Podcasting is the new blogging. It's a fantastic means to a promotional end. Everyone from individual artists all the way up to fortune 500 companies uses podcasts to get word out about new products, new works, new services, and much more. I've managed, produced, hosted, and guest hosted a number of podcasts. And from the beginning, it was clear which would succeed and which would not.
Whether you're in the process of planning a new podcast or you're already producing episodes, there are (as you might expect) a number of do's and don'ts to consider. Although these are not hard and fast rules, they will make the entire process (from creation to publication) easier, more productive, and more enjoyable.
1: DO follow a formula
This doesn't mean you necessarily borrow the exact formula from a successful podcast. What I'm speaking of is simple: You create the rules of your podcasting universe and you follow them. Listeners like consistency; they want to know what they're in for. That means creating a formula for your podcast and sticking with it. If your podcast is going to be broken into segments, always have the same segments and have them in the same order. If your podcast is going to be a stream-of-consciousness, don't break from form.
2: DON'T skimp on hardware
You don't have to record your podcast with a monster machine of a PC. You do, however, have to purchase the best mic your budget will allow. If you want your podcast to fail right out of the gate, record on a cheap plastic mic, a built-in mic, or that gaming headset you use for Halo. What you need is a solid condenser mic. One of the best mics to start with is the Blue Yeti USB mic. I used one for years before upgrading to a CAD E100S. If you skip the USB mic (in favor of the more professional XLR), know that you'll need an interface. I use the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which does an outstanding job of handling input and output.
3: DO find a host
Yes, you want to get your podcast on iTunes. That's a must. But even before that, you should consider finding a host for that production you'll be spending more time on than you can imagine. There are plenty of hosts out there: Nerdist, Earwolf, TechPodCasts, PodBros Network, and many more. Some are harder to get into (some nearly impossible). But you owe it to yourself to attempt to get that podcast hosted by a podcast network. Why? Because you'll be surrounded by other, similarly themed podcasts with fans who might well want to hear what you have to offer. Especially when you're first starting, you need as much exposure as you can get.
4: DO edit
Unless the idea of your podcast is to be 100% live (and if that's the case, follow through), you will want to edit. You may not want to have to listen to the entire podcast, but removing extraneous noises and gaffs, and adding intro/outro music, is crucial to ensure your work be taken seriously. Not everyone can blather on for an hour (or 30 minutes...whatever your chosen length) without mistakes or pauses. If the goal is to not be live, edit those mistakes out. Just make sure you don't introduce new mistakes (obvious edits) during the process.
5: DO use quality software
Quality doesn't always have to mean expensive. I've been recording podcasts with the help of Audacity for five years now. This open source recording tool is ideal for podcasts because it offers just the right number of tools to get the job done and get it done right. And although many assume a tool like Apple's GarageBand is more fitting, you might be surprised to learn that Audacity offers more features and it's cross platform and free.
6: DON'T become too rigid
You don't want to be too rigid to allow for a bit of riffing on a topic or a moment of off-topic banter. Why? Because the riffing can lead to real gold. That doesn't mean you should allow the banter to venture too far away or for too long. Keep it in check, but don't prevent the possibility of a bit of variation on a theme that could inspire something brilliant. Being too militant can lead to an almost metronomic feel for the podcast... something you want to avoid.
7: DON'T ignore your audience
People will contact you... eventually. People will comment on your feed. People will share the love on social networking and even ask questions of you or suggest topics. Don't ignore them. When you draw the audience in by taking in feedback, you make them part of the process and the product.
8: DON'T skimp on the bandwidth
Most of the podcasts I do are co-hosted and recorded via Skype. Because of this, I had to boost my in-home bandwidth to ensure calls weren't dropped and were of decent quality. But your bandwidth needs don't end there. If you're hosting the podcast yourself, you'll need to make sure your site has enough bandwidth to allow enough simultaneous streams. This will become a major issue as you build a larger and larger audience. The last thing you want is to have all that work limited a small group of users due to limited bandwidth. Plan ahead.
9: DO find an angle
There are already a ton of podcasts that discuss Linux, network administration, IT, business, etc., etc., etc. So you need to find a unique angle that no one else is discussing. Without a unique take on a topic, the signal-to-noise ratio will favor background noise and you'll blend in with everyone else gabbing about the subject. You may be passionate about Linux in general, but you need to find something new to say or a new way to say something old.
10: DO be professional
This shouldn't have to be said, but I find it necessary. You may well be representing a company that signs your check. Or you might have your sights set on breaking away from the company and becoming a full-time podcaster. No matter the end game, you need to be professional in how you say what you say, how you treat the work, and how you promote the results. If your podcast comes across as two "dudes hanging out" and your subject is "Cross-platform computing in the enterprise," you'll have a hard sell on your hands.
Podcasting can quickly become a great promotional vehicle for your business or a means for you to help an audience solve problems. Regardless of why you're considering this venture, make sure you follow these do's and don'ts so your efforts are spot on right out of the gate.
What other advice do you have for fellow podcasters? Share your tips and suggestions below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.