Step 2. How to make a PodCast, from scratch.
Updated: Mar 6
Go for it. The practicalities, as promised.
Ok, so you've found your courage, your voice and your topic, and you're all ready to jump in to your first PodCast. What now?
As always, fellow traveller, please remember these aren't instructions, they're my opinions based on my own experiences. I want to help you get started, but I don't want the blame if my choices don't work for you!
I also want to be clear that these opinions are my own, this is not a sponsored post, I don't make a penny from telling you about these resources, I just know it took me a while to figure it out, and I do love to share :)
So, lay on MacDuff. First, you'll need:
A quiet space
We're lucky, we have a spare back bedroom overlooking a garden, all our kids have moved out, so we've a little room to ourselves. But do not underestimate the racket that aeroplanes, birds, and even the rain can make to the background of your PodCast. Try to work when nobody else is home, I cannot count the amount of times I've had to start again because of the clack-clack of our greyhound's nails on the tiles, as he mooches up the hall to see what I'm getting up to, or my beloved choosing that moment to fill the dishwasher (bless). And even though we live in the sub-tropics and there's no air conditioning in this bedroom, I've been known to close the windows and turn off the fans for a few sweaty minutes to finish a piece of audio when I didn't want an accompaniment from the local cacophonous fauna.
A laptop or desktop of some kind
At least, that's what I use, and it makes everything really simple.
I tried a basic Kogan plug-in to begin with, it looked dead swish, has a pop filter and everything, but the sound quality was poor, and there was a dreadful hissing static in the background. I tried all sorts of repositioning of objects and wires, but nothing helped. The only way to edit the audio to remove the static was at the cost of damaging the vocals to the point where I sounded a bit like Minnie Mouse (if she was starring in Braveheart). So I went back to the drawing board and purchased a cheap as chips 88 dollar microphone (that's Aus dollars) from Amazon. Here 'tis:
This microphone is unidirectional. I personally prefer that because omnidirectional microphones pick up sounds from all around, and unidirectional mics, as the name would imply, pick up less of the surrounding sound and more of whatever is in front of it. At least for the time being, it's just going to be me yacking away in my spare back bedroom, until I get around to starting to interview people, and even then that might be done remotely - so unidirectional works well for me.
And best of all, it's a plug-and-play. I plug it in to the USB port, put it on a shelf behind me (because otherwise it picks up a hum from the computer on the desk) and turn around and talk.
Which brings me to...
Audio editing and recording software
You're going to need some. I use an excellent FREE service called Audacity. It's fairly user-friendly and comes with a manual right there on the software.
When I was trying to fix the audio on the original microphone I found a helpful YouTube how-to tutorial, that talked me through everything on Audacity. Basically, you'll just have to ensure it recognises your microphone and then hit record and off you go. You can pause, delete and start again, or edit and export your audio as an MP3 (save it in a folder or on your desktop for later use) or save it as an Audacity project. I've become fairly adept at cutting, pasting, removing pops and noises I don't want using Audacity, and now, if I stuff up I just stop for a breath and start again, and edit it out later.
I recommend exporting your audio clips when you're happy with them, because you're going to need those MP3s for the next stage. And I find it helpful to save my audio in several chunks. Intro first, then the main, then the ending. This means I can add an intro theme, sound effects and so on, in between audio clips, when I'm uploading the finished audio to the PodCast host.
Anyway, Audacity is a great free resource, and I love free things :)
Which brings us to the next stage...
Depending on your region, there are a number of paid PodCast hosting options, with many different payment plans. However, for me, the main issue was that I didn't want to sign up for yet another membership or subscription when I wasn't even sure if I'd enjoy PodCasting, or be any good at it. So I hunted around and found a fairly user-friendly, totally free PodCast host called Anchor.fm
I like Anchor.fm for a number of reasons.
They're free. If you decide to become more than a hobby PodCaster you can check out their paid options, of course. I would suggest having a good look around at all the options though before you pay for hosting, as different hosts offer different upgrades.
They're user-friendly. It's easy to drag and drop the MP3 of your audio, and simple enough to rearrange the audio clips to add or remove music, or sound effects.
They offer quite a few free transitions, noises you can use to make your PodCast more interesting or give it some intro sounds.
They distribute to six different platforms, including Google and Spotify for you. It takes a day or two for your first Google PodCast to go live, but all the others are live pretty much immediately.
They track your listeners for you, which at least gives you an idea of how many people are tuning in.
They make your PodCast SEO friendly, or claim to :)
When setting your profile up with Anchor.fm ensure you include a link to your blog, or web page, a photo you want to be associated with your PodCast, and ensure you name and number each PodCast episode clearly. Make it easy for people to find you.
Audacity v Anchor.fm for editing Anchor.fm also have a basic record and trim edit function. Using Anchor.fm would cut out the middle man, making it a one stop shop for editing, and if simplicity’s your goal it’s definitely worth considering. Additionally, Anchor.fm audio editing might be really useful for interviewing guests, I haven’t tried it yet, but I understand they offer that feature.
However, Anchor.fm only offers record and trim. Audacity allows other features, such as noise reduction, which can be vital if you’ve got the perfect piece except for a low background noise. Audacity also allows for multitrack editing, such as modifying timing (you can speed audio up or slow it down), you can layer your audio and you can increase or lower your volume. You can even add fades to your volume. And importantly, it’s cross-platform, works well on any PC, whether Windows or another platform.
But yes, you can definitely cut out Audacity and just use record and trim, and make it even easier on yourself as a new PodCaster. I’d recommend getting to know Audacity anyway, because as you spread your PodCasting wings you’re likely to want more features, but there’s no reason you can’t use the edit function of Anchor.fm if it suits you, especially when you’re starting out, and try Audacity when you need more tools.
Ok, you're nearly ready to go.
Have you got your script?
Well, that's up to you of course, but I work from a rough script, sometimes just dot points, but I do like to have it printed in front of me to glance at. It's fine to pause, and edit bits you wish to add in or filter out later, but it sounds more authentic if you're talking more naturally, like you're having a conversation, so for me it's always a good idea to have a plan so I can hit my points in order, efficiently and effectively.
I lean in and talk to the microphone's little red dot as though that was someone's face. I try to pitch my voice to its lower range as I tend to get squeakier when I get a bit excited. And do try to remember, at least when you're introducing yourself, to smile, smile smile. We can hear it in your voice!
I think it's more professional, and interesting, to add a small piece of intro music. Because I went with a few bars of an old Scottish song, Auld Lang Syne, and my daughter was kind enough to knock out an arrangement for me in her studio, I didn't have to worry about copyright. But when I use music in the videos to complement the PodCast, I ensure that I search for music that is free for commercial use, and you really should too! The chances are nobody will hear it and come after you with their lawyers. But they might. And besides, let's treat our fellow creators with the same respect we'd like them to treat us, give attribution and only use their work with their permission.
Be unique, but be consistent
Introduce yourself each time, thank your listeners sincerely for listening. Tell them your name, tell them the number and the name of the PodCast. Have an intro phrase, and a sign -ff phrase.
What's in a name?
Now, before you hit publish make really sure that's the name you really want to go with. If in doubt try alliteration, rhymes or the good old thesaurus. Make it something a little bit memorable, if you can.
Don't do what I did
Don't ramble on too long before getting into the meat of the PodCast. I was trying so hard to remember to tell everyone about YouTube and Buymeacoffee that I took too long to actually start talking, for my first two PodCasts. I think I've got that sorted now! Do include mention of your website, YouTube Channel et al, but don't make that the focus of the first couple of minutes!
Ok, I think that's everything. Knowing me, I'll remember some crucial point an hour after I've published this and have to go back and edit...
And last of all, tell me about your PodCast and I will tune in for sure.
Just remember, I'll listen tae yours if you'll listen tae mine!
Wishing you, as always, fair winds and a following sea,
Alison Tennent, Queensland, Australia, February 2021
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021, all rights reserved. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship. If you’re reading this anywhere but Medium or The Garrulous Glaswegian, this work may have been plagiarized.