I’m a huge fan of podcasts. I listen to them while I run in the morning, while I bike to work, while I do the dishes, and sometimes even at work (depending on the task). I listen to everything from national sports shows (Dan Patrick, Pardon the Interruption) to quirky independent podcasts (How to Do Everything, International Waters). I was rapt with attention each week when the podcast sensation Serial swept the nation. (If you haven’t listened to it, GO NOW.)
And I’ve had personal experiences with podcasting. I was once a litigant on the Judge John Hodgman podcast, hosted by “I’m a PC” guy John Hodgman, who has literally a million Twitter followers, and I have been a guest on the Fielder’s Choice podcast (79 plays and counting!), where I talked about baseball for 90 minutes.
I’ve thought about starting my own podcast, and wondered whether it was worth the time and effort. If you’ve had that same idea, here are some considerations:
Are you passionate about something?
As with all things social media, the first step towards success is to have a specific area of focus that you care about. The nerdier the better! The more narrow you can make your focus, the more likely you are to carve out a niche in a crowded podcast landscape. (This seems like something interpreters should be good at.)
Do you want to be fabulously wealthy?
If so, maybe podcasting is not for you. (Perhaps we can interest you in investment banking.) You’re not going to make a lot, if any, money by podcasting. A more attainable goal for your podcast, and a more appropriate reason for its existence, is branding. A well-received podcast will make you and your organization a voice one that people recognize as expert in a certain subject area.
Are you willing to commit?
There’s nothing worse than a social media outlet that offers super-great content for a while, then disappears without explanation. Like a blog about social media that hasn’t had a new post in three months. (Sorry everyone.) For your podcast, you’ll want to set a schedule and stick to it. Whether it’s monthly or weekly or daily, be sure you have the time and resources—not to mention enough content—to keep a schedule.
Do you already have a social media audience?
It seems obvious, but the best way to launch a successful podcast is to have an audience ready and waiting. Perhaps your interpretive site has a Facebook page or Twitter account with lots of followers. Or maybe you have a newsletter with a wide circulation or a highly trafficked website. Use that audience to drive listeners to your podcast!
Do you have a modicum of technical sensibilities?
Putting a podcast out into the world does not require an engineering degree, but there are some things you’ll need to know (or learn). You’ll need to record your podcast, which requires hardware (a decent microphone is essential) and software like Garage Band (to add intros, music, etc.). If your podcast features interviews or co-hosts in different locations, you’ll need a decent internet connection to transfer voice data over Skype (the preferred method, it seems).
And once you have an edited product, you’ll need to distribute it. I’ve found that Blip.TV is perfect for both video and audio podcasts, as it’s free, and it handles submitting your product to iTunes and other networks.
Do you want to do this?
This is ultimately the most important question. You have the passion, the expertise, a great voice for radio, a huge audience waiting for a new product from you, and the technical expertise to make it happen. But if it feels like a chore to you, it’s going to feel like a chore to your audience. Make it fun for yourself and your chances for success have increased exponentially.
Podcasts are like any social media outlet. It’s easy to start one, but to create and maintain a successful one requires enthusiasm, commitment, and an investment of time and creative energy. But if anyone can do it, interpreters seem like the perfect people to be creating the interesting, entertaining, and focused content this medium requires.