Behind the green curtain: Secrets of the podcast

I launched my own podcast last week. Here’s why I did it and why it’s really not that difficult.

Podcasts may seem like a magical and complex thing from the outside but in truth they are to traditional audio broadcasting what blogging is to writing or vlogs are to shooting video. They are a medium which is easily accessible to anyone with a computer, an idea and the gumption to give it a go. When you take a peek behind the green curtain*, it’s actually simple and inexpensive to do.

Why a podcast?

The idea for creating the Slouching towards Thatcham podcast came from two very different sources: BritMums Live and the sport of professional cycling.

It was while at this year’s BritMums conference that I was taken by how moving the bloggers’ keynote session was. Even though I was already familiar with many of the posts, hearing them read in their authors’ voice and rhythm was hugely powerful. At several points, the entire room – me included – was brought to tears. Now whenever I read any other posts by those bloggers, I hear their voices in my head rather than my own. It significantly enhances my appreciation of their work.

That got me thinking. Could I replicate the experience and share it with others?

Now I have some previous in this area. I run a collaborative cycling blog built on a fan-based approach to covering a sport too often surrounded by controversy and negativity: essentially, it’s a blog for fans of the sport by fans of the sport. Each of us has our own unique voice and this comes to the fore in the shape of a regular podcast.

And so the idea for running a collaborative podcast showcasing parent bloggers’ diverse voices, experiences and talents was born. Every week on the podcast, I’m featuring a different blogger who talks about and reads one of their favourite posts: mothers and fathers, working and stay-at-home parents, every variation under the sun. It puts the blogger’s content and their voice squarely front and centre for listeners to engage with, packaging up bite-sized chunks of blogging brilliance.

Tools of the trade

Although I’ve been podcasting for nearly three years, this is the first time I’ve had to worry about managing the technical aspects of recording one myself. Honestly, it’s no more difficult than starting up your own blog.

Here’s my equipment list:

  • A computer equipped with Skype and Apple’s free GarageBand software.
  • An external microphone, as in-built webcam microphones tend not to be too great. (I have a Blue Snowball mic and stand, which cost me £60 from Amazon.)
  • Headphones (I use Shure noise-cancelling earphones which cost £80, but a basic pair of iPod earbuds works just as well).
  • Ecamm’s Call Recorder software (about £20), which allows you to record a Skype call and split out each side of the recording.
  • I also splashed out and invested in some intro music (less than £10) and found some free musical ‘stings’ to break up individual sections.

That’s it: no studio, minimal equipment. You could certainly get yourself up and running for less than £100. And while you can purchase much more pricey and professional kit, in truth you don’t really need it.

The only other things I’ve needed are an idea, some guinea pigs fellow bloggers willing to devote some time to being a guest and a willingness to stick my neck out and just go for it.

After a few weeks of planning, teaching myself how to edit audio and tapping up my first few guests – I am constantly amazed by how generous fellow bloggers are with their time – I published my first episode, featuring the wonderful Suzanne from 3 Children and It, last Friday.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response and support I’ve received so far. No one has yet invited me to replace Peter Dickson as the voice of The X Factor but it’s only a matter of time, right?

In the meantime, I’m enjoying developing some new skills and providing some entertainment for a few people. It’s been tremendous fun so far and it’s a reminder of how much there is to gain from pushing myself to try new things. Old dog, new tricks, eh?

I’m no technical whizz, so if I can do it anyone can. It’s really not that difficult and, as was the case with Oz’s wizard, behind the (very thin) veneer of professional-sounding bells and whistles, all it takes is one ordinary person who knows which buttons to press. You just have to be willing to press them.

* You can’t go wrong with a little Wizard of Oz reference, can you?


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