You've probably already listened to a few podcasts and, with podcasts recently sprouting like mushrooms after a rainstorm, you're wondering what does it take to produce a podcast? It's easy enough to find information on what kind of equipment to buy to flesh out your studio - but what about all the other stuff that goes into creating and maintaining a successful podcast?
If you haven't already, read Part 1 of this article here to learn about the basics of starting or producing your own podcast, like choosing a title and format.
Episode Frequency (or Release Schedule)
As we discussed in Part 1 of this article here, the basics of starting or producing your own podcast, like choosing a title and format, are usually a one-time thing.
Successfully running a podcast, on the other hand, requires on-going maintenance and unwavering commitment to a schedule - otherwise you risk the wrath of your listeners.
You will need to decide how much time you can devote to your podcast weekly or monthly. If you have 5-10 hours available each week, a weekly podcast makes sense. If you only have 2 to 3 hours free each week, then maybe a monthly podcast release is better. Much of the overall timing depends on the length of your finished episodes and the speed of your pre-production, recording and post-production (like editing and distribution).
We recommend to new podcasters that you record and edit a full 6 episodes before you even release the first episode. That way, you get a sense of how fast you work and how much of a time commitment you will need for each episode. Plus, a weekly podcast will consequently already have a nice 1.5 month lead in the episode release, and a monthly podcast will have a half year already set! Other schedules can certainly work, too - you can have a monthly podcast with a special mid-month segment/episode; you can do a weekly podcast with a compilation episode every 8th episode (to round out 2 months); the list is endless.
Is this thing on?
Pre-production can often take longer than the audio recording itself. Coming up with the episode idea itself can be very time-consuming, even when you are passionate about your topic - though you may notice that the more episodes you have, the easier the idea brainstorming will be!
Another time-consuming task is the setup of the equipment itself. We suggest setting aside 1-1.5 hrs for setup - each time. This will ensure that you also have a buffer of time if (when!) technical glitches arise. Your setup time will certainly decrease if your podcast recording location is the same each time, like a dedicated podcasting nook in your house, or your own studio, but if you have to breakdown your equipment when you're not using it, it's best to plan for more time.
You will also want to run a sound check before you begin recording, to ensure that volume levels are ok (especially if there is more than one person speaking) and that there is no unwanted ambient noise sneaking in (like a really loud ticking clock that your brain may have already tuned out). Remember to have all those speaking move as little as possible away from the mic when they're talking, otherwise it will sound like someone is talking facing away from the recording device... which is what's actually happening but without the visual cue your audience can hear it as a flaw.
Recording an episode can take up to twice the time of what the finished podcast episode length will be. This recording may include false starts, long pauses, and a whole lot of uhs and ums (which you may want to edit out later).
To Video or Not To Video?
Podcasts that also exist on video platforms, like YouTube, can reach a broader audience and in turn get them listening to the podcast.
A quick way to turn a podcast episode into a video episode is to use the audio from the podcast and set a still image as the "video" for it. If you want to get a little fancier, you can even turn multiple images into a slideshow and compile all that into a video. Remember to use text overlays to tell people about your podcast and where they can hear it, in case they're viewing the video embedded somewhere else and can't read the description.
Some podcasters choose to film when they record the audio and share that, too. If you're interviewing someone on Skype, you can also use software to record both of your screens, otherwise you can set up cameras to record in-person interviews in the same room. Syncing up audio and video later is easy enough to do within video editing software.
Of course, choosing to add the video element will require a much larger time commitment, and an additional skillset, but it does add a nice bonus to your podcast.
Editing, polishing and tweaking
Overall, you could be looking at 2-4 hours of editing and piecing together everyone's audio tracks - if there are multiple people using different audio recordings (such as, a Skype audio interview and your own audio recorded in Adobe Audition). The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be at the editing, and the faster you will finish. You can also hire someone to edit the podcast for you, using a freelancer site or a friend who knows audio. It's up to you!
In the editing process, you want to be mindful of the pacing of the episode. Maybe you don't care about the uhs and ums, but is the episode moving as fast or as slow as you want it to? Some people have a tendency to speak really fast when they're recording, sometimes too fast for someone listening to fully understand what they've said! Others drag their points out over unnecessary sentences.
As the audio editor, you have the ability to make executive decisions on where, and what, to cut. We recommend letting a few trusted individuals listen to a few episodes and give you honest feedback before releasing them to a bigger audience - at least from an understandability aspect.
You don't have to polish and make your podcast episode perfect before releasing it. The important thing to keep in mind is that you have to keep your episodes consistent: you either do a lot of polishing or you do a little or you don't do it, but keep it consistent from episode to episode.
There are a few costs associated with creating a podcast, such as the equipment, sound file hosting and any paid promotion you may do. Like with anything else, the fancier your stuff is, the more it will cost.
Of course, you can use free or low-cost resources for equipment and/or promotion:
- the webcam on your computer;
- free, intro plan from most podcast hosting sites, like Soundcloud or Libsyn;
- your own social media network for initial promotion.
Although most podcast hosting sites have free plans, they typically have a size limit and the primary ongoing cost you will very likely face is paying to host the growing number of your episodes.
Want to learn more?
Listen to the rest of this podcast to hear our tips in action, and learn more about audio content.
Started in December 2015, Branch-Out is a bimonthly podcast that covers digital media and digital marketing topics. Featured guests include industry influencers and experts. New episodes of Branch-Out come out every Wednesday, and are available on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher and more!