7 Tips for Starting a Podcast

7-tips-for-starting-a-podcastBy Tess McCabe Now that you've had a week since my article 'How to download and listen to podcasts' to download shows, binge-listen and basically become obsessed with podcasting, perhaps you're thinking: I could do this!

That’s great! Today I'll offer some tips on how to start your own podcast.

But first, another tech disclaimer: Emma and I are relatively new at this too, so we don't have it all down pat yet. But the info contained herein is a pretty good foundation for getting your first ep online

1. Decide on a topic. As discussed last week, most podcasts have a niche theme or overarching format, and that's what draws in listeners. When deciding what to make a podcast about, I first looked to my interests. One of my main interests involves asking people about their creative businesses (which, lets face it, I do a lot of already in various other forms!). I like TV and film, but I can't really talk about those topics in a 'critical analysis' kind of way without sounding like a dum-dum. I do like talking about my kid though, and asking people about their family situations, and talking to my mum friends. Ding! Hours of interesting content ideas suddenly presented themselves.

Having some kind of structure to your talk-topic also helps. Emma and I have somewhat of a content calendar in terms of planned interviews (which helps when one or the other needs some time off, to, like have a baby or other such important life event). We also have a running list of interesting conversation topics and topical questions to ask, and apply these to guests as we see fit.

2. Decide who you will talk to. Most of the podcasts I listen to feature between 1 and 4 people talking. Grace Bonney, for example, sometimes does an episode of After The Jump on her own about her business experiences, and sometimes she has a guest or two to interview. WTF with Marc Maron and Conversations with Richard Fidler are usually a one-on-one interviews with a different person every episode. Chat 10 Looks 3 (the brilliant new podcast by journalists Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales) is just the two of them chatting. On The New Normal, it's generally always Emma and I interviewing a guest.

Having different guests on your podcast comes with its pros and cons. Pro, you (and your listeners) get to meet and hear different perspectives from different people. Con, it can be a logistical effort to organise guests and find new people to feature every episode.

The pros of working with a partner on a podcast are obvious: halve the workload, double the fun! Given that I have a podcasting partner, I can't think of any cons right now... probably just the logistical effort of coordinating schedules.

3. Practise talking. This one sounds like a joke, but it's not. I did NOT realise the weird and annoying (to me at least) things that I do when I talk until I heard myself recorded! Eek! With the help of editing software (see below) one can edit out unnecessary 'ums', voice cracks, and pauses post-recording, but it helps to train yourself instead to be conscious of how you talk. If this involves practise, then do it. If it involves writing down notes re: witty anecdotes or questions for your guest, then do it. No-one likes to hear drawn out 'soo... um, there was something else I wanted to ask... ummm'.

It's also worth considering the format. Practise holding back if you're inclined to talk over people. Practise speaking up if you tend to mumble. And most importantly, if you're interviewing a guest, practise listening - it's likely your listeners will want to hear what they have to say slightly more than you!

4. Figure out how and where you're going to record your podcast. We record TNN on an iPhone through an app called iTalk. It's free, and the quality of the recording is decent even without needing a separate microphone.

Considerations such as how quiet your location will be is important. Again, test your equipment in your location to see what works (I never realised how squeaky my dining table chairs were until I thought about sitting down to record there!)

5. Edit and add music. Who doesn't love a catch jingle at the beginning of a radio show? Our theme tune was custom written just for us (helps to have friends with songwriting/producing skills!), but for the CWC podcasts and recordings I found some royalty-free music online for which I pay an reasonable annual license fee to use.

Remember, you can't just use any old song as your theme song, as these would more than likely be protected by copyright.

In terms of editing a recorded file, we use Audacity. It takes a little getting used to using but once you're accustomed, you'll be cutting and editing like a pro. In an editing program you can add your theme music to the start and end of your episode, tighten the episode by removing ums, ah's, coughing fits and even boring conversational tangents, and export the file ready for uploading online.

6. Get it out there. There are a few ways to get your complete audio file online and into the ears of your loyal listeners, but often it can be a bit of a convoluted process of workarounds if you want it to remain free and (relatively) easy. Our episodes are uploaded to our BandCamp page, embedded from there via HTML code into our website blog, and then that RSS feed talks to iTunes so the episode pops up there.

iTunes is where you really want your podcast to be, but there are a few rules - you have to be 5 episodes deep before you can apply, and they have to approve your show before they put it on their system.

7. Promote and build an audience. Just like any blog or creative business, promoting your podcast and building an audience takes time, determination, and some marketing know-how. Becoming more readily 'findable' on iTunes involves gathering listener reviews, and encouraging listeners to subscribe, so that you pop up in search results near the top. TNN has its own social media accounts and listeners can sign up to receive an email whenever a new episode is released. We’re still building our audience, so you can follow us over here, here and here!

Let us know if you start your own podcast this summer!