How to Start or Improve a Podcast


The New York Times has inferred from the success of Serial that podcasts are now officially a thing. We have been writing about podcasts for years: Ethan posted guides to recording and editing lectures as podcasts ; Evan Cordulack wrote a guest post on “Four Mistakes I Made When Assigning Podcasts<"/a>; and Chuck Tryon wrote one on “Recording and Hosting Podcasts Using the Internet Archive.”. (And, of course, every six months or so we ask people for new podcast recommendations.) But now that the Times is on it, the time may be ripe for exploring podcasts as a way to reach new audiences for one’s research or community work, or for engaging with students.

If you are interested in starting a podcast, or in improving one you’ve already started, a recent flurry of posts, sparked I think by some discussions on Twitter about audio gear, might be useful:

  • Jason Snell’s “Want to Do a Podcast? Don’t Be intimidated”: “Anyway, the great thing about podcasting is that anyone can do it. You don’t need to have access to a broadcasting company’s radio transmitter and studios packed with equipment. You can reach people with your voice right now. Yes, these days there are a lot of big names (often from those big broadcasting companies) doing podcasts, but there’s also an incredible diversity of voices and subjects.

    If you’re just starting out, don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by all this audio talk. If you have something to say, say it.” (Jason is on So. Many. Podcasts: The Incomparable, Upgrade, Clockwise, and TV Talk Machine, among others.

  • Marco Arment’s “Easy Listening”: “Just as blogs need sensible fonts, colors, layouts, and spacing to be comfortably readable, podcasts need to be listenable. And you can’t make easily listenable podcasts without at least basic equipment and production. This doesn’t take tons of money and fancy equipment — it takes some cheap equipment, plus a bit of effort and caring about how your podcast sounds.” (Marco does the Accidental Tech Podcast, and used to do Build and Analyze and Neutral; he also has built my favorite podcast app, Overcast.)
  • Casey Liss’s “How I Make Podcasts”: “Much like a good photographer, a good podcaster isn’t defined by their equipment. Doubly so once you’ve reached something nicer than a phone’s camera, or a phone’s earbud microphone.” (Casey also is on Accidental Tech Podcast, and is a veteran of Neutral, and recently started Analog(ue).)

A more comprehensive guide to gear, with different recommendations for beginning, intermediate, and advanced podcasters, is Dan Benjamin’s The Podcast Method, which is based on his years running the 5by5 podcast network, home of ProfHacker favorite, Back to Work.

Do you have a handy resource for podcasting? Please share it in comments!

Photo “Sun Studios” by Flickr user mishism / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0.

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