Chances are many of us have downloaded a fair few podcasts during recent weeks.
According to Podcast Insights, there were over 900,000 podcasts available worldwide and over 30 million episodes, as of March 2020 – and the choices are endless, from true crime and sports, to mental health, science, comedy and everything in-between. But what if you’re thinking of giving it a go yourself?
Steve Folland, who runs two podcasts, Being Freelance and Doing it For the Kids, says: "Why the hell not? Think about who your audience is and what the point of your podcast is. Don’t worry about the number of listeners you get, if even a handful benefit and enjoy it at first, that’s amazing," he adds. "I always think – I’d be happy chatting to a room of people, it doesn’t need to be a concert venue, right?
"You can totally podcast from home. Other than getting a USB microphone delivered, you can also use your phone. I do think audio quality matters though."
And while you might just go-ahead for the fun of it, bear in mind this is a big commitment. "Podcasting is great fun, but it can take a lot of work. Particularly in promoting it," says Folland. "But if you find you don’t enjoy it, then no shame in stopping. Let’s face it, we tend to find time for the things we really enjoy."
Dawn Kelly, multi-media journalist and founder of production company Bird Lime Media, says: "It’s pure escapism. For 30 minutes, you can be a private investigator on a crime scene, or transported to a dystopian future, or in the middle of a conversation with your two favourite comedians about something as intimate as grief. There isn’t really another format like it."
If you agree, here’s how to get going…
Think of the show ‘goal’
For podcast producer and broadcast journalist Sarah Myles, who also runs podcasting workshops called RISE AND SHINE, a key thing when getting started is to think about your show ‘goal’.
"Two things I always ask clients are what do they want to get from their show, and how much time and money are they are willing to put in. It’s important to be realistic and consider the time that goes into each part of the process," she says. "Do you want to build a community? Gain a big or dedicated listenership? Pass time before lunch? There’s no wrong answer to why you want to make a podcast but it’s good to have one."
If you have a great name for your pod, you’ll need to check it’s not taken. You could also check the same name on social media, in case you want to create accounts to publicise it.
By far most important medium for me throughout the crisis has been radio and podcasts. It feels much more personal and think we need that at the moment— Niall Breslin (@nbrez) May 14, 2020
Do you need a logo?
The simple answer is ‘yes’ – but it can be a simple one. Apps such as Canva are ideal for designing something, or you could go with a photo of yourself or something pertinent to the topic.
"When designing a logo, think about the small thumbnail that’s going to appear on podcast platforms. It doesn’t need to be the Sistine Chapel, something simple and bold that will appeal to your listeners will work best," says Myles.
What about editing?
Kelly says: "As a general rule of thumb, if your podcast recording is 30-minutes long, it will take four times as long to prep, edit and distribute it. You need to add music, edit out any mistakes, upload and promote it.
"Audiences like consistency, so creating a realistic schedule you can stick to is key. For example, six episodes that go out on the same day every week."
Over three hours of editing a one hour podcast 😫 pic.twitter.com/FlWyvdvu30— Austin (Author, Podcast Host, Dude) (@thatonepk) May 14, 2020
And a theme tune?
You don’t have to have music, but if you think of podcasts you enjoy, most of them have a theme tune or intro music to break things up. You can’t just use any tunes you want though.
Kelly says: "Try out music, listen on headphones, on speakers, in different environments. Always source music properly – YouTube have a library. Google ‘YouTube rights-free music’." Sites such as Audio Jungle also have short tunes you can download for a small fee.
Setting a pilot
"Pilots are a great way of seeing if you have budget/time for a series or even a weekly show," says Myles. If you don’t have the team, budget or time to set up your own version of This American Life, think about a format that will fit your resources.
"You don’t need to blow the budget to make something amazing, but you do need to think it through a bit first," Myles adds.
Equipment and recording
You could record via sites such as Zoom, using your headphone mic, but if you’re serious about podcasting, you need to invest in a ‘proper’ microphone.
"My go to portable kit is a Zoom H4N Pro, beyerdynamic M58 mics and a decent set of headphones," says Myles. (Look them up on the internet for more information – and you might even get hold of some via Ebay or sellers on podcast groups.)
"This is a strong kit for professional sounding audio but there are very good cheaper options if this setup isn’t feasible. I’ve used the RØDE SC6-L kit that you just plug into your phone.
"I’ve also had people just use the voice memo function on their smartphone (although it’s important to hold it up to your face like you’re making a phone-call and not in front of your face like you’re in The Apprentice)."
Kelly says: "Sorting out the technology is often the biggest hurdle, but it needn’t be. You can buy a fancy mic at a later date if you love podcasting and if people love your podcast. To start with, you just need a laptop, some headphones and either your computer’s in-built microphone or a pair of headphones with a mic built in.
"Recording in isolation with a guest dialled in is completely do-able with the following software. Zencastr, where you can set up a virtual studio and send your guest a link, records each guest on a separate audio track, which makes editing easy.
"SquadCast is similar but you can see your guest on your webcams. And Zoom, where the sound quality is not quite as good, and you have a time limit if you’re a free user.
"When you have your recording, you need to edit it (Adobe Audition or Audacity are great), then you need to use a distribution platform like Podbean or Acast to get it out in the world."
What about location if the house is noisy?
"I think being a good recordist is adapting to what’s possible," says Myles. "You want to avoid hard surfaces when recording so the sound doesn’t bounce. Recording under a duvet is the classic trick but if your podcast is a corporate interview show, that may get a bit strange," she adds.
"Cushions and bookshelves work a treat, IKEA do sound absorbing panels, and cars make great voice-over booths (please don’t record and drive)."
Folland agrees about the car: "I did this with the Doing It For The Kids podcast recently. Because it’s a small, well-furnished space, it actually makes a great acoustic space."
If you want to up your podcast skills, you can go a step further and sign up to courses such as Audio Storytelling and Creative Sound Production at the GoCreate Academy.