So You Want To Start Podcasting
12 Apr 2015
Since we started this show in January of 2015 we’ve learned a great deal about recording and editing a podcast, and this is on top of the already monumental amount of information that is available online. Since our first episode a few people have asked me questions like ‘how did you get started?’ or ‘what microphones do you use?’ and ‘how do you publicize your show?’.
I have at several times tried to answer these questions, but they always feel partial and incomplete. I had originally planned on just writing this ‘how we do The 416 Show’ guide, but through chance and circumstance it just so happens that I am without a co host this week so I thought why not just us, right listeners?
I’m not going to cover the reasons why we decided to start a show, if you’re listening to this show then you probably have an idea and the interest to do it . If you haven’t got a good reason to start one then you probably shouldn’t record a podcast. Part of what makes it so much fun for us to make, and you to listen too, is that we want to do it and are interested in the topics we are recording. So i’m assuming that you have an idea for a show, but don’t know where to start.
When I first thought of recording a podcast I got through the idea phase pretty quickly and ended up in the confusing world of microphones, headphones, pre amps and editing software. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at this stage and throw your hands up in frustration and quit. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Podcasting like any other hobby, or profession, has a wide range of options for everyone. From the hobby podcaster who talks to his friend once a week about sports to the folks that put together the weekly show Serial. There are equipment options that are accessible to both extremes and every budget imaginable.
I’ll include some links to some other guides that I found incredibly useful in the notes for this episode. Again, today I’m going to focus on the choices that we made for this show.
Before we get into the technical details of recording and editing a podcast, your going to need to come up with a format for your show. Are you going to interview a different person in a different location once a week? Will you and 3 friends be doing movie reviews? The format and style of your show is going to have an impact on your hardware and software decisions so try and get this sorted out as early on as possible.
For The 416 Show we decided to go with the 2 person radio talk show style. This happens to be one of my personal favourite styles of podcasts to listen to so it seemed like a good place to start off from. So far it’s worked pretty well for us.
The next thing you’ll have to address is how your going to record the show? Are you going to do a Skype call with your co-host? Will you be in person? Out in the field somewhere?
Once a week, myself and Nael record ourselves having a Skype conversation. We each record our own ends of the conversation and then I edit them together. This style of podcasting is commonly referred to as a ‘double ender’. This gives you a higher quality show because you are using 2 tracks recorded locally by each person.
The double ender is not required by any means. Some of the most popular podcasts that I know of are recorded Skype conversations with no editing at all. How you record and how much time you spend editing is up to you. There is no right or wrong way to go about this part of podcasting.
When it comes to podcasting there are 2 pieces of hardware you will need at a minimum. A microphone and some headphones.
We decided to start really cheap on the hardware side of things. We weren’t sure if we would even make it past doing 4 episodes of the show so we didn’t want to make a huge commitment financially on the hardware side of things. Something to keep in mind as well, we both have MacBook pro’s and this guide assumes that you have your own computer of some kind.
First, let’s talk about microphones.
As I mentioned we decided to go pretty cheap to start. We use the Snowball Ice. This is a condenser microphone (more on this later). That cost about 60 Canadian dollars. It is certainly not the best microphone available, but it is definitely one of the cheapest.
Condenser Mic’s vs. Dynamic Mic’s
A quick note on the 2 different kinds of microphones that are available. You’ve got condenser mic’s (which tend to be cheaper to purchase, but will require that you do more editing in post production) and dynamic mic’s (which are more expensive to buy, but the quality is much better as well). The primary difference between a condenser microphone and dynamic microphone is that the condenser mic will pick up all kinds of room and background noise while your recording, the dynamic mic will only pick a small field of noise while recording (the area just in front of the mic). More noise while recording = more time spent removing those noises while editing.
As we have learned though, the snowball, being a condenser mic might pick up a fair bit of room noise, and this is the part that nobody ever really goes into. You’ve got to find the best environment to record with your microphone.
If our case, I record in my kids room in our apartment. There is an empty corner at the foot of their bunk beds (which do an excellent job of muffling echo by the way) where I’ve stacked a few tupperware bins just high enough to have my mic and laptop at the perfect height to record. This literally cost me nothing as I simply used items that were already in the room.
Headphones are an important aspect of doing your podcast. Personally, I use the standard apple earbuds that come with your iPhone. One trick I can pass on to you when it comes to using this style of headphones, is to keep the volume turned down fairly low, and if possible, wear something over top of them to muffle any audio leaking (I wear a toque all the time and just pull it down to cover the ear buds when we record.) Nael uses over the ear headphones so he doesn’t have that problem. Either one will do, the choice is really up to you.
If you have chosen to do some level of post production editing like we have, you are going to have to pick some audio editing software to get started. Some of the most common options are: GarageBand, Logic Pro X, Audacity and Adobe Audition.
If you’ve got a somewhat recent Apple computer, then you probably have GarageBand already installed. GarageBand is a fine choice for editing your podcast. In fact, I edited the first 3 episodes of The 416 Show with GarageBand before switching to Audacity.
There was just something I wasn’t happy with about GarageBand. I’m not even 100% sure what the issue I had with the software was. I just wasn’t happy when I was working in it so after some research (and a limited budget) I decided to give Audactiy a whirl.
In my personal experience I haven’t run into too many people that use Audacity to edit their podcasts, I imagine that the archaic, unix like interface turns many people off. Which is totally understandable! For some reason though, Audacity works for me. The default keyboard shortcuts made logical sense to me, and those that didn’t were simple to change in the preferences. It’s 100% free and works on both mac and pc which is rare amongst even it’s expensive paid competitors.
If I had the money I would probably have given Logic Pro X a try. Many of the podcasters that I listen to frequently and have grown to respect as craftspeople swear by it, giving it instant credence in my mind. It comes at a hefty 200+ dollar price which is just not in the cards for me at the moment.
So as with many other aspects of this hobby, we are starting out spending what we can on software and maybe after a few months the opportunity to upgrade will present itself (and i’ll be taking it if you don’t mind)
At some point your going to want to actually share your podcast with people. The primary way to do this these days is to submit your podcast to the iTunes podcast directory. Simple enough, right?
Not really. To submit your show to iTunes, you need to have it in RSS format. Which to be perfectly honest, to do manually by hand would be a pain in the ass.
To be completely clear and up front, The 416 Show is not in iTunes yet. There are a couple of reasons for this that I’ll get into but first I’ll talk a little bit about how we have hosted the show for the last 10 episodes.
We started out by using the DevTO website to post our shows. The DevTO site runs on wordpress and for the first 7 episodes or so I would post them to the site and then just tweet out links to the posts.
Around that 7th episode, I discovered that FeedBurner provided the ability to host podcast specific RSS feeds. What this meant is that I could take the RSS feed that wordpress automatically generated for the categories I used and pop it into feed burner and have an iTunes compatible feed ready to go!
But then I got it into my mind that before submitting the feed to iTunes, I should set the show up on it’s own site.
A quick note about squarespace
Squarespace sponsors a lot of the podcasts that I listen to. Probably like 75% of them or more. This hugely contributed to my decision to go with them. Just a note, advertising still works.
I started migrating all the posts from wordpress to squarespace (super easy by exporting from wordpress and importing into squarespace). After about a week, and a couple of days before your hearing this I made www.the416.net live with episode 10 of The 416 show.
Squarespace was incredibly easy to use and has features built in that are specific to podcasting. If you are looking for something that is a little less over the top than wordpress I’d highly recommend looking into using squarespace (who does not sponsor this podcast for the record).
I also finally submitted the RSS feed to iTunes on February 7th. This was incredibly easy both due to the fact that the feed that squarespace generates matches what iTunes is expecting, and the process to submit the podcast on the iTunes side is a simple 2 step process. Dead easy.
If you’ve got something to say, if you’ve got opinions you want to share or a story that you want to tell, then podcasting as a medium is an excellent choice to share opinions and stories through.
The most amazing thing to me is that you can start podcasting with either little or no money, and over time, as you get better at it and find you are getting personal satisfaction from it you can start spending more. You can scale the hobby as quickly or as slowly as you wish.
I hope that this has helped you in some small way, I’ve become quickly enamoured with podcasting and don’t see myself stopping it anytime soon (In fact, I’m working on a couple of new show idea’s right now! well, not right this second, but you know what I mean).