microphoneDoes it seem like everyone you know suddenly has a podcast? Do you have a good idea and want to explore making one? Now is a great time to go for it, as more people are tuning in to this growing medium. The percentage of podcast listeners in America has substantially increased over the past decade, according to Pew Research Center. Podcasting can be a great way to share interesting insights about your research during grad school. For example, check out The Making of a Historian by Berkeley history student Brendan Mackie, or The Double Shelix by Berkeley bioengineering students Sally Winkley and Kayla Wolf.

Anyone can make a podcast, but before you start, it’s a good idea to understand what you are getting yourself into! “A common misconception about podcasting is that it’s easy,” says Millicent Jefferson, a senior producer at Audible and a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. “But making and putting out a good podcast that listeners return to episode after episode takes planning, skill, talent and funding.”

Here are six steps you can take to make your podcast

Choose a topic or idea. This is arguably the most important part of the process. There are already a ton of podcasts out there, so you want your idea to present something new or different. And make sure it’s something you’re passionate about and can devote a significant amount of time to.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Has this idea been done already, and if so how is mine different?
  • What is the “why do we care” of this podcast?
  • Who is my audience? “Good, lasting podcasts are the ones that are able to create a real connection with their listeners,” says Jefferson.

Think about the format. Podcasts range in format from conversational interview shows (think WTF with Marc Maron), to narrative nonfiction (think S-town), and reported stories focused on a theme (think This American Life). Ask yourself the following:

  • How many episodes will I do? How long will each episode be? Episodes can range from 10 minutes to an hour or longer, but make sure you’re thinking about how the length matches the content.
  • Will the content be one-on-one interviews? Personal narrative? Reported field pieces?
  • Will I be the host? What personality and tone do I want the show to have?

Get some recording equipment. The great thing about podcasting is that you don’t need to use a professional recording studio to get quality audio. You can start with simply a microphone and laptop. Transom, a nonprofit that provides workshops for audio storytellers, has a great series on podcast recording gear.

Develop a timeline for production. This can change over the course of your project, but it will help to have something you are holding yourself accountable to. “Plan! Write outlines, map out stories, have an idea of what you want to accomplish before you start recording,” says Jefferson. “It will save you a lot of time.”

Brush up on your audio editing skills. Common programs for audio editing include Adobe Audition and Pro Tools. Try Lynda.com online courses to develop your skills. This resource is free for graduate students. You can also use resources like Blue Dot Sessions or Free Music Archive for music.

Think about Distribution / Funding

  • Make a teaser for promoting your podcast. This should be under a minute and include some of the highlights from the season.
  • Decide what platform to host your podcast on, like Soundcloud, Libsyn, or Simplecast.
  • Distribute it through networks like Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Play. This will give you access to a much wider audience of listeners! Here’s an easy primer on how to submit your podcast to Apple.
  • If you want to work with a radio station or podcast company to produce your podcast, you need to write up a pitch. You can submit your pitch to programs like KCRW’s independent producer project, or American Public Media’s podcasts division.

Still have questions or want to dive deeper? Check out these resources