Accessible Podcasting for the Digital Revolution

Since the introduction of podcasting in 2004, the digital medium has seen a steady rise from obscurity to popularity with estimates of 67 million monthly listeners for 20171 – that’s 24% of Americans age 12 or older. In 2015, after the incredible success of Serial (an investigative journalism podcast), the number of diverse and quality podcasts seemed to explode. It was around that time that I had taken a break from film & video and was looking for a way to stay creative sans financial ruin. I had read several articles about podcasting being an affordable and accessible medium. Anyone could do it, apparently. If you have a smart phone, you could record an episode, upload it to any one of the multiple publishing platforms available and voilà—you’re a podcaster! The romanticized ease of the process was appealing to me and I wanted in.

To keep things simple, I purchased two reasonably priced USB mics and planned on recording straight to my laptop using Audacity, a free audio software package. Problems soon surfaced with having two mics record into the same computer. It’s not impossible, but the process to get it to work can be time-consuming to set-up and/or just plain annoying. After a few times recording this way, I decided to trade in the USB mics for two XLR mics that ran off of phantom power. I also bought a cheap digital mixer and a Zoom H4n recorder. The learning curve was starting to climb—not to mention the hit to my bank account. The only saving grace was that it was still not as expensive as film & video. Once the initial toe-in was sorted out, I created my first show, Flip Out Radio, with Therese Garcia. I produced, recorded, co-hosted and then edited each episode. There were some painful educational moments with Flip Out Radio—the biggest one being an episode we recorded with comedian, Natasha Muse. It was a fantastic interview, and I wish I had recorded it properly, but I didn’t. The audio came out unusable and to this day, thinking of how badly I screwed that up makes me want to hide under my bed and weep uncontrollably. But, from there, I learned how to do a proper equipment pre-check before each show.

Things were much smoother with my second podcast, Synergy Airwaves. The best education was allowing myself the chance to make some (many) mistakes and work out the solutions. I now feel more confidant with the recording and editing process. I always begin with a clear intention and breakdown of what I’m looking for in an episode, and I believe that’s been more helpful than anything. Though, I’m currently back into the world of film & video, the podcasting bug for me is still strong and more importantly, it’s still fun. I plan to produce and release more episodes of Flip Out Radio and Synergy Airwaves over the next year. I’m also working on a new narrative style podcast focused on the Philippine-American War. There’s a ton of research required for this one, so it’s taking some time to put together.

Can Anyone Do It?

When I first decided to dip into the podcasting space, I wanted it to be cheap and easy. It hasn’t been either. The reality of it is that, like most things, it requires work, dedication and yeah—sometimes a little money to polish things off a bit (depending on your preference). I’ll admit that the work part is what I love the most about anything—the long journey to the Golden Goose. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen enough films and read enough books to know that perfection is unattainable and it’s only the lessons learned that prove to be worth their weight in gold.

So, if you’re less obsessive-compulsive about equipment and software than I am, and you’ve got something you’ve been itching to share with the world, here are some articles detailing ways to get started on the cheap!

For me, podcasts have proven to be a powerful, yet accessible medium for education, communication and entertainment. With the number of global podcast listeners growing every year, it’s nice to see I’m not alone.

Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately (and, yes I’ve included my own podcasts):

Politically Reactive
Code Switch
Chapo Trap House
Call Your Girlfriend
Pod Save America
Synergy Airwaves
Astonishing Legends
A Cast of Kings
Storm of Spoilers
East Bay Yesterday
The Heart
Flip Out Radio

1 The Podcast Consumer 2017. The Infinite Dial ©2017 Edison Research and Triton Digital