During this difficult time due to the coronavirus outbreak, many people are turning to podcasts in order to find alternative forms of entertainment. In this blog, regular broadcaster and audio tech aficionado, Nevil Bounds, explains why it has never been easier to create your own podcast and on an economical scale.
- What do you need?
- The importance of first impressions
- Fancy going pro?
- All the gear and no idea
- Have a guest or two join you
- Promoting your podcast
- Remember the rules
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
For a home set up, not very much really. Things have moved on considerably in the last 3 or 4 years and it’s entirely possible to put together a reasonably priced system whilst not clogging up all of that spare space. The main thing to remember is to try and keep it as simple as possible to begin with; you can always add to your rig later on when money and enthusiasm permits. Some of the basics that you will require are:
- A Mac, PC, laptop or tablet.
- Recording software. GarageBand works well on the Mac platform and Audacity for the PC.
- A good quality USB microphone and stand. An Audio Technica ATR2100-USB is a good starting point. It’s a favourite with many podcasters.
- Headphones or earbuds. The choice is endless.
- Try to find way of acoustically ‘deadening’ your room. Soft furnishings and curtains work really well.
- Purchase a domain name – handy for linking to a website to promote your podcast.
- Use a hosting provider such as Libsyn who are able to offer economically priced packages. Other providers are also available of course!
If you are starting from scratch and were searching for a really good all-in-one package, then have a look at the Røde Rodecaster Pro production console. It is a good way of simplifying podcast production whilst delivering good audio quality. It supports up to four presenters, as well as offering easy connection to phone, USB and Bluetooth™ sources. Eight programmable pads offer instant playback of sound effects and jingles and podcasts can be recorded directly to microSD™ card, or to a computer via USB. It’s also got a full colour touchscreen which makes for a very easy user interface.
The importance of first impressions
We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? Audio that sounds as though someone is broadcasting from their bathroom. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that this is completely unnecessary and will seriously distract your listeners from your message. It is also very tiring to listen to and therefore they are likely to switch off, no matter how compelling your content might be.
If you really have a highly reverberant room and you are unable to make substantial changes to it, why not consider investing in a microphone reflection booth that you can attach to your desk.
For around $70 this will enable you to produce far better results and the improvement is quite remarkable. It’s not going to be up to Abbey Road Studios standards, but you will be surprised at the difference it makes.
Fancy going pro?
OK, I concede that this might be a little over the top for a lot of people. The picture above is actually my rig at home and because I often carry out ‘down the line’ interviews with my guests, I need more audio capability. I also do video podcasts when I’m working with my colleagues at Plane Talking UK.
Having said that, if you tot up the amount of money that I have spent on additional equipment, it’s pretty reasonable:
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface: $150
- Soundcraft EPM6 8 into 2 Mixer; $120 from eBay
- Røde NT1-A Condenser Mic and Boom Arm: $200
- Acoustic treatment for room: $80
- Samson Resolv 80a Monitor Speakers: $450 (OK, I know we’re getting a little more expensive now…)
- Canford studio Clock: $40
Anyway, hopefully you get my point. You do not have to break the bank in order to produce professional sounding podcasts.
All the gear and no idea
It’s all well and good having the ability to produce podcasts professionally and economically, but it is all about delivering good quality content that your listeners will be interested in. Whatever your topic, it is all about researching and planning the episodes carefully.
Just like a book, the ‘cover’ of your podcast is important so that it will attract people to it. Spend a bit of time talking with a friendly graphic designer or there is even a podcast about how to design appealing cover art!
Then there is the message that you want to convey, the presentation of it and how long you want it to run for – on a per episode basis, or for a complete series.
You will have heard the expression ‘less is more’ - well, I think that this is an important phrase to remember when it comes to podcasts. In my view, there is nothing worse than having a podcast that leaves you wanting to play it at 3x normal speed just so that you can get to the end of it.
Why not have shorter episodes, but ones that leave the listener wanting more? That’s quite easy to do if you have a lot to say, then prepare it in bite sized chunks so that it is more manageable for your audience.
Have a guest or two join you
One of the advantages of podcasting is that you don’t have to do it alone. You can bring in a special guest, a subject matter expert or turn your show into a roundtable discussion. There are many possibilities which will bring greater levels of interest for your audience. Maybe a pre-recorded interview or a series?
At the podcast that I work for, myself and Nick Anderson who is a recently retired Virgin Atlantic Captain went to the house of John Hutchinson. John spent 15 years flying Concorde for British Airways before he retired. This brought in a large number of additional viewers and listeners as he covered so many interesting subjects. Even if it is not a video interview as we recorded it, the audio content on its own is always very compelling when you have a high-profile guest.
Promoting your podcast
There is little point in putting so much effort into your podcast if you don’t ensure that you aren’t maximising the marketing opportunities. It’s easy to do but it’s often something that gets forgotten in the excitement. You can promote your podcast on any social media platform as well as having a YouTube or Vimeo channel for example. There are many podcast hosting companies that will help you reach your intended audience and they can give you advice as to how you can use search engine optimisation to make your content stand out.
For UK podcasters, it could be a good idea to take a look at Podcast Radio which broadcasts across London. This channel welcomes submissions from podcast producers to feature their podcasts.
The nice thing about creating a podcast is that not only have you got up to date content, but also by podcasting regularly you’ll build up a great back catalogue for people to listen to and download.
Remember the rules
Whatever platform you use to distribute your podcast, you’ll need to be compliant with the rules of that provider. It is not possible just to upload anything and without looking at what is required at the start, your efforts may be wasted.
These sites offer useful information about the content and technical requirements of your podcast:
There are rules regarding decency, copyright ownership and many other subjects that might delay or prevent the publication of your podcast. It is worth taking the time to read what the requirements of the publishers are as it will save you a lot of re-editing and altering your work. Frankly speaking, these rules are pretty straightforward and unless you are tackling a particularly controversial subject, it should be apparent what is and what is not acceptable.
Keep It Legal
Free speech is a wonderful thing and is encouraged and practiced in many countries in the world. However, that does not mean that you may broadcast anything that you wish. For those starting out in podcasting I would highly recommend spending just a few dollars on ‘Keep It Legal’ which is a 54-page book written by Paul Chantler and Paul Hollins. The book contains what you need to know about defamation (libel) and Contempt of Court under UK law. (If you know of similar tomes for other legal systems, please add a note in the comments field below!)
As "Keep It Legal" states: ‘Because of social media, EVERYONE is a publisher or broadcaster today and we all have the social responsibilities that go with that.’
These gentlemen are very experienced broadcast executives and presenters – the contribution that they have made in this publication is extremely worthwhile in my opinion and will certainly help avoid traps for the unwary. Expensive ones.
Good luck with your podcast!