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How to Create a Podcast

Tips from the “Research in Action” podcast team

The Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit “Research in Action” podcast team often fields questions about how to get started with podcasting and the kinds of tools and software we use to produce our show. We created this guide as a “quick tips” resource for those looking to launch their own podcast or for people who just want to learn a little more about how “Research in Action” is produced.

About the “Research in Action” podcast

Why did you start the “Research in Action” podcast?

When Oregon State Ecampus first launched its research unit in August 2015, we thought a podcast might be a fun way to contribute back to the higher education community. “RIA” was the brainchild of our research unit and marketing team, in collaboration with our multimedia team. Two of our main goals are to increase research literacy and to support a community for researchers in higher education.

How did you convince your institution to support the show?

The leadership team at Oregon State Ecampus was excited about the potential for “RIA” from the beginning, and they didn’t need a lot of convincing to approve our idea to move forward. It has been helpful for us to provide data of KPIs (key performance indicators), such as download rates and social media engagement growth over the time we have been producing the show, that clearly shows the return on investment.

How did you decide on your podcast format and frequency?

When we first began planning “RIA,” we looked at many other podcasts to see what the industry standards were for release format and frequency. The ECRU team and our marketing team both liked the idea of bringing a lot of voices on the show, so we decided on an interview format early on in the planning process. As to frequency, we felt it would be easiest to keep listeners engaged if they knew they could expect an episode to be released each week.

How many downloads has the podcast had?

As of November 2018, “RIA” has had more than 185,000 downloads. In our highest download months, we top 10,000 downloads.

Who manages the “RIA” website?

The “RIA” website is updated mostly by the Ecampus Research Unit team for content updates, but adding new pages or larger redesigns falls to the Ecampus web development team.

How big is the team that produces the podcast?

Currently, “RIA” has a team of about seven people contributing to the regular production of the show. Katie Linder, research director for the OSU Ecampus Research Unit, hosts the show, books guests and edits each episode for content; Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, assistant director of the OSU Ecampus Research Unit, serves as an occasional guest host; Amy Donley, who provides administrative support for ECRU, creates show notes and instructor guides; Nick Harper, a member of the OSU Ecampus multimedia team, assists with studio setup and audio editing; Ali Duerfeldt, assistant director for the OSU Ecampus marketing team, provides marketing support; and two student employees support the creation of show transcripts.

What audience engagement strategies do you use?

We create a monthly email that listeners can sign up to receive to learn about upcoming episodes, we share information frequently on Twitter and we maintain an email account for “RIA” where we receive suggestions for future episodes and listener feedback. We also occasionally release a listener survey to learn more about our audience. In the past, we’ve created research “challenges” and encouraged listeners to participate via posting on social media or engaging with us via email.

How did you choose the show’s music? Where did you get it from?

Several people offered feedback on the music choices for the show when it first launched. We had a pilot episode with different music that we initially released internally to Ecampus employees to submit their feedback, and they suggested we change the first music choice. Our music comes from a subscription service, called De Wolfe Music. A subscription service might not be the appropriate pricing model for someone looking for a single piece of music, but we use this service for many other multimedia projects. There are many resources that offer flat fee pricing, and even resources that don’t charge at all. Generally, the free services require a bit more searching. Also, be mindful of copyrights and usage restrictions.

Who owns the intellectual property of the podcast?

Since Oregon State Ecampus produces “RIA,” the intellectual property of the show belongs to Oregon State University.

Given your institutional affiliation, are any topics off limits?

So far, we haven’t limited our topic selection due to our institutional affiliation, but we do include the following disclaimer in each episode’s show notes: “The views expressed by guests on the “Research in Action” podcast do not necessarily represent the views of Oregon State University Ecampus or Oregon State University.”

Getting started

What do new podcasters need to think about as they get started?

There are several important questions to consider before you launch into podcasting:

  1. What is the theme or topic for your podcast? You’ll want to make sure you have enough episode ideas to produce consistent content.
  2. What is your podcast’s schedule? You will want to choose how frequently your podcast will release episodes. Some podcasts release weekly or monthly while other shows release episodes in batches called “seasons.”
  3. How will you format your podcast? Will you host it by yourself? Will you have a co-host? Will you bring on guests?
  4. What cover art will you use? If you are posting your podcast to iTunes, your cover art needs to be 1400 x 1400 pixels minimum and 3000 x 3000 pixels maximum.
  5. Who is the audience for your podcast? Who are you hoping will listen to the show once it’s been released?
  6. What kind of online presence will your podcast have? Does it need a website to house show notes? Will you be sharing about the podcast on social media accounts?

Answering each of these questions will help you clarify some of the logistics for your podcast.

What tips do you have for staying consistent with episode releases?

Pre-recording episodes (sometimes Katie will record up to five on one day in the studio) and preparing them in advance of each month’s preview email has been a helpful strategy to ensure we are able to stay on schedule. So far, we haven’t missed an episode!

What analytics are available for podcasts?

Our podcast host, Libsyn, offers analytics on download rates, the countries where the downloads are originating from and the sources of the downloads (for example, Apple podcasts vs. SoundCloud). These analytics can also be broken out by each episode.

How much time does it take to produce a weekly podcast?

Here’s a rough estimate of the time it takes to produce each episode:

  1. Emailing and scheduling guest (15 minutes; completed by one person)
  2. Recording episode (60 minutes; completed by Katie and guest)
  3. Editing episode audio (two hours; completed by two people)
  4. Creating instructor guide and show notes (90 minutes; completed by one person, with a second person approving content)
  5. Social media creation and scheduling (30 minutes; completed by one person)
  6. Uploading episode and updating website for release (30 minutes; completed by one person)

Pre-production

How do you choose guests/topics?

We try to bring a diverse range of guests and topics on the show, so we are always on the lookout for people and research that might make interesting episodes. Katie often invites people who are recommended by our Twitter followers, and she also receives emails from potential guests or listeners with suggestions for who should come on the show.

We keep a running list in a spreadsheet of potential guests broken out by gender, since we try to alternate men and women in the episode schedule.

We are always trying to be more diverse with our guests, so we encourage suggestions from listeners.

How do you contact potential guests?

Katie emails each guest to invite them to record an episode for the show. That email includes a link to learn more about “RIA” and potential recording times if the person is interested in coming on the show.

How do you help prepare guests before coming on the show?

Katie provides a list of questions in advance broken out by segment topic for each guest so they have a general sense of where the conversation will go. Each guest also fills out a form where we collect their bio statement and headshot to help us create the introduction for each episode.

What software do you use to schedule guests?

We currently don’t use any software to schedule our guests. Katie emails them and then manually adds them to an Outlook calendar.

How many episodes do you record in advance?

We often have four to eight episodes recorded at any given time. Since we always release the preview clips episode at the beginning of each month, that has served as a good accountability structure to ensure we have at least a month’s worth of episodes recorded at any given time.

Recording/production

What software do you use when recording guests who are not available to record in person in the studio?

We currently use a piece of software called Audio Hijack, which allows you to collect audio from a Skype call or other internet-based calls on a Mac.

What microphone do you use to record?

How long does it take to record an episode of the podcast?

We schedule 60 minutes with each guest to ensure 30 minutes of usable audio, but typically we don’t need more than about 45 minutes for recording. Sometimes we also record bonus clips with a guest, which can result in a slightly longer recording session.

What forms of backup recording do you use?

We currently don’t use any forms of backup recording for the interviews. Knock on wood, we haven’t lost any audio yet!

Where is the podcast recorded?

“RIA” is recorded in an Ecampus recording studio at the Oregon State University Corvallis campus.

What are some strategies you use when recorded to make editing easier later on?

We always let guests know we will be editing their audio (often just to remove pauses or false starts when answering questions, and to ensure an episode of the appropriate length), and we suggest they pause if they do make a mistake and decide to repeat an answer because it makes it a little easier to cut out the audio later.

We have also prepared templates for the episodes that make it easier to drop in the new content pieces, episode tag and guest bio for each episode since we always use the same intro, outro and music.

What tips do you offer to help podcast guests have a good experience?

Recording a podcast episode is a new experience for a lot of people, so we try to make our guests as comfortable as possible by letting them know questions in advance, reassuring them that their audio will be edited and staying within their areas of expertise for the episode segment topics. We also ask our guests to choose the topic for the third segment so they get to focus on something they are really passionate about as we wrap up the recording.

We also recommend not over-preparing. That can make the episode sound more scripted rather than being a natural conversation, which is what we always strive for with “RIA.”

Post-production

What software do you use to edit the show?

For editing, we use Logic Pro X (Mac-specific) and a cloud-based program called Splice. For publishing, we use Auphonic Multitrack Processor.

What is your process for editing each episode?

We record our episodes as isolated tracks. That is to say, we have a separate microphone for each person. Having isolated tracks allows us more flexibility in adjusting levels and eliminating noise. A lot of the interviews take place over the phone or internet, which makes the isolation easier, but the trade-off is that the remote audio quality suffers.

The isolated tracks are imported into a software program called Logic and synchronized. We have a collection of pre-composed components, such as episode tags, introduction statements, background music and transitional advertising spots, that are arranged on the timeline with the interview segments, and a rough draft is exported by one of our multimedia team members. That file is uploaded to a cloud-based software program called Splice, and Katie uses Splice’s interface to add suggested revisions to the episode.

Our multimedia team member then uses Splice to make the requested edits in Logic and upload a new draft to Splice. We can iterate through this process as many times as necessary, but we usually get everything in the first round.

The final mixing, leveling and formatting of the podcast is fully automated using the Auphonic Multitrack Processor. This software allows a user to focus on putting all the pieces together chronologically. Once everything is where it needs to be, Auphonic takes over and makes the necessary adjustments to master the track for the intended audience. When we first started producing the podcast, these adjustments were done manually and required a significant amount of time.

What are the post-production “steps” before an episode goes live?

In addition to editing each episode’s audio, we also do the following before each episode goes live: create a transcript of the audio, draft the episode show notes, create an episode instructor guide and schedule a thank you email for the guest for the day of release.

Where do you host your episode audio?

Our episode audio is hosted on Libsyn.

Where is the podcast registered for release?

You may subscribe to the “Research in Action” RSS feed  or access the podcast via iTunes, Player FM, SoundCloud or Stitcher. “Research in Action” is also listed on MERLOT.

How do you market each episode once it’s released?

We primarily market each episode via Twitter, but we also ask our guests to share about their episode with friends and colleagues. Each month, we send out an email promoting the upcoming episodes for the coming weeks.

What player do you use on your show notes page?

We use the SoundCloud player embed option since we find it to be the most accessible for listeners who may have visual or other impairments that require a screen reader to engage with our website.

How do you design your social media art?

We use templates in Canva to design our social media art for Twitter and other platforms.

Who creates the show notes and instructor guide?

The show notes and instructor guide are drafted by an administrative assistant in the ECRU and approved by Katie each week before being posted with that week’s episode.

Who creates the episode transcripts?

We use a program called Descript, which creates an automated version of the transcript. Then, student employees clean up the automated version.

How do you follow up with guests after an episode is released?

All guests receive an email the day the episode is released so they know it is live. We provide a direct link to the episode. We also use guest Twitter handles (when they have one) when posting to social media so they know their episode is being promoted. Each guest also receives a hand-written thank you note and some “RIA” promotional products after their episode is released. At the end of the calendar year, we email our guests an update of their episode’s download rate.

We hope you find this information helpful as you work toward creating your own podcast.

Learn more about “RIA”, listen to episodes or download our show notes. And if you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us directly at riapodcast@oregonstate.edu.

Happy podcasting – and good luck!