Sookio Labs: How do you start podcasting?

Podcasting is a hugely democratic platform where content rules supreme. That sounded right up our street, so we couldn’t resist trying it out ourselves for this instalment of Sookio Labs.

In the first episode of our own podcast, we got topical and explored the way political parties and other social institutions are using social media to influence their audiences. You might remember this as the topic of our recent social media masterclass, so it was very fresh in our minds. Have a listen and let us know what you think! And do feel free to suggest anything you’d like to hear us talk about in future - content, copy, social media or a topic of your choice!

In the meantime, here are our observations and garnered insights from the recording of our very first episode.

Podcasting nowadays doesn’t just mean the short audio segments of the past. The rise of mobile means that longer productions, sometimes hours in length, are easily downloaded and enjoyed on the move. What’s more, video is more easily produced than ever and often accompanies today’s podcasts where it might add something to the viewer’s experience.

Recording a podcast

Why do businesses podcast?

There are all sorts of reasons which lead brands to put their message out via a podcast.

Some of these factors relate to the size of the business, some to their brand’s values and in other cases it’s simply down to personal preference. With such a flexible medium, the scope for crafting the exact experience you want your audience to enjoy is huge.

It’s easy and democratic. You don’t need a huge budget to produce an engaging podcast. A tiny business that really knows their stuff and conveys this in a way that grabs attention can often trump a huge company which just provides safe, watered-down content. Often, it’s the smaller, more daring dynamic which brings in listeners by being bolder and opinion-led.

Brand awareness is a big factor leading businesses to podcast. In the same way as a regular blog, podcasts provide a consistent stream of fresh, engaging content. Unlike blogs, they do so with the added impact of audio and video. It’s easier to build a connection with your audience when they can hear your voice and get a solid idea about you, your personality and values.

Building authority is easy through a podcast where you can speak in your own voice on a topic close to your heart. People are far more likely to trust a brand which isn’t afraid to speak candidly on issues affecting their industry. You don’t need to court controversy, just make it clear that you know what you’re talking about and you’re comfortable doing so.

Editing a podcast

How to get started with podcasting

We’re firmly for the people here at Sookio, so we set ourselves a little budget challenge. We ended up being able to regularly produce full half-hour episodes at the one-off cost of about £15.

At the most rudimentary level, there are four boxes to tick when you’re starting out with a podcast: Hardware, software, production and distribution.

Hardware

Sound quality is absolutely crucial to the success of a podcast. You can be putting out the most insightful, snappy, well-constructed content on Earth, but if it’s not easy to listen to, people won’t. The first step here is a good mic.

We were lucky enough to already have a Chord DM04 we use for events, so all we needed to splash out on was a cable to connect it right into the laptop. If you’re starting from scratch, never fear. Take the time to read reviews, consider your setup and you can bag the right mic for about £30, something like the Samson Go Mic.

Software

You need software which lets you record audio, edit out the false starts and ‘umms,’ then export to a usable format, ideally .mp3. All other possible features are window dressing. We used Audacity, a free program which let us do everything we needed and even put some catchy intro music at the start. It comes highly recommended from us.

It’s a worthy use of your time to check out some tutorials. It’s likely that whatever problems you encounter, you’re not the first and there’ll be a fix. For us, we had the wildly different volumes of our panel’s voices to contend with. Audacity’s built-in compressor had us covered.

Production

You need a quiet place to record your podcast. It doesn’t need to be soundproof, but avoid dogs barking and cars honking in the background. It also pays to get into good habits from the very start.

Make rough notes on the show before you record. A little thought on the general direction you want to take will keep you focused and prevent any rambling and meandering.

Don’t talk over each other. It’s natural to chip in with the odd encouraging ‘hmm,’ to let someone know you’re listening to them, but in this context it just gets in the way of the content.

Don’t touch the mic. Take time to set it up, figure out how far away to sit from it, then treat it like a sacred relic, not to be touched by mortal hands until recording is done. Moving the mic can mess with your volume levels and give you all sorts of problems to worry about in the edit.

Distribution

So once you’ve got your shiny podcast recorded and edited, you need to know what to do with it. If you’re looking for a free platform to upload content and instantly share it across all your social media channels, Soundcloud is a solid bet. Setting up an account is a doddle and you can annotate your podcast to let listeners skip right to their favourite segments.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can syndicate your podcast as an RSS feed to audiences who often have a lot of podcasts to keep track of. Doing this also allows you to host your podcast on iTunes, which has a staggering audience in excess even of Soundcloud’s 40 million. We’ve opted to sign up for Soundcloud’s RSS beta trial, which is exciting stuff on its own.

Of course, you can’t wait for people to come to you. Once your podcast is uploaded, promote it. Promote it more. Then promote it a bit just to be sure. The same rules apply here to starting up on any social channel; you need to do some pushing before the boulder begins to roll by itself. Employ all your existing channels to let followers know about the new content you’re releasing for them.

The future of podcasting

Over time, technology is only going to get smaller, cheaper and more accessible. This means that the means to make ever more elaborate, intricate and polished content is fated to get ever easier.

This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s great to welcome more people to the party, but in a crowded marketplace it’s easy to get drowned out. Two things we’re focusing on are the location where podcasts get listened to in reality, and carving out a niche for ourselves.

By steering away from including video, we’re ensuring our podcast can be listened to in the car, while doing chores around the house or in the office while you work. Video demands more attention and focus for what we hope will be a fun, informal and informative podcast. This might not be right for your brand so have fun experimenting in the early days.

Secondly, as the world of podcasting fills up, we’re honing in on discussing the types of digital content we love most. This isn’t limiting, in fact it’s very liberating to be able to explore certain ideas in as much depth as we can, safe in the knowledge that someone, somewhere is sure to find it helpful.

Share your love of pod

Are you starting out podcasting like us? Are you a veteran with your own tips to share? Are there any topics you'd love us to cover in the next Sookio podcast? This is all about creating a dialogue on topics we love, so do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!