Finding ways to stay entertained throughout the pandemic has been a challenge for many. However, it would be fair to say that podcasts were there to save the day. Ranging from true crime stories to celebrity interviews, this media format has truly regained its popularity in the past year.
Karin Okolie, the host of the podcast Kari’s Calling, and Bilyana Slaveykova, also known as Bibons, the host of the podcast Girls We Are, share their individual experiences, as well as some practical tips and tricks on how to produce and distribute your own podcast.
“What has been observed for the past few years as behavior in terms of type of content consumption online, is that the interest is divided in two directions, which are extreme – the content that is fast, provocative and requires minimal retention of attention, Tik Tok, or the longer formats which do not have such intensity and saturation of stimuli, but leave room for deeper thinking, podcasts,” says Bibons.
The podcast format has been around since the early 2000s, but its popularity has grown immensely in the past few years, capturing the interest of larger audiences all over the world. Put into basic terms, a podcast is an episodic series of audio files that are streamed on platforms online. There are different genres of podcasts (interviews, true crime, personal journal, pop culture, advice, and self-help, etc.), as well as different formats (audio, video, or both).
For instance, Bibons’ Girls We Are is an audio-only podcast, whereas Okolie’s Kari’s Calling has both audio and video format. Regardless of the structure that you choose to pursue for your own podcast, there are a few basic steps to consider.
“Firstly, we need to sit down and think of what we want to talk about,” says Okolie.
Sometimes ideas come to us in a chaotic manner, especially if we are just starting a new and exciting endeavor. However, Okolie notes that it is important to turn your enthusiasm into a working plan. Since podcast episodes come out on a regular basis, it is always helpful to find ideas ahead of time. Okolie suggests keeping at least 10 topics in mind whenever you start your podcast.
Create a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed
After you have your ideas and podcast concept clear, you have to start thinking about all the technical stuff. The first thing you need to consider is creating an RSS feed. This is an URL link that passes all the information about your podcast to directories like Spotify or Apple Podcasts. In other terms, it makes it possible for people to access your podcast on different listening platforms.
“I emphasize that hosting and distribution are two fundamentally different things. Hosting is where your audio "lives", where it is accommodated, a single place, the distribution is which listening platforms and, therefore, listeners can this audio reach,” notes Bibons.
If you are new to the podcast production process, you might find it handy to use platforms like Anchor to host all of your content. “It will save you some efforts and make the first steps easier,” says Bibons.
Good sound is everything
Considering the fact that podcasts are primarily audio-based media, it is crucial to prioritize the quality of the sound. This has to do partly with the right equipment, but more so with the space where you record.
“In terms of space - choose one that does not have an echo - that is, no spacious rooms or high ceilings, or rooms with too many windows. It's better not to talk against a wall. It is also not good to be too close to another participant in the conversation,” advises Bibons.
Okolie shares that this was one of the major challenges that she faced when she started her own podcast. “We initially focused too much on the visuals, since it is a video podcast, and we had forgotten about the sound. And considering that we were originally shooting in a place that was not good for recording a podcast – bare walls and high ceilings, we had a lot of sound problems,” she adds.
Firstly, you will need a recording device. Most podcasters use the Zoom audio recorder which comes with different features depending on the model. It is a portable device that can fit into the palm of your hand, but make a huge difference in the quality of the sound.
You will also need microphones with cables to connect to the Zoom recorder. Going along with that, you might want to get a microphone stand. Lastly, you will need sound-canceling headphones. “While recording, it is important to wear headphones in order to hear what is being recorded, and to correct from the recorder if the sound of any of the participants is too low, too high, etc.,” says Bibons.
If this seems like a big investment, don’t be quick to get discouraged. You can record a podcast without buying all the equipment. You can either rent it for much cheaper or follow Okolie’s example and borrow it from someone you know. For instance, she works with friends from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts (NATFA) in Sofia who lend her the equipment and also help her with the overall production.
If all of this still sounds too complicated, you can always start with the most basic equipment. Bibons says that a USB microphone that directly connects to your computer should also do the job for any beginner podcaster.
Some final advice
Even though recording and producing a podcast for the first time may seem challenging and complex, it is important to enjoy it. At the end of the day, this is just another form of personal expression. According to Okolie, it is also useful to communicate with other podcasters. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions or look for advice. People on the Internet may inspire respect, but most of them are cool and responsive. There is a community that you can always benefit from,” she adds.
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