I’m not quite sure when it happened, but at some point during the last ten years, podcasts have really become a thing. I should probably start listening to them.
According to the most recent statistics from Ofcom, 5.9 million UK adults were listening to podcasts last year, compared to just 3.2 million in 2013. We’ve seen everything from comedians talking about grief, to a review of the same bad film every week of the year (yes, really, all 52 weeks), to in-depth reporting and investigations.
There are podcasts from The Guardian, there are podcasts from The Times. There are podcasts from our faves at The Overtake and podcasts from the guilt-free geek central that is CityMetric. But whether you’ve decided to branch out into audio for journalism or a side-hustle, the key question remains the same – how do you even begin to get started?
It’s something I’m pretty honest in saying I know essentially nothing about, bar being forced to listen to one my partner had made. So, in honour of London Podcast Festival this weekend, I decided it was time for a bit of self-education. So, here are some people from both the festival and the wider podcasting community who do actually know what they’re talking about.
‘Choose A Topic You Could Talk Endlessly About’
“Choose a subject you’re passionate about, and could talk endlessly about,” says Suchandrika Chakrabarti, who runs Freelance Pod, a weekly podcast about the internet and creativity. It perhaps goes without saying, but “you’re going be doing just that”.
“Also,” she adds, “you’ll be researching the subject, finding guests who can talk about it, finding social media communities around it – basically immersing yourself in your chosen topic. So make sure it’s going to be something you love!”
However, whether you’re setting up a newsy podcast or something designed for the laughs, it’s still important to think of your audience.
“Be clear who your target audience is in your own mind,” cautions Janet Anderson, who runs Asymmetrical Haircuts, which actually focuses on international justice (though both co-hosts do have the same haircut).
“You need to think through why they’re going to listen to your take and why they’ll find it entertaining or useful,” she adds.
“Our one biggest tip for podcasting would actually be to name it something people are searching for,” says Alex Jobling, Head of Digital at Burstimo. “A lot of people have the urge to name their podcast after themselves or their company, but when you’re starting out you have no listeners.
Be clear who your target audience is in your own mind – you need to think through why they’re going to listen to your take, why find it entertaining or useful.
— Janet H. Anderson (@janethanderson) September 6, 2019
And, finally, while you’re in the initial planning stage, it’s worth thinking about your name. Funny or quirky names can work well, but it can be worth resisting the temptation to just use your own name.
“So, our podcast is named “The Music Marketing Podcast” and we simply introduce it as ‘The Music Marketing Podcast by Burstimo’.
“Most people have told us they found our podcast through searching ‘Music Marketing’ on the podcast apps and we have received 7,500 lists to date.”
Nail your format down early – it’s easier to slot into podcast mode when you know how it’s going to work than to continually switch things up as you go.
— Robin Wilde (@TheWildeRobin) September 6, 2019
But, whatever you decide to call your podcast, make sure to take a second before you roll with it. “I say this as someone who rushed into every single podcast I ever made,” says Sophie Hagen of Secret Dinosaur Cult,” take a few days.”
“Before you buy the domain, before you pick a name, before you book a photoshoot, before you announce it on social media – it’s okay to play around with it first,” she continues, with a couple of wild scare stories to boot.
“You’ll end up with a grammatically incorrect name (my first podcast was called ‘Comedians Telling Stuff’) or a full-day photoshoot and logo for a podcast that never existed because you fell out with your co-host.” Fair play, none of us want that.
You can book tickets to see Freelance Pod recorded live at the London Podcast Show on Saturday, September 7 and Secret Dinosaur Cult is doing a recording on Friday, September 13. Click here for our 20% off discount code!
‘Consistency Is Key – But Don’t Waste My Time’
You’ve checked off the name and the topic, so what happens next? Well, if you’re making it, the first thing to know is you absolutely shouldn’t be going one at a time, unless you’re a very topical podcast.
“Have three or four episodes banked before you go public,” advises David Spencer, aka @TheMediaMentor on Twitter. “Record a teaser if you can. Treat it like radio – ensure listeners are not excluded.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Tom Salinsky of The Spontaneity Shop, who also produces The Guilty Feminist, Global Pillage, and Best Pick. “Consistency is key,” he explains. “Make sure you establish your format points and put a new episode out with the same structure every week/day/fortnight/month.
“Your audience will come to rely on a new episode turning up regularly and will eagerly wait to hear their favourite segment. Over time, you can flex and vary the format a little if you need to, but always try and hit the same release schedule if you can.”
Want more things you should tick off your bucket list now you’ve sorted a podcast? We’ve put together a massive big list of things every student journalists should try off while they’re at university. It probably still works OK for the rest of us as well.
And, if two people saying it wasn’t quite enough, here’s a final kicker from Callum Crumlish, host of May The Films Be With You. “Keep a structure to your podcast – no matter how interesting you are, a two hour rant isn’t fun.”
“If it’s over 25 minutes there should be a very good reason,” adds Dan Hudson of A Gay and A Non Gay, “that’s the average UK commute when most podcasts are listened to!”
“My one top tip for starting a podcast is to edit, edit, and edit again. Don’t waste my time.”
You can book tickets to see the live recordings of Best Pick podcast on Sunday, September 15 and A Gay And A Non Gay on Saturday, September 7. Click here for our 20% off discount code!
‘People Can – And Will – Switch Off’
And then, at last, we come to the tech side of things. First up, while it’s vital to make sure your podcast doesn’t sound grating, this isn’t as hard to achieve as you might think. “You can get good quality audio very easily,” stresses Soila Apparicio of Very Loose Women.
“Make sure you’re in a non-echoey room without buzzing or loud noises. If there’s a disruption like a car outside or an unruly cat, repeat the sentence. And always have your headphones in.”
It’s a lesson even I, a podcasting virgin, know after listening to some rather amusing tapes from my shorthand teacher while at university. Bonus points if you could nail the transcription without getting distracted by the cat meowing.
you can get good audio quality very easily. make sure you’re in a non-echoey room without extra buzzing or loud noises. if there’s a disruption like a car outside or an unruly cat, repeat the sentence. and always have your headphones in!
— Soila Apparicio (@SoilaSays) September 6, 2019
“Sort your sound quality before editing,” stresses Esther Kezia Thorpe, co-host of the Media Voices Podcast. “Only so much can be done in the edit. Get a decent mic and a small room, or put a duvet over your head.”
And if you thought Skype would be your solution to recording calls, Esther is here tell you that is a bad, poor quality move. “Look at audio-only call solutions,” she explains, highlighting Cast as a good solution.
Similarly, when I was a local radio station a few years back, we’d get our interviewees to record themselves on a second smartphone in the voice apps note, and then send that back file to us.
Want more? Here’s a *lot* more. Here’s a full-on 50 page guide for publishers to getting your podcast right, courtesy of Esther and the team at What’s New In Publishing.
But we’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again – getting decent quality audio isn’t hard. “Get a decent mic, but don’t spend a fortune,” says Tamsin Lockwood, of the soon-to-launch PathCast.
Sort your sound quality BEFORE editing. Only so much can be done in the edit. Get a decent mic and small room, or put a duvet over your head.
Also don’t use Skype for interviews. Look at audio-only call solutions. We’ve found @CastApp to be brilliant.
— Esther Kezia Thorpe (@EstherKeziaT) September 6, 2019
“If you’re recording on location just use a separate plug in mic if you’re recording on an iPhone,” says Linda Lewis, the presenter and producer of Company Casebook on Share Radio. “And, if you’re recording in the studio make sure the mics are properly balanced.
“I once heard a great podcast which included one of my favourite political commentators, but you could hard hardly hear him, whereas the other two contributors were booming out loud and clear. I switched off after five minutes.”
“Get it right from the jump,” says Tobí Akingbadé of Yellow Cup Podcast. “Because people can – and will – switch off if your first couple of episodes have sub-par mics. Don’t be afraid to ask other podcasters what studio they used.”
‘I See People Making Amazing Content – But Nobody Knows It Exists’
If you’ve got the idea, the schedule and the tech sorted, you’re already seven million miles ahead of me. But do still take some time to work out how you’ll get your podcast out there.
“My biggest tip to someone starting out is how to develop a clear path for how you’re going to distribute your podcast,” says Bethan Vincent of The Brave Podcast. “For example, will it be on Apple Podcasts? Spotify? YouTube? And think about how you’re going to attract an audience.
“I see so many people making amazing content, but nobody knows it exists because they haven’t thought about getting it in front of people.”
“Promotion is key for new podcasts,” agrees Michelle Reeves of The Ideal Life Club Podcast. “One thing that’s saved me time promoting The Ideal Life Club podcast is to create templates for social media using Canva and video tools like Headliner that turn snippets of your audio into a video to share.”
But, at the end of all 2,000 words of this piece the most important advice is probably just to get started. In the words of the soon to launch Freelance Feels podcast, “go for it, do it! Get it out there! Don’t wait for it to be perfect.”
This post was produced with the help of the London Podcast Festival 2019. You can see the full programme, which runs across two weekends in September, here. For a 20 percent discount on tickets to any show, simply use the code LPF20OFF at the checkout.