Addition 5-11-11: Brian Crouch and I will be hosting a class on Podcasting for Business (and Fun!) on May 18th at Behringer in Bothell, 12:30-2:00 PM. Join us for a hands-on basic editing session.
Lately, I've been sitting on more podcasting panels and getting more requests for both strategy and technical advice on how to start a podcast. The great news is that podcasting is now easier than ever. And if you're considering starting up a podcast, here is a the quick rundown of strategy to consider and skills and tools you'll need:
Research and Strategy Development
Before you start producing your own podcast, you should always research what shows are currently available on your area of expertise. Research other podcasts first to discover:
- what audio content is already available in your field
- which topics and angles the current hosts cover
- how often the most popular podcasts publish
- what you like and dislike about the hosts' demeanor
- what level of engagement the current podcasts have
- where you might best carve out a podcasting niche
It might be that instead of creating your own podcast, you can simply produce weekly or monthly audio reports for an existing podcast that already has a following and traction. You do one-tenth the work for 100% exposure. Or, simply because there are already five podcasts available in your chosen field doesn't mean that you won't be able to build a brand and an engaged following. Do the research and strategize your brand differentiation.
Additionally, it's a good idea to inform yourself about the state of podcasting in 2011 and the current benefits of podcasting, derived from the recent HubSpot study of the state of podcasting. Read the post to begin your strategy and set realistic, achievable marketing goals.
Next, determine a publishing schedule. The blogging rule applies: post on a regular basis with relevant content. Once a day, once a week, once a month is fine; just set a publishing schedule and stick to it. Also, keep in mind that listeners tend to like shorter podcasts of 5-15 minutes. However, again, let your goals and content dictate the format, and be sure to ask for feedback from listeners as to frequency and length. My favorite podcasts run 30-60 minutes, and I enjoy them because I relate to the hosts and find the content relevant and informative, week after week.
Find your voice The most common objection I hear to podcast creation is "I hate my voice." Well, get over it--even the best of us hate hearing our recorded voice played back to us. The good news is that podcasting is more than turning on a microphone and talking like Wolfman Jack. How do you present your best, natural, friendly, social self? Do this Finding Your Voice exercise to figure out how to present your best self on mic.
Hone your interview skills If you plan to include interviews on your podcast, take a quick look at this post to brush up on your interview skills. For those of us not trained as journalists, this is a primer in getting the most out of your podcast guests and includes five common interview pitfalls and how to avoid them. Also, take the time to create an email template for requesting an interview and for prepping your guest for the interview. For example, for a remote interview, consider giving your guest direction on:
- The time zone for the interview time slot
- How to avoid background noise
- Type of microphone
- Using headphones to avoid feedback
- How long to allot for the interview
- What the format will be (formal questions, guided chat)
- When and where the guest can plug any books or services
- How to pause for a later "edit point" if the guest misspeaks
Check your tech Since most of my interviews are via Skype, it paid to take some time to determine how to get the best quality audio from the VOIP program. Check out this in-depth, technical video by Doug Kaye and Paul Figgiani on getting the best audio quality out of a Skype interview.
The Technical Setup
I used to teach a podcasting class in Chicago on how to get started podcasting for under $100, and I'm pleased to say that that is still quite easy to do. In order to start your podcast, once you have your content strategy and publishing schedule, you'll need some basic technical equipment:
- earphones or earbuds
- recording and editing software
- hosting service
Nowadays, setting up a podcasting studio for around $100 is dead easy. In fact Behringer has come out with PodcaStudio USB for around $100, which includes a four-channel mixer, dynamic microphone, headphones and Audacity recording/editing software. (There is also a FireWire version with a condenser mic for a tad more.) I have been quite happy for years with my own setup, which includes the Blue Snowball USB mic, Audio HiJack Pro, Audacity and GarageBand. To see both my hardware and recording and editing process, check out My Podcast Setup video.
In terms of hosting, LibSyn has been around for years and is very podcaster-friendly with affordable plans. In terms of a blog for posting show notes, it's best to capture a domain name that matches your podcast title and post exclusively podcast episodes and podcast-related content there. A best practice is to post show notes when a new episode drops, including an embedded player so that those who discover your podcast through search can listen immediately.
Once your podcast has five episodes under its belt, submit it to iTunes and other podcast directories to develop a broader audience. Once you have listeners submitting comments and feedback, ask them to write reviews of the show in iTunes to help with discoverability.
Podcasts without an engaged listenership will inevitably fade. Producing a weekly or even monthly podcast is a tremendous amount of work, and without working with listeners in order to develop and promote content, the production effort can outweigh the results. Keep listeners engaged and yourself energized by keeping a constant flow of conversation with your listeners. Consider rolling out the following to engage with listeners:
- A feedback email address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org )
- A listener comment line
- A Twitter account for the podcast
- A Facebook page for related content
- Forums for listeners to engage with each other
- Live meetups when you travel to new cities
- Listener survey
A podcast is nothing without its engaged fans, so consider engagement your number one development and anti-podfading tool. Your download statistics will tell you your most popular content, and the feedback mechanisms will inform which topics are the most controversial and can be revisited.
Remember that podcasting is supposed to be fun! If you aren't having fun, your listeners will be able to tell, and they will eventually unsubscribe. Love your topic and love your listeners, and your podcast will succeed.
For more information and podcasting instruction, visit my Podcasting Resources page.