You may have read in one of my recent Monthly Blog Income & Statistic Reports how I want to learn how to podcast and start a dedicated podcast for The Smart Income Detective Blog. Well, I have some news.
After much deliberation, self doubt and getting over a complete lack of confidence, I have decided that the SID blog will indeed have its very own podcast.
And I want to share the whole journey with you.
Hopefully, it will allow you to see my struggles, my demons, my mistakes and how I go about setting everything up and organising my new podcast. Who knows, it may even serve as an inspiration for your own podcast.
So in this series of posts, I will be documenting each step of my journey into the world of podcasting. If you want to learn how to podcast yourself, either for pleasure, business or even both, then I hope this series of posts will help you.
I have named the title of this series of posts as ‘My Journey Into The Darkness’ because it is exactly that – I am a complete newbie at everything to do with podcasting so I am going in ‘blind’, so to speak. In fact, it wasn’t until the start of 2013 when I actually listened to a podcast, never mind even thinking about creating my very own podcast.
The Self Doubt Stage
For a number of weeks, I have researched everything to do with podcasting. But I the research has been done in what I can only describe as in a truly passive mode. Meaning that I wasn’t relating anything I was reading up on, to anything I would actually take action on.
And there was a simple reason for this: Self Doubt.
Doubt is a terrible thing, but it’s human nature. It’s in our genes. Every single one of us have doubted our ability to do something at some point in our lives. In fact, it’s more than merely ‘at some point’ – in reality, we probably doubt ourselves multiple times in just one day. We really do doubt ourselves much more than we really should. But as I get older (I am 30 right now), and I look back at some of the things I have achieved in life where I have seriously doubted my own ability to do them, I realise more and more that doubt is not necessarily a bad thing - as long as that doubt doesn’t act as a barrier.
I do believe doubt can be a positive state of mind. Because doubt perhaps, can lead us to give ourselves the best possible chance of being successful. When we cast doubt on our ability to do something, we generally prepare ourselves better, and go that extra mile than if we had no doubts. Let me give you an example of this, that is totally nothing to do with business by the way, but here goes:
In March 2013, I started running. I started running to mainly take my mind off a couple of personal issues I was experiencing at the time, and to even up the ratio of weight training vs cardio training I was doing. A friend of mine, knowing that I had started running, asked me to do a half marathon with him. My immediate reaction was to laugh and dismiss the idea. We were in March. The half marathon was in May. That would give me very little time to train to run a 13.1 mile race. And this was no ordinary half marathon – this was a marathon across sand and water!
The reason I kept saying ‘no’ to my friend was doubt. And doubt alone. Because at that point, I was struggling to run just a couple of miles, and that was on flat, solid ground. I would never be able to complete something like that! Would I?
In actual fact, I could. And I did. The doubt served me well, because it meant that I prepared for it in a different way than I would have prepared for it if I had no doubts. I enlisted his help, and we put together a 6 week training plan. I bought an eBook on running. I researched the best foods to eat. I went out and had a test done on my running style, to enable me to choose the correct style of running shoes I needed. I read up on nutrition and diet. I changed my lifestyle. I changed my mindset. All in the space of little over 6 weeks.
The end result? I completed the half marathon, without stopping, in 2 hours and 19 minutes. And I have gone from 107kgs (235lbs) to 87kgs (191lbs). And I am still running now.
The moral of the story? Self doubt almost turned into a barrier. I nearly said no to the whole thing. In fact, I did say no. But I turned self doubt into something positive, something that ensured I prepared well, and something that drove me and gave me the determination and strength I needed to succeed.
And that is exactly the approach I am taking with podcasting. I am using my self doubt to do 2 important things:
1. To ensure I am FULLY prepared.
2. To drive me on to succeed.
My Own Self Doubts
You may be wondering what my doubts are about podcasting. Here are my 4 biggest doubts:
1. The sound of my voice. I hate the sound of my voice, surely others will too?
This is probably my biggest single worry. However, looking at this point under a microscope, I don’t know where I have got this doubt from. In my whole life, nobody has ever commented negatively about my voice. I guess it is one of those things that most people hate about themselves – the sound of their own voice. Creating YouTube videos on my YouTube Channel has certainly helped, as it has helped me get used to the sound of my own voice.
2. My ability to create interesting podcasts. Will I be able to hold the attention of listeners, or will they switch off?
This is a real doubt, and at this stage, I do not know the answer. The only thing I can do is to thoroughly prepare and plan my initial batch of podcasts to a high quality.
3. My technical ability – microphones, mixers, audio software, how do I get my podcast into iTunes?
This doubt is really born out of the unknown. But the correct research should see me through this stage relatively easily.
4. Why would someone download my podcast, and why would they listen to me?
Again, this is a real doubt, and at this stage, I do not know the answer. The only thing I can do is to thoroughly prepare and plan my initial batch of podcasts to a high quality.
The Research Stage
I take research very seriously indeed. You may of read that I have a business on eBay. Research is one of the contributing factors on whether or not you can create a successful business on eBay. It is just so important. So I approached my research into podcasting like any other business research I do; slowly and systematically.
Stage One – Listening To Podcasts
To conduct my initial research into podcasting, I started with something very simple indeed. I downloaded 20-30 different podcasts, from multiple genres, and simply listened. My main aims were to find out simple things such as:
- How they sounded.
- How a podcast was structured and formatted.
- How long a podcast was in length.
- How the podcast made me feel.
I then narrowed down my research, and looked in detail at some of the most popular podcasts across a multitude of genres. I wanted to know two things:
- Why they were so popular.
- What the difference was between a podcast that was successful, and a podcast that wasn’t.
After a lot of study and analysis of these podcasts, I came to the following 4 conclusions on the common denominators between successful podcasts (those in the top of their category) and podcasts that were less successful :
1. The podcast host was likeable and built a relationship
When I say ‘likeable’, what I actually mean is down to earth. A normal guy or girl presenting. The presenting style was always very informal and relaxed, something which I definitely want to replicate. These hosts also try to build a relationship with their listeners (something I will cover in part 2), so instead of just being a ‘podcast host’, they were actually more like a ‘friend’.
2. The podcast had good quality audio
Audio is very important. A number of podcasts I downloaded and started listening to, were pretty much stopped after a couple of minutes for one reason, and one reason alone – because the audio was absolutely terrible. If I hit that stop button on my podcast player, then you can bet your bottom dollar that other listeners do exactly the same.
3. The podcast had good, solid content which was well structured
From the most popular podcasts in multiple genres, there was one thing evident – the majority of podcast episodes had a main topic that was discussed in detail by the host, and this main topic was discussed through the core, or the middle of the podcast. The start and finish of the episodes usually contained what I term as ‘continuity content’ – giving the podcast a sense of flow by talking about previous episodes or future episodes.
4. The podcast had an attention grabbing image and a good description
When scrolling through podcasts on iTunes, the first thing you see is a small image representing the podcast. The name of the podcast was clearly visible, and the graphics were usually of a high standard.
What was also plainly obvious when searching through various podcasts on my iPhone, was the fact that there are a LOT of podcasts out there. But here is where I made, perhaps, my most important discovery; the majority of podcasts out there and available to download only have a few episodes available. Meaning that, for whatever reason, having completed a handful of episodes, the podcaster has then given up or not continued producing their show.
Some podcasts I looked at even had just 1, 2 or 3 episodes, with no mention of why the podcast had ceased production. So of course, with no continuity, listeners will probably not download the podcast or subscribe to the feed. The most popular and most listened to podcasts all had one thing in common:
They had continuity, with numerous new episodes being published every single month. And I think this could be one of the single, most important elements of having a popular podcast.
Stage Two – Podcast Equipment
One of the things that struck me in stage one of my research above, was the quality of the podcast recordings. Or should I say, the lack of quality that I found in many of them. 12 of the podcasts I downloaded were so awful, I actually struggled to listen to the content. This quality issue was usually the same – it surrounded the echo of the podcasters voice, the clarity of the voice, and the background sounds that were unintentionally recorded.
So my first goal is to purchase some decent equipment that will hopefully eliminate the above problems from any of my podcasts. I have a list of items drawn up that I need to purchase. These are:
- A high quality microphone. My choice is a Heil PR40 Microphone, which has tonnes and tonnes of awesome reviews across the net. It is also used in professional recording studios, and is generally considered one of the best amongst professional broadcasters. It is not cheap though, with the mic alone costing around $350-$400 brand new.
- An audio mixer. To get the most out of a Heil PR40, I need something called pre amp. This gives the sound quality a huge boost, and also gives me the flexibility to do such things as record Skype interviews into the mixer and even add external sound effects – live into my podcast instead of adding everything after production. I have already secured a Mackie 1202 Mixer.
- A digital recorder. Most forums and help sites across the net using a pro microphone, hooked up to a mixer, where it is then output into a digital recorder. This again is a sound quality thing – there are no moving parts on a digital recorder, so the recorder will pick up my voice and not the whirring of the fans on my computer or the internal rumblings of my computer (I have an iMac – listen to your Mac closely the next time you are using it to see what I mean).
Where Am I Right Now?
Right now, I am in the middle creating an initial 10 podcast plan. I think this is really important for me, and anyone else planning to start a successful and continuous podcast (see my notes above about the podcasts I found where there were only a couple of published episodes, and then the production just seemed to have stopped dead). This podcast plan entails detailing individual titles for individual episodes, and detailing a rough outline of the content and subject areas that will be covered. In part 2 of this series of posts, I will be sharing the template I have created where I record these details.
I am also in the middle of purchasing my podcasting equipment. I have already secured a Mackie 1202 mixer (used), and am about to secure a Heil PR40 microphone (used). I am using eBay to source these items, and I am going down the pre owned route. I am going down the preowned route simply because it is going to save me a lot of money.
I paid £175 (approx $270) for the Mackie mixer. But I bought it as part of a lot – included with sale of the mixer was a microphone and a Behringer FX unit – my plans are to resell both of these items back on eBay. My calculations tell me that from the resale of both of these items, I should get back over £100 ($150), meaning I have got the mixer very cheaply.
I have also purchased a digital recorder – a Roland Edirol R09. This was also purchased used, for £99.99 ($150).
I am now looking into the microphone. However, my preferred choice is extremely expensive. To purchase the Heil PR40, brand new, it will cost me £269.99 ($400). But I also need two accessories with it – an extendable arm, to allow me to move the mic into my desired position, and then a shockmount, which attaches to the arm. Both of these together are going to cost me around £200 ($300).
I would prefer to purchase the mic, mic stand and shockmount as used items, which would save me a heap of money, but these items, in the UK where I am based, are hard to come by as used items.
So my preferred setup is not going to be cheap – the total cost is going to end up at around the £650 ($1000) mark.
Just to recap then, so far I have purchased:
A Mackie 802 Mixer – $120
A Roland Edirol R09 Digital Recorder $150
So what next?
Well, while I just want to get going right now, and record my first podcast, I know I can’t. And I know I shouldn’t. I want the proper infrastructure surrounding me, and I want a concrete plan of action, because there is one thing I don’t want you to see in future:
The Smart Income Detective Podcast listed in itunes, with only 2 or 3 episodes listed.
I am going to leave it here for now. Please ensure you sign up to my newsletter below to keep up to date on my journey. Until Part 2 then…
All the best,