I listen to a lot of podcasts in addition to being on one, and one of the most common questions that every podcast gets asked is “how do you start a podcast?” While I can’t speak for everybody else out there, this is the process Grant and I went through. The chart at the top is a piece of recycled homework from my intro to business class last semester – it shows, from left to right, the rough order things need to be done in and which things need to be done more or less together. In addition, it’s color-coded; after determining what the podcast is (light gray) you’re going to have staff (blue), podcasting hardware and software (yellow) and your internet presence (pink). (Click on the graphic to blow it up to a size you can actually read.) Processes that use more than one of these are in colors formed by mixing two of the colors (green or purple) or all three (brown). The diagram flows from left to right. Hopefully it’s not too hard to follow. In addition to the chart above, I’m going to break the steps down into three phases: Conception, Preparation, and Production. Each one of those phases will form a separate blog post.
This is where you’ll need to figure out what your podcast is going to be about, who your hosts are going to be, and what you’ll call yourselves.
- Determine Podcast Niche [A]: Spend some time figuring out exactly what you want your show to be about and what kind of topics you’ll discuss. This doesn’t have to be completely etched in stone, but the more specific you can be, the better. For Saving the Game, we decided that we wanted to do an explicitly-Christian tabletop RPG podcast and talk about ways that gaming and faith intersect and interact. Over the years, we’ve also added some focus on storytelling technique and using games as a means by which to do good works.
- Recruit Hosting Staff [B]: This may take place at the same time as determining the podcast niche, or somebody may get an idea and then recruit co-hosts later. Figure out who you’re going to be recording with and whether you’ll have a more-or-less fixed group of hosts like us, KARTAS, and the Gameable Podcasts, or a rotating pool of hosts like Fear the Boot and Gamers With Jobs. You’ll want to select people that it’s easy for you to have a conversation with, that you’ll actually want to talk to for a few hours on a regular basis, and that can be trusted to show up. How many people you have is going to vary from podcast to podcast, but you should have at least two. Monologue podcasts are notoriously very hard to keep going, and having at least one other brain to pick generally tends to make the process easier, richer, and more fun.
- Select Podcast Name [C]: This is a surprisingly brain-bendy activity, or at least it was for us. You want something that conveys what you do and/or who you are, is memorable, and that has an indicative URL available for registration. We picked Saving the Game because it had the dual connotations of fixing a game that’s going awry and the obvious Christian connotations that go with the word “save” and its variants.
- Register Domain Name [D]: Take the name you just picked and figure out a URL that’s memorable that goes with it. Then register that domain name before somebody else does.
- Establish a Recording Schedule [E]: Pick a time when you and the other host(s) can reliably sit down and record. For Saving the Game, we typically record on Thursday evenings, but I think over the years we’ve been doing the podcast, we’ve recorded at least once on every day of the week for one reason or another. As you can tell from that last sentence, some flexibility is good, because something is going to happen that messes with one of your voices, computers, or schedules at some point.
- Select Communication Tools [F]: If you’re fortunate enough to be able to sit down in the same physical location with the other folks on your podcast, this will be less of an issue for you than it is for us, but you should be able to reach your fellow podcasters in at least three different ways and at least two of those should be in real time. It’s also useful to have a set place to communicate various official business about the podcast, and if you’re recording remotely, you need a good, solid VOIP connection. Grant and I used Skype for a while, but it hated one of his prior computers, so we switched to Google Hangouts a while back and have stayed there.
- Establish Show Format [G]: Figure out what kind of structure you want your show to have. We have always had a pretty tightly-structured show – we do our announcements and a quick greeting and check-in, and then move on to scripture and then to our topic. We also make extensive use of outlines, something that other podcasts don’t always do and that we get a bit of ribbing for on Game Store Prophets. In any case, figure out what kind of format you want to do and how much – or how little – structure works for you.
And that’s it for Part 1: Conception. Check back on Thursday for the next part of this series.