How To Create a Podcast
By Maxwell Ivey, the Blind Blogger and Peer Advisor
I have been a podcast host for a long time and often have assisted others who are blind or low vision launch their own podcasts. For an introduction to this topic, read my blog, Creating a Podcast When Blind or Low Vision which offers more details to consider when creating a podcast.
The most important things to know about starting a podcast
A podcast is, or should be, extremely personal, but reflective of you. A podcast can be simple or complicated. It’s up to you. Additionally, it’s possible to start with a small investment.
Writing a Podcast Description
You have up to 4000 characters to describe your show. You want to grab people’s attention while telling them who you are and what they can expect from your podcast. If you have remaining characters, add your website or social media information. When writing your description, it’s helpful if you include “keywords.” These are words designed to attract search engines to direct potential listeners to your podcast.
There are websites where you can search what keywords people are currently searching for. I don’t advise spending too much time on this. I prefer spending my time creating great content, letting my work speak for itself, and letting my guests speak for the show.
I recommend reviewing your show description about once a quarter. Remember to revise the description if the focus of your podcast changes. Changing the podcast description might also change the audience. Read the description for Emily Trepanier’s Podcast, Shredding for Gold, on Apple Podcasts. Don’t be afraid to use your own personal story as part of your podcast description. People will subscribe to hear personal content and stories.
Hosting a Podcast
My research illustrates the more you pre-plan, the less likely you are to succeed. Give yourself opportunities to learn from experience and your audience. The truth is people like to identify with their podcast hosts. Unless they are listening to a famous actor, musician, or athlete, people value approachable hosts. Individuals don’t want to think there is no way they could ever host a show. Additionally, COVID-19 leveled the playing field as professionally produced shows adapted to remote production settings.
Selecting A Photo
When sending a podcast to Apple, choose a square photo with dimensions of either 1400 by 1400 or 3000 by 3000. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a show rejected by Apple over the artwork. Your artwork doesn’t have to be fancy. When I started my podcast, I used a photo of me. I later learned it wasn’t an especially flattering picture. When I had the money, I hired a graphic designer who created a logo and replaced my podcast artwork. If you don’t feel comfortable choosing a photo, ask for help. Visual interpreting services, such as Be My Eyes or Air, can help you with this task.
For some hosts, recording content, whether audio, video, or both, is a stumbling block. I believe the assumption is you need a certain level of equipment to record a quality podcast. Some individuals become experts on all the technology, then may put off launching a podcast because they don’t have the latest and greatest recording gear. Please don’t let yourself get caught in this trap. The audio and video quality of smartphones or tablets within the last five years is sufficient for this task. Using equipment, you have on hand will make things easier. Using tools with which you are familiar means you won’t be worrying while you are trying to record.
My Recording Gear
When I started recording my podcast, I didn’t have the budget for a lot of fancy gear. I’m not a tech guy, so I wouldn’t know how to use fancy equipment if I had any. I know there are many gifted, highly trained sound engineers and editors who are blind or low vision, I’m just not one of them. I used QuickTime Player when recording monologues and Skype when recording interviews. I used a $20 headset, and that worked just fine. My comfort with these simple inexpensive tools allowed me to focus on the conversation.
A funny story. A couple years ago I won a wonderful external microphone at a podcasting conference. I used it twice before giving it away. I couldn’t configure the audio well enough to meet my needs. When people listened to those two episodes, they had to raise or lower the volume, depending on who was talking.
For many people, it’s all about editing their show. Often, individuals don’t like the sound of their voice, or they hear noises the rest of us don’t notice. Some may feel embarrassed by the amount of “ers” and “ums” on a recording. Caring about your audio quality is important but don’t let editing be a reason why you don’t share your voice with the world.
Editing is a technical occupation, which may be difficult for some people. I am a horrible podcast editor. I can do it, but only if I must. Editing is much easier if there is a large amount of dead air that needs erased or large strings of audio to cut.
Editing can become addictive. You start out wanting to change just a few things, and the next thing you know; you have spent three hours editing a 30-minute episode. It’s hard; but you want to find that balance between fixing obvious errors and not obsessing over perfect audio quality.
Deciding to Record Live
When I started out, I made one of the most important decisions I have ever made. I decided my podcast would be “recorded Live”. If people asked me about editing, I honestly told them “I don’t edit.” My brand is all about overcoming excuses. I wasn’t going to let not being able to edit keep me from launching my podcast. It has never hurt my show because people know I’m doing my best. Plus, many listeners have difficulties of their own. As I said earlier, allowing people to see you as you are a great way to build a loyal audience.
This article focuses on audio podcasting, but I want to say a few words about video. Many people might think their background, camera lighting, or recording space is not adequate. When I started, I recorded my videos using the built-in camera on my laptop, with the light from my ceiling fan as the only illumination in the room. Having RP, retinitis pigmentosa, and limited peripheral vision, I even recorded one episode in a dark room. That’s one of my fondest memories. Here’s the story:
At the time, I was transitioning from The Midway marketplace and a podcast called Calliope Corner to the Blind Blogger and a podcast I was calling Leading You out of the Darkness. I was very proud of that first video until friends started telling me in the comments that I left the lights off. I’m sharing this because of the comments. About a third of the commenters said, “Max it looks like you are sitting in a cave.” They urged me to re-record it. But the other two-thirds said “Max what a wonderful metaphor. Just like your title you are going to lead us out of the darkness.”
You can still see that video on my website and my YouTube channel. It’s important for me to share my mistakes, because I’m human. Since those first videos, I added a USB camera that sits on my bookshelf for a better angle. So, people don’t have to look up my nose. Also, I now have an LED light that sits in front of me and puts light on my face, which balances out the shadows cast by the overhead light and eliminates the floating head effect. But I didn’t have those in the beginning, and people still loved my work.
So, please don’t let all these thoughts and fears keep you from starting. Your curiosity, passion, and effort are more important than the quality of your camera or microphone. Whether you edit your audio first, or if you go on camera from your bedroom like I do, focus on the content.
Uploading to a Hosting Platform
Once you have recorded your podcast, you must upload it to a hosting platform. I use a provider called Blubrry. I’ve been using the service a long time, and I find it accessible for both uploading my podcast and playing my show. Blubrry’s technical support is great. It costs about $16 a month. There are other free options, like Pine Cast and Podomatic. Personally, I have found you don’t want to go with a free provider for your website and podcast hosting.
Regarding websites, I believe that we need to own our names online or we should own the names we plan to use. But that doesn’t mean you need to have a website or a blog. You can file for a domain name in line with your show name and simply redirect that to your page on your podcast hosting platform.
Obtaining an RSS Feed
After you decide on where to host your audio files, then you want to start recording. Remember, you need at least one audio file uploaded to send to the hosting platform. After you have set up a hosting account, and you have uploaded that first recording, your hosting company is going to give you what is called your RSS feed. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication or “Rich Site Summary”. It is an XML code that “feeds” information from a site in an organized manner. This is how podcast players and subscribers receive notifications when a new episode is available.
Submitting to Apple and Other Platforms
Submit the RSS feed, along with your name and other account information, to Apple or your platform of choice. In my blog post, I laid out the reasons you may want to chose Apple.
You now need to choose the topics (or categories) your show covers. After you complete the application with Apple, it will take anywhere from a few days to a week before Apple approves your show. I have rarely heard of them refusing a show based on its content. Apple may reject a show if there is an issue with the application.
While waiting on Apple, you can take your submit your show to the other platforms like Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, etc.
If at any time, you decide to make changes in your podcast; you simply change them with your hosting company. Once your show is updated at its source, Apple and all the others will update to your new name, image, topic, or description.
Now, that your show is on Apple and any other podcast platforms, it’s time to start promoting your podcast. My favorite way to promote my show is interviews with other podcast hosts.
With podcasting we can start where we are and get better as we go. I love the connection with others that I get through podcasts. As I said in my post, “I have kept showing up, and people respect me for it. There have been some rough spots. I haven’t posted new content every week. But people know me or feel like they do through my podcast episodes and interviews promoting my work.”
If you have enjoyed this article and feel I have provided valuable insights, I will be happy to share more information on APH VisionAware about promoting your new podcast.