b) Themes and topics

It will make yours and your potential listeners life easier if you have a distinct theme to your podcast. Make sure it’s something that is sustainable over time and won’t run out of steam. It can be as niche as you want (in fact the more niche the better) but make sure you know your stuff or you know enough people who do! Find a catchy title that captures the theme or content.

Deciding on a framework and format from the outset is key.

c) Format

Deciding on a framework and format from the outset is key (of course things will and can change over time but your audience will be lost if you change things around too much).

A few formats to consider:

– One-on-one interview

– Group discussion (Often a group of ‘experts’ around a table to discuss a common topic like tech or football)

– A considered monologue or audio essay (The podcast equivalent of a personal blog)

But back to you. Your format could be:

– Informal banter with a friend (only do this if your are seriously funny or already famous. There are literally thousands of podcasts featuring 2 blokes chatting about stuff, so be warned…)

– Expert advice (Great if you’re a coach or councillor of some sort and your advice is invaluable as you have your audience’s full attention)

– An exploration into the topic of your interest

For more experienced or ambitious podcasters:

– A researched news style report with interviews

– Audio documentary

– Soundscape or audio poem

Length – There are no rules but think of the listener, better to have a really engaging 10mins than a waffly hour. Also the beauty of podcasts is they don’t have to be the same length every time, they aren’t confined to airtime so don’t be trapped by this.

Schedule – What can you commit to? It’s much better to have a regular monthly podcast than commit to one a week and run out of steam after 4 episodes. Also consider the purpose. You might feel that a weekly podcast is essential to keep your audience engaged – in that case make it shorter and simpler.

Script – Not essential but really useful to have at least some idea of where your going. If you are reading from a script, practice first so it sounds as natural as possible. For interviews do your research and prepare questions.

Production – Creating a multi-layered, cleverly edited podcast takes time and a lot of practice, so if in doubt keep it simple. But if you do want to use music, beds (the music that goes under speech) and sound effects, make sure you have the permissions you need. You do need artist consent to feature any music, so if in doubt source music from people you know or from somewhere like: www.soundcloud.com (search for royalty free music)

http://search.creativecommons.org
http://www.freesound.org

You don’t need to spend much and you don’t need state of the art recording equipment to get started

STAGE 2. MAKE

a) Equipment

When embarking on anything that requires specific equipment, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of online reviews and endless options. You don’t need to spend much and you don’t need state of the art recording equipment to get started.

Most of the professional popular podcasts are recorded in a recording or radio studio (the ideal environment) but creating something that sounds good at home or on location is possible with basic equipment, even a smartphone can do the job.

Solo Studio Style Podcaster Equipment:

– USB Microphone with pop shield
– Headphones
– Desktop / Laptop with audio recoding / editing software
– Quiet room with plenty of furnishings (an empty room will sound echoey)
– Cost: £50 +
– See: Podcast Bundles (T Bone, Rode, Blue)

Interview Style Podcaster Equipment:

– USB plug n play mixing desk
– Headphones
– XLR microphones (they plug into the mixing desk)
– Desktop / Laptop with audio recording/editing software
– Quiet room with plenty of soft furnishings (an empty room will sound echoey or boomy)
– Cost: £80 +
– See: Podcast Bundles (Behinger)

Location / versatile recording Equipment:

– Handheld recoding device (extra possibility of attaching external mics or using the internal mic is useful) + windscreen for outdoor recording
– Headphones
– Desktop/Laptop / Tablet with audio editing software
– A tripod or handle
– Cost: £100 +
– See: ZoomHD Recorder, Tascam, Sony, Olympus

Using a Smartphone or tablet

It is possible to record, edit and broadcast audio files, interviews and radio shows using just your smartphone / tablet mic and an app. This is a great option for report style on location interviews but wouldn’t recommend this for a more polished podcast.

I’ve tried the following:

– Audioboom App: Record, edit and upload to Audioboom
– Tascam App: Record, edit and upload to Soundcloud
– Spreaker: Record, edit and upload to Spreaker
– Acast: Record, edit, upload to Acast

Bad quality sound is much less forgiving than bad quality video, if it’s hard to hear or there’s too much background noise people will switch off

b) Recording

Sound quality is very important. Bad quality sound is much less forgiving than bad quality video, if it’s hard to hear or there’s too much background noise people will switch off no matter how interesting the content.

Software: Some podcast bundles come with recording software but you can also download free software such as Audacity which is quite straight forward.

Music production software can be more complicated to use but offer more production options. (Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Logic, Cubase, etc.)

More radio production specific are: Audition, Sound Forge, Pro Tools

A FEW TIPS

– Monitor what you’re recording with headphones if possible

– Check recording levels (if they are too high the recoding will be saturated and that is impossible to fix)

– Check for background noise (It’s very easy not to notice the building works or air conditioning whilst in a conversation but you will notice when listening back)

– If in doubt do a retake.

c) Editing and Production

Most recoding software will include editing functions that will take a bit of time to learn but work on the same principals of the cutting and pasting process of most creative software.

You may want to use several tracks so that you can overlap sounds or have a music bed but a straightforward podcast can be on a single track.

Some smartphone and tablet recording apps include simple editing software, but check first as many don’t. Patience is the essence, and this can be a frustrating learning curve but worth it.

A FEW TIPS

– Check that the volume is the same all the way through (e.g. different people speaking at the same volume)

– Make sure there aren’t big gaps of dead air (silence)

– Take out coughs and odd noises

– If you use music as a bed, make sure the speech is audible over the top

– Listen back – does it make sense?

d) Exporting your file

The recording and editing software you use should give you a few options for exporting your file. If you can export in WAV (an uncompressed format) then do so. If needed you can also convert to mp3 – a smaller compressed file as well, but always keep a higher quality copy just in case.

CONSIDER: Where will you host your podcast? For example, iTunes are the biggest podcast platform and place associated with podcasts

STAGE 3. PODCAST

You now have an audio file that you would like to turn into a podcast – i.e. online and available to the pubic.

There are many different platforms that host podcasts and audio so choose carefully. For most it’s important to get their podcast listed on iTunes as they are the biggest podcast platform and place associated with podcasts.

You can’t upload an audio file to iTunes, it has to be hosted on another website that will provide you with an RSS tag generated from an XML feed.

(Your audio file is hosted on a website and you need to provide the location for iTunes to pull this information)

Free audio hosting websites (often limited and then premium options cost)

– Soundcloud – https://on.soundcloud.com/creator-guide/podcasting

– Mixcloud – Unlimited time

– Buzzsprout

– Audioboom (Easy iTunes setup)

– Spreaker

– Acast

Getting your podcast on iTunes

There are lots of myths about this being selective and tricky but it’s actually quite straightforward.

Step 1: https://podcastsconnect.apple.com
Step 2: Enter your RSS Feed link
Step 3: Make sure it’s got the correct image, categories, genre, name
Step 4: Submit
Step 5: Wait patiently for an email from apple to validate

You only need to do this once, as now whenever you add an audio file to your host website, it will automatically be added to iTunes.

It’s also worth embedding your audiofile into your website / blog and of course getting the word out via social media which is not that audio friendly at present, but this is being developed as podcasting becomes more popular.

The next step is think about marketing your podcast and growing your audience.

Happy podcasting!

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Created by Lucia Scazzocchio
www.socialbroadcasts.co.uk
Contact: Lucia@socialbroadcasts.co.uk
Socials: @SOCIALBRDCSTS

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