Podcasting is no longer new. Like the HAM radio of years ago, the advent of podcasting made it easy for just about anyone to record a message and distribute it to the world. But just as YouTube made it easy for the everyday Joe to stream video, just because it’s easy to make a podcast, doesn’t mean it’s easy to make one with worthwhile content.
A lot of the podcasts out there are junk. Many are just twenty-minute rants or boring unedited interviews. So even with a ton of podcasts to compete against, the good news is that it shouldn’t be too hard to stand out from the pack if you spruce yours up with a little production value.
Great podcasts are like great radio
For our purposes we will be talking about audio podcasting only. Yes, video podcasting is a reality too, but when most people think of podcasting they think of listening to audio files on their iPod using iTunes.
When I think of podcasting, I think of radio — not gab masters like Howard Stern or Carson Daly, but dramatic radio. I think of shows like All Things Considered, masters like Paul Harvey and Garrison Keillor, and classics like The Shadow and The War of The Worlds.
These shows transcend the medium and connect with the listener. Your podcasts can, too. Here’s how.
1. Invest in editing software
This sounds basic, but your show has to be edited. Period. And I don’t mean you just need to edit the “umm’s” and “uhh’s” out of your stream of consciousness; I mean you need a real tool that will let you create a listening experience. Make sure you have a tool that lets you layer multiple audio tracks on top of each other and do some basic audio sweetening.
Without a decent editing program, none of the rest of these ideas will be possible. There are many options to choose from.
2. Tell a story
Every good story has a beginning, middle, and an end — your podcast should, too. What’s the theme of the show? Do you introduce the topic in a creative way? How do you build on previous segments? Without a good story, you won’t keep your audience’s attention.
3. Use music
A little music goes a long way. Every television show has a theme song. Does your podcast? Lots of movie scenes have some sort of low background music to help build tension. Does your podcast? Music helps bridge segments and keeps your podcast moving along.
Look for royalty-free music or, even better, license some original music you can use over and over to help brand your podcast. You can even reach out to lesser-known bands on MySpace or Virb and just ask them if you can use their music.
4. Use ‘Nat’ sound
Close your eyes. What do you hear? Birds chirping outside your window? A bus rumbling down the street? Your office printer warming up? Background noise is everywhere.
Even when it’s quiet, there’s probably some sort of noise. Nat sound, or “natural sound,” is the sound of your environment. Use it to pull your audience into your setting. Record wild sound and use it as an audio layer under your main tracks. It will help your podcast come alive. This is so simple with affordable hand-held recording devices like the Zoom H2 and the M-Audio Microtrack II. Or find free ambient sound at pdsounds.org or SoundBible.com.
5. Don’t go it alone
Find opportunities to enlist other people to record parts of your podcast. It is sometimes nice to hear different voices and characters. When our scripts reference other people or involve things like reading quotes, excerpts from websites, or dramatizations, we use other people to establish a new voice. It helps mix it up and keeps the listener’s attention.
What are some of the best podcasts you’ve heard? Why do you like them? What other tips would you add to producing great podcasts?