Ten Tips for New Podcasters

If I’m qualified to give advice on producing a podcast, it’s not because I produced one for three years— it’s because I’ve been a podcast junkie for six years. I’ve subscribed to podcasts of every imaginable kind, but the majority of them have been gaming-related. If you’re reading this because you’re thinking of creating a podcast of your own, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start recording your first episode. The recommendations that follow are specific to podcasts about gaming, since that’s what I know; and of course, you may already have planned for some of these. But I believe that most of the gaming podcasts on iTunes today could be greatly improved by following some of these suggestions, and I hope they’ll be useful to you as well.

First, why are you creating a podcast? Most gaming podcasters answer this question one of two ways:

  1. I want to create something great, something that other people will really enjoy.
  2. I want to talk about video games, and I’m hoping that there are other people out there who will listen to it.

If you fall into the second category, then I strongly encourage you to reconsider creating a podcast. You may have fun talking about video games for an episode or two, but your show will not find an audience; and once the novelty fades, so will your interest in continuing.

Always consider your audience first. This can be difficult, especially at the beginning, when you don’t actually have an audience. But the idea is to consider your show from the perspective of your audience, which you should be doing at all times. The next few suggestions are given with that in mind.

After releasing a new episode, download it from several different locations. How quickly can you download episodes of your show? How does this compare to other podcasts (i.e., to what your audience will expect)? If it’s taking a long time, then your server might be slow, but it’s more likely that your show is too large. You can cut down your file size by using a different MP3 encoder setting– 92 kilobits was always the sweet spot for me, but your mileage may vary.

Listen to your show every week and make notes on what you can improve. The person responsible for audio production on your show will be doing this already, but if you’re part of the show in any way, you need to do this every week. If you’re not listening to your own work with a critical ear, it will never improve.

Don’t wait on your listeners to tell you how to improve your show. They know what they like when they hear it, but not before.

Listen to other podcasts, especially podcasts that aren’t gaming-related. Great writers read lots of books, right? That’s where they get their inspiration. Podcasting is no different. If you want ideas on how to improve your show, you’ll get them by listening to other shows and thinking about how you can apply some of their ideas to your own work. As for why I recommend non-gaming-related shows: Other gaming podcasts are drawing inspiration from the same sources that initially inspired you. If you want to create something they haven’t heard before, start listening to the shows they haven’t heard before.

Do you hate the sound of your own voice? This is common for any new podcaster. Your show will be much improved by a bit of confidence, which you can acquire by recording several episodes on your own. These episodes won’t be released to the public, but recording them will give you a chance to solve several of the initial problems podcasters have.

Know your limitations. What do you do when Gears of War 12 is the current hot topic, but you personally don’t care about Gears of War 12? You talk about something else, that’s what– something that does interest you. Focus on your passions, whether or not it’s what your audience expects. Remember, they listen to other podcasts as well.

Keep it simple. If you’ve never done any audio production before, the last thing you want to do is buy a bunch of complicated hardware and software. First, it’s expensive– but more importantly, post-production is going to be a confusing, time-consuming nightmare. As a rule of thumb, it’s time to reconsider your approach when you find yourself spending more time editing the show than you spent recording it. Simple, free editors like Audacity can do the job nicely. Down the road, you may want to look into tools like WireTap and Soundboard, which will allow you to add more production values to your show without adding production time.

Finally, be consistent. If you’re advertising your show as a weekly podcast, that means you need to produce new episodes every week. No matter how good your show is, folks will unsubscribe if you can’t deliver new episodes on schedule. Sometimes that will mean releasing new episodes half-baked, but half a loaf is better than none in the eyes of your listeners. After all, if this week’s episode is not good, that’s OK– there will be another one next week.