Podcasting and Tips from a Newbie

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Podcasting MicrophoneGreetings all.  The topic of my blog here is normally performance-based, meaning I talk a lot about where and how I perform as well as some instructional posts for students and those learning how to play an instrument.  Unfortunately, it is now summer in Georgia so many of the performing organizations I would normally feature here are on vacation just like the kids. And oh, how happy we parents are that the little f#@$ers are home all day now.  For today’s blog entry, we’ll be talking about a new venture I have begun and that is podcasting.

For those who don’t know what podcasts are, where the @#$ have you been?  Just kidding.  Podcasts are like radio shows that were originally created to be listened to on ipods.  Hence the name.  People would download the latest episodes of their favorite shows (here I use “shows” interchangeably with “podcasts”) and listen to them while at the gym or cutting the grass (like I do).  Ipods no longer exist (except in antique stores and garage sales – how depressing is that?) but podcasts remain.  They are more popular than ever, and that is for a number of reasons:

  • They are free.  Yes free.  Go to itunes or stitcher radio or any of the dozens of podcast outlets and you can have as many as you can listen to for zero dollars.
  • Anyone can create one.  This is not a bad thing.  A lot of people know a lot of stuff about a lot of things.  These people are just regular people who normally wouldn’t have an outlet for their passions, thus, great content.
  • Technology has evolved to make both creating and listening to podcasts more convenient than ever.  Got a computer?  Smart phone?  Ipod (tee hee)?  Heck even a Zune?  You’re in.
  • Have I mentioned they are free?  There is so much content out there as to be overwhelming, but it’s all free.  There are podcasts about everything you could think of.

My podcast is called Performing in Georgia and it discusses the many performing organizations, venues, and people in the state of Georgia.  I am going to give you, the reader, a little tutorial onPerforming in Georgia Logo how to begin a podcast because I’ve certainly learned a lot as I get mine off the ground.  Additionally, I’ll be adding “how to” posts along the way as I build my audience and grow my show.  Think of this as a bloggy live tweet of my foray into podcasting.

Choose a topic and go with it

Choosing a podcast topic is not an easy thing to do.  The trap that many of us fall into is trying to be all things to all people.  This will not work.  Yes you want to build a large audience, and you should choose your topic accordingly, but podcasting is about developing a niche and growing your audience from that.  I could easily do a podcast about music, comic books, sports, and golf, and I would get a huge initial audience.  Then, all the golf people would leave at the first sign of a comic book episode, and the music people would ditch me when I do my first episode on golf, and so on.

For my show, I chose the performing arts in Georgia.  Not just Atlanta where I live, but the entire state.  I will also include some instructional episodes that will help students, but the instruction shows stay in the general realm of my topic.  I will do an off-topic show once and while to get my comic book/sports/Walking Dead habits satisfied, but I am sticking with my topic of the performing arts and keeping things always orbiting around that planet.

In addition, when you choose a topic, make sure it is wide enough to provide enough shows.  When I finally narrowed down my show’s topic and title, I immediately had the first 4 shows in my head.  Then, after a few days, I had ideas for dozens of shows.  If your topic/title doesn’t give you the same initial push, you might need to give it some more thought.  No matter how often you intend to publish (you should try for at least once a week), you need a topic that will be sustainable.

Scripting

To script or not to script.  That is the podcasting question.  Each has pros and cons.  A podcast should sound natural and “live” to an extent.  You do not want to sound like you are reading an FTC press release on the price of bananas.  This would leave many to say, “why should I ever write a script?”  Well, first off, you might have good ideas or some cool verbiage or even a funny joke, and you want to remember it when recording time comes around.  Second, we (humans) remember things that we write down.  If you write out that shopping list, you’ll never need it.  If you go to the store and wing it, you’ll be standing in front of the Spam wondering why you’re even there.  Doing a podcast from memory can be risky, and you’ll be doing tons of post production editing out “uhs” and “ums.”  If you have a partner or cohost, scripting becomes less necessary, but you should still outline each episode.

I use a script for all my episodes, but I don’t stick to it verbatim.  I write each episode like a blog post, with chapters so I can record each show in parts and put it together later.  Using a script helps keep a podcast from becoming too long as well as keeps it on-topic.  I have found that the sections where I read word for word sound better and more professional.  Obviously I go to great lengths to sound natural and you should too, but a script will keep you from fumbling and trying to find the correct words to use while you’re recording.

Recording

I recorded my first episode with my cell phone.  Then, I edited it in Audacity and it actually sounded ok.  I do not recommend this.  Podcasting is huge, and there are many shows out there to listen to.  Listeners want quality, and bad audio will turn off listeners faster than a finger nail in your salad.  Microphones can be very expensive, but decent ones can be under $50 (CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone).  There are even Podcasting Kits that you can get that have everything included in one box (usually a little expensive and they include useless extras).  I recently purchased a mic, POP filter, and headphones for less than $75 all in.  The mic is excellent for a cheap mic (I did some research ahead of time and this one got great reviews).  If you’re really serious about doing this, please consider getting a condenser mic (USB mic) and definitely get the POP filter.  The filter eliminates the giant PUHs and TEEs in your recording.  A decent on costs less than $15.

As I said before, I record each episode one chapter at a time and then put it all together in Audacity.  Audacity is powerful yet free tool that will turn anyone into a killer DJ when used correctly.  Obviously I make sure that each chapter blends correctly with the next, and that the edits to the sound are consistent.  There are dozens of Youtube videos on using Audacity.  Avail yourself of them before you get started.

In Conclusion…

…do some homework and get some very basic equipment before you get started podcasting.  Since you’re probably clinging to consciousness at this point in this blog post, I’ll wrap things up here.  Next time, I’ll talk about publishing and hosting and how to get set up so people can finally hear your melodious voice.

Enjoy!

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