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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

Maybe you've listened to podcasts, maybe even had ideas about what you'd do one about, but how do you actually go about making a podcast?

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. Each episode will often by led by the same presenter(s) or interviewer(s). 

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

Before you start

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

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.

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

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.

Further resources

Some further resources to help you with your podcast:

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