A Crash Course on Podcasting
By Jason Klarl
During the four and a half years I’ve been making podcasts, I’ve learned quite a few things about this interesting and relatively new form of communication called podcasting. It seems to have developed in direct response to what our times are demanding from us: dialogue. Our human need to communicate will never diminish. And especially at this particular moment we have a greater need to speak into existence solutions to the very difficult problems we are faced with. So it is an honor to share with you a little of what I’ve learned about this very promising art form. Below is some technical information and practical tips that I hope will inspire and motivate you to create your own podcast.
What is a Podcast?
The word podcast comes from iPod, the portable music playing device from Apple, and broadcast. Contrary to popular belief, a podcast is not simply any audio (or video) program downloaded or streamed from the internet. What makes a podcast unique is that it makes use of a method of syndication.
The Early Days of Podcasting
When the world wide web was still in its infancy people were discovering ways of syndicating content from web pages and subscribing to a “feed” so that you would automatically receive new articles as they became available. This method is known as RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. Applications called feed readers were developed, and thus the blog was born. In the early 2000s, former MTV veejay Adam Curry, known as “the Podfather”, together with software developer Dave Winer worked together on software that expanded the idea of RSS to include audio files. This was known at the time as “audio blogging”. The software allowed audio content to be automatically downloaded and passed into Apple’s iTunes music platform, and synced with an iPod. Suddenly the iPod was no longer just for music, and the podcast was hatched.
Today, the smartphone has largely replaced the iPod and the popularity of podcasts has exploded. There are now over a million shows listed in Apple’s directory, with over 30 million episodes as of April 2020. Half of all households in the U.S. have podcast listeners. What explains this popularity? The fact that podcasts are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce makes it very appealing to anyone who wants to share their message with a larger community. A podcast has the potential to reach anyone in the world who is connected to the internet and shares an interest in the same subject. Even though most podcasts are still downloaded in the U.S., we’re beginning to see a rise in podcasting in Latin America and throughout other parts of the world.
Martina Castro, founder of Adonde Media has dedicated herself to promoting spanish language podcasts. She publishes an email newsletter called Podcaster@s featuring articles in spanish on the various aspects of podcasting. She’s also written articles and given webinars. In a recent webinar called How to Listen as a Podcast Producer she identifies some of the more important elements of a an engaging podcast:
We can identify diverse elements in sound productions, for me they are five fundamental things that I like most, that inspire me most, and that draw my attention the most: rhythm, voice, tension, the script, and the use of sounds. If we can use effectively even one of these things with what we’re producing, then we’re going to engage the listener.
With a minimal investment in equipment and a commitment to your subject you can create your own podcast. Numerous tutorials are available on every aspect of creating your own podcast, from equipment, to creating artwork, to publishing. These tutorials will help guide you, but you will still need to answer many important questions, like: How long will my podcast be? How often will I produce new episodes? Will I have a co-host? Buzzsprout’s step-by-step guide identifies 8 key areas that you need to consider: concept, format, equipment and software, recording, editing and uploading, artwork and categories, getting listed, and launching.
The Tools of Podcasting
Over the course of the 4.5 years as a podcaster I’ve come to rely on various free (or very low cost) tools to produce my podcast on Travelogue Media. Audacity is a free, open source, multi-platform DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that can adequately handle most recording and editing needs. Auphonic is a free, online post-production levelling and mastering service. This is highly recommended for those with little experience with audio engineering. Using Auphonic will help deliver audio files with a smoother, more consistent sound. Archive.org is where I normally store all finished audio files. It’s recommended that you keep all your media files separate from your podcast website. Although it’s not necessary to have a website for your podcast, it is generally recommended so that you maintain control over your own feed. Another tool I’ve found indispensable is Headliner. This free online app is used to create video clips of your podcast to share on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.
I do hope you’ve found this information useful and you will use it to create your own podcast. If you do, I wish you luck, and please let me know about it! firstname.lastname@example.org