The introduction provides an overview of the current state of podcasting and includes a brief history of the medium. Podcasting can trace its roots back to 1999, when a group of developers at Netscape fleshed out the Real Simple Syndication (RSS) technology. This allowed users to subscribe to an information feed on a website. Whenever the RSS feed was updated, users would receive the update automatically without having to visit the website. Although this technology was originally text-based, developers Dave Winer and Adam Curry improved on it in 2000 to include audio files. Three years later, Winer updated the technology again for journalist Christopher Lydon, so that listeners could automatically receive Lydon’s audioblog, Radio Open Source, the first true podcast. This overview will include a timeline of key events in podcasting from these early beginnings to today.
Chapter 1 — The Tenets of Good Podcasting
Chapter 1 examines the questions a beginning podcaster needs to ask, including should they even podcast in the first place. A podcast is a promise a podcaster make to her audience. She needs to conceptualize what the overarching mission of the podcast is and how each episode reflects the mission and builds on it. Over time, the mission may evolve and refine itself as episodes are added, but the podcaster needs to establish a starting point. This is what the podcast is about. This is the format. This is the number of episodes that will be produced and when they will be posted.
Chapter 2 – Setting Up Your Studio
The podcaster will want to record good quality audio of the people who are on on the podcast, both hosts and guests. She needs to consider a space that is quiet and free from distractions, where the host and guests will be comfortable. This chapter looks at the recording options available and what equipment a podcaster will need, including digital recorders, microphones, headphones and mixers. It also points the reader to a list of recommended equipment in Appendix B.
Chapter 3 – Preparing for Your First Episode
How does this episode achieve and build on the goals outlined by the podcast’s mission and the promise you made to your audience? What is the topic of this episode?
Research is incredibly important to producing an interesting informative and entertaining podcast. What resources are out there to help the podcaster tell a story? If the podcaster is doing interviews, she should be familiar enough with the subject of the podcast to conduct the interview. Good preparation allows the podcaster the opportunity to go “off script” when necessary and follow the natural path of the conversation, but then also “connect the dots” with information from her research with what the guest is saying. This helps keep the conversation lively and something your audience will want to listen to.
Through research, the podcaster will determine who are the best people to tell the story she wants to tell. In planning interviews, she should seek a diverse mix of guests so that the podcast represents a variety of views and cultural perspectives. This will make for richer content that will appeal to a wider, more diverse audience.
Chapter 4 – Turn Your Ideas into Audio
This chapter focuses on the production of the first podcast episode and preparing for an interview. Photojournalists and video journalists will create a shot-list of the types of photos they want to capture to add visual variety to the piece they are reporting. This is a good strategy for a podcaster to employ. What audio elements are needed to tell the story the podcaster wishes to create? In writing her questions, she will need to imagine the narrative she’d like to achieve. At the same time, she needs to structure it so there is flexibility to let the conversation go where it may need to go.
One of the most beneficial pieces of pre-production is to have a brief conversation with her guests before the interview. This can be done over the phone or in person. She wants to put them at ease and answer any questions they may have about the interview. This is also an opportunity for her guest to suggest topics of discussion or share facts of which she wasn’t aware.
A podcast is part performance. The best interviews seem natural, but they require a great deal of preparation and a bit of performance by the interviewer. The host’s voice is driving the interview. She needs to bring energy to her questions and draw the best performance out of her guest.
The most important thing to do during the interview is listen to her guest and adjust the order and flow of the conversation based on what he or she is saying. The podcaster will still want to make sure certain questions get answered, but part of the appeal of podcasting is the side trips conversations take. This may reveal new information, which will trigger new questions, and it will give the listeners insight into the guest’s personality. Go with the flow!
Chapter 5 – Bring the World into Your Podcast
For many people, the idea of a podcast is just two guys sitting in a garage talking about comic books. It’s a useful cliche. It conjures up an image of a pair of amateur broadcasters so passionate about a subject that they’ve separated themselves from the rest of the world and are talking into microphone to an invisible audience of who knows how many strangers online. But audio production can be a much richer experience. This chapter focuses on how to collect and use natural sound to enrich your storytelling.
Chapter 6 -Editing: Pulling All the Pieces Together
This chapter describes how to bring all of the audio pieces together through the editing process, including how to clean up sound, mix multiple tracks, add music and export the final piece of audio in the best format for posting online. It will discuss some of the most common editing software available to podcasters. Then, with the help of detailed diagrams, the chapter explains how to assemble the multiple pieces of audio into a podcast episode using free Audacity software.
Chapter 7 – Where Will Your Podcast Live Online?
Beginning podcasters have a number of podcasting platforms out there from which to choose. Some, like SoundCloud, allow users to post a limited amount of audio online for free. This chapter reviews a number of the podcasting services that are available, including Blubrry, Libsyn, PodBean, YouTube, AudioBoom and SoundCloud. Once the podcaster has uploaded her episode to a podcast server, she can submit her RSS feed to a listing website like Apple Podcasts or GooglePlay.
Although some podcasting servers provide a space for episodes, a podcaster should consider building her own website as a place to showcase her work. Services like WordPress, SquareSpace, GoDaddy and BlueHost make it easy for a novice to create a website. Some podcast servers have easy ways to link new episodes or provide an embeddable player, so the podcaster can add audio on her website. The website not only serves as a repository for audio content, it can be a destination for the podcast’s audience, where they can find information about podcast’s creators, learn how to follow the podcast and provide feedback on future episodes.
Chapter 8 – Sustaining and growing the podcast
Posting a podcast online, getting it listed on Apple Podcasts or GooglePlay and creating a website are only the first steps in launching a podcast. Instant success in podcasting is a rare, maybe an impossible, thing without some help. This chapter looks at various ways to market a podcast, including through social media and email campaigns. It also explores several monetization models such as crowdsourcing, sponsorships, merchandising and advertising.
Appendix A – Music Rights, Incorporation and Other Legal Considerations
Appendix A looks at the various legal considerations a podcaster needs to think about, including music rights, copyright and forming a corporation.
Appendix B – Shopping Guide
For someone with no experience recording digital audio, knowing what equipment to buy can be pretty daunting. The best advice, as stated in Chapter 2, is to start with the basics, master each piece of technology and add new equipment as you become more confident. This appendix contains a list of equipment and software based on recommendations by some of the successful podcasters interviewed for this Turn Up the Volume..
Appendix C – It’s All Journalism Questionnaire
This appendix offers an example of the email the producers of It’s All Journalism send out to guests prior to an interview. It’s meant to demonstrate how to structure a podcast interview.
This is a list of the sources for Turn Up the Volume.
This is a list of materials and links to websites that new podcasters might find useful.
This is a vocabulary list of the subjects discussed in Turn Up the Volume.