Reflections on 'make a podcast'
Making a podcast is easier than it has ever been, that’s for sure. For a start, there’s plenty of help out there for the budding podcaster, and lots of people have gone before – so the mistakes are well documented.
It is no longer necessary to make your own arragements for a website, to find a way of creating an RSS feed in the right format nor to even submit your podcast to the various directories that exist – one tool (I picked Anchor, but others exist) can do all of those bits for you. But it still isn’t easy.
I decided, having started looking at the Adobe Audition tutorials, that editing a podcast was the perfect challenge for me to put my newly learnt (and soon to be quickly forgotten, if not used) skills to the test.
And so 3MoreWeeks was born. A look at the impacts of a virus-restricting lockdown imposed on us by the pandemic none of us can miss. How hard could it be, I thought?
I thought I’d jot down my thoughts here, as some kind of reminder to myself for podcast 2 (that’s inevitable) and a sharing of learnings for you (if you’re stumbling across this post, thinking you might want to start a podcast of your own).
Ultimately, creating a podcast is creating a whole thing and if you’re doing it by yourself you’re going to find yourself turning in shifts as a presenter, producer, researcher, editor and publicist. If it’s just a hobby task alongside a job (like mine) then that is actually quite a bit of work to find time for.
If I do another podcast (well, I have a mic now) here are the things I’d be carefully considering.
This one really comes down to the format I’d chosen for the podcast. If you’ve just gone for doing the research and then talking it out then you can skip over this bit. But I didn’t. My plan was to speak to people who knew what they were talking about, and they… well, it turns out they are easy to find, but harder to co-ordinate, especially when you have a busy diary yourself.
But what totally surprised me was how willing people were to help. It might not be a surprise to you (perhaps I don’t have enough faith), but almost every person I asked said yes.
Of course, the environment will have a big impact. I imagine comparing staying at home to taking part in a podcast (at home) had an impact on my success rate.
At the time of writing, I’ve recorded two episodes – and edited and released one – and none have yet gone by without technical issues which have made it harder to get the finsihed product out the door.
On the first record, one of my guests’ microphones wouldn’t let them record on Zencastr so we had to switch to Zoom at the last minute.
On the second Virgin Media had a downtime so big it made the news, taking one of my guests with it fully and another on a connection that ducked in and out throughout.
Either way, recording a podcast remotely and keeping high quality is tough – even with a great tool like Zencastr. Wish me luck for episode 3.
Editing is daunting
Despite being the whole motivation for the project, learning about editing made me realise just how much hard work it would be.
First, the technical problems meant it was even more of a hassle than it had needed to be – I’d ended up recording on Zoom and so editing it was more challenging. A single, relatively low quality audio file was the product – no seperate wav files available. That meant no easy way of separating out what is said by one guest to another, and no way of editing the voices seperately (where levels are different, for example) without a lot of work.
I actually gold-plated this bit and re-recorded all of my side of the conversation, so it was at the quality I’d wanted it to be.
Second, I’d decided to “leave it to the edit”. It was always part of my plan to edit the first part of the podcast, including the welcomes on to the start of the episode, after the recording of the interviews. I wasn’t going for an “as live” recording so I didn’t have to get everything perfect when I had my guests on the line. This made sense from the outset – it reduced the pressure on me, and made the recording shorter potentially – but with hindsight it actually just created a more daunting, problematic edit.
I’ll be doing epsiode 3 ‘as live’, to avoid this problem and speed up my production process.
This is one of the most important parts of the podcast, if you’re interested in listening figures. I’m not really that worried about people listening to my podcast, but if you want listeners then you have to get this right.
Too early and you’ll do what I did and end up with a frustrated audience of family and friends who thought that when you posted to say you were doing something you meant you’d do it, y’know… soon.
That’s exactly what I did (totally in as you’d expect me to). I went live when I’d made a logo, bought a domain and recorded a trailer (I didn’t even have a script for the trailer, I just hit record and spoke). It added pressure, and that’s not what a creative needs to be creative.
Next time, I’d have the first episode ready to go (on a schedule) when I first exposed the podcast to reality, so I had a head start – and the space to be the creative procrastinator I know I am.