This past week, I met a fantastic gentleman, Emmanuel Jenkins. Emmanuel uses a motorized wheelchair, and we spoke about how people often don’t treat people with disabilities with the same courtesy and respect, and often times, they are really not aware of how much more difficult things can be for people who have mobility impairments. Emmanuel is thinking about starting a podcast for people with disabilities, and we spoke about how helpful this would also be for families, to help lend a voice to people who are, at times, reluctant to speak for themselves. These were the exact reasons I started the LD Podcast back in 2005. So very many kids and families feel isolated, like they are the only ones dealing with specific challenges. Well-meaning parents often struggle with their own conflicting emotions as they try to understand their children, deal with their own emotional issues of loss or regret, and try to help their children gain the skills they need to make their way through this world.
So for Emmanuel and other folks thinking of podcasting- whether it’s about your passions, your business, or as a way to reach out to your community, here is a list of resources and guides to help make the process a little easier.
-Understand your audience (or Potential Audience)
Who do you want to listen to your podcast? Where are they going to listen? For how long? Do you need to show them tools, tips or tricks that would require visuals? Are they going to be listening through headphones, streamed on a mobile device, or streamed to a larger screen or TV? By understanding the Who, where, when, and how questions, (at least from your point of view as the producer), you’ll be able to design your show to meet those metrics right up front.
-Know what your goals are up front.
Are you doing this as a hobby? Is it a business project? How much are you willing to invest in terms of time and money in setting up a “studio” of sorts? By knowing your goals, and even writing them down up front will give you a better way to measure your success later on.
-Podcasting can also means Blogging- Finding Audio and Video on the web.
Do know that because search engines look for keywords and do not, as of yet, do a good job indexing or searching audio, you will need to have a website/blog and make sure you post your “show notes” along with appropriate tags and keywords to help your podcast (audio or video) find an audience online.
-Understand the difference between audio and video.
Audio podcasts are more like radio shows, but because they are online, you aren’t limited, necessarily, to any particular length. However, keep in mind most commutes in this Country are 20 to 30 minutes in length. (This is probably true for the average length of time on a treadmill, etc.) If you think your podcast is the kind of content people will listen to while working out, or getting from place to place, lining up your content with their attention span is a pretty good idea. That said, I know several successful podcasts that are far longer than 30 minutes, but they are also often broken up into segments to allow them to be digested in more than one listen.
Video takes a lot longer to produce, and requires additional attention span and focus. Most YouTube videos are three to five minutes long, and require both audio and visuals to keep people’s attention.
If you are thinking about doing an interview show, you might want to consider an audio podcast, because it is easier to produce and edit, and you don’t have to worry about issues like lighting, or having both parties in the same place at the same time. You may want people to focus on what folks are saying, and if there’s not a lot of “eye candy” to keep people focused, ie. demonstrations, visuals, etc. audio could be a better choice.
That said, the exception to this is Google+ Hangouts On Air. You can now do video conference calls and record them directly to YouTube, and stream them on your website at the same time. While you lose the ability to edit before broadcast, I think this is an excellent way to do virtual office hours, meetings, meetups and more, and should be something you think about using in your “podcast tool box.”
-How Frequently should I Podcast?
This is a question that has plagued content producers forever. Once a week is a good rule of thumb, but that does require a lot of time, and you may find every two weeks or every month an easier production schedule to keep. I know many podcasters, including myself, who have burned out trying to podcast once a week, and eventually give up all together.
It’s easier to build an audience if you are putting out shows on a regular schedule, just like professional broadcasters. However, I think you can also take a “Netflix” approach and produce a ton of shows in a short period of time, and then either release it all at once and encourage “binge consumption”, or release it weekly over time, to make the production cycle easier. Also, give yourself permission to have series or seasons, and give yourself a break after each one, to keep you fresh, and your audience looking forward to the start of the next season, scheduled for a specific date and time.
Anyone with a smartphone can record video these days, and frequently audio as well. However, the quality can vary greatly. For example, while I can take video at my kid’s school concert through Google Glass, the audio is horrible. While this might be borderline acceptable to show grandparents, it won’t be acceptable to showcase any talents any farther than that. Having video gear that also captures good to excellent audio would be much better, but that involves additional expense of course, and is not as easy as point and shoot video from a phone. Likewise, video shot on most mobile devices can be shaky, and if shot in low light situations, downright unwatchable. Spending a little money for things like tripods to stabilize cameras, and lighting kits can make your production seem infinitely better for a small investment. (Lighting kits for photography and video, including green screen can be had for under $200 on Ebay.)
Similarly for audio, you can record audio on a mobile device, but you will get much, MUCH better quality if you use an external microphone, or a special digital audio recorder that is meant for capturing clear audio. (I love my Zoom digital recorders, and I have gotten some great deals through B & H Photo and Video).
-Background noise from fans, air conditioning, computer fans and hard drives, and simple movement can be a distraction to listeners and difficult to remove in the editing process. It’s much better, if you can, to get the best source audio possible rather than thinking you will be able to clean up any mistakes later on during editing.
You can do interviews by recording audio through conversations through Skype, Google Hangouts, or phone conversations. There are several different software tools available to do this, including Audio HiJack Pro, as well as ways to route audio to external recorders (which often preserves the highest quality). The books recommended can give you all the details on those systems at greater length than we have for this intro.
One more great tool to mention- The Levelator. This is one of the easiest and most important little software tools around, that will adjust the levels of two people speaking, to make them sound at the same volume, while preserving sound quality. It’s essential if you are doing an interview show, and is one of my all time favorite podcasting tools.
Books for help sorting out Podcasting Gear and Needs
Tricks of the Podcasting Masters- Rob Walch and Mur Lafferty
Podcast Solutions- A complete guide to Podcasting- Michael Geoghegan and Dan Klass
Podcasting Hacks- Tips and Tools for Blogging Out Loud – Jack Herrington
Podcasting Bible- Steve Mack & Mitch Ratcliffe
If you are editing video, the Mac does a great job with iMovie, of for those wanting to go the extra mile, Final Cut. Adobe Premiere works across both PC’s and Macs. (Many TV outfits use Final Cut or Adobe Premiere for editing, so they are “prosumer” level products, letting you play with green screens and more.) For audio, Audacity is a free program that works on Macs or PC’s and is my audio editor of choice. While there is a learning curve, once you are familiar with it, you can get a ton of editing done on a short amount of time. Many people also love Garageband on the Mac, but I find it a little more cumbersome when I’m making a lot of edits, so I often will edit source files in Audacity and then transport them over to Garageband to put together the final Podcast, for easy upload to iTunes or the web.
This is just a starter’s list for podcasting, and is, of course, far from complete. I hope it is helpful to you, and to folks like Emmanuel, who have a great vision, but need to know the tools they need up front before starting. Of course, please feel free to ask questions below, or email me at LDpodcast@gmail.com with any questions, and I will be happy to help!