Blogging is constantly reinventing itself. Bloggers today no longer just churn out text based content; they complement it with media rich offerings such as images, audio and video content. One of the more popular formats more and more bloggers are embracing today is podcasting. Podcasts have been around for a while, but is gaining more traction today as bloggers attempt to show off their personality and expertise through their self hosted talks.
What is a Podcast?
A podcast is a digital medium of presenting data that can be download by users. It is usually in the audio format (MP3) although video podcasts are not uncommon. Podcasts are usually made available as a series of shows that people can subscribe and listen to on a regular basis.
Why Do a Podcast?
In earlier times, if you wanted to talk to your readers or audiences, you were limited to doing TV or radio shows. This was fraught with limitations; it was hard to get a gig and you were restricted to showcasing your product only to a small audience located in a specific geo location.
Thanks to the Internet, today you can create your own talk show or podcast without too much hassle. And the benefits are enormous. You get to be the boss of your show and have complete control over everything; you don't need too much money to get started; you work at your own pace, and in the convenience of your own home or office. Best of all, your podcast has a global reach and is instantly available to all.
If you have something unique to sell to your audience and have a personality that can influence an audience, why not cast a spell on them via podcasts! If you are thinking about taking the plunge into podcasting, this guide should help you get started.
How to Make a Podcast
Now that you’ve set your mind to doing a podcast, what should you podcast about? Here are some pointers.
- Select a topic you are familiar with and are passionate about.
- Do your research well. Go to popular podcasting sites and check out the popular and trending topics for ideas. iTunes is a great place to start with.
- If your topic of choice is in an oversaturated market, you will have little chance of success. That does not mean you give it up though. If you have a unique selling point and are confident of crushing the competition just go for it.
- A better opportunity lies in discovering untapped niches. Chances are, you’ll be able to attract a sizable audience right away.
Determine the Format of Your Podcast
Once you have decided on a topic, its time to start figuring out how you’re going to structure your podcast. Should you do an interview series or present it yourself? How long should you talk? Should you prepare a script in advance? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered. Make sure that you prepare a checklist and have a clear strategy of your podcasting format. Here are some guidelines.
Learn from the Best
- If you’re new to podcasting, download podcasts from popular podcasters and observe how they are presenting their content. If a particular method of presentation impresses you, you can follow a similar format.
Long or Short?
- Podcasts can be made for any length of time. They can be for 5 minutes but can also stretch up to 60. Take as long as necessary to convey your message, but make sure that all podcasts in the series are of an even length. You can't have your first episode running for 10 minutes, your 2nd one for 20 minutes and the next one 45 minutes long.
Prepare in Advance
- Its always best that you write your intro and key talking points for each segment in advance. You don’t want to be searching your mind for a point to discuss in the middle of your podcast. Reading from a script will sound stiff, so avoid doing that as well. Instead keep your key points at hand so you will know what you are going to talk about next.
Set a Time Schedule
- Prepare a schedule of your podcast releases. You can start with a bi monthly schedule when you are a beginner and then move on to do weekly or bi weekly shows when you are more comfortable with your skills.
Whom to Interview?
- If you plan on doing interviews for your first podcast, start off with people you are friends with or people who are well known to you. Inviting big names is a big no-no.
- If you plan to add some music to your podcast, make sure you have the rights to the media. You don't want to end up with unnecessary copyright issues.
Brand Your Title & Make it Search Friendly
- Your podcast title should be easily findable on a search and must reflect your personality. Make sure your title includes your brand/blog name along with a target keyword.
Prepare Eyecatching Artwork
- Make sure you have an eye catching (1400 x 1400 pixel) artwork for your podcast cover. This visual representation of your podcast is important as this is what catches the viewer’s eye when they are browsing and draws them to click/download your podcast.
Podcasting Tools & Equipment
Now that you have defined your podcasting idea and have finalized its format, you'll need some tools to start the recording process. If you are on a tight budget, you can start with some free tools, but be prepared to lose some quality.
In its simplest form, a microphone and a sound recorder should be enough – like your humble laptop. But these are probably better suited for your practice sessions. If you do give it a go you’ll notice that surrounding noises get recorded along with your voice.
You may consider using a pair of headphones to get the job done, (there's probably a few lying around the house anyway) but these are not professional tools and can only do so much.
If you are ready to spend some money, here are tools worth checking out:
All of these microphones come recommended by the International Association of Internet Broadcasters. A general recommendation is that you do a voice test before you make your purchase decision.
- Pop Filter: The screen in front of the mic to kill breath sounds.
- Stand: To hold the mic
- Shock Mount: To prevent other vibrations from picking up.
If you look through Amazon, you'll find microphones bundled with accessories such as the Heil Sound PR 40 Dynamic Cardioid Studio Microphone. You'll also find bundled offers that shave a few dollars off the price, so search around before you make your purchase decision.
SOUND RECORDERS/EDITORS TO CHECK OUT
A sound recorder/editor is essential to clean up your recording, add intros and such and two of the best tools that are around are Audacity and Garageband (for Mac). Audacity is free and has plenty of tutorials to help you with your podcast editing. Garageband comes as part of your Mac or can be downloaded from the Mac Store, but you'll find Audacity a lot easier to work with on both platforms.
Mixers improve audio quality and make the recording workflow a lot more smoother and efficient. They are also very handy when you are doing a live podcast directly with guests or using Skype interviews. There are several factors you need to consider when choosing a mixer, but the models recommended above are some of the best tools you can pick from.
If you are taking guest interviews via Skype, you'll need tools to record your conversations and any of the above mentioned tools should do nicely. Both products have trial versions to try before you buy.
Recording a Podcast
Now you have decided on the necessary equipment, purchased and set it up, you can start recording your podcasts.
When you start recording, keep in mind these tips for delivering an effective talk.
- To keep your sound quality consistent, keep a steady distance from the mic.
- Avoid speaking too loudly as you may not be able to adjust your volume later on in your editing software. If your sound level on the screen hits the red mark, you know you're going off the mark.
- At the start of the podcast, expressly state what your readers can expect in the podcast.
- Segment your podcast into smaller chunks to avoid people from becoming wary of listening to you. You can have an intro section, followed by a problem situation, live examples, solution, call to action and you can add a tiny musical intro to demarcate each section.
- Avoid deviating away from the topic and stay focused on your discussion. You can talk about personal stuff..after all that's what endears you to your listeners, but don't ramble on about your personal life or stuff that has nothing to do with your show.
- Don't forget to direct people to visit your blog. Show them links to your website where they can discover more useful information related to the topic you're discussing.
- At the end of your podcast, thrown in a call to action to engage readers and get them to do something ( like subscribing to to your blog) after listening to your show.
- Don't forget to enjoy the show! If you're not going to enjoy talking about things that matter to you and your audience, how will your audience enjoy it?
Editing a Podcast
Now that you have recorded your first show, its time to take a listen to it. You may not be entirely impressed with your voice at first, but that’s where you’ll find Audacity to be of great value. When your recording plays out in Audacity, you’ll see the audio representation in a waveform.
Listen closely to where the voice is distorted (sneezing, coughing, ummmm-ing), highlight that part on the waveform and then hit delete. Replay the audio again to make sure you edited it correctly. You can undo and redo the edits until you’ve got it right. Don’t forget to save the changes after every edit fix. Audacity can sometimes crash leaving you with a lot of rework, so always save your work after every fix.
One more thing you need to keep in mind while editing is not to do too much of it. This can become a seriously bad habit and you'll find yourself never being satisfied with your work.
Once all the edits are complete, you can export the file and save it at its default settings in the WAV format.
The next step involves leveling the audio. This is to ensure that your recording is at a consistent sound level and is perfect for listeners. There aren't many standout tools that I have come across but Auphonic is a web service that's worth checking out. Its not free, but you can take up the free 2 hours processing option before you decide to buy more credits.
If you plan on using music for your intros, be aware of copyright infringement issues. You need to have permission to use music files that are not your own creation. You can find music with licenses (that let you use them the way you want) by doing a Google search for Creative Commons music; you can also find tunes with commercial licenses by searching on Vimeo. Just read the terms and conditions before you use the stuff.
When you have the right music, you can use Audacity to edit the music according to your needs. Keep your intro short and snappy at the start between 10 and 20 seconds and then fade it out gradually. When you have the right mix, save the file and export it.
Now its time to put everything together. Open a new project in Audacity, drag and drop the music file as well the audio file you saved earlier. Adjust the music and the start of your talk according to your requirements and then save and export the file once again.
Giving Your Podcast the Final Touches
Now that your podcast is all ready and rearing to go, its time to upload it. iTunes is one of the best tools to use to add the final touches such as tagging and compressing it to make it ready for upload.
Set up an iTunes account if you don’t have one, then upload the podcast to the iTunes library. Right click the podcast in your iTunes library and select Get Info. Fill all the fields in the Info tab, add the artwork and then click OK. Make sure your titles are branded and keyword rich, your artwork is attractive and your description has all the keywords integrated.
Once you have tagged all the fields, its time to compress your file and make it easier for users to download.
Go to the iTunes Preferences and in the General tab, click Import Settings. Under Import Using select MP3 encoder. Under Settings select Custom. You can select Spoken Podcast and hit OK. In the iTunes window, right-click the podcast and select Create MP3 version. Your podcast will now be tagged and compressed and placed in the iTunes library.
Uploading Your Podcast
You're all set to upload your podcast now. One recommendation I'd like to make here is that you do not upload your podcasting files to the same location where you host your website. This is because should your podcast take a lot of hits, you'll find it affecting the speed and performance of your website. There are both free and paid media hosts and you can consider a few of the options listed below.
After uploading your podcast, be sure to grab the podcasting link and add it to your website.
Setting Up a Podcast Feed
Setting up a podcasting feed is not the same as submitting a usual blog post feed because your MP3 files don't get recognized with your usual feedburner settings. You'll need to use a plugin for this purpose and the WordPress directory has plenty to choose from. Configure a plugin that works best for you and you'll now have your own unique podcast feed that you can use to submit to various podcast directories.
Submitting a Podcast to Various Directories
After you have published your first podcast, you can submit your feed to directories. It is always better to have a few podcasts under your belt before you submit to directories, because listeners who check out your first podcast may want more and you don't want to be found lacking.
To submit your podcast to iTunes, first grab your podcast feed URL, go to iTunes and select Podcasts. In the Podcasts menu, click Submit a Podcast. Add your feed URL, preview the podcast details and hit Submit. You should be approved in 48 hours. You can also submit your podcast to the popular Stitcher platform and the process is fairly simple...just fill up the necessary fields on the website and you're set.
That's it folks! You should now have a fairly good idea on how to make a podcast. Go ahead and start your podcasting journey.