With the patchwork of skills you need to start a podcast, it's easy to feel a little lost, so here are some of our top tips to help you if you're new to podcasting - from sound quality to branding.
It's the room not the mic
If you don't have a studio with acoustic treatment then soft furnishings, duvets and curtains are your new best friends. As my brilliant audio engineer friend Andy says, ‘it’s about the room, not the mic’ so make sure you give your recording space a little love to help you get better sound quality. Ideally record your podcast in your smallest, quietest room, and deaden the sound as much as you can with things like cushions and blankets. Prop a couple of pillows or cushions in the space behind the mic (i.e. in front of you) to stop ringing and echoes. We started our podcast in a strange little cube-shaped alcove in our apartment, and we’d tape up a duvet every time we recorded. After a year we realised curtains on a tension rod did just as good a job. We stuck adhesive-backed sponge panels on the walls and duvet filling on the back wall.
How to avoid those heavy 'puh' pop sounds when recording
There are two main ways to avoid plosives (the air that makes a ‘pop’ when you make sounds like the letter ‘p’). If you combine them, even better. The first obvious way is by using a pop shield. In very basic terms, pop shields work by diffusing the air coming out of your mouth to reduce the direct impact on the microphone, therefore softening the sound. Pop shields are usually about £15-20 which is quite pricey for what they are. A cheaper alternative? Tights. That's right, old tights maketh the pop shield. And in fact if you watch this hilarious video of Cyndi Lauper shrieking next to a bemused Michael Jackson, you'll note that their pop shields are (or at least look like) tights stretched over wire.
So save yourself a few quid and stretch some old tights over a coat hanger. The other way to avoid plosives is mic technique. A good test of the right distance to have between your mouth and mic is to hold your palm in front of you while making a ‘puh’ sound. Move your palm back gradually and when you can’t feel the air on your hand, that’s a decent distance. Too close to your mouth and you’ll likely make a heavy puh every time, which is a pain for editing.
Making your podcast on-the-go
Documentary podcasts are going to be HUGE (they already are). You'll want to take several leaves out of old-school broadcast journalists and get yourself a portable recorder. I bought this nifty little Tascam recorder for £100. It connects to an SM58 and gives a high-quality recording on the go. It’s not the most durable-seeming piece of kit, as it’s quite a light plastic but it’s really impressive for the price and means you can start experimenting with documentaries or podcasts on the move. Nagra and Zoom do much sturdier ones if you have an extra few hundred quid knocking about.
Website or no website?
Websites are a great way of driving traffic to your podcast, but you have to be prepared to update them. For DBC, every time we put up an episode, we posted a blog. And in fact most of our traffic for our episode on the book Normal People by Sally Rooney came from our website because interest in the book was so high that people were googling Normal People + Reviews/Podcasts.
This made it our most successful podcast, and I’m not sure we’d have got the traffic without the website. Saying that, your podcast host will have a web page option. You’ll see ours is here but it’s more a landing page, and of course you don’t own it. If you’ve got nothing to post, just start with the podcast and use your host’s webpage for now.
Canva is the best thing to happen to small business owners and marketing teams on a budget. It's an easy-to-use free web app with hundreds if not thousands of templates you can use and adapt for your work. When we started The Dabblers' Book Club, we didn’t think about branding at all, so just made up any old image to get us going. After a year of episodes, and with a clearer idea of our brand and style, we set up a photoshoot and made more standout images.
Ideally you want to go for something bold and impactful that features photos of the host(s). You want to give your podcast the best chance of standing out to potential listeners browsing for new pods. I mean, here's our before and after to give you an idea of the how far a little thought and effort go.
Hope these tips were useful! Got any to add? Leave a comment and let us know!