Why Not #TryPod? Or, How To Podcast

March 1, 2017

Something cool is happening in March – an organic movement to spread the word about podcasts, centered around the hashtag #trypod. An NPR press release explains the movement like so:

According to Edison Research, one in five Americans listened to podcasts every month as of early 2016 – a number that has grown by double-digits for five years. Even though podcasts are growing quickly and are available in more places than ever before, some people still don’t know how to listen or where to start. Informally led by NPR, industry leaders including ESPN, HowStuffWorks, Pineapple Street Media, Midroll and WNYC Studios are working together to show new audiences how easy it is to listen.

So, scroll through #trypod to find amazing recommendations for new shows, and maybe spread the love for First Draft with Sarah Enni, too! But don’t forget to pay it forward by talking to friends and family about the shows you listen to. And, when necessary, grab their dang phones and download an episode.

OR — if you’re short on time — you can send the podcast n00b in your life this blog post, cuz I’m gonna lay out how to listen to a podcast right now! Then, for kicks, I’ll also include information on how I make my own podcast, in my house, in my pajamas, with my cat. If I can do it, then literally anyone can.

Here we go!

How to Listen to Podcasts

First of all: What’s a podcast?

Great question! I tell my grandmother it’s like an old-fashioned radio show, but on demand. Really, that’s about it. It’s news or entertainment, in an audio-only format, that you can listen to on your computer or your phone.

There are a million different kinds of podcasts: non-fiction; narrative fiction; serial fiction; improv comedy; news; news magazine; how-to tutorials; self-help and advice; etc etc. Honestly, there’s something for everyone.

Why would I listen to something like that? I have movies, TV, and books.

A podcast is great for when you’re on a walk, driving, or cleaning the house. It’s great because it can be short (like The Two-Minute Takeaway) or looooooong (like Pete Holmes’ two-and-a-half hour interview with Kumail Nanjiani). And the audio format is uniquely intimate; if you listen to many episodes of one show, you start to feel like you know the hosts or the guests personally. It isn’t better or worse than other entertainment mediums — just different!

Okay, fine. I’ll try it. Where do I find podcasts?

iTunes is the most central place to find podcasts. If a podcast exists, it’s probably available through iTunes on your computer or your phone.

The Podcasts app for iOS provides easy access to popular and featured podcasts using the navigation icons at the bottom of the app. To subscribe to a podcast, tap Subscribe on the page for that podcast. To play a podcast, tap on any episode. To download an episode, tap the iCloud icon in the episode list.

There are lots of other apps available to search for, discover, and play podcasts. (This link for Android users.)


How To Make a Podcast

Come up with a concept.

Podcasts are most effective when they have a topic, a format, and regular schedule. What are you an expert in, or desperate to know more about? What could you talk about for literally hours?There’s your topic. Politics, training rescue animals, glass blowing — it could be anything!

Now: what’s the best way to talk about your topic? You could bring on a new guest for every show and interview them, or have a conversation with them. You could recap a TV show, and base every podcast episode on an episode of the show. Or you could talk about the latest developments regarding your topic on a regular basis, providing analysis for your audience.

That brings us to schedule. For your podcast to gain a loyal following, it should be released regularly. Set audience expectations by letting them know whether your show is daily, weekly (the most common), or biweekly, or monthly.

Get the equipment you need.

Creating your own podcast could be practically free, or you could throw a LOT of money at it. You need a microphone, editing software, and a hosting service.

  • Microphones! Many computers come with microphones already installed, which you can use to record a podcast. The question is: how do you want your podcast to sound? If you spend money on a microphone, your podcast will sound better. If you want a mic, you’re going to have to do some research to figure out which microphone is best for your project. Here’s a couple lists of some of the best microphones for podcastingaccording to various experts, and here’s another list of the best microphones for under $100. I looked at this list of microphones that NPR reporters use, since I record “in the field,” instead of at my desk.
  • Audio Editing Software! Once you record your podcast, you will want to edit it to include music, cut out bloopers, and reduce noise or otherwise improve the quality of the recording. I use GarageBand, because it came free with my laptop and is intuitive. Audacity is another well-reviewed (and free!) editing software. Here are some other options, including industry-standard ProTools (definitely not free). The final product must be in a M4A, MP3, MOV, MP4, M4V, PDF, or EPUB file format.
  • Hosting service! Once you have the final episode (in the right format), it’s time to figure out how to share your episode with the world. You don’t upload the podcast right to iTunes – it goes through a hosting service, which you then connect to iTunes. There are a few hosting service options. I use LibSyn, and I pay $20 per month. Then you establish your show’s RSS feed and submit it to iTunes — check out this guide from iTunes, or this one from LibSyn.

So, this is far from a fully comprehensive guide, but I hope it’s at least a good place to start! Please show your support for First Draft, and podcasts in general, by talking to friends and family about podcasts and helping them figure out how to listen … to the future! (lol)

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