There comes a time in everyone's life where they're faced with the crucial decision: "should I start a podcast?" For me, that day was back in 2012. "2012?" you ask. "But Keith, what's the point of this article if that dream died seven years ago?" Keen observation—this certainly wouldn't be much of a valuable article if that were the case—so let me give you a little bit of backstory.
I had been creating webcomics for a game review website, as well as participating in their monthly podcast (in fact, this is where I was first introduced to what a podcast even was). When the site eventually went belly-up, I decided I wanted to try it on my own. I recorded a big, fat ZERO episodes, and I figured that was the end of my podcasting journey.
Fast forward to 2019. My friend Phil and I keep finding ourselves working together (we're currently on job #3). We've built up a great friendship and strong rapport over the past five years, and we've decided to take our relationship to the next level and start making content together (starting with a weekly podcast).
Now that this is officially a thing, I'd like to share some of my experiences. It was a bit of a rough start, but we've finally started to build some momentum. Here's my list of the most important things to consider before starting a podcast. (Side note: if you'd like to read a little more about our podcast, Phil wrote an article covering who we are and what we're doing).
Unless you're able to give a masterclass in improv, trying to record a podcast without a structure is going to be a terrible affair. That's not to say you can't have organic, authentic conversations. There's many different styles of podcasts, from fully-scripted, down to just having conversations with friends. When I say "have a structure", I mean understand what the flow of your podcast from beginning to end. If you don't, you can find yourself talking in circles.
Phil and I recorded four separate attempts before our eventual "true" episode 1. We first tried recording on the train during our morning commute (it was our first gimmick, it didn't work out so well). After that, we recorded a couple of episodes where we tried to talk about development news, but it felt forced and unnatural (we were also recording a week in advance—I'm not sure if you've noticed, but news moves quick in web development). Finally we settled on a personality-driven, web development-focused podcast, and it just clicked for us. That's how we finally knew we'd found where we needed to be.
One thing I'd definitely recommend is a strong intro. It's the first impression you'll make on your audience, and it's a great opportunity to deliver a taste of your personality and stand out from the others.
If you jump on the microphone every week and talk about whatever comes into your head, you're going to have a difficult time targeting an audience. I'm not saying it can't work, but unless you already have a dedicated following who will tune into your new venture, it will be incredibly difficult to get people to jump into something with no context.
You don't necessarily have to pigeonhole yourself either. You can go as broad or as narrow as you'd like. But the more focused your niche, the easier it will be to target an audience around it. However, it comes at the cost of losing a potentially larger reach. Figure out where you're comfortable sitting, and start from there. You can always pivot into other content down the road.
Okay, I know not everyone has the means for this, and I would never want to gatekeep someone from pursuing something they're interested in doing. But if you want to take podcasting seriously, you're going to want to invest in somewhat decent equipment. You could be producing top tier content, but if your microphone sounds like weapon-grade static, your audience is going to drop out.
You can help kill background noise with tools like Audacity, but there's only a limited amount of polish you can put on rough edges. There's no way to fix a bad recording. An up front investment in a decent cardioid microphone (and a pop filter) will go a long, long way. It would be really disappointing to lose your message behind poor audio.
Editing can be a painstaking process. I generally spend 3-4 hours editing a one hour episode of a podcast (I don't really have a frame of reference for whether or not this is a long or short editing process). Besides cleaning up content, this also involves tidying up the audio. This is usually fixing EQ, balancing dynamic ranges with compression, bringing up the audio volume, and some other assorted tweaks to build a fleshed out, layered audio track.
The more you do this step, the quicker the process becomes, but taking the time to deliver the best quality you can will reflect positively with your audience.
The reason why podcasting didn't happen for me in 2012 was because it just wasn't fun. I really enjoyed doing the group podcast with the other content creators on our site, but when I tried to sit down and do it myself, it felt too awkward and unnatural. Having Phil to do this podcast with brings out the best parts of that experience for me, and it's been a blast to do this together.
If it ever became tedious, I wouldn't try to force it just for the sake of making content. But right now I hope we are delivering something that's fun and valuable for people, and it's something I really enjoy doing. So this might actually be the most important point: always make sure you're having fun. It's going to be reflected in your end product.
Podcasting can be a great creative outlet, a tool to teach, or just something fun to do with your friends. One of the most exciting parts is there's no limit to what you can do with it. It took Phil and I a little bit of momentum to get going, but I think we've finally hit our groove now. Find the right structure that works for you, and get to recording! If you'd like to check out our podcast, it's available on all major podcasting platforms.
Thanks for reading! Until next time,