Thing 08: Podcasting
There has been a resurgence in the popularity of podcasts in recent years, largely due to their ability to convey information in a short, engaging and entertaining way. Podcasts allow your expert knowledge to be discovered by a broad audience, while raising your profile within a particular research community. Good podcasts are equally entertaining and informative, offering a great opportunity for storytelling. They can also showcase your personality and communication style. In this post, Andrea Hurt and Ashley Sutherland explore how you can use podcasting to your research advantage.
As a researcher, you are the expert on your topic. The real skill with podcasting is taking your niche idea and crafting it into something that connects with a broad audience. Consider the narrative or story behind your original idea: how does this flow through each episode? Great research communicators are able to engage, entertain, and educate their audience.
You might have a great idea for a series, but creating a podcast is more complicated than getting people in a room and hitting ‘record’. It’s always best to plan or script each episode. This doesn’t mean reading directly from a page, but rather creating a list of discussion points. Podcasts are guided conversations rather than rambling chats or formal reading of documents. Similarly, if you’ve chosen to interview someone, asking questions created from your background research should sound like natural conversation. This can take practice.
That Thing you do: integration into practice
There are six stages in creating a podcast:
1. Planning your series
Some important questions to ask yourself before you begin are why would someone listen to my podcast? and who is my audience? If you are going to put time and effort into creating a podcast, you want people to listen. So, it’s essential to begin by doing some homework. Find a style of podcast you like, such as conversational, interview, co-hosted, humorous, or documentary. Next, identify who your primary and secondary audience is. Be specific! Perhaps your primary audience is 30-40 year-old women, with a secondary audience of 20-30 year-old women. The ABC report on podcasting (especially pp. 18-19) is a great resource for this.
Understanding your preferred style and target audience will help shape the way you communicate. Remember, not everyone has a background in your field, so explaining jargon, technical terms and concepts clearly is key.
2. Planning your episodes
Question for consideration:
- How many episodes in your series?
- How long is each episode?
- How regularly will episodes be released? E.g. weekly, fortnightly, monthly.
- Are you booking guests to interview? What questions will you ask them?
- Is each episode on a different topic, or part of a broad narrative across the series?
Turning an idea into a podcast requires some basic equipment and software:
- Recording equipment (good quality mic)
- Sound recording and editing software (free options include Audacity and GarageBand)
- Music and sound effects
- Graphic design tools
Campus facilities for podcasting
Self-service studios are available in the Baillieu Library (staff use only) and Giblin Eunson Library (staff and student use). Some faculties provide equipment hire – for instance, the Faculty of Arts has audio equipment for hire to Arts Graduate Students.
Many public libraries have audio recording facilities, so get in touch with your local library for more information. Two locations close to campus are the Library at the Dock and Kathleen Syme Library (note: a small hourly fee applies for non-commercial use).
Please note that restrictions during COVID-19 may reduce your options, so check relevant websites for updates on access.
Editing is going to take longer than you think, so it’s vital to factor this into your planning. You can watch online tutorials demonstrating how to use editing software, while others explain piecing together the components of you podcast. Think intro, music, sound effects, interviews etc. Also check out ebooks on podcast editing from your favourite library.
Remember, the choices you make when editing will shape the narrative of your episodes. After editing a first draft, you may need to revisit the recording studio to add connecting voiceovers to help the storytelling.
5. Hosting platforms and aggregators
Once you have your episodes ready for release, you’ll need to have somewhere to host your podcast. A number of services offer limited free hosting. Be sure to investigate the types of accounts available. Options include SoundCloud, Whooshka, and Podbean, but there are many more.
The hosting platform will require a description of the series and a summary of each episode. An ABC survey showed this information was the strongest factor influencing listeners to try a new podcast. Make sure your description is interesting, to hook people into listening.
Podcasts also require cover art. This, along with the summary, will help entice people to listen, so spend time creating something eye catching. This image can be used to promote your podcast through social media. Images can be found through Creative Commons, and edited in free software like Canva.
With regards to aggregators, you will want your podcast to be available on popular platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and others. Note that some of these services have criteria for inclusion, so do read the information carefully.
Once your podcast is hosted, how do you get people to find it? Here’s some suggestions for promoting your podcast:
- Social media channels – remember to use rich media, sound bites, video, images, teasers, anything you can think of to entice people to engage with your link.
- Release multiple episodes on launch day to create a buzz, and get people interested in your series.
- If you’ve interviewed someone, you can leverage your guest’s audience. By sharing your social media content through their own networks, you’ll reach an already interested audience.
Music and sound effects
Copyright applies to any music and sound effects you use, so make sure you have permission or look for Creative Commons licensed options:
- Freesound: Creative Commons licensed sounds.
- Internet Archive: Creative Commons licensed sound and music from a wide variety of sources.
- BBC Sound Archive: This is covered by their RemArc Licence, and sounds can be used for personal, educational or research purposes, as detailed in the licence. You can purchase a licence for commercial use.
- Free Music Archive: Creative Commons music.
- Incompetech: Creative Commons music.
- iMovie has license-free sound and music.
Create a transcript for accessibility and also to help you in the editing process. Tools you can use to automate this process include:
- oTranscribe: Free online audio transcription app.
- Express Scribe Transcription: The free version is compatible with common formats including wav, mp3, wma and dct.
- Investigate podcasts created at the University of Melbourne, including the Baillieu Library’s own podcast, A Third Place.
- How to Make Your Podcast Stand Out in a Crowded Market.
- Selected research-focussed podcasts (why not get in touch, and tell us your favourite?):
About the authors
Andrea Hurt is focussed on outreach and the user experience. People and spaces are her priority as the Senior Librarian, Library Services and Spaces in the Baillieu Library. With over 30 years’ experience, she has grown up in academic libraries. Andy is a lover of social media, digital communication, and spends a lot of time on Instagram. She is also the Library Social Media Coordinator. Andy is currently studying a Master of Communication with a specialisation in Digital Media. She was an Associate Producer on the A Third Place podcast.
Ashley Sutherland has been called many things over the years, and recently added Associate Producer on the A Third Place podcast to the list. She is currently the Arts Faculty Librarian at the University of Melbourne, Mum, and her other varied job titles have included Orchestral Musician, Music Teacher, Professional Library Cadet, Liaison Librarian, and Senior Librarian (Digital Technologies). When not in the library, Ashley is usually playing the clarinet, reading, taking her daughter to ballet, singing, or listening to a podcast.
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