So, you want to be a podcaster. Great! Wondering where to start? Look no further!
A little about my podcasting credentials: I’ve been podcasting for about two years now, predominantly recording actual play games for the Fandible.Com Roleplaying Podcast (if you’ve read pretty much any post I’ve ever made here, you’ve heard of Fandible by now). I’m by no means a podcasting expert, and would love to hear from other podcasters in the comments for this series, but I feel I have a strong enough grasp of the basics of podcasting to guide any newbies and wannabes to the starting line.
While later parts of this series will focus more exclusively on gamers, let’s start with some tips, questions and advice that any budding podcaster can use.
- What are you going to talk about? This is The Big One. Are you going to focus on one topic like “Gaming” or “Parenting” or “Cat breeding”? Do you want to be more specific and focus on a niche within your general topic, like maybe “Gaming as Women”? Figuring out a general idea of what you want to say will help a lot of other things fall into place later on. Don’t worry at the moment if there are half a dozen other “Breeding Siamese Cats in Northern Canada” podcasts at the moment, just focus on yourself at the moment.
- The other W questions – Who, Where & When?Are you podcasting alone? Do you have your own space or will you be part of a podcasting network? How often will you post a podcast?
- A single-person podcast is absolutely do-able, but some people may find talking solo into a microphone unnatural – if you have a partner or two, even if you aren’t in the same room, it can feel much more natural and conversational, because it will be a conversation!
- If you post your podcast on your own webspace, you have total control over everything. Unless you’re the brains behind the outfit, a podcast network gives you less flexibility, but comes with additional resources – most notably, built-in promotion opportunities and a ready-made audience. Podcast networks are groups of podcasters, often all broadcasting about a similar topic, who often have all of their shows hosted at the same site.
- Any type of internet-marketer will tell you that timing, and consistency, has the potential to make-or-break your internet presence. Now, if you’re in this just for you, then you don’t need to worry about this as much, though making a regular place in your schedule to podcast may be beneficial for you anyway. But if you are looking to build an audience, having a consistent schedule lets them know when to start looking for your new episode!
- And the last W question – Why? – Remember our hypothetically-crowded field of “Breeding Siamese Cats in Northern Canada” podcasts? Just because someone else is already talking about what you want to talk about, doesn’t mean that you should feel stifled. Again, if you’re doing this podcasting thing just to hear yourself talk, well, you probably don’t need half of this advice anyway. But if you are looking to build an audience, all you have to do is come up with a reason why you and your podcast are different from the rest of the herd. For instance, Fandible.Com is hardly the only actual play podcast out on the internet, but we’ve had a fair amount of success in standing out in that crowded field because of 1) The variety of games we play 2) Our genuine chemistry that comes through on-air 3) Having a consistent, high-quality podcast (both in terms of the games we play, and the sound-quality of the podcast itself – more on that in the next section!). Maybe you’re an expert in the field – or you’re a beginner and you’re going to document your experiences. Maybe you think the existing podcasts on your topic all overwhelmingly favor one point-of-view or type of person. Maybe you’re just funnier than the average person and think the internet needs to be exposed to your wit. All of these, and more, are totally valid responses to “Why?” One of the best things about the internet, is that “competition” becomes a very vague concept. Even if two podcasts (or blogs or websites) cover the same premise, since our shows aren’t locked into a broadcast time slot on a specific channel, listeners never have to make a choice between two shows based on such binary factors. They can listen to as many podcasts on the subject as they wish, on their own schedule.
Now that you’ve established what you (singular or plural!) are going to be talking about and why, there are some technical issues that need to be addressed. Now, there are tons and tons of articles out there on the technical aspects of podcasting, that I’m not going to rehash them all here, because while I’ve been podcasting for two years now, I’ve basically stuck to the same set up the entire time. I know nothing about podcasting on a Mac or Linux system, for example, so below are my experiences with podcasting technology and software.
- Most important: The Microphone – The microphone is what lets the magic happen – and the mic on your computer isn’t going to cut it. Especially if you’re just starting out, I don’t recommend sinking a lot of cash into equipment, but spending a few bucks on a microphone will have your listeners thanking you. If you’re doing the show by yourself, a basic headset microphone is fine – the sort you’d use for gaming or Google Hangouts or Skyping your parents. A lot of internet nerds already have this, so you’re ready to go! If another person is joining your podcast, and you can sit next to each other, a simple desktop mic will be sufficient. When my husband and I first started our own podcast, we used something like this that was fine for the two of us sitting side-by-side on our couch. For Fandible’s actual play podcasts, we use a Blue Snowball microphone, as it records from all directions and is pretty good at catching us even when we aren’t talking directly towards the mic – if I’m having an intense RP moment with the player sitting directly next to me, sometimes it’s hard to remember that I should be speaking forward rather than to my left!
- Recording and editing software – For Windows users, I highly recommend downloading Audacity for all of your recording and editing needs. It’s free and robust. Make friends with the noise removal filter – it’s part of that all-important audio quality that there be as little distracting background noise as possible.
- Why do I need to edit my podcast? Editing is so important for a high quality podcast. Not getting super technical with mixers and all that, but aside from the aforementioned noise removal filter, having good editing software means you can stop and start, edit out coughs or yelling at your cats (I swear, mine wait until I’m recording to start misbehaving), or re-record when your tongue inevitably gets tied. If you’re working with multiple people, it’s good to discuss beforehand how heavy of an editing style you intend to have (whether you want to be entirely hands off, or if you’re going to bleep cursing, or something else), and even offer everyone else a chance to listen to the final recording before you post if there’s anything they want to be sure is removed.
- Distribution – How will your podcast get from your hard drive out into the cold cruel world? Well, you upload them much like you would any other media content. If you have your own webspace, you’re probably familiar with FTP clients already – just designate a new place for podcasts to go and continue as usual. If you don’t have your own webspace, here’s a quick ‘n’ dirty guide to finding an online host and using Blogger or WordPress software (I’ve had good luck with WordPress, personally).