In addition to writing speculative fiction, I also co-host a weekly podcast called Tosche Station Radio. While I’ve always considered myself a writer, I never thought I’d co-host a podcast. I enjoyed listening to them, but knew nothing about audio production or hosting a show or any of the other technical details. But last year my co-host in life and fandom, Brian, decided he wanted to start a Star Wars and geek culture podcast. He also decided that I would co-host.
And here we are, 55 episodes later. I write the show notes, Brian takes care of the recording and uploading. It’s a beautiful partnership.
Last night, after recording an especially fun episode, I began thinking about how podcasting and writing are similar. Both are creative endeavors that can be done independently or within a larger production company. Just as writers get paid for their endeavors, so do some podcasters. Even amateur podcasters run ads on their shows to regain hosting fees and other bills associated with the show.
Like all stories, podcasting starts with a simple idea. Maybe you want to discuss news and current events. Maybe you want to talk about a hobby, such as photography. Maybe you want to discuss sports. Maybe you want to discuss technology, or a geeky subject you enjoy, or a myriad of other topics. Even general podcasts like The Morning Stream have to start with a basic format or premise.
Then you have to produce the podcast. Most podcasters don’t recommend buying expensive microphones and other audio equipment when you’re just starting out. It’d be like buying the best, most expensive guitar before learning to play one chord. Record a few episodes, see if you actually enjoy podcasting, and then you can invest in better gear. Brian wrote a great post about different kinds podcasting gear available at various price points. If you want more people to listen to and enjoy your show, you’re going to have to invest some time and money into your production value. You don’t have to be professional-grade, like shows on the TWIT and Frogpants networks, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t produce the best show possible.
You also have to consider the method to your madness when recording. Do you want to use show notes? If so, do you want to firmly stick to them or do you want to allow yourself to go on tangents? Or would you prefer flying by the seat of your pants? All of those are valid options, and will create very different kinds of podcasts. You should also consider the tone of your show. Are you serious? Are you more entertainment-based? Do you want to make people laugh? Do you want to include sound effects and music? Will you have regular co-hosts or a rotating crew? What about special guests? Interviews? Also, how long will your show be, and how often will you record? There’s so many options!
But all of that means nothing if you don’t have good content. A podcast can be born from a fantastic idea, and have engaging hosts and high production value, but nobody will want to listen to your show if you have nothing interesting to talk about. I’m sure some people would listen to Morgan Freeman or Ian McKellan read the phone book for an hour, but a podcast produced by two regular, run of the mill fans isn’t going to get off the ground if your content is boring and there’s nothing new or engaging about your show.
Sometimes podcasting seems like the brave new world of the internet. There are so many podcasts out there, on nearly every subject imaginable. I don’t podcast or blog to make a living; I do it because it’s fun and I really, really like Star Wars. There’s some barrier to entry–you need a microphone, some kind of recording software, some kind of hosting site–but you can get started relatively easy. Growing the show and building an audience is where it gets difficult.
The same is true of writing. Anyone can get on their computer or get out a pad and paper and write. Not everyone is going to have the dedication to finish a novel, and only some of those novels are going to be good enough for publication. With the advent of self-publishing, it’s easier than ever for someone to put out their novel on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or even their own website. If you want to be taken seriously, however–if you want writing to be your profession, not just a hobby–you need to make sure your production value is high, and your content is the best it can be. Just like podcasting.