How to start and grow a successful podcast

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The British media is beginning to catch up with the American podcast boom. But how easy is it to break into podcasting? Can the huge success of Serial be repeated over here? What skills and equipment do you need? And can you make a living from it?

Three experts joined us at Wiggin LLP for a discussion on how to break into podcasting: Fiona Symons, who oversees podcasts at the Financial Times; Caroline Crampton, co-host of the New Statesman’s pop culture podcast SRSLY, and Helen Zaltzman, who presents comedy podcast Answer me this! and The Allusionist, the first British podcast on the Radiotopia network. WIJ deputy chair and New Statesman deputy editor Helen Lewis led the discussion.

Top tips for breaking into podcasting

  • The key thing is to be engaged and interested.
  • Podcast regularly – every week or fortnight. Make sure you pick a topic that you will still think is a great idea in 2 years
  • Record your podcast using your iPhone, and upload it to platforms like Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and audioBoom so people can listen to it.
  • Record quite a few before you start broadcasting to make sure they are consistent and sustainable.
  • Podcasts can have a longer shelf life than articles, so bear this in mind when designing your podcast.

    Presenting

  • It’s best to have 1-2 presenters – more can feel like too many voices.
  • There is a difference between single hosting and co-hosting – getting the listener to feel that they are having a conversation with you, or eavesdropping on someone else’s.
  • Sometimes podcasts sound as if they’re going out into the void – try and think of your audience.

    Structuring your podcast

  • Think about how long your podcast should be so that listeners don’t get bored.
  • Split the content into 3 main segments to give your podcast a structure.
  • Break up dense or boring material by having several voices in the discussion, or a Q&A.
  • Think about how you can use advertising so that it doesn’t break up the structure of your show.
  • Use free music – for example from Creative Commons – to introduce the podcast and break up the sections.

    Technical tips

  • Focus on content – it doesn’t matter how good your microphone is if your show is boring.
  • Make a recording studio at home, for example by lining a cupboard under the stairs with cardboard boxes and a duvet, or even placing your microphone facing you in a cardboard box.
  • Podcasts are better than video because you need less time and equipment to make them.

    Editing

  • Use software like GarageBand, Audacity or Adobe Audition to edit your recordings and add music or sounds.
  • Editing is the most important part of the process, so make sure you do it well. You need to allow time – each episode of The Allusionist takes two days.

    Making a living from podcasting

  • You need about 50,000 listeners to make money from advertising.
  • Reach out to advertisers relevant to the themes of your podcast.
  • Try and create content for brands to make your podcast commercially viable.
  • The UK is about 5 years behind the USA, but if podcasting keeps growing there could be more commercial opportunities.

    Promoting your podcast

  • Think of audiences who might be interested and how you can reach them – particularly for niche topics.
  • Write a pitch of no more than 250 words selling your podcast.
  • Go to live shows and events and talk about your project.
  • Get your podcast in online newsletters for the relevant audience. Start an online newsletter for your own listeners.
  • Get invited onto other people’s podcasts as a guest to promote yours.
  • If you can, work with larger media organisations to promote your podcast.
  • Invite listeners to contribute suggestions via email or social media to increase engagement.

    Recommended podcasts – a few of the panellists favourites

  • Song Exploder – a podcast where musicians take apart their songs and tell the story of how they were made.
  • The Heart – a radio show telling stories of intimacy and being in love.
  • BBC News Hour – interviews, news and analysis of the day’s global events from the BBC World Service.

    Do you have more tips and ideas on how to break into podcasting? Tweet us at @WIJ with the hashtag #WIJpodcasting.

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