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How to Make a Podcast – Noelle McCarthy

Arts Access

How to create a podcast – Noelle McCarthy

So I have a good idea for my podcast. How do I really know it’s a good idea?

Test it. Tell people about your idea and get their feedback. Use their questions to get the idea clear in your own head. Sometimes you have an idea that sounds good, but when you test it, it doesn’t quite hold up. It might sound a bit harsh, but just because anyone can make a podcast doesn’t necessarily mean anyone should make a podcast.

Hmmm. Alright then, what does make a podcast stand out?

Really carefully thought out kaupapa. Start with a strong question that you want answered. Think about questions like: “What would happen if…”, “Why is such and such like this….” Really think about the basic questions of how, why, when, what.  These simple questions are really important.  A good podcast doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles, but it does need to have a very well thought idea at its core. It needs to be compelling and it needs to draw people in.

What if the people I talk to about my idea don’t sound very interested in it – should I give up?

Not necessarily. It’s important to choose your initial audience. Let’s say you have a really good idea about a podcast that looks in depth at books, but then you talk about it with people who don’t read, well, they’re clearly the wrong audience to be getting feedback from. So pick your sounding boards carefully!

Do I need any training to make my podcast? 

That’s the beautiful thing about podcasts  – the barriers to entry are relatively low and don’t require formal training. Of course it might help if you are a reporter if you’re planning on doing current affairs or news, but otherwise you don’t need any formal training.

So what do I need?

What you do need is to really think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you’re going to do it. You really need to develop your idea into something bigger than just an idea.  My favourite podcasts are the ones where people sound like they’re just talking but in actuality, they’re never just talking off the top of their heads. It’s like an iceberg; all you hear is the tip of it but there’s a whole lot of preparation underneath.

What’s so good about podcasts anyway?

In my opinion, the best thing about podcasting is that its democratic, anyone can do it, it’s cheap to produce and the barriers to access are low. Plus they’re really interesting!

What’s the most important thing that I need then?

First, a good idea. Second, time. Podcasts can be pretty time consuming so make sure you put enough time aside to do it. You have to really budget your time well. Plan out how much time you’ll need to flesh out your idea, how much time you’ll need to interview people (if that’s part of it) and how much time to record, edit and upload.

What about technical things. Do I need a microphone?

Technology is so good these days. Some people even record on their phones. A good tip is to use a free platform like Zoom where you can record it and it will send you an audio file back. You probably will want to get yourself a microphone if you want to sound good and you can do this relatively easily by just googling ‘good podcast microphones.’ As for other gear, unless you have a bit of training and know-how when it comes to AV equipment, I wouldn’t recommend buying it gear until you’re up to speed. There are lots of free online programmes and it’s a good idea to start by using these.

Okay. So with my podcast, can it just be me talking or should I also include other voices?

Some people are very good at running monologues and streams of consciousness, but to be honest that’s not the norm. And the other thing to remember is that those people who do sound like they’re just talking naturally are often extremely knowledgeable about their subject, so unless you are an expert, or the only person who knows about a particular subject, then I’d suggest you probably want to find other people to include in your podcast. For a podcast to be enjoyable, it needs to be dynamic and interesting and that’s easier with two people.  One voice at a time runs the risk of being repetitive.

So I’ve recorded my episode. What now?

Our company, Bird of Paradise Productions, usually partners with media platforms, but if you’re just starting out this may not be possible. But there are online platforms that will play podcasts such as Apple or Spotify, but be aware there are barriers to entry there, such as listenership figures. The best idea if you’re starting out is to simply pop it up on your own site, the way some people do with blogs. All you really need is your own online presence and some ways of getting it out there, such as a newsletter or links on your social media page.

Okay. And how do I find an audience for it?

This is a really important question. You have to find an audience otherwise why are you doing this? Even before you start to make your podcast you really need to start building an online community around you. You can do this through mail outs or through social media. This is where the time spent refining your idea is so important. You need to think about not just who your audience is but where they are.  Are they on your social media feed or on someone else’s social media platform? You need to work out how you’re going to reach them.

Should I make friends with other podcasters?

I’ve seen that work really well where people have similar interests and kaupapa – but it has to be reciprocal and organic. It can work to your advantage if you get feedback from other podcasters and if you develop a relationship with them, then you can sometimes find an outlet for your own podcast.

Down to the nitty gritty: How long should my podcast be?

There’s lots of different research on this. It was generally accepted that 30-40 minutes was the best length because it was the typical length of a commute. But remember that the longer it is  – the more compelling it needs to be. I think if your podcast is getting towards an hour, that’s too long and you might need to edit judiciously. If your podcast is quite ‘talky’ and low-fi then you should be looking between 15 minutes and 40 minutes if it is interesting enough. I think when you’re just starting out, 40 minutes would be the maximum length, and even then, that’s probably a bit long.  If you have an interview with a very famous person who is really interesting it might hold for an hour – but usually not. The best advice is to levae your audience wanting more.

Do I need a good voice?

I don’t think so. You just have to be interesting rather than professional. It’s okay to sound like yourself. This isn’t radio, this is podcasting.

Do you think I should script my material or just freestyle it?

Spontaneity can be amazing to listen to, you can get some beautiful human moments. But not everyone can do this well. I think it’s really important to remember that you are taking the audience on a journey so you need to be prepped.  I think notes can be really helpful – they’re like lilypads for frogs – they’ll get you across the river – but you might also want to have some thoughts scripted, or have some prompts or questions handy. As you gain more confidence you’ll find you can freestyle a bit more.

Should I listen to other podcasts?

It’s a great thing to do. Listening to other people’s work helps you find your own direction. The more you listen, the more you learn about presentation, what works and what doesn’t work.

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