Over the years I’ve created many resources around podcasting. In this post, I’ve gathered together some of my most useful tips. Please leave a comment if you find these helpful.
A podcast is an audio file that can be shared on the Internet, and played on a desktop or laptop machine or on a mobile device. By nature a podcast is serial and requires an RSS feed, whereas a plain audio file stands alone.
Preparing to podcast
- What’s the purpose of your podcast?
- Who are you trying to reach?
- Have you decided on a format?
- Do you have the software and hardware you need?
- Do you have a name for your podcast?
- Do you have iTunes-appropriate album art?
- Are you going to write a script? Be careful of over-scripting
- Mac or PC with sound card
- Earphones, headset or headphones
- Portable digital recorder (optional)
- iPhone or other handheld device with recording capability (optional)
- Audacity with LAME encoder (free) for Mac, Windows or Linux
- Garage Band (Mac only)
- Adobe Audition (PC and Mac; pricey but feature-rich)
- Levelator or Auphonic, which evens out the voices in your podcast; do not use for music!
- ID3 Editor (Mac or Windows), optional, to add tags to your file, making it appear properly in iTunes and other players
Optional but suggested resources
- A blog or other content management system, which enables simple podcast publishing; WordPress bloggers have access to many podcasting plugins (I recommend PowerPress from Blubrry)
- An account at Libsyn or other hosting service
- An account on SoundCloud, not for hosting, but for distribution
Minimum gear needed to podcast
Built-in microphone, Mac or PC
Better gear for a podcast
Headset/mic combo, Mac or PC
Best gear for podcast
Microphone, headphones, Mac or PC; optional portable digital recorder for field work
Learn to use your microphone!
Note: Many smartphones allow you to record audio. If you use the Apple-supplied mic/headset with an iPhone and an app like iTalk, you can get decent quality. Just upload the file to your computer for editing, etc. Be sure to put the phone in airplane mode so your recording won’t be interrupted by calls or texts.
To script or not?
- Light scripting usually better than tight
- If you script, mark up and rehearse; learn to sound natural
Remember: the listener has no visual cues
- Communicate for the ear, not the eye
- Use simple language
- Start with a hook to grab the listener’s interest
- Give auditory guideposts (“We’re going to talk about three things…”)
- Avoid lots of numbers
- Use a recap at the end
Why edit your podcast?
- Get rid of errors
- Delete excessive um and ah sounds
- Even out the sound volume
- Gives your listener a pleasant experience
- Allows you to include other clips
- Add music, jingles or sound effects to your podcast
The basics of podcasting using Audacity
- Plan your podcast
- Record your audio in Audacity
- Edit your file in Audacity
- In Audacity, export the file as MP3; add ID3 tags
- Upload the file to a hosting service such as Libsyn
- Publish the file to your blog as an enclosure; this distributes your podcast in an RSS feed (easier if you use PowerPress – just add the name of the MP3 file from Libsyn or other host)
Step-by-step recording and editing in Audacity
- Connect your microphone to your computer
- Check system sound settings so that microphone is selected
- Open Audacity
- Select input (built-in microphone or line-in or USB mic, whatever you are using)
- Be sure defaults are set to project rate of 44100 Hz, mono, 32-bit float (keep it simple)
- “Save project as” and give it a name
- Hit red button and start speaking
- Save file
- Listen to make sure it’s ok
- To remove parts of the sound file, highlight and delete
- To move parts of the sound file, highlight, copy, paste (much like a word processor)
- If using Levelator, export or save file as WAV and then drop onto Levelator application. If using Auphonic, upload a WAV file to be evened out.
- Add optional jingles and music
- Save file
- Export>Format MP3
Note: Do not work with an MP3 file until you are ready to upload. MP3 is a compressed (lossy) format. You want to work with an uncompressed file (.aup, WAV, etc.) until you are ready to upload and publish.
- When you do an interview, often each guest’s volume differs. You don’t want your listener to deal with uneven audio levels, so use Levelator.
- Download the app (just Google “Levelator); choose PC or Mac version.
- Simply drop a WAV file on the app; it will create a file with “output” in the name.
- Listen to this file to be sure it is OK, and then proceed normally with your edits.
- Note that if there is a lot of background noise, you need to remove it before using Levelator. Do not use Levelator if you have music in your file; add music later.
Using Skype for remote interviews
- Set up Skype normally for a call (voice only; not video).
- Be sure to set up system and Skype preferences to select your microphone.
- Use a third-party app such as Pamela or Call Recorder to capture audio; Skype does not allow native audio capture.
- When finished recording, convert the file to a compatible format if necessary and open it in Audacity to edit.
- Remember you can also use Skype to dial and record calls with non-Skype users.
Podcasting interview tips
- Be sure the podcast guest is audio-friendly
- Do a pre-interview but don’t ask exact questions; supply question areas
- Discourage guest from reading or sounding stilted in any way; be conversational
- Be sure the guest knows the technical expectations of the interview; in person, phone, Skype? (See separate document on “How to be a terrific podcast guest.”)
Recording in the field with a digital recorder
- Of course you can also use your digital recorder in your office; some recommend this as a safer option (no worries about your PC crashing)
- Use the built-in microphone on your Zoom H4n or other recorder or add a dynamic mic
- Experiment with mic placement
- Plug in your unit rather than rely on batteries when possible; no worries about running out of juice.
- Record in uncompressed (WAV) format
- Be sure to select correct input (built-in mic or line in)
- Remember to press the red button to record. Flashing red is standby.
- When finished, press STOP button
- To transfer the file(s) to your PC, turn on H4n. Then connect the H4n to the PC with the supplied USB cable. Press “menu” on the top screen. Select “USB” and press. Select “storage” and press. IMPORTANT: Before physically unplugging the USB cable and H4n from the computer, be sure to perform the “safely remove hardware” or “eject” function on your computer. You might damage files if you unplug otherwise.
To publish your podcast
- Add ID3 tags to your MP3 file; this enables listeners to see the name of your podcast and other data.
- Upload tagged MP3 file to your hosting service
- Grab the enclosure information and the direct MP3 link names from your hosting service
- Write your show notes as a blog post to accompany the podcast
- Add the file as an enclosure to your blog post
- Publish your blog post
The first time you publish, you need to set up your podcast in iTunes. The iTunes site contains step-by-step information. Submit your podcast to iTunes before sending it to other directories. Many directories will request your podcast’s Apple iTunes ID information
Role of show notes and transcripts
Show notes are text files to accompany a podcast, often published on a blog. Show notes can boost your search engine optimization (SEO) and are helpful to people who want to refer to something they heard on your podcast. Show notes usually are published with time codes. Some podcasters publish full-fledged transcripts, which are word-for-word text versions of the podcast. You can use a service such as rev.com to produce your transcript.