I love radio. I love digital content. I love combining the two as a podcaster.
After a layoff in the radio industry, I began seeking work in the field of digital content. I am no stranger to digital content as it was key to my success as an On-Air Personality and Program Director.
The search was slowed by two noticeable hurdles. My portfolio of previous digital content work was not well maintained and my previous blogs for work were made inaccessible. I also lacked experience with the Drupal platform used by many universities and government agencies in the Washington, DC area.
I decided to teach myself Drupal. But, I needed a subject which I was knowledgeable and passionate about. A subject that I could keep my interest as an ongoing project. I picked baseball. Specifically, the Chicago Cubs. Not just writing about the Cubs, I decided I’d post audio (and occasionally video) as well.
My previous digital content had produced using the popular WordPress platform, as well as other industry-specific Content Management Systems. While not having a digital content team or support person I could rely on, I found Drupal pretty challenging at first. The experience was frustrating, yet it helped me learn things I wouldn’t have other otherwise discovered.
As for the podcast itself, I didn’t know where to begin. Try Googling podcast host platforms and you’ll be so confused. I chose Spreaker to host my podcast, the Bricks and Bleachers Podcast. The interface is easy to navigate and there are many options to those who don’t want to spend money on a hosting service. If you register for a Spreaker Pro plan (currently starting at $5.99 per month), you can easily distribute your show to the popular Spotfiy and iHeartRadio platforms.
You can pull of a high quality podcast even without having access to fancy digital broadcast studios. I’ll oversimplify this for you. You need an input (microphone) and something to record and edit with (software/app and a device (computer/phone). I had just acquired a new Samsung Galaxy S8 through my phone insurance replacement program. I also bought a microphone, a stand, cables and sound absorbing foam panels for my walls. I tested a couple voice recording apps, settling on the Audacity app. I also used an existing Office subscription to use a mobile version of Word for writing/reading my show content.
I finally recorded and edited a couple shows. I didn’t tell anyone, I just did it. I wanted to go through the process of planning, recording, editing and posting a show. I discovered poor audio quality due to not having enough foam. I also chose a new recording app named SHURE Motiv. After getting a couple episodes to sound polished enough to share with others, I started to spread the word.
I started the podcast in August, made a few mistakes and moved from my apartment with the perfect den-converted studio. At the same time, the Cubs were in the playoffs. I recorded a couple shows in my car (think of it as a mobile studio). Surprisingly, the audio quality wasn’t bad.
The off-season came and the realm of topics greatly shrank. I posted a couple episodes during the off-season, but am back to my usual two or three episodes a week this season. I promise to deliver Cubs news and analysis to keep fans informed if they are unable to watch or follow every game. Many podcasts go longer than 30 (even 60) minutes, I do not. I know audience retention is difficult and conciseness is important, so I promise each episode to be under 10 minutes. Some episodes run 9-10 minutes while others fall in the 6-7 minute range.
Podcasting can be fun and rewarding. I’ve been doing it in various forms since 2009. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. That said, make sure you have enough content to sustain your podcasting venture. Set a schedule that allows you to plan your podcast, record it, edit it and post it. The longer your show, the more editing you will need to do. It is recommended to eliminate many (not all) breaths, “ums” and other stumbles. If you don’t have the time or software to perform the edits, find someone to do it (like on Fiverr, Upwork, etc.).
As for my Drupal experience, my site was primarily a place to share podcasts. I’d post the episodes on Spreaker, then embed the Spreaker player and a summary of the episode on my Drupal site. The episode summary is important to offer a hook or an expectation of what someone’s about to listen to. Some will suggest you post a full transcription of your podcast. This, too, can be farmed out to an online freelancer. I’ve since started inserting embeddable images from Getty Images (I’ve written previously about this) and videos featuring the podcast audio.
One of the biggest things I notice about podcasts is the lack of music and other production elements commonly heard in traditional over-the-air broadcasts. The reason is licensing. Don’t use music in your podcast that you don’t own the rights to. The rights holder can pursue legal action for unauthorized use of their work (same goes for images if you also manage a website). Look for royalty-free content (with a Creative Commons license or via public domain) and be sure to provide proper attribution.
I’ve talked about equipment, software and apps, podcasting platforms and other things to consider when starting a podcast. While it’s not traditional broadcasting, there are many parallels to traditional broadcasting. Do some preparation, deliver your content in an authentic way and if people like your show they’ll tell others. Keep in mind, the first episode of your podcast is probably going to differ from your sixth show which will sound different than your eleventh episode.
If you’ve got questions, I’m happy to help. Post your questions and comments below.