Updated Oct. 9, 2015 at 1:27 p.m.
It’s not breaking news that podcasts have made a comeback, and we’ve seen journalists embracing the medium to reach their audiences in a cost-effective way.
“It’s important to think about what [podcasting] can do in terms of getting your name out there. The barrier to entry is pretty low. ... You can get into it pretty cheaply, and you can get great exposure,” said Tiffany Campbell, executive editor for digital at WBUR radio station in Boston, during the Online News Association conference in Los Angeles.
During the panel, “A Beginner’s Guide to Podcasting,” Campbell and Michael O’Connell, producer of the It’s All Journalism podcast, offered participants the A-Zs for making a podcast, with five easy steps:
Technology doesn’t have to be a huge roadblock to starting your podcast, but you will need a few items before you get the show on the road: a microphone, headphones, a digital recorder or a laptop that can record an mp3 file.
If you’re recording directly from your mobile device, O’Connell swears by having an external microphone to remove background noise, and generally recommends a mic and headphones across the board to give you better sound quality.
If you’re going to have several people involved in an interview, a digital recorder is best so you can record multiple tracks. If you’re interviewing people remotely, he suggests Google Hangouts or Skype.
You can also have all interviewees record themselves remotely on their own devices, and then have them send the files to one person who will edit all the files together. Campbell and O'Connell prepared an intensive Google Doc listing specific equipment and app suggestions.
Once you’ve recorded the podcast, you need to import the mp3 file into an editing program for tweaks.
“Editing audio is pretty basic, but it depends on what kind of podcast you want to do,” O’Connell said. “If all you really want to do is have a one-on-one conversation or an interview with someone, maybe you’re going to want to add an intro, an outro and some music to it.”
He points to Adobe Audition for those who can afford it, or downloading Audacity for free (there are tutorials on YouTube for editing on this platform) or GarageBand. You can view O’Connell’s list of editing software for desktop and mobile here.
Now that the podcast is complete, you have to find a place to post it. There are a number of options for this, some that usually come with a small fee, and some that are free. It’s All Journalism uses Blubrry, which he cites as very easy to use and also integrates well with WordPress, and comes with monthly payment plans. O’Connell advises using a hosting service that offers analytics so you can track the growth of your podcast.
O’Connell also points to SoundCloud “if you just want to get your audio down and dirty up on the web quickly.” You only get three hours for free, but you also get starter analytics, an RSS feed (which you need to get your audio on iTunes) and an embeddable player that you can put on your website. There are premium accounts available as well.
You can view more hosting options and details here.
Just like any piece of journalism, creating the content is just the first step. “Posting a podcast is pretty simple. A lot of the hard work that happens is promotion, getting it out there,” O’Connell said. And this means going beyond just spreading the word on social media, newsletters and your usual distribution channels.
“There’s no YouTube for audio,” Campbell said, stressing how hard it is to find audio online. [A podcast] can’t find its audience in the same way as another piece of content might do. Discovery is a huge challenge.”
To make your podcast easily found, make sure that you've chosen a hosting site that gives you an RSS feed, then use that to post it on iTunes and Stitcher, an app that features only radio/audio streams.
Try to have a page on your website devoted to each podcast, or easily opened in a new tab, so that the specific podcast URL is easily shareable. Check out It's All Journalism's site for a good example of this. Along this vein, keep SEO in mind when writing headlines and text so Google can find it.
Use social media, newsletters and your regular distribution channels beyond just linking to your podcast page. Campbell gave promotion props to the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, whose hosts use Tumblr to post their show notes, music and more information on topics and articles they've talked about on the show.
Also try to forge partnerships with other podcast networks or submit your work to a podcast directory like r/podcasts on reddit. Stay tuned for a follow-up post on more promotion and distribution techniques.
Congratulations on making your first podcast. Now do the process all over again. Try to be consistent with how often you post so your audience can know when to expect your next show.
“A single piece of audio is just audio on the web,” O’Connell said. “If you want to do a podcast, even if it’s a limited one, you should plan on doing it on some sort of regular basis. This is how you build an audience.”
Image CC-licensed on Flickr via Alexis Fam