There is reason to believe the future of media is not in video, but audio, and the reason is simple: people with a lot of free time to kill like to sit around watching YouTube videos, but busy people prefer their entertainment via audio. You can listen to a podcast while driving, riding the train, making dinner, mowing the lawn, or doing pretty much anything else. And unlike radio, podcasts can be paused and resumed at any time. So if you want to reach an audience older than middle schoolers, audio may be the way to go.
Shakira Brown, a business consultant and former broadcast journalist, is among the boosters of this maturing medium and believes that technological changes are only going to increase the popularity of podcasts. When they first arrived in the early 2000s, listening to podcasts was a cumbersome process: they had to first be downloaded using a computer, then transferred to a digital music player for listening.
Smartphones made managing podcasts much less of a chore, and the widespread adoption of them in the 2010s coincided with a boom in podcasting. In 2014 Serial, a true crime podcast, became the first smash hit of the medium, recording more than 5 million downloads on iTunes.
Now, Brown says, voice-activated assistants such as the Amazon Echo promise to bring podcasts to an even bigger audience: subscribing to a podcast is as simple as uttering a sentence.
And recording your own podcast has also become extremely simple: if you have an iPhone, you have a podcast production studio at your fingertips and can reach anyone in the world who has an Internet connection.
Brown, owner of SMB Strategic Media in Hamilton, a small business consulting company, has hosted her own podcast for more than a year. The Moment Masters Show features interviews with celebrities and businesspeople alongside Brown’s own signature rants about small businesses.
“I wanted a way to educate small business owners about some things,” Brown says. “I was doing this a little on my blog, but I put more energy into my podcast and I can reach more people. Many different people from all walks of life can hear it.”
While the show reaches a relatively small audience — Brown says her episodes have been downloaded around 1,100 times — it is a very targeted market. She says her podcasts have led several new clients to her consulting business.
Brown said she first began podcasts after making a foray into live video for marketing (U.S. 1, April 20, 2016) but switched to audio after she got tired of putting on makeup and getting herself dolled up for every appearance.
Brown grew up in North Jersey, where her mother was the administrator of a VA hospital and her father was a contractor. She earned a journalism degree at Boston University and spent her early career as an NBC page and later on a news producer for MSNBC. She founded SMB Strategic Media in 2005, where she helps clients get on major media outlets.
For more information on Moment Masters, visit www.momentmasters.com. For more information on Brown’s company, visit www.pradviser.net or call 888-436-0033.
The essentials of podcasting fall into three parts: recording, editing, and distribution. At the most basic level, recording can be done with a smartphone, but more expensive equipment is required for a professional-sounding show.
Brown advises would-be podcasters to do a few shows at first using just a phone or headset, and only buy equipment if they like it and decide to stick with it. “When you feel like you want to invest in it, get a microphone,” she says. “Do your due diligence, price it out, and read the reviews first.” Good microphones can be had at various price ranges, many under $200. Blue Microphones’ Yeti model, which plugs into a computer’s USB port, is very popular among podcasters and sells for $123.
Brown also has a handheld microphone since she does field interviews at conventions, but most podcasters will record in a home studio setting. Brown says a quiet office or a walk-in closet at home make great impromptu recording studios.
If your podcast has guests, they can either be brought into your recording studio or recorded on their own computers or phones. Both Skype and FaceTime allow you to record audio.
After the podcast is recorded, it must be edited. There are many free and paid audio editing tools, and Brown uses the Garage Band software that came with her computer. “Tools all come with their pluses and minuses, but you can get going with what you have available,” she says. Even video editing software can be used for audio in a pinch.
Lastly, you will need to distribute your podcast. Although iTunes is a popular platform for podcasts, it does not allow users to directly upload podcasts. Instead, podcasters must use a host company, which creates an RSS feed and automatically distributes the show to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and all the other myriad apps that people use to subscribe to podcasts. Brown uses Podbeam, a popular hosting service that allows a small number of free uploads, but costs $79 a year for shows that are uploaded on a regular basis. Libsyn is another popular platform, and there are dozens more. Podbeam allows users to track how many downloads they have between all the platforms.
So once your podcast is made, how do you get anyone to listen to it?
Brown has multiple ways of getting the word out. She sends out press releases about new episodes and special guests. In a recent release she touted her upcoming interview with William Hung, who became famous in 2004 for singing horribly on “American Idol.” Being a guest on other podcasts is a good way to build an audience, and more ambitious podcasters can even buy advertising. More successful podcasts can get money flowing in the other direction by selling advertisements.
But Brown doesn’t recommend getting too caught up in statistics. “Get whatever message you have out there to change lives,” she says. “Don’t get caught up in listenership. It’s not like old-school radio.” Even a small audience can be worthwhile for the podcaster.