Who doesn’t love a good podcast? From Witch Please for those die-hard Harry Potter fans, the global binge-frenzy of Serial or the reassuring advice of Gardeners' Question Time, podcasts are “on demand” and offer the flexibility of short bite-sized content on a range of hobbies and interests.
An untapped learning resource
Over 35 million people listened to podcasts weekly in 2016. According to Pew Research, this number will increase to 98 million by the end of 2017. So if that’s the case, why aren’t there more of us using this type of medium as a learning resource?
Well, whilst podcasting has been around for years, people still have the fear that to deliver a glossy recording they need a large amount of resource and budget. Or they’re not clear about the technology needed either to record the content or to share it.
As Kineo's Digital Content Producer, I’ve recently created a new podcast series that focuses on informal chat with the Kineo team about all things L&D. But before getting it up and running, I had limited experience with recording audio. After many trials, test runs and do-overs, I've learnt a few tricks of the trade. So here's what I've discovered to help guide you through the mechanics of podcasting.
Lay down your format
Turning your mic on and just rolling with it is a brave move, and whilst it might work for some charming individuals, you may find it actually turns your listeners off. If you’re creating a podcast series, it’s sometimes good to set the expectations for your listeners by having a consistent format to your recordings.
For example, you might have recurring sections like 'ask the expert' or 'top tips'. Or you may always have a special guest that gets introduced at the beginning of the show. These sections can then be broken up with ‘stingers’ or jingles that can tell the listener that it's the end of that section. Having a repeated formula not only helps you create the content, but it can help your listeners skip to their favourite parts if they're pressed for time.
No recording studio required
Working in a busy office by the sea, I am constantly surrounded by the unwanted noises of local traffic and the odd screeching seagull. But don’t let your surroundings detract from your key messaging. If anything, that pesky gull can add character and set the scene for your listeners.
If you don't have access to a recording studio, or can’t find somewhere that is near silent, fret not. Choose a room in your home or office that has a consistent background noise. This might be a humming air conditioning unit, or something else. You can later apply some effects in your editing software to reduce this noise, but if the noise is consistent you may find it’s not actually a showstopper in the first place.
Just because the equipment exists, doesn't mean you need to buy it
If after your research you still don’t know the difference between a lavalier and a shotgun microphone, don't panic. The world of audio recording is full of jargon, but to put it simply, all you need in your equipment repertoire is a microphone of some sort and a device you can record to.
For some, this might be the microphone on a smart phone and a laptop computer running audio recording software. These two devices are a great place to start, and can often be enough. However, if you want to branch out, look at investing in a good quality microphone that doesn't break the bank, fits your recording pattern and can be hung overhead using a boom arm to avoid any vibrations.
You will find that some microphones only have one recording pattern, whereas others may have all the modes listed below. When purchasing a microphone, decide on a mic that suits your recording needs.
- Cardioid mode
Records directly in front of the microphone, delivering rich, full-bodied sound - perfect for recording a single person podcast.
- Stereo mode
Uses both the left and right channels to capture wide, realistic sound - ideal for recording acoustic guitar or choir.
- Omnidirectional mode
Picks up sound equally from all around the mic. It’s best used in situations when you want to capture the entire room - like a multi-person podcast or a conference call.
- Bidirectional mode
Records from both the front and rear of the microphone - good for recording a two-person interview.
If after that you're still confused, why not take to YouTube and watch some video reviews. Not only could it help you decide on what equipment you might need, you could also pick up some tips and tricks on setting up and recording.
Laying down the track
Choosing what editing software to use can be overwhelming, but breaking it down by asking yourself some simple questions can help limit your choices.
Think about what platform you prefer to use, Windows or Mac OS? Decide if you want to spend money on premium software, or will freeware still do the same job? Consider things like your past learning experiences - can you pick things up quickly, or are you going to need some time to figure out how to use it?
Audacity is a fantastic piece of freeware that allows you to easily record, edit and export your podcasts and is available for both Windows and Mac. If you're using a Mac or iOS device, GarageBand often comes preinstalled, and provides helpful templates for you to use. You also have the premium choices of Adobe Audition CC (Windows and Mac) and Logic Pro X (Mac) that will cost you a pretty penny, and are more complex, but include the most features.
Increase the scope of your audience
Whether you're producing podcasts to be in-house learning resources or external promotion for your company, the way they are shared can determine their success.
For learning resource podcasts that you want to assign to learners, think about hosting them on your learning platform. Consider how you will describe each episode so that learners know the potential benefit.
If you want to make them available to the outside world, you could host them on your website and set up an RSS feed, so your listeners are notified each time a new episode is released. Or you can use free limited hosting services such as SoundCloud. Either way, hosting your external podcast is only the first step - finding a tool to aggregate your RSS feed should be your next.
Think of using an aggregator as free advertising for your podcast. Aggregators such as iTunes and Blubrry catalogue your podcast and make them more accessible for people on any device. Also consider things such as visual identity. Is your podcast’s logo or graphic recognisable, and does it reflect your company’s brand? If it’s for your own workforce, will they associate it with a particular work stream or programme of learning? Naming, keywords and imagery are all important things to take into consideration when planning to share your podcasts with a wider audience.
Why not tune in to our very own podcast series?
Kineo's stream of thought is our monthly podcast that features informal chat from the Kineo team about all things elearning, LMSs and beyond. Hear our latest thinking and be inspired by ideas from our experts.