The SNO Report: Starting A Podcast, Part 1: Laying The Foundation
It’s true, you know, what they say. Anyone who wants a podcast can have one.
You don’t need any specific college degree or expensive equipment to make your voice heard on the almighty iTunes. You don’t even need a “radio voice.” Trust me, you guys, I know this. All you really need is an idea, something that’ll record you and a place to publish it.
That’s called laying the foundation, and that’s where this lesson begins. When printed out and attached with a piece of tape (only then!), this and next week’s SNO Report will, hopefully, be a helpful guide to starting a podcast, essentially with nothing more than stuff around your house.
This week, before you call Stephen A. Smith to be your first guest (mad props!), let’s talk about generating an idea and the two things you need to make it a reality — a tool to record it and place to upload it.
What’s the big idea?
This has to be your first step. It makes no sense to start decorating a recording studio (or to have one in the first place) or to be scheduling interviews when you don’t have an idea.
You need an idea that makes sense, in a couple ways.
Is it reasonable to expect that you can execute a series from the idea? If your idea is to interview professional athletes about what it’s like to be professional athletes, consider how achievable that is. Perhaps your school has an alum in the NHL, making him reasonably within reach. That’s one episode. What’s left after that? A series interviewing educators, in comparison, gives you much greater opportunity.
Who is your audience and what interests them? Consider it a criminal offense not to consider this specific question. Knowing your audience drives everything you do. It may seem silly that people are tuning in, by the thousands, to live streams to watch other people play video games, but those gamers know that the audience — on that specific website — will be interested.
To the first point, it’s equally as important that you can project your idea for several recurring episodes, but that it’s not too rambly that you can’t train your listeners to know what to expect every time they tune in. Your podcast is likely to be more popular when staying within your main theme than if you’re trying to have the freshest take about the New England Patriots one week and counting on your listeners to come back to listen to you review cereals next week.
It helps to plan. Make up a schedule for the first bunch of episodes (three, at least) and finish them before ever publishing the first one. This gives you as much time as you need to get together with your buddy to debate about sports or to schedule, reschedule and complete that interview with the local dog catcher.
You’ll feel the heat of deadlines plenty in your day-to-day journalism. Give yourself a cushion just once. It’ll mean you’re setting yourself up to succeed.
How do I record it?
Let’s pretend you don’t have a radio or broadcast program at your school with all the know-how to produce your show — that it’s just you and a couple other big dreamers figuring it out at your average high school. You’ll need a computer program to record to, edit with and export from.
Sure, the same as there are knock-off Photoshop solutions online, you could probably find free audio editing, too. Or, there are tons of professional audio editing software programs you can buy but at the price of 100 tacos from Chipotle. (Your move.)
Instead of those, here are two options that each combine that Free-99 price tag with an authentic editing experience:
Audacity is a free, downloadable application for Macs and PCs that we use to produce SNOcast. We learned how to use it pretty quickly.
GarageBand is a stock application on Macs. Its editing is over-simplified, which may be easier to learn if you go to it first. It’s not our favorite, but it’s an option.
The option to import audio into these is vital because not all interviews happen in front of a computer — or they’ll happen on a computer but using a separate program, like Skype. So, whether it’s recorded remotely as a voice memo on your phone or using a digital recorder, you need to have the option to import “tracks.”
One recent enhancement coming from the websites where you’ll ultimately upload your podcast to, like Soundcloud and Anchor FM, is downloadable, all-in-one apps.
These podcasting platforms are allowing you to do it all in one place. On Anchor, for example, you can record through your phone, import additional tracks, edit them together, add music from their free library, even add transition sounds (woooosh!), and then publish it.
Where does it go online?
You can go through the steps of setting up an account for iTunes and Spotify if you want, but each time you’ll run into the requirement to provide a link to your podcast feed.
So, after you have your idea and start producing episodes, you need to pick a site that creates a feed for you and, often, sends your episodes off to iTunes and others automatically.
There are many options out there, each with important factors to consider. Here are the four we looked into, to publish SNOcast, why one won out and the others didn’t:
ART19 was the first place we looked, but with it you’re in for an investment right away because you’re paying for is their marketing of your series and data tracking.
Soundcloud was next. In fact, we created an account and uploaded our first episode to it because while it’s extremely well known, what wasn’t clear at sign-up was that you’ll have a cap on your free account. You can only upload so many minutes of audio before you have to start paying up, so one 25-minute podcast really put a dent in that space right away. Remember, Soundcloud was created for musicians, who may only be uploading an album that’s no longer than 25 minutes total.
Podbean is another well-used option. Unlike Soundcloud, it’s made for podcasters. Like Soundcloud, you’ll be paying an annual fee for more space.
Anchor is what we went with. It’s 100 percent free and has worked well so far.
Next week, we’ll talk about a few of the things that separate your podcast from being just another in the crowd to being memorable.
In the meantime, check out some of the new SNO swag we’re selling!