If you’d told me a year ago that I would soon be hosting a podcast, I wouldn’t have believed you. But earlier this year I became a Tow-Knight fellow in CUNY’s entrepreneurial journalism program. It was while studying in that supportive environment, immersed in entrepreneurial culture, that I incubated and produced the first few episodes of my podcast on women and work, “The Broad Experience.”
I’m stealing this first one from NPR’s Adam Davidson, who founded the “Planet Money” podcast: be good. Don’t start a podcast until you know you have compelling content, have something to say and can produce a good-quality show. I had the advantage of having been a radio reporter for 10 years. I learned a lot at “Marketplace” about how to convey just the right amount of information in what I hope is a thought provoking, entertaining way. For length, I recommend keeping a podcast relatively short. So far mine have all been between eight and 13 minutes.
I use the radio kit I’ve had for several years: a Marantz 660 digital recorder and a Shure-SM 58 microphone. But there’s lots of audio equipment available at various price points. I record my own tracks in my closet with a few clothes gathered around my head to mimic studio soundproofing.
I try to interview my sources in person, using the gear mentioned above. I’ve recently discovered that SoundCloud has a ’record’ option that allows a remote interviewee to record their half of the conversation and upload it to me. The quality isn’t quite as good as in-person tape but it’s infinitely better than phone tape and Skype tape, both of which I have used but try to avoid. I have occasionally hired a local reporter to tape an interviewee in another part of the country while I ask the questions down the phone (known as a tape sync in radio parlance). Afterward the reporter sends me the audio file.
There are many options for podcast hosting. I use SoundCloud to host my show, but I also have a website, TheBroadExperience.com, built using Squarespace’s software and using a SoundCloud widget to play the podcast. And of course you have to make sure your podcast has a home on iTunes. That requires an RSS feed (this is the feed that sends your content to iTunes). SoundCloud does provide RSS feeds to certain account holders, but I use the podcast hosting service LibSyn for this purpose. I upload each new show to LibSyn and LibSyn feeds it to iTunes.
I was at BlogWorld Expo (now called New Media Expo) in May, and a speaker on one of the panels said that until you’ve made 25 podcasts, you’re not serious. I’m hovering at 10 right now. I take his point. Producing a decent podcast is hard work, work you’re usually not getting paid for (yet). It’s early days for my podcast, and there are times when I feel discouraged and frustrated. That’s when I check in with other podcasters, focus on the enthusiastic emails I’ve received from listeners and remind myself to keep on keeping on.