Podcasting has been getting some press recently, more so than normal. I first noticed it back in September when The Washington Post declared that podcasts are back and making money. I never knew they had left and the making money part wasn’t much of a surprise either. Roll forward a few months and we seem to be in the middle of a popular podcast storm.

Top Shelf from The Verge did a great video on why podcasts are so popular just now. Serial Podcast is one of the biggest podcasts in years and has succeeded in reaching new audiences. It’s also set the record for fastest podcast to 5 million downloads. It seems more and more people are not only listening to podcasts but actually producing their own. That’s not much of a surprise either as it’s fairly easy to record and publish your own podcast. I know as I’ve been podcasting since 2009.

What was more surprising was the posts recently from a few of the more notable tech podcasters and also the heat it generated on twitter. Firstly Jason Snell posted on not being intimidated to do a podcast. A lot of what Jason wrote resonated with me but unfortunately there was some heat on twitter from a few sources on technology and what gear you should be using. A sort of follow up from Marco Arment tried to move the debate on so that it focussed on the listener. I agreed with some of his points but felt it strayed into gadget snobbery again.

So after 230 episodes of DigitalOutbox what have I learned:

  • To get started you don’t need much, especially if you aren’t sure if podcasting is for you and you want to give it a go.
  • Me and Shak started with a headset with mic built in. Quality wasn’t great but it got us off and running. Use an iPhone headset as it’s good enough to get you going.
  • If you are enjoying podcasting and want to keep going after a few episodes then invest in a better mic. I use a Rode Podcaster, Chris uses a Blue Yeti and I think our audio quality is good. You can go a lot higher quality if you want but I do think it’s diminishing returns. To keep it easier, both of these are USB mic’s.
  • Get a decent set of headphones that don’t leak audio – if they do then your mic, especially the better quality ones, will pick up on the audio from your headphones.
  • Each podcaster should record audio at their end. Recording Skype and using that for the audio source causes more issues than the hardware in my opinion. Share the audio with the editor over Dropbox. Nice and easy.
  • If you’ve got a Mac then use Garageband for editing, at least to get started. Audacity is another option.
  • Editing should focus on getting everyone’s levels even and also cutting out mistakes, drop outs, phone calls – whatever gets in the way of the listener enjoying your Podcast.
  • You can also edit to remove silence, mmmm’s, eh’s and all the other little annoyances. I’ve done this a few times but must admit that I find it a bit of a chore to do so don’t often bother. It’s not a show stopper but it will be for the better if you remove them.
  • Put chapters into your podcasts. I wish more podcasters would do this so you can skip a topic that isn’t interesting you but very few do. A shame.
  • You don’t need to spend loads on hosting your podcasts if you are doing audio only. I use Dreamhost and the speeds are good enough for our podcast and there are no limits on bandwidth.
  • A 30-40 minute audio podcast will take around 2-4 hours each week to record, edit and publish not including any research time you need. A video podcast will require a lot more. Do not underestimate the step up in bandwidth, production and hosting a video podcast requires.
  • Something I’ve not done too much off is room treatment but you do want a quiet room and ideally with not too many hard surfaces around. The better the audio quality the less you need to to edit so try and make sure you don’t pick up phones, clocks and other voices while you are recording.
  • Enjoy it.

Dan Benjamin, founder of the 5by5 network has put together a great site on podcast hardware and software recommendations at The Podcast Method. Well worth a read. He also has published a really useful video on mic technique which features some great tips.

The main thing to remember is not to let the gear or the software become a barrier to entry. Give it a go and if you enjoy it you can invest at a later date once you know if it’s for you.

Now…about podcasts making money. Any tips?