"I want to start podcasting. What kind of microphone do I need?"
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me this... er... [insert witty quip here.] I'm asked this question at least twice a week. And while this query may be logical in theory, this is not the right question to ask when considering starting up a podcast. Anyone can buy a microphone, shoot her mouth off and post a show. What will prevent the burgeoning podcaster from podfading after the fifth episode or into a lifetime of obscurity has absolutely nothing to do with the microphone.
Think of it this way. Would you ask Gabriel García Marquez, "I want to be an author. What version of Word do I need?"
No, of course not. Because the tools used are secondary to the far more strenous process of writing an engaging story with compelling characters and a tight plotline. With podcasting, it's easy to get wrapped up in the technical requirements and forget that a podcast, like a good book, gains success and an audience based on its engaging content.
A content strategy
The question a podcast hopeful should be asking is, "I want to start podcasting. What is the best way to create a content strategy?"
It's pretty easy to come up with good, solid content for one show. But what about next week's show? And the week after that? And the month after that? A podcast should have a mission statement, just as a business does. And the reasoning is simple: there must be a very strong force driving the host to create show after show, week after week, year after year. What will inspire you to do that?
Consider these content statements:
- Escape Pod - The premier science fiction podcast magazine. Every week we bring you short stories from some of today’s best science fiction stories, in convenient audio format for your computer or MP3 player.
- The Drabblecast - Strange stories for strange listeners. Audio fiction podcast of short stories at the far side of weird. Science fiction, fantasy horror and everything in between.
- For Immediate Release - Weekly commentary on the collision of PR, technology and new media
- Marketing over Coffee - Weekly audio program that discusses both new and classic marketing
Before you choose a microphone, define your content. Make a list of the topics you'd like to cover and guests you'd like to bring on. Crowdsource it to your friends and community. Create a poll of the top 20 topics and create episodes in the order of popularity (which would also reflect the order of relevance to the community). Create a production schedule, find your voice, and hone your interview skillz.
And then, get a microphone. (Yes, you actually do need some type of audio input device.) A Shure SM57 with a mixer, a Snowball, PodcaStudio, Zoom H2 or even just the iTalk app on your iPhone will do. Just get that first episode out of the way. It's not going to be a work of art, and you will one day look back at it and cringe. Just get that cringeworthy first episode out of the way so you can begin to shape your content, engage with your listenership and have fun steering the podcast.