A Poor Man’s Guide to Heavenly Podcasting
Last summer I launched the “My Take on the Sunday Readings” podcast at www.PurelyCatholic.com. It was the culmination of an idea that first came to me when I taught Sunday school in 1993. I had written a reflection on the Palm Sunday Mass readings and it went over really well with the parents. We were all parents of preschoolers and given the distractions we dealt with at Mass, the reflection helped out a lot.
Fast forward 19 years and my initial idea came to life as a recorded program. The format would have been barely possible and extremely expensive in the ‘90s. In this article I cover the four basic things you need address to launch a podcast. It should be really helpful as you kick off your program.
1. Recording Equipment and Two Very Important Recording Tip
I’ve experimented with plenty of equipment. My goal was to get good quality sound at a reasonable cost. I’ll spare you the various combinations I tried that didn't work from me. Here's a list out the gear I use and recommend to my clients:
- M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB Audio and MIDI Interface
- Sheure PG58QTR Performance Gear Vocal Microphone with XLR to XLR Cable
- On Stage Stands 7701B Tripod Boom Microphone Stand
- On Stage Foam Ball-Type Mic Windscreen
Other podcasters will have their own secret sauce, but this set of gear works nicely for me. I checked on Amazon.com and this set of product new will run you $265.82 with standard shipping.
I recommend checking out eBay. Musicians frequently sell off their old gear when they stop using it or decide to upgrade. I was able to get my M-Audio Fast Track Pro Interface for under $90.
You can shop the mic around if you like, but the Sheure mic comes with a 15-foot cable and clip for attaching it to the mic stand. You need both parts so it a pretty good deal.
I record using my laptop. I’ve used Windows or Mac and both have worked well for me. Currently I use a Mac, but cannot say that it’s better or worse than Windows.
For recording software, I’ve used Audacity. I've used it on both Windows and Mac. It’s a free download at and does a good job. (You download it at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ NOT www.audacity.com.) I recently started using GarageBand. It has better features and is easier to use than Audacity. It comes installed on Mac, but if it isn’t on there you can purchase iLife for around $59. This program is especially good for creating your program intro and trailer with music and voice overs.
Very Important Tip 1: You need the mic stand. It will eliminate the noise you will hear on your recording unless you hold your mic unbelievably still. I recommend the boom mic stand because it enables you to position the mic as close as possible while sitting at a desk.
Very Important Tip 2: The windscreen minimizes the pops from your p’s and d’s. You need it because you are going to get real close to that mic - really close. I record in a home office with ceramic tile floors and staying in real close - like spitting distance - is key to getting good sound.
2. Web Hosting Account and Software
In order to make the podcast available to your audience, you need to publish it on a website where people can either listen to the program or download it to their IPOD or MP3 player (I’ll just call it an IPOD from here on out).
Here’s what I use:
- GoDaddy Economy Hosting
- Blubrry (spelled correctly) Powerpress Plugin
Some people knock GoDaddy. It think their $4 a month Economy Hosting works just fine. You'll have to spend another $10 to $15 yearly for the web domain. (That's your www address.)
Wordpress, the Blubrry plugin and iTunes are all free. Wordpress is a content management system (CMS) / blogging platform. Do NOT try anything else. You won't regret it. And I’m referring to the self-hosted version of Wordpress NOT the one you'll find at www.wordpress.com.
Blubrry configures the mp3 files you upload to your server and embed it in your Wordpress blog articles so it looks just right for iTunes and other podcast directories. It also enables you to configure each blog article so you get a visible audio player visitors can use to hear your program right off your webite.
3. Marketing-ish Stuff
Making your podcast look really cool is likely to get you a better following, I recommend you record a podcast intro and trailer. This is the music and voiceovers at the beginning and end of a program. Please do not just use music from your favorite CD. It’s illegal. You can either come up with a jingle using GarageBand or use some podcast safe music from sites like www.musicalley.com.
Make sure to include the program title and website address on the intro and trailer. There are many possible formats you can use. I recommend you download and listen to other podcasts in the iTunes Store and see examples of how others have recorded their intros and trailers.
I recommend coming up with artwork for your podcast, too. This is the equivalent to an album cover so iTunes users see it when they search in iTunes Store. The image is part of your brand. People will use to judge whether you're any good and compare you against the other podcasters.
Each podcast program will take the form of an mp3 file. This is the equivalent of a single song on your IPOD. You want to make sure you “label” your mp3 file so it shows up nicely in iTunes when people view it.
The nice thing about these items is that if you find yourself a Mac savvy kid (I’m thinking high schooler), you can get the intros and trailers done for a good price and the kid gets a life skill. (Shameless plug #1: I offer this as a service too.)
4. The Program Concept or Idea
Here's the MOST important advice I can give you. The technical part of this will fall in place. If you aren’t all that tech savvy or have higher priorities to address, find someone else do it. Share this article with them and let them piece it together for you. (Shameless plug #2: I’m pretty good at this if you need help.)
Don’t underestimate how important it is for you to think through your concept carefully. You need to decide on a program title, website domain name and the program description that will appear in your IPOD.
You need to honestly ask yourself, "Will I be able to consistently provide interesting information. Can my audience count on me?"
I want to stress here that the following ol’ saying applies here:
“Anything worth doing is worth doing really badly before your get it right.”
This isn’t radio or TV. You won’t have millions of listeners that will hear your horrible show and demand you be taken off the air. You have the freedom to mess up while you learn and this will give you a chance to find a formula that works for you.
In my first few episodes of “My Take on the Sunday Readings” I had a guest host. I tried one the first week and another the second week. Each program went well, but by doing it I learned how difficult it could be to schedule time with another person. That led to me dropping the guest host idea which enabled me to to record the program on early weekend mornings before the house gets noisy.
I’m a long time blogger and podcaster. A few of my ideas sounded perfect before I started. Then as I started, the thing took on a life of its own which made it better and better. If you speak to the people who have gone before you, they’ll tell you how important it was to just get started. It won’t be right the first time, but you’ll start on a journey that gets you closer to your definition of the winners circle.