28 December 2014

Learning to Podcast - the Practical Stuff

I'd been thinking of writing this post for a while when someone I met on Twitter, Raúl, asked me some questions about how I was creating my Spain Uncovered podcast. "All right," I thought. "That's enough motivation for me to write this, knowing that at least it will be of interest to one other person out there."

So here's what I think you need to know if you want to learn how to podcast. (Do also check out my previous post Learning to Podcast - the Abstract Stuff.)

1. Equipment 


(Please note that the links to these products are Affiliate links, ie I get a small percentage from the sale if you end up buying them.)


I don't have any room at home where I can set up a small studio. And my "office" is in The Hub, which is a co-working space, so no chance of setting anything up there either. So I need something that can be easily put away and quickly taken out and plugged into my computer.

I use Blue's Nessi microphone.

It gets plugged directly into your computer through a USB port. It's small and light.

Although it has an in-built pop-filter (for your p's and b's) I've clipped a pop filter onto it, for extra protection.


For "on the road" recordings (ie when I'm away or if I go to someone's office to interview them for my 21st Century Work Life podcast) I use the Roland 05. Have a listen to this episode recorded on site at the CreateSpaceLondon.

To be completely honest, I still haven't figured out how to get the most out of this recorder, so if you know of any good tutorials out there I can have a look at, let me know.

The great thing about this machine is that it records onto a memory card and has a Pause function, which means you can pause your recording and no-one will ever know. The memory card can be placed directly into the slot of my Mac. There is also a USB cable with which you can connect the Roland to the computer if you don't have a memory card slot/hub.


2. Software

I use Audacity to record the voice, which is a free piece of software for both Macs and PCs. I don't do much editing to the voice although today I learned how to do a couple more things to the track which will increase the voice quality.

Audacity
I currently use only two Effects: Noise Removal and Compression. Compression is especially important when I record interviews or when I record the Virtual Coffee with Lisette, as it makes the voices more even, instead of leaving one voice louder than the other one.

For a really quick and useful tutorial on how to improve the quality of the voice for your podcast, check out this video.



It goes without saying that you need a quiet room to record in. Watch out for any electrical stuff that might give out a low buzz, like a fridge or an air-con unit. And if a loud car or motorbike goes past your window as you're speaking into the mic, record that again as you cannot edit out any sounds directly under your voice.  

To create the final podcast, with music etc, I use Garageband, which comes free with the Mac. I find it easier to use to put tracks together, but more difficult when editing the voice. Audacity is much cleaner.


My advice: if you have any cash to spare, do find someone to edit your podcast for you (through PeopleperHour for example), unless you're a bit techie like me and don't mind spending hours in front of the computer listening to the sound of your own voice and deleting lots of uhms and erms.

3. Interviews

I talk about recording interviews in my previous post Learning to Podcast - the abstract stuff. All I want to add here is: make sure you research your guests and have a brief chat with them before you hit Record to break the ice, especially if they're not used to being interviewed. Press Record as soon as you can, to avoid forgetting to do it when you start your interview! (I learned this the hard way...)

4. File Hosting

I think it's best to have a website to direct people to listen to your podcast, although you don't absolutely need one. However, I wouldn't host your files on your own site, as they are quite big beasts. Instead, use a host like Libsyn, who are solely dedicated to podcasting. They will create an RSS feed for you which you can then submit to all the podcast directories like iTunes. You'll need to put a monthly fee aside for this but it's well worth it.

Some podcasting experts recommend that you create your own RSS feed (which by the way is the link to your podcast archive) through your website but this might not be a good idea if you're on a website hosting programme with limited bandwidth.

If you want to have a little player on your website with your podcasts, and your website is created using Wordpress (the self-hosted version, not .com) then you can add the Blueberry plug-in. (Image from 21st Century Work Life podcast.)

That long black line is a Podcast player.

5. Great Podcasting

Like writing, creating a podcast is an artform that will take time to perfect. Not just that, it will also take you time to find your own style and format. That's why it's so important that you listen to a wide range of podcasts. You can learn about podcasting from podcasts, which give you not just tons of information and advice, but that also model different styles of formats. I recommend:

The Feed hosted by Libsyn - a must.

The Audacity to Podcast, by Daniel J Lewis. (A one person show. Listen to him to keep you sane!)

Podcaster's Roundtable.

She Podcasts. Lessons learned in Podcasting episode has loads of advice from different podcasters and the show notes list all the hardware and software mentioned. (2 co-hosts. )

Changeability. (A very creative format.)

Collaboration Superpowers. (Interview style.)

HR Trends with Game Changers. (Multiple guests.)

BBC's Peter Day's World of Business. (Interviews/on-site)

I've been experimenting with different kinds of formats myself, so you can also have a listen to:

Spain Uncovered podcast:

Episode 6. Lorca special. Mainly myself talking about the playwright's work, reading bits and adding talking heads by three different guests.

Episode 14. Paul Read and the Forgotten Stories of Spain. Talking head/interview/guest segment.

21st Century Work Life podcast:

Episode 2. Recorded on site at the CreateSpaceLondon, interviewing three different people and taking a tour of the space. 

Episode 5. Giving Feedback. Talking head and virtual coffee with Lisette.***popular***

Episode 10. The World of Work in 2014. Retrospective with co-host Lisette Sutherland. ***very popular***

Do listen to a wide variety of podcasts and radio programmes as possible, to be inspired and to widen your horizons. Different industries prefer different formats and you never know what wonderful ideas you might come across.

6. Are You Sure You Want to Podcast?

Podcasting is great fun but it's not easy and it's not fast. Be prepared to spend about 3 hours per half hour of content, more if you're using a complicated format. Podcasting is exploding at the moment, so think twice about diving into it.

Having said that, it's a great way of reaching people, whatever your aim and it's also great fun.

Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any more questions. If I can't answer them, I'll point you to someone who will.

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