In this three-part blog series we go from the very beginning steps all the way to embedding your podcast in your website. In this first part we cover planning and preparation, from ideation through formatting, to selecting your equipment.
In some ways, this can be the most difficult stage! But spending time on this will make life much easier; being able to define what your podcast is and the niche it fills, will keep you on track when thinking about how to fill individual episodes. It can be tricky to do this before you even get started, as you won’t know how it’s going to go, but you need to choose a topic that is broad enough to fill an ongoing series, yet not too broad that your potential audience won’t be drawn in (and also that you will be interested enough to speak about it regularly). Instead of ‘baking’, for example, how about ‘baking together with kids’? As you progress, you can expand the topic as needs be.
Following on from this, think about a name for your podcast. You could take a look at Apple’s podcast store for a guide to choosing a name; are the ones you look at specific or not? Would you know what the host will be discussing just from the podcast title? The name needs to be slightly broader than your topic so that you can expand it later, as mentioned above. For our baking example, it could be ‘Bakers Young and Not-so-Young’, so as to appeal to all family members for any number of occasions. Another way you can determine the name is to look at available domain names; if your first choice isn’t available it can be tweaked until you get one that is.
Activity: look at domain name purchase sites and try devising a few domains for yourself
Format of your podcast: running time and frequency
Again, this can be hard to determine before you’ve got started. But it’s useful to have at least an idea of how long each episode will last. Then you can set expectations for you listeners; consistency is key here. And probably in the early days of your podcast, you’re better to create something shorter just to get a feel for it. Remember, a 30-minute podcast will take longer than 30 minutes to create! Also, give some thought to how often you will deliver a new episode; again think of your time commitment (especially if you’re doing it all by yourself).
Check out this 2017 data from Bridge Ratings’ 2017 Podcasting Best Practices Study:
From 2015, the average amount of time spent listening to a podcast has more than halved, from 45 to 22 minutes, s the number of podcasts someone listens to has increased. Whatever the length of your episodes, try to front-load your content, so you get their attention. With competition for audiences growing, you need to give them a reason straight away to keep listening. Bear in mind, the drop-off rate is actually at its highest in the first 5 minutes compared to any other time during an episode (from NPR One, 2016).
Format of your podcast: other people
You may want to create a podcast by yourself, which of course is fine. Or you may want to split the work-load (including the additional tasks of editing and promoting) by getting a co-host on-board, especially if the topic is of great interest to you both, when a conversation should flow naturally. Keep things on track by working to a schedule for your recordings (also, the beauty of podcasting is that you can record multiple episodes at one time).
You may also want to invite others along for interview; if you’re lucky enough to have a guest who is well-known, that can boost your audience, especially if your guest promotes the interview to their own followers. Try a variety of formats including interviews, solo or co-hosted shows to find what works best for you.
Format of your podcast: an actual episode
Every time you record a new podcast episode you need to think of both your existing listeners and any new ones who have come along. Try to be consistent with the format of an episode and provide a little background for your podcast segments. A useful tool for planning is a ‘broadcast clock’, such as you would find for a radio show, which lets you detail each segment in the running order. A typical episode format is:
- Intro Music
- Welcome from the host / co-hosts
- Ad break (if you have advertising)
- Call-to-action (“check out our website for previous episodes”)
- Outro Music
Activity: plan out your podcast in a broadcast clock
Activity: find some intro and outro music – check out blubrry for a guide to podsafe music.
Getting Attention: Podcast cover art
- Get featured in iTunes with attractive artwork:
- Minimum size of 1400 x 1400 pixels / maximum size of 3000 x 3000 pixels / 72 dpi
- JPEG or PNG format and in RGB colourspace (optimise for mobile by compressing image files)
- It will be seen in a variety of places, so must look good big or small
- Use high-quality free images
- Communicate your topic
Whether an individual or a brand, use the artwork to promote yourself right, through appropriate images or logos (even a photo of the host if it’s personality-driven). Be consistent across all your media platforms with your use of images.
- Be word-wise
Given the size restrictions, it makes sense to keep text to a minimum. Likewise, keep things simple by limiting font use (suggested maximum of 2) and not using fonts that are too ‘shouty’ and distracting.
You can record a podcast on your smartphone, but you may want to consider purchasing a quality microphone. Audiences can forgive a lot, but poor audio just won’t do. An inexpensive option is the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB (about £80).
Activity: look on amazon.co.uk for recommended microphones
Our next blog post will continue looking at creating a podcast, covering recording and editing.