Skip to Main Content
University of York Library
Library Subject Guides

Digital Creativity: a Practical Guide

Podcasts

A practical guide to getting digitally creative and using digital tools and technologies to explore work, ideas, and research.

Creating podcasts

Podcasts are an ever-growing and popular way for sharing information or entertaining. But how can you make your own podcast?

As mainly audio-only content, it can be likened to listening to the radio and can be enjoyed by listeners while they are doing other things. There's a podcast that covers many genres, topics and stories out there, but there are still new ideas and interests you can explore. You might want to cover something from a new perspective or explore which format you want to deliver your show in.

This guide explores where to get started along with the workflow for Generating ideas, Recording, Editing and Publishing.

What's a podcast?

A podcast can be defined as a series of audio files available online to stream or download. Individual files are typically formulated as episodes with a clear topic/theme and structure.

The Podcasting Workflow

There's a few steps you can follow to help get your podcast together. Thinking through these will help you to pick out who your audience is, what you want to inform about and how much time you will need to create it. Thinking early on about your format will also be really useful.

A circle of arrows, showing Generating ideas, planning, recording and hosting as a cycle

How could I use podcasts?

  • As a reference - you could gather information from other people's podcasts as part of your research
  • As data - you could carry out and record interviews for your project with a goal to also use them as podcast episodes (with the right permissions)
  • To share audio content - with the right permissions from research participants you could include this data within a podcast to bring the topic to life eg soundscapes, interviews, music.
  • As a research output - you could create a podcast as a digitally creative product, in order to talk about your work to a public audience.
  • As a way to promote your research and expertise - you might also be asked to participate in a podcast as a guest on a specific subject

Asking questions

A podcast can be informal and conversational. It can be most interesting when there is back and forth between an interviewer and guest - a conversation, rather than a series of questions and answers.

Try to record a podcast episode in one go, even if you need to redo something. Don't stop and start the recording if you make a mistake. Carry on, redo the question and remove any of retakes when you are editing. If you make a note of the time to edit out as you go, this can help speed things up too.

It's unusual to have one clean take of a recording without any mistakes because people sometimes say the wrong thing or want redo a question so that the answer is more concise. However, because a podcast usually isn't live, there's room to be flexible and take your time.

Interviewing - top tips

Tip 1: Ask open questions eg how, what, rather than closed questions which only offer a short answer eg do, have... this will allow for a more interesting conversation.

Tip 2: Acknowledge answers - while the interviewee can see your body language and reactions, listeners can't - so do this verbally. You could also comment on the response in some way, before moving onto the next question to make things flow. Be flexible - there might be an opportunity to ask extra questions to delve further into a subject.

Tip 3: Don't speak over the other person - wait for them to finish. While you want to use verbal reactions, it's ok to wait and do this at the end of the response. A podcast isn't a live broadcast, so if an answer is too long, take time to redo it. You can edit answers to an extent after recording, but the less you need to cut audio after, the better.

Tip 4: Remember that the audience cannot see what you can see - it's a good idea not to discuss what things look like eg a piece of artwork or a photo, unless you are planning on making a video version of the podcast where it will be on screen.

Examples of how to ask questions

Not-so-great example:

Interviewer: So, what did you have for breakfast today?
Guest: I had an amazing bowl of cereal followed by some scrambled egg on toast.

Interviewer: Have you been enjoying interviewing people for your research? ['have' indicates this is a closed question]

Guest: Yes.

 

Good example:

Interviewer: So, what did you have for breakfast today?
Guest: I had an amazing bowl of cereal followed by some scrambled egg on toast.

Interviewer: That does sound delicious - I also had cereal but no eggs unfortunately.  We should probably talk about your research! You've been looking into the impact of podcasts on mental health. How's your research been going so far?

Guest: Well, it's been quite interesting  - I've met with ten people as of this week, and they've given me such a variety of information. Much of what I've discovered is backing up evidence I've read from elsewhere.

Editing

Editing a podcast can take a while so make sure you leave enough time to go through your audio. You may choose to record your podcast in smaller clips, so you can rearrange sections and put them together in a logical order. Free digital audio workstations like Audacity (also available on University computers) make this task easier as a place you can drag and drop multiple tracks together.

You may also need to alter the volume or quality of sound. Many audio editing tools allow you to add effects to be able to make changes to the sound. This may include a Deesser to get rid of spoken 'sssss' and hissing sounds, or to increase the volume by using an Amplifier. Many tools also allow you to use a noise reduction (or 'Denoise') tool to remove background noises and buzz, but you may need to play around to get it right.

Working with speech - some tips

Two important things to consider when editing conversational audio are pace and space:

  1. While it can be temping to cut out ums, ahs and pauses, these are natural elements in speech and taking them all out can affect the pace of the audio so it feels unnatural.
  2. If you are cutting a response short, or sticking two pieces of audio together after removing a section, think about where silence/gaps would need to go to make it sound natural. If possible, you don't want the listener to know the audio has been edited. 

Another thing to remember when editing is that when we talk our voices go up and down to emphasise points or mark the end of a phrase. If you cut a few words mid-sentence this might disturb the flow or pitch, and it may be obvious to the listener that something isn't right. 

And finally, try not to add too many effects. While it's tempting to play around with the reverb/echo, change the pitch or give someone a robot voice, this isn't really what a podcast needs! If you took the time to get a good recording to work with, this should remove the need to change the audio too much. Making a few minor tweaks to the volume (5-10db) might be all you need to do.

Adding music or other sounds

To kick off your podcast episode or mark topic changes, you could use music or sounds. Copyright for music is incredibly complex and strict, so unless you have a lot of money, unfortunately you're not going to be able to include any tracks by a well-known global artist. However, there are plenty of creative commons resources you can use, such as openverse or Fugue or Bensound. Some sites may require you to purchase a license for a small fee, depending on how you are using the music.

When adding music, you probably won't need to use the full track as it'll take up too much of the episode. Instead you can cut it at a suitable point (ie not in the middle of a phrase), and fade it out. Then bring up your introduction vocal so there's a small bit of overlap. Be careful not to drown out a speaker with music or sound. Additional clips can 'sit' underneath vocal audio ie they happen at the same time, but at a lower volume. 

Listen to an example of an introduction

There are some useful and free tools out there, which help you edit and organise your recorded clips together into episodes:

Distribution

Once you have your audio files ready to share with the world, you need to host them online so that listeners can access them. There are a range of platforms and sites which can help you to do this:

Soundcloud - as a free user on Soundcloud you can upload up to 3 hours of content. It's possible to connect your podcast on Soundcloud to iTunes so that it's accessible via the podcast app.

YouTube - another free way to host a podcast is to use YouTube. If you only recorded your podcast episodes as audio, you will need to make your content into a video file in order to do this, but we have a guide to help you do that. In terms of imagery for the video - you could create a simple graphic with the name of the podcast episode and presenter, or you could upload a relevant still photograph. 

Podbean - the Podbean platform has a free basic account which allows you to host 5 hours of content. It also will also easily distribute your episodes to all of the major podcast apps ie Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts.

After you have your podcast hosted online, you can start spreading the word!

Podcast examples

Here are some examples of podcasts from the University of York and beyond, for inspiration.

Podcasting 101

Take a look at our 101 podcasting video, which covers some ideas on getting started with your ideas and what to look at next:

Recording at home

It is possible to record elements of your podcast at home, if you aren't able to access other facilities. Take a look at a couple of our tips below that will help you with the setup.

Microphones

To record from home, you ideally need to use an item that has a dedicated microphone built into it. This can include a smart phone, laptop or headphones (check as not all headphones do). Be aware that the sound quality you get from these can vary, so you might need to try a few different ways before you find the best option for you. If you are using items like headphones, this can be trickier if there is more than one person recording, so you may need to record each person talking separately. See some device-specific advice, depending on which tool you are using.

  • Phone - Most smart phones have a build in audio recorder app, and the sound quality can sometimes be a little better than a laptop microphone. Where possible, try and get the device and it's microphone as close to your mouth as possible. This will reduce the amount of background noise and echo. One tip is to put the phone on a raised platform (some stacked books etc, but check it's safe and secure!) on a table, so you can sit comfortably to record.
  • Headphones/Headset - If you have access to some, you can use either wired or wireless headphones that have an in-built microphone. These can either be connected to a smartphone, or a computer. You can record using free apps such as Audacity. Again, check where the microphone is located on the device and ensure it is as close to your mouth as possible.

See the drop-down below for advice on what software to record with.

Recording Environment

When recording at home or on campus, try and choose a quiet location where there is not much background noise. Smaller spaces may reduce the amount of echo, and moving the microphone as near to you as possible will help with this. If you can record somewhere where there are lots of furniture or soft furnishings, it may also help to reduce echo.

Recording Software

If you are using a laptop, or a microphone device connected to a computer, Audacity is a free audio editor which also has a built in recorder tool that allows you to record using any connected microphones, or the one built into your computer.

Audacity is available on University computers via the Software Centre, or can be installed for free on your own personal computer. Once installed, you can use the 'record' button on the main toolbar. Check the 'Audio Setup' button to check the right device is selected. Audacity has a useful guide on recording to help you get started.

If you have recorded on a phone voice recorder app, and want to move the file to your computer, you may need to convert the files. Some iOS and Android devices may create a file in an .m4a format. Before you can put a file into an a tool like Audacity, you can convert it in a free tool like VLC (available on personal and University computers) with the following steps:

  • 1. Open VLC Player.
  • 2. Go to Media > Convert/Save (on Windows) or File > Convert/Stream (on Mac)
  • 3. Select the Add button and select your .m4a file (you will need to send it to a computer from your phone first).
  • 4. Click on Convert/Save.
  • 5. In the 'profile' drop-down, select Audio - MP3.
  • 6. Choose the 'Browse' button and select a destination to save your file. Then press Start. You will then be able to import that file into Audacity.

Creativity Lab Podcast Studio

A person sat in front of a microphone wearing a pair of headphones

It's worth spending a little time to look at how you can record your spoken audio in a quiet space with clear sound quality. This may involve needing a dedicated microphone.

Available to anyone at University of York, the Creativity Lab in the Library has an easy-to-use, free, bookable podcast recording space where you can record your content with up to 4 people. Once you've completed a quick induction, you can book the space to record, or just to practice and get used to the sound of your own voice. The equipment in this room makes it easy to get clear sound quality and automatically removes some background noises.

Recording Tips

If you're experienced with recording or having a go for the first time, we have a few useful tips to check beforehand. These will help to make you're life easier once you've finished:

Take some time to practice. It often feels odd when you have to listen to the sound of your own voice, but the more you do, the easier it becomes.

Give yourself plenty of time. So for a 30 minute episode, aim for 15 mins to set up, 45 minutes to record and then allow around 1 hour to edit and arrange the recording clips.

Check the recording level for each microphone. As people have different types of voices, always check the 'gain' for each microphone to ensure it's recording loud enough. Getting as close to the microphone as is comfortable will also help.

Keep moving paper/objects/chairs to a minimum. Some of these noises can be picked up by a microphone and can be a little tricky to filter out.

Don’t worry too much about ‘ummms’ and ‘ahhhs’. It's totally natural that these may happen when you're recording. Writing a script or detailed notes can help to keep those to a minimum.

Record some silence at the start. It can be really useful to leave a few seconds of silence before you start talking. This can be really helpful when editing afterwards to be able to easily find different sections and to edit out any background noises.

A few more podcasting tips

Here are some things to consider before you embark on a podcast project:

Further resources

Some further resources to help you with your podcast:

Forthcoming training sessions

Forthcoming sessions on :

Taught students
Staff
Researchers
Show details & booking for these sessions

There's more training events at:

Feedback
X