we laid out what podcasting is and why you might want to explore it for use in your classes and with your colleagues. Now let’s talk about some of the practical considerations of making a podcast.
First, a caveat: we assume in this article that you want to produce an audio-only podcast, because audio requires simpler equipment.
Brandon Ballentine and I started out sitting in front of his Blue Snowball microphone using QuickTime to record on his MacBook Pro. If he had not already owned a microphone, we would have used the computer’s built-in microphone. The only “fancy” production was a public domain music clip he used in the show opening.
If that terminology immediately confuses you, then let me just put it this way: you almost certainly already have everything you need to get started. As you gain experience and learn more information, you can add equipment and software—if you want. Or you can just keep doing what you’re doing starting out.
The microphone will make the biggest difference in sound of anything you invest in, so if you have any money to spend, this is the place to spend it. Even if you have to start with your computer’s built-in microphone, it’s better to experiment than to let it be a block.
Recording: If you have a PC . . .
- If you use the built-in microphone, consider adding a set of USB headphones. They’re not hard to acquire for between $15 and $25 and will greatly improve your sound. If you use the built-in mic, you will have to find a quiet spot and get as close to the computer as you possibly can.
- For a conversation-style podcast, you can either use the computer’s built-in microphone or get something like a Blue Snowball microphone (which costs around $50 depending on the source). If you have a little more money, consider a Blue Yeti. The sound quality will be better than the Snowball, but the main advantage is that the Yeti has different settings for different numbers of people and different situations. Yetis generally cost between $100 and $125, although I found mine on sale for $85.
Recording: If you have a Mac . . .
- Start out with the open-source king of audio recording and editing, Audacity. You can use this for both recording and basic editing. You can download Audacity at: https://www.audacityteam.org/download.
- For remote interviews, there are a number of software solutions that will let you record the interview. Audacity has settings to record Skype for free (see the link at the end of this article). Skype for Business has built-in recording capabilities, but you may have to jump through some hoops to connect to someone who only has regular Skype.
Editing and hosting
- QuickTime comes free of charge on a Mac and has a basic record function. If you feel a little more comfortable with using editing software, GarageBand also comes free with a Mac and has a podcast preset that will make recording easier. Of course, Audacity works fantastically for recording on a Mac as well.
- For remote interviews, Skype is probably your best bet, and the instructions for recording to Audacity work on a Mac. Learn about setting up Audacity for recording a Skype call at: https://www.lifewire.com/record-voice-call-on-computer-with-audacity-3426851.
- It’s worth it to me to pay for a bit of software that allows me to record the output of any Audio Hijack is available as a free trial, but the recording is limited to 10 minutes. I paid $70 for the full software because it expanded the capabilities of my MacBook well beyond simply recording a Skype call. You can check out Audio Hijack: https://rogueamoeba.com/audiohijack.
- Don’t worry too much about editing. Some people get really paranoid about “ums” and “you knows.” Though you sound more confident without those, audio product experts Bob Bly and Fred Gleeck say that in their business listeners prefer the casual sound of real conversation, finding it more engaging and more credible. For instance, students noticed a dog barking in the background of one of the recordings and commented on how they liked it—they said it made the podcaster more human!
- You will also need a place to store your files for either streaming or download. Your college may, like ours, have a streaming server on campus. Ask your information technology support folks. If not, you can host episodes for streaming on Archive.org for free, although you will not have download tracking available, and you will have to make your files public domain, in effect. Learn how to host files on Archive.org at: https://turbofuture.com/internet/How-to-Host-Podcast-Audio-on-Archiveorg. If you don’t want to stream and just want to enable students to download files for later listening, any place you can store files will work, including Google Drive, Dropbox, and college webspace.
We recently created “bumpers”—intros and outros consistent across episodes incorporating royalty-free music and standard information about the podcast. These add a nice flourish to your podcasts. Digccmixter (http://dig.ccmixter.org
) has thousands of Creative Commons licensed songs that can be searched by genre, instrument, and style. Freeplay Music (https://freeplaymusic.com
) claims to have over 50,000 free songs for your multimedia projects. Finally, Getty Images (https://www.gettyimages.com/music
) has expanded well beyond images to royalty free videos and music.
Don’t get hung up on the technology, though. Peruse the podcast listings in iTunes and you will find a huge range of quality from the slickest to the most amateur. Do the best you can, but audiences relate to people, not tech. Your podcast can serve students and colleagues regardless of the sophistication of your production. Give it a try and make the world a better place.
Donnell King is an associate professor of communication studies at Pellissippi State Community College.