Rock the Podcast

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How to create—and launch—an engaging and entertaining podcast

Like other grandmothers everywhere, I grieved not being able to be with my grandchildren over this last holiday season. I needed a project to distract me, so I took the plunge into podcasting—with not one podcast, but two. I figured if I was going to take on such a daunting project, I might as well make it worthwhile. And it has been worthwhile, providing me with a limitless outlet for my creativity. I am my own producer and publisher, and my stories and ideas can now travel the world.

If you’re interested in podcasting yourself, be warned: the learning curve is steep. But don’t be overwhelmed; if you take it one step at a time and access the right resources, it is doable. And it gets significantly easier with practice.

1. Choose a theme.

What will your podcast be about? Who is your target audience? My first podcast, Hintertales: Stories from the Margins of History, tells true stories of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, and is aimed at adults who love good storytelling. Sticks and Stones and Stories is more personal, consisting of fun, original tales told initially to my three young grandchildren. Your podcast might be about cooking, or poetry, or the interesting places you’ve travelled. If you aren’t already listening to podcasts in your chosen genre, start listening now for ideas and inspiration.

2. Give it a name.

A good title should capture the theme of your podcast, be simple to remember, and be easily searchable. The word Hintertales was my own invention and is therefore easy to find via Google. In contrast, the combination of words in my children’s title proved to be too generic for good search results.

3. Create podcast artwork.

You will need a square image to accompany your podcast when it’s uploaded to sites like Apple Podcasts. I used the tools at Canva.com to create my own artwork, but if that feels daunting, you can hire someone affordably at Fiverr.com or 99Designs.com. The finished image should be 3000 x 3000 pixels, 72 dpi, and saved as a PNG.

4. Decide on a format.

My episodes are scripted stories (non-fiction and fiction respectively), but you may choose to go with an interview format or solo commentary. As your own producer, you also get to choose the length of your podcasts, and how frequently you upload new episodes. Having a consistent publishing schedule is ideal, whether it’s daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly.

5. Choose a microphone.

You could start by recording with your smartphone, but for the best audio quality you’ll want to invest in a microphone that plugs directly into your laptop or recording device. Search online for reviews of the most popular podcast mics. This will likely be your biggest initial investment, with a good mic costing between $60 and $180.

6. Download editing software.

This is a must for podcasters. GarageBand is free for Mac users, while Audacity is free for Mac, PC and Linux users. Learning to use this software was my biggest hurdle, but I found helpful tutorials on YouTube and other sites. I highly recommend the in-depth video tutorials on Lynda.com, which are accessible for free for both VIRL and GVLP library users.

7. Record your first episode.

Prepare either a bulleted outline or a full script, practice until the material flows easily, then choose a quiet place to record. A basement storage room has been an ideal space for me, but for you it may be a walk-in closet, or even your car parked somewhere quiet. It should have few reflective surfaces (bare walls or floors), and/or lots of soft materials like furnishings, carpets, or clothes to absorb and diffuse sound. Temporarily turn off any background noise like heaters or humming appliances. Use headphones to hear yourself clearly as you record, and experiment with different distances from your microphone to find the “sweet spot”—often about 2 to 4 inches from the mic. I invested in a microphone pop filter (about $18) to take some of the “hiss” out of my s’s. Don’t worry about mistakes or interruptions as you’re recording, since you’ll be editing those out in the next step. Just pause for a few seconds, then repeat the botched sentence and carry on.

8. Edit and optimize your episode.

This is by far the most technical step of podcasting, but if you follow the step-by-step tutorials mentioned in Step 7 you’ll find your way—including mixing in music or sound effects if you choose. Most podcasts include an intro, the body of the episode, and an outro. Refer to other podcasts for examples. For royalty-free theme music, look to Audio Jungle or other similar websites. Be sure the music is available for commercial use, and credit the artist as required. Once your episode is edited, upload it to Auphonic.com for optimization. (Free for the first 2 hours of processed material per month.)

9. Upload your episode to a podcast host.

To “publish” your podcast, you’ll need an RSS feed or podcast host like Buzzsprout, Podbean or Libsyn—all user-friendly and affordable (from free versions, to $15 US a month). Once you’ve uploaded your first episode, a show description, and your podcast artwork, you’ll use your account to submit your podcast to the most popular podcast apps. At a minimum you’ll want to link to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. It may take from a day to a few weeks for your podcast to be approved and go live on individual apps.

10. Let the world know!

Once your new creation is out there, it’s time to spread the word. Use email, social media, or even press releases to let your prospective audience know your first podcast is live. Tap into all your connections, especially those with an interest in your podcast subject.

It’s a lot of work, but it does get easier with each episode. And if nothing else, it gives you bragging rights—this grandparent is a podcaster!

Checkout Perfect Podcasts for some inspiration.

Rachel Dunstan Muller
Rachel Dunstan Mullerhttp://racheldunstanmuller.com/
Rachel Dunstan Muller is the mother of five, and a children’s author. Her previous articles can be found at islandparent.ca.

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