The potted guide to podcasting is almost complete. I’ve spilt the beans on hardware, software, sound quality and editing, so here are the leftovers. If there’s anything else you want to know about, pipe up in the comments.
This is the most valuable piece of advice I can give you:
Don’t ask anyone to listen to your early episodes. And NEVER the first episode. Because there’s a good chance the first episode will be a bit rubbish, and then the people you’ve asked to listen to it will quite probably never give your podcast another shot, even when it has become excellent.
Wait to ask till you’ve been podcasting for at least three months or ten episodes, whichever equates to the greater number of episodes. Even when made by experienced broadcasters, a podcast takes a while to establish its tone, its format, its shape, its voice. While this is taking place, you kind of have to ignore the help of others and find your own feet. And by the time you’ve found them, you might not want or need other people sticking their oars in anyway.
• Keep yourself regular
I hate to shatter your illusions, but as hobbies go, podcasting is quite Not Fun. It is hard work, surprisingly time-consuming, and quite dispiriting at the beginning, when you discover that you’re not as good at it as you expected. Even if you are an experienced broadcaster, your first few episodes aren’t likely to be super; and if you’re not, prepare to hate your own voice and every single word it forms.
Duly disappointed, you might be tempted to waylay your next podcast until you feel like doing it again. But don’t! Because you probably never will feel like it. Had we not determined from the beginning that Answer Me This! would come out every Thursday, we would have foundered by the third episode or so.
So, set yourself a regular deadline – weekly or fortnightly is good – and you’ll not only have to get over your own noob deficiencies and move on, but also you’ll learn and improve far more rapidly and efficiently than if you only make a podcast once every several weeks. Moreover, if a listener is becoming keen on your podcast, they’ll want a regular dose, to fuel them on the path to addiction.
We decided early on that 25-30 minutes was the optimal duration for Answer Me This!: it seemed to fit in with a commuter journey, and isn’t too great a commitment for the listener. I’d imagine that spending any more time per week in our company would be intolerable.
Your company might be more tolerable than ours, but still, don’t outstay your welcome (as discussed in my previous post about editing). There are only three or four podcasts to which I am willing to surrender my ears for more than around 40 minutes.
Can you make a podcast too short? I dunno. Once you’ve made a few episodes, discovered the integral character and/or straightened out the format, and listened back a few times, you’ll have an inkling of the appropriate length.
You want a name that will date well – ie isn’t a pun on ‘pod’ (so 2006!). You also want this name to be googleable, so not a name shared by a far bigger operation, or such a common word so that you haven’t a hope of appearing within the first 10,000,000 search results. That said, you’re shooting yourself in the foot with a name that is so esoteric, it’s impossible to remember.
I’d also suggest opting for a name that doesn’t suggest friends just mucking around whimsically. Why would I listen to a podcast advertising itself as ‘random’, ‘waffle’ or ‘rant’ when I could simply tune into my inner monologue?
You don’t have to have one, but it can be useful, because it’s difficult to pluck conversation from thin air. The format of Answer Me This! always provides a spine for the show. It also invites audience interaction, which is a way to keep the audience interested week after week – and provides some relief from our opining.
If you do opt for a format, make it one that is explicable in a sentence. And choose one that facilitates conversation, not limits it: a very elaborate or specific concept may pen you in.
Concoct a nice and clear graphic to brand your podcast – browse the iTunes store, where you will immediately see ones that work and that don’t.
We were lucky that Olly’s girlfriend is a graphic designer, so she charitably dealt with this side for us.
They are not compulsory, but you might like a little bit of music to provide an audio signature for your show at the beginning and/or end. Aural branding, yeah?
We do use quite a lot of jingles in Answer Me This! – indeed, they were the only things worth listening to in our first several episodes. They punctuate the show, plus provide a more memorable and amusing way of repeatedly delivering boring information, like our lengthy email address.
If you do decide to deploy music, be wary of copyright. We circumvent this issue by only using music made in-house by Martin and our various musical friends, but there are plenty of copyright-free tracks available online. Remember to credit the composer somewhere on your website.
If you are planning on making a music-based podcast, contact PRS, who offer a range of licences depending upon the scale of your operation.