I think podcasting connects us to our past. That may sound odd since a podcast is all about leveraging new technology, but think about this – until relatively recently it was only the very upper class who were taught how to read and write. Instead, most people communicated stories that were passed across regions and time by people who spoke and others who listened. That’s why I think the medium of podcasting is so powerful – because it recalls those days of our ancestors sitting around a roaring fire and listening to someone tell a story.
In this short entry I want to tell you everything I’ve learned about how to create a podcast. I started my own called “seeds” in September 2017 and learned a lot in the months leading up to the launch and the ongoing work to keep it going since then. I appreciated the input from David Binstead (Twice podcast) when I was starting mine – so it would be great to know I could have helped others on their journeys to podcast! Generally I have aimed to put out a new episode every Tuesday morning. As at the date of this description there are 123 episodes which averages to more than one per week and it has been listened to more than 41,000 times. (Update, as at January 2020 at 157 episodes and 55,000 listens. Update, as at August 2020 now at 204 episodes and 76,000 listens).
The intention of compiling this information is to hopefully inspire some of you to consider creating your own podcast. It is a commitment and takes energy to put one out but I have found it is a great platform to tell good stories. Perhaps because I studied history and love the idea of capturing the present (which will soon be the past), I find that a podcast about a person’s life actually provides a great change to record contemporary history. The most powerful example of this was when I recorded someone about their experience with aggressive brain cancer – he was gone just two months later, but his voice and life story is recorded for others to hear.
The other powerful thing about a podcast is it provides a way to reach many people. I can have an hour long chat in a day with maybe 1 or 2 people at most. But on some heavy listen days there can be 200-300 people who have tuned in and listened to my conversation with someone inspiring about their lives. I find that amazing and these days I will sometimes meet people who already know me because they have listened to the podcast even though we have never met. I also love the idea that technology can help to amplify stories of people who are doing good. For example, I recorded a panel discussion on “Tech for Good” recently and there were 5 panellists and 30 in the room. By uploading it to the podcast within a week it had around 200 listens so the messages were spread far beyond just those in the room.
The content below is divided into several parts as well as the two videos below where I talk about all the equipment and process of creating a podcast.
Part 1: What you need
There are going to be some things which you need to record the audio for your podcast. When I came to decide what equipment to get cost was an issue but I decided I really wanted high quality. In other words, you could just record on your phone, but the quality isn’t going to be as rich. I respect the listeners and want to make sure the quality is at least as good as they would hear on the radio. It’s actualy not that hard to achieve that if you invest in quality microphones and recording equipment.
The essential pieces of equipment that you need are:
Microphones: The two key categories of microphone which I learned about are dynamic vs condenser. It depends on the recording environment and how you want your podcast to sound as to which one you select. My podcast I record in as quiet a room as possible. Others I know like the environmental sounds that come from recording in a café or similar environment. Basically dynamic microphones record the sound right in front of the microphone – so there is less ambient noise. I have two of them, one for me and one for the guest. Whereas condenser microphones record the entire room – so you might just need one of those to record several people at once. The particular brand of microphone I chose were rode, and the model I selected was the Procaster – more information about it here http://www.rode.com/microphones/procaster
Recording device: Getting a good quality recording will be helped greatly by having a recorder to capture the audio. There are a lot of different brands and types of recorder. The one I selected was the Zoom H4N Pro because it had two inputs for “XLR” cables, which means that the two microphones can plug directly into the recorder. You can read about it here https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field-video-recording/field-recording/zoom-h4n-pro-handy-recorder
Other items: There are a few other things that you might want to get as well:
- I bought some relatively cheap stands so that the microphones could be held in one place. Kind of like this.
- Bought a pair of headphones so that you can listen to the audio as the recording is happening. I use these ones.
- Also got a splitter for the headphones so both can plug into the recording device. I use ones like this.
- Depending on the type of microphones you get you might need “XLR” cables to plug them into the recording device.
- You might want to consider getting a pop filter which reduces the “p” sounds that come through on a recording.
I downloaded and use a free software program called “Audacity” which you can find here https://www.audacityteam.org/ It’s pretty intuitive as to how to use it to increase sound levels, cut and paste in audio and have multiple tracks so they can be overlaid on top of each other (so music can fade out etc).
It is described as follows: “Audacity is an easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. Developed by a group of volunteers as open source.” It looks like this:
I thought it would be of most help to show in a short video how I record an intro to an episode and then how I edit that in Audacity. Have a look here:
You will need a podcast host to be able to get the podcast out – they serve as a place that hosts the episodes and also pushes it out into the different podcast hosts like spotify, apple podcasts, overcast or other ones. I personally chose Libsyn and have found them to be very good. https://libsyn.com/ They provide information about the number of downloads and where the people who are listening are located. There are other options but I cannot comment on how good they are. Libsyn is also good as it gives you a free website and each episode gets a page, so you can share those and it pulls in the picture for that episode too. So, this site is created for the podcast and I put other stuff on it too, but you can see the Libsyn site here www.seeds.libsyn.com
There are a variety of plans that can be chosen, which depend on the amount of data will be used. For example, if you have a weekly show then you are going to be using a lot of data. I find an hour long episode is around 75mb so if I upload four of those in a month it is about 300mb, so you need the plan that allows for up to 400mb per month. Once uploaded each month the data rolls over so you can upload more the following month.
Tips and tricks when interviewing
I think the biggest thing is to be curious. As I’ve said several times on the podcast my Mother once said to me that there is no uninteresting person, and if you think they are not interesting, then it is just that you have not asked the right questions yet. So, that is my general rule of thumb when I approach my interviews.
The other thing is my style is to spend a long time asking about people and their backgrounds. It is tempting to jump straight to the “what do you do” question but I like to spend more time on the “what did you learn from your Father” or “what did you learn when you visited Nepal”. I am not afraid to have a long conversation – the longest so far has been about an hour and a half. But find the format that fits your style – a short podcast has a lot going for it – I probably lose a lot of people who don’t want to listen to a long form one. I am comfortable with that as I just want to do a show that I am really happy with.
I hope this information is helpful. The aim of providing it is to encourage others so that they can know some of the things I wish I had known when setting up a podcast. If you have any questions just drop me a line.