The beginnings of podcasting can be traced back to the late 1990s during the early years of the internet. Originally, this format was used by preachers and newscasters; they would record their live sermons or news segments and upload them onto their websites. At first, podcasts (named by melding ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’ into one) weren’t considered a stand alone format—instead, podcasts were published alongside web blogs as a supplement to the written material. When Apple launched podcasts on iTunes, the process of listening to podcasts was streamlined—thus allowing podcasts to be consumed by a greater audience. As such, today it’s very unusual to meet someone who has never listened to podcasts or doesn’t have any interest in them at all. Indeed, it seems as if nowadays every YouTuber, blogger, or celebrity is launching their own podcasts about anything and everything. Now is the best time to get involved and give podcasting a try, and if you’re not sure where to start—fear not! In this article, I will give you a few pointers on how to form an idea and make a podcast out of it. So, let’s jump right into it!
Coming Up With an Idea
You know you want to get into podcasting, but you’re not exactly sure what to talk about. Well, a good rule of thumb when it comes to any sort of broadcast media—whether it be student radio, YouTube and, of course, podcasting—is to stick to the following two rules:
A. Talk about what you love.
B. Produce the content you yourself would listen to.
While it may seem rather straightforward, all too often our passions are left by the wayside. We often assume they might not resonate with others or might not be financially viable. This is simply not true! Whatever your interest, whatever your niche, there will always be an audience for that specific thing. When thinking about a subject for your podcast, consider what you love: are you passionate about comprehensive sexual education? Harry Potter fanfiction? Embroidery techniques? The Pixar Theory? Talk about what drives you because firstly, it’s more interesting to listen to people who are passionate—and secondly, it’s a lot easier for you to stay motivated if you love what you’re doing.
When you’ve found your subject, the next step is to think about what you personally would want to listen to. This does not necessarily need to be wholly unique, although of course you should avoid completely copying another podcast’s concept. Chances are that if you would listen to it, others would too. Stakhanov’s The Football Ramble, a must-listen for any discerning fan that enjoys the more entertaining side of the world’s favourite sport, was born out of the presenters’ shared passion for football and a desire to hear about the more humorous and entertaining side of the sport. Over a decade and 71 million listens later, it’s become clear that they weren’t the only ones.
The Value of Segments
Once you have your idea, it’s time to think about how you want to present and structure your podcast. This brings me to the value of segments, which—spoiler alert—is enormous. Segments allow you to build a unique structure for your show that listeners will both expect and recognize episode to episode. Moreover, segments are also a fantastic way to get your listeners involved and increase audience interaction. To give you a better idea of what I mean, I’ve rounded up a few examples of segments:
1. Stakhanov’s Set Meals, a weekly food show led by the insatiable hunger of its two hosts, is organised in two halves: a news section and a restaurant section. The news section is filled with various food news, as well as an update as to what Sam and Taylor have been eating that week (the good…and the bad). The restaurant section is recorded outside of the studio, and is a means for the boys to accurately relay their restaurant experience in the hopes of producing the most honest restaurant review possible.
2. The Football Ramble, now part of Football Ramble Daily which broadcasts six days a week during the football season, has a segment on their show based entirely around reading listeners’ emails. This allows for greater audience interaction which is, of course, great for podcast growth and a lot of fun for both presenters and listeners. Later, the Ramble will be introducing their patrons’ Whatsapp voice messages in a brand new segment on the show.
Segments are integral to good podcasting (not always for narrative podcasts) and are also a way of keeping things fresh later on when you’ve been podcasting for a while.
Planning Your First Episode
Now to the fun stuff! A good first step is to set your ideas down on paper. Every episode you put out should ideally be centered around a theme or topic, otherwise you risk sounding disjointed and aimless. Once you have your topic (or topics) chosen, planning the rest of your show should be a little easier. From my background in student radio, I would generally recommend scripting both your intro and outro. I’ve found that often people don’t give too much thought to what they’ll say at the beginning and end of their show until the mics come on and they realize they have no idea what to say—having a clear and concise intro already written out makes you sound more professional and helps you start things off on the right foot. Especially if this is your first time on the mic. It’s also a good idea to have the rest of your show outlined with bullet points. This helps you keep track of what you’ve covered and serves as a jumping off point for chat and improvising. In podcasting, I find there is a very tricky balance to strike between too much and too little scripting. Too much scripting leaves you sounding rigid and makes your podcast sound inauthentic. While on the other hand, too little makes you sound unprofessional and disorganised—as well as frustrating to listen to!
Producing Your Podcast
Now that you have your basic outline and concept sorted, your next step is putting it all into action! The beauty of podcasting is that, quite literally, anyone can do it. Whether you decide to go down the Lo-Fi route and just record yourself with your phone or you end up booking a session with a production studio near you, podcasting is extremely accessible. However, we’re so spoiled for choice that it can be difficult to decide which route to go down: studio- or home-producing.
If you’ve been thinking about working in a studio, here is an overview of what you can expect and what the advantages of a studio are. I work for Stakhanov, a podcast production company in the heart of North London with a state-of-the-art recording and production suite that incorporates auto vision mixing, dynamic lighting and studio grade audio technology. One of the immediate advantages of working in a studio is, of course, the audio quality. While there is nothing wrong with podcasts that don’t have radio grade sound, there is something to be said for crisp audio. Moreover, some studios (like Stakhanov) have in-built cameras that can capture video while you record audio, which is exceptionally handy if you are interested in posting clips of your podcast to YouTube so as to better grow your audience. The biggest advantage of working with a studio is, in my opinion, that you have the option of having your podcast professionally edited and produced for you. Although this is really up to you and your preferences. The most time consuming part of podcasting is the editing stage and I’ve found that one of the biggest obstacles to podcasting (and one of the main reasons podcasts are abandoned) is that most people can’t find the time to fit it into their busy schedule. While it is easier and cheaper to produce your podcast by yourself, the benefits of using a studio cannot be ignored.
At the end of the day, getting into podcasting is far simpler than you might expect. All you need is an idea, drive, and a plan on how to put it into action. If you’re based in London and interested in working with Stakhanov do get in touch! We’re always interested in hearing new ideas and projects. If you’re already a podcast presenter and you have a few additional tips you think would be useful for newbies to hear, drop them in the comments! And if not, let us know if you tried any of these pointers and how they worked for you.