Over the last five weeks
on the Wednesday Pointers column, we have gone through the steps involved in creating a podcast, from choosing a good mic (do not
use your built-in mic or some cheapo piece of crap) to packaging and hosting the files iTunes needs to send potential listeners your way. So far, we've learned that podcasts are more than just capturing an entertaining conversation, or at least they should be, and that there's as much of a technical effort required as a creative one.
In this final part, we assume you have used the previous columns as a guidepost but found your own path to creating a podcast and putting it out there. It's been a lot of effort, learning about good recording and editing techniques and software, making sure not to violate others' copyrights, setting up a web page and host space for the actual podcast, and getting it listed on iTunes and other directories so that people can find it -- and that's just the first episode!
The Happiness Patrol interview stars of Doctor Who
Podcasts can be done weekly, monthly, seasonally, or occasionally -- but some kind of routine is vital to getting, and building, an audience. If you don't have the passion to keep at it, make it a limited series, and say so. While subscribing to a podcast is easy and free for listeners, subscriptions automatically expire if new episodes don't appear on some kind of regular basis. For a multi-person podcast, a monthly schedule is probably a better option than trying to pull everyone together weekly, unless we're talking housemates or work colleagues. Weekly podcasts are very tough to maintain unless you are covering some aspect of the news, be it sports or politics or whatever is of interest to you and others.
There are also seasonal podcasts: one that we're a fan of covers both the TV series The Walking Dead
and zombie culture generally, and produces weekly episodes during the time the show is airing (the day after the episode debuts, usually), dropping to "occasional" status once the series is over. The two co-hosts are very knowledgable and well-spoken about both TV production and in particular the zombie genre, and their experience with the history of zombies in popular culture makes for an informed discussion that is full of insight. It's exactly the sort of thing podcasts are ideal for, and has directly or indirectly lead to some other opportunities and notoriety for the hosts.
Doctor of the Dead
is a great example of how to take a podcast to the next level: put out a compelling product with its own perspective, and hustle to promote in every venue available. Yes, that means more work. The subject matter of the podcast taps into an existing "market" of fans of the show and general zombie afficianados
, who have already built a supporting community in terms of Internet forums, Facebook pages, fan conventions, and more.
The hosts, Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg and writer Scott Woodard, are of course on iTunes
; a Twitter feed
and Facebook page
; a "network" web page
with other sympatico
podcasts, and of course their own web page
. It has not made them a living, but it has built for them a strong reputation as good public speakers and experts, which has led to other things. It isn't and will most likely never be their career, but it allows them do more work they love doing, which is also valuable.
Constant promotion builds a reputation
Ah, but what if your topic or angle aren't part of an already-organized community like that one? What if your podcast is about wine education, or government policy wonkage, or tips on knitting? Don't worry, there is an audience out there; it's a matter of connecting with them.
Of course any free outlets for promotion should be leveraged, including Internet forums and local gatherings, but the odd bit of targeted advertising can pay off handsomely as well. You have a podcast about how great spiders are, Google or iAd or Facebook or Yahoo or the like can hook you up with people who are into spiders. Good podcasts, as we said at the beginning of this series, are about building communities.
A key aspect of how well that sort of effort is going to work hinges on two things: first, that the product you're putting out there is good -- you are competing for very precious listening time with the pros in most cases. Second, that you have some aspect that stands out from the crowd. Regardless of your theme, there are probably 100 or more (at least) podcasts on the exact same topic. In fact, you should have a listen to your "competition:" you'll learn what works and what doesn't a lot faster that way.
A podcast is an adventure, like setting sail in a random direction and hoping you'll eventually hit a strange new land where everyone likes you. These days, all of the so-called "mainstream media," at least in the US, is controlled by a mere six media companies. Thus, there is a desire for alternatives.
Podcasts -- be they low-budget MP3 affairs or faux-TV HD video extravaganzas, be they on iTunes or YouTube or just somebody's website -- do the same sort of job as things like public-access cable TV studios, college or community radio stations, "alt weekly" newspapers, fanzines, and now some websites
used to and continue to do: they offer more voices, more diversity, and more grass-roots, folk-art, home-grown viewpoints even as they stand beside the polished, professional, and popular outlets. You gotta love a level playing field.
If you missed one of the columns in the series, you can start with the introduction, which covers recording voices on Macs or iOS devices, followed by part one, part two, part three, and part four.