Murder in Podcastville, or I'm Sorry I Haven't a Cluedo

Notes from my BBC Digital Cities session on podcasting.

Mark Steadman (that's me)

  • Podcaster since 2008
  • Web and software developer for 17 years
  • Freelancer from June 2016
  • Started Podiant as a side-project in late 2016
  • Made that its own business in January 2018
  • Now added a production arm

What is a podcast?

  • On-demand programming from independent creators
  • Typically audio, but can be video
  • Delivered via RSS feed
  • Democratic, decentralised, largely a meritocracy
  • Alex Jones: podcasting’s first big controversy
  • Most people listen on mobiles
  • Smart speakers starting to gain traction

Why you should start a podcast

  • No gatekeepers
  • Great way to build authority
  • Use guest interviews to expand your network
  • Add a new component to your social media portfolio
  • Shows you can produce regular, sustainable content
  • Give your existing audience more intimate access

Why you shouldn’t start a podcast

  • To make money
  • To grow your social media audience

Jargon

  • RSS feed: a file that apps and directories periodically check for info on new episodes and a link to the audio file
  • Show notes: a description of the episode, that usually appears in podcast players
  • DAW (digital audio workstation): the software used to edit – and sometimes record – podcasts
  • Audio compression: narrowing the gap between loud ad quiet so everything sounds punchy and is easy to hear
  • File compression: making a file as small as possible for quick download, without compromising audio quality too much
  • Bitrate: the amount of file compression used. 96kbps good for voice, 128kbps is OK for music

Deciding what your podcast is about

  • Pitch your podcast in a single, short sentence. “This show is about” or “This is the show where”
  • Are you solving a problem or adding value?
  • What will make it a compelling listen?
  • How does it fit into the listener’s day?

Deciding who your podcast is for

  • Successful shows bring an existing audience
  • You probably need a niche to make audience targeting easier
  • Who’s going to subscribe?
  • Who’s likely to help you spread the word?
  • Imagine your ideal listener. Think of them as a real person; give them a name and a job
  • Write their social media bio; 140-280 characters that sum up the person
  • Find out where this person and their friends hang out, and introduce yourself in those spaces

Picking the duration and frequency

  • Commute-length shows do well
  • It should be consistent
  • If it’s long, consider using chapters to break it up
  • If listeners like the show, they’ll expect it at the same time each week, fortnight or month
  • Avoid posting less frequently than every two weeks
  • Pick a schedule that’s sustainable for you and your co-hosts
  • If you’re working with others, be completely certain they can stick to the schedule
  • Find a regular time slot in your week to record each episode
  • Add a half-hour buffer before and after, to allow for setup and wind-down
  • Find a regular time slot in your week to edit each episode
  • Add time for downloading remotely-recorded audio and for the upload process, including writing show notes

Spreading the load across your team

  • Everyone needs to be 100% committed
  • Create an episode todo list, from script or research, to artwork, show notes and promotion
  • Spread the tasks throughout your team
  • Use a tool like Trello or Asana to keep everyone in sync

Finding the right equipment

  • Very lightly storyboard a typical episode
  • How do your requirements change for each part?
  • Check our gear list for ideas, but do your own research before making a decision
  • Check YouTube for reviews and product demos

Deciding on an editing method

  • Research the right software for your platform
  • Check online (including YouTube) for guides, courses or tips and tricks
  • Consider a Udemy course on your DAW of choice, to help you get quickly up-to-speed

Picking a marketing strategy

  • Setup Twitter, Facebook, (and Instagram?) profiles for your show
  • Research Facebook groups, subreddits and Twitter or Instagram hashtags
  • Approach these communities before you post your first episode
  • Pre-promotion is less tacky than doing it after the fact
  • Put together a short trailer and post it to these groups
  • Be respectful of groups’ rules
  • Launch with a small handful of episodes

Deciding on a name

  • A short and snappy name is good
  • Longer domains are OK as long as they’re easy to type and quick to say
  • Use iwantmyname.com to check domain names
  • Use namecheckr.com to check social media profiles  Condense long show names down into a couple of words Search for domain names, Twitter handles and Facebook profiles that are easy to remember and say aloud. They don’t have to be short, but avoid words with ambiguous spellings Reserve your name in each of the profiles that matters to you  

Exercise

Dr Black was the wealthy owner of the stately home, Tudor Close. In the autumn of 1949, he was found dead. Two of the guests who were with him on the night of the murder took their secret to the grave, but one diary entry might blow the case wide open. In our show, “Dead Men Wear No Earbuds”, we investigate cold-cases, bringing new evidence to light and uncovering age-old mysteries.

Today, we gathered field recordings from a relative, a police officer and a historian, and we integrated them with audio from our narrator to create a short, dramatic true-crime podcast episode that's sure to fly up the podcast charts and see us rolling in Squarespace ad revenue in no time.