How to make a podcast.
Audio entertainment is back and continues to grow with podcasting, a medium populated by an increasing number of compelling programs. Explore information on how to break into podcast hosting.
How to start recording your own podcast show.
Podcasting is a relatively new medium. It’s also a vast one. It’s everything from NPR and the BBC uploading their radio shows to iTunes to a single independent creator telling a story one episode at a time. Podcasting is news, comedy, true crime, and every other conceivable audio genre. Somewhat ironically, it’s also a medium that’s outlasted its namesake: iPods are a rarity now, but podcasts are everywhere.
While digital talk shows date back to the 1990s, and audio storytelling dates back much further than that, podcasting didn’t truly take hold until around 2004. Podcasting relies on fairly basic technology. To start your own podcast, all you need is a microphone and an RSS feed (a type of web feed that allows applications like podcatchers to easily access updates on your website). This basic technology can get your show on all of the major syndication networks, right alongside popular podcasts like The Daily, Serial, TED Radio Hour, or Radiolab.
Podcasting may be easy to learn, but it’s hard to master. It’s a crowded medium, and standing out amid all the other offerings on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and other networks takes effort and a commitment to professionalism.
Understanding the basics of podcast formats.
You need to have a plan for your podcast. No one is going to make good content just by opening their mouth. If it’s a single voice podcast with a narrator, stick to a script. If you’re doing a conversational group show, make sure every cohost knows their role.
Understand what your show is about and know your voice. Good podcasts connect because they’re focused on a topic and because their hosts are able to deliver a voice and perspective that is unique. “To get the maximum amount of potential listeners and subscribers, there should be a very specific voice and sound quality that you’re after, and you must know what you’re going to talk about,” says Jamie Jeffers of The British History Podcast. Research, preparation, and having a script will all serve you well.
If you want to find an audience with your podcast, your first episode is your best chance. “If you mess up within the first couple of minutes of your launch episode, people will move on to another show and then they’re not coming back,” says Jeffers. Podcatchers and syndication networks like Apple Podcasts often promote new shows that are getting a lot of downloads, so those first few episodes can matter a lot. Practice recording before you actually publish. Achieve the voice and audio quality you want, and make a few practice or dummy episodes you never intend to publish before you actually put something on SoundCloud or Google Play.
Beyond the audio quality and content, eye-catching cover art and comprehensive summaries of episodes known as show notes listed on podcasting platforms are important — and not just to give podcast listeners a better idea of what your show is like. Show notes are essential to improve your Google search results.
“Eye-catching cover art and comprehensive...show notes listed on podcasting platforms are important."
Tools and tips of the podcasting trade.
Microphones are your most important podcasting tools. There’s no upper limit to microphone quality or expense — you can spend thousands of dollars on a mic, preamp, and wires. But for most beginner podcasters, a USB mic will do the job. Many go for under $200.
How you sit, stand, and speak into the mic can affect audio quality. It’s important to maintain a consistent distance from the microphone. It’s natural for most people to move their head or shift from side to side while talking, but fight that impulse when speaking into a mic. Stay still, maintain distance, and don’t make editing harder by moving.
“For most beginner podcasters, a USB mic will do the job. Many go for under $200.”
Be sure to use a pop filter on your mic. Without one, hard sounds like plosives (B or P sounds) or sibiliants (S sounds) can pop or hiss unpleasantly in your audience’s ear. Pop filters also mitigate the inevitable sound of your exhalation.
You’ll also need editing software like a digital audio workstation (DAW) to turn your raw audio files into episodes. While some high-quality podcasts will use the same complex editing software that produces music, podcasters can generally get by with simpler programs.
Your podcast needs to live somewhere. You’ll need a website, an RSS feed, and a hosting service for your audio files. A basic WordPress site will usually suffice for your site, and setting up an RSS feed is a similar process. For hosting, services like Blubrry and Libsyn offer affordable services for hosting your podcast episodes. It is possible to store your episodes on your own site, but it doesn’t take many listeners downloading your show to lead to major slowdowns. A hosting service will bypass this issue. Most of these hosting services have custom plugins, so all you need to do is make a blog post in WordPress, link to your episode on your hosting service with the right plugin, and then publish.
You might want to add intro and outro music to your recording. If so, be wary of using copyrighted music. There’s plenty of free music on stock audio services just waiting to be your theme song.
Tips for podcast post-production.
Having something to say drives podcasting content, but production is just as important as what you say. “This turned out to be my life’s work, but it was so much bigger than I knew, especially on the audio side,” says Jeffers.
Mitigating background noise is a major challenge for any podcaster. No matter your genre, you’ll have to find a way to deal with ambient noises in your recording. “It doesn’t matter what you record or how you record it, there’s going to be some noise and somebody’s going to have to take care of it,” says audio engineer Lo Boutillette. Echoes, traffic, and even the hum of wind in the background can be a distraction for listeners trying to focus on your content.
Before any recording session, be sure to get a few seconds of room tone — what silence sounds like in the room you’re in. Most DAWs have tools or plugins for reducing background noise, but they need room tone as a reference point to know what level of background noise to filter out. Also, be ready to make some extensive edits. Many podcasters record far more audio than what actually makes it into the episode. You’ll probably spend just as much time with editing software like Adobe Audition as you do at the microphone.
What’s most important is your voice, your story, and your content. It takes only a little bit of setup to record your first episode, so get out there and start podcasting.
Do more with Adobe Audition.
Your pro workstation for recording and mixing audio, creating podcasts, and designing sound effects.
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