The SNO Report: Starting A Podcast, Part 1: Laying The Foundation

It’s true, you know, what they say. Anyone who wants a podcast can have one.

You don’t need any specific college degree or expensive equipment to make your voice heard on the almighty iTunes. You don’t even need a “radio voice.” Trust me, you guys, I know this. All you really need is an idea, something that’ll record you and a place to publish it.

That’s called laying the foundation, and that’s where this lesson begins. When printed out and attached with a piece of tape (only then!), this and next week’s SNO Report will, hopefully, be a helpful guide to starting a podcast, essentially with nothing more than stuff around your house.

This week, before you call Stephen A. Smith to be your first guest (mad props!), let’s talk about generating an idea and the two things you need to make it a reality — a tool to record it and place to upload it.

What’s the big idea?

This has to be your first step. It makes no sense to start decorating a recording studio (or to have one in the first place) or to be scheduling interviews when you don’t have an idea.

You need an idea that makes sense, in a couple ways.

 

  1. Is it reasonable to expect that you can execute a series from the idea? If your idea is to interview professional athletes about what it’s like to be professional athletes, consider how achievable that is. Perhaps your school has an alum in the NHL, making him reasonably within reach. That’s one episode. What’s left after that? A series interviewing educators, in comparison, gives you much greater opportunity.

  2. Who is your audience and what interests them? Consider it a criminal offense not to consider this specific question. Knowing your audience drives everything you do. It may seem silly that people are tuning in, by the thousands, to live streams to watch other people play video games, but those gamers know that the audience — on that specific website — will be interested.

To the first point, it’s equally as important that you can project your idea for several recurring episodes, but that it’s not too rambly that you can’t train your listeners to know what to expect every time they tune in. Your podcast is likely to be more popular when staying within your main theme than if you’re trying to have the freshest take about the New England Patriots one week and counting on your listeners to come back to listen to you review cereals next week.

It helps to plan. Make up a schedule for the first bunch of episodes (three, at least) and finish them before ever publishing the first one. This gives you as much time as you need to get together with your buddy to debate about sports or to schedule, reschedule and complete that interview with the local dog catcher.

You’ll feel the heat of deadlines plenty in your day-to-day journalism. Give yourself a cushion just once. It’ll mean you’re setting yourself up to succeed.

How do I record it?

Let’s pretend you don’t have a radio or broadcast program at your school with all the know-how to produce your show — that it’s just you and a couple other big dreamers figuring it out at your average high school. You’ll need a computer program to record to, edit with and export from.

Sure, the same as there are knock-off Photoshop solutions online, you could probably find free audio editing, too. Or, there are tons of professional audio editing software programs you can buy but at the price of 100 tacos from Chipotle. (Your move.)

Instead of those, here are two options that each combine that Free-99 price tag with an authentic editing experience:

 

  1. Audacity is a free, downloadable application for Macs and PCs that we use to produce SNOcast. We learned how to use it pretty quickly.

  2. GarageBand is a stock application on Macs. Its editing is over-simplified, which may be easier to learn if you go to it first. It’s not our favorite, but it’s an option.

The option to import audio into these is vital because not all interviews happen in front of a computer — or they’ll happen on a computer but using a separate program, like Skype. So, whether it’s recorded remotely as a voice memo on your phone or using a digital recorder, you need to have the option to import “tracks.”

One recent enhancement coming from the websites where you’ll ultimately upload your podcast to, like Soundcloud and Anchor FM, is downloadable, all-in-one apps.

These podcasting platforms are allowing you to do it all in one place. On Anchor, for example, you can record through your phone, import additional tracks, edit them together, add music from their free library, even add transition sounds (woooosh!), and then publish it.

Where does it go online?

You can go through the steps of setting up an account for iTunes and Spotify if you want, but each time you’ll run into the requirement to provide a link to your podcast feed.

So, after you have your idea and start producing episodes, you need to pick a site that creates a feed for you and, often, sends your episodes off to iTunes and others automatically.

There are many options out there, each with important factors to consider. Here are the four we looked into, to publish SNOcast, why one won out and the others didn’t:

 

  1. ART19 was the first place we looked, but with it you’re in for an investment right away because you’re paying for is their marketing of your series and data tracking.

  2. Soundcloud was next. In fact, we created an account and uploaded our first episode to it because while it’s extremely well known, what wasn’t clear at sign-up was that you’ll have a cap on your free account. You can only upload so many minutes of audio before you have to start paying up, so one 25-minute podcast really put a dent in that space right away. Remember, Soundcloud was created for musicians, who may only be uploading an album that’s no longer than 25 minutes total.

  3. Podbean is another well-used option. Unlike Soundcloud, it’s made for podcasters. Like Soundcloud, you’ll be paying an annual fee for more space.

  4. Anchor is what we went with. It’s 100 percent free and has worked well so far.

Next week, we’ll talk about a few of the things that separate your podcast from being just another in the crowd to being memorable.

In the meantime, check out some of the new SNO swag we’re selling!

Big Ideas, Better-on-paper Ideas, and Airbnb-eing Better Than Facebook: this week on Fresh Powder

What’s the Big Idea?

More evidence for the migration of news sources to digital platforms: Harvard Business Review is getting into the online game. With a decrease in the number of print issues produced each year (it used to be 12, now it’s six,) HBR is seeking different avenues to keep readers engaged. Their new web-series, Big Ideas, is exactly that… they hope. In an effort to mimic the structure of their print magazine, Big Ideas is an in-depth exploration of a single idea through many sources and over a period of time. HBR says they are embracing the new freedom digital publishing allows–– they’ll no longer be bound by physical space. And, editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius says, the journal wants to get ahead of the way people consume news. Bravo, HBR: you’re cooler than you look.

Curriculum Share-bear

Writing curriculum is hard work, teaching is hard work, and teachers have no time. Like, none. So when one can share (lesson plans, class materials, all the things,) one shall. And teachers do. Teachers Pay Teachers is a platform where teachers can, you guessed it, write curriculum and then get paid by other teachers who want to use it. And it’s a great idea. Teachers are constantly on the lookout for lesson plans and resources, and seriously? Who wants to reinvent the wheel when it’s already online? There are problems, though. Lesson plans, as pretty much every teacher will tell you, are customized to the class, the kids, and the context. Commercializing the plans and materials to make them useful to other teachers is a lot of work, especially for teachers who’ve already found too few hours in the day. So what’s the answer in today’s sharing culture? Sorry, Teach. We’re not sure there is one, yet.

Not Cool, Facebook

Facebook offers paid advertising and it’s lucrative, both for advertisers and for Facebook. But the social media powerhouse is also super racist, apparently: its ad-builder includes an option  that allows advertisers to exclude people based on “ethnic affinity.” Not only is this disgusting, it’s a flagrant violation of both the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. The only funny thing about this is how much worse Facebook manages to look while explaining its actions. In a stunning example, Facebook exec Steve Satterberg explains the difference between race and “ethnic affinity.” Facebook would never, ever collect race demographic information, he says. Rather, it categorizes users based on the type of web-content they interact with most, so it’s totally not racism. Trying to work through this kind of backward logic will make you want to punch yourself in the Facebook.

Airbnb FTW

Airbnb is the newest cool kid on the block, and their freshly adopted anti-discrimination policy pulls no punches. On Saturday, the company released its “community commitment” policy. The net? “Treat everyone — regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age — with respect, and without judgment or bias,” or sorry kid, you can’t come to the Airbnb party. Props to the sharing-economy lodging company for recognizing a problem––the insidious discrimination hosts and users have experienced, and saying “not today.” Maybe big-boy Facebook could take a few pointers from its much smarter, cooler, and prettier neighbor, Airbnb.

These things also happened last week:

Twitter killed Vine, the six-second looping video site. It was super popular, and people are sad to see it go, so Twitter says they’re going to leave the site up so people can still access their favorite vines. Phew. Thank goodness we won’t be deprived of the attention-span murdering, instant gratification joy of the Vine archives. Speaking of diminishing attention spans, maybe James Comey isn’t such a bad guy. Maybe, by linking Hillary Clinton’s emails to the investigation of Anthony Weiner, he was actually just checking to see if we were still paying attention. Or maybe he was sick of seeing mommy and daddy fighting, so he decided to help them unite across the aisle by making them hate him instead of each other. Whadda guy.

Fresh Powder: Women in tech, the future of journalism education, and a new app called Meerkat

This week, in Journalistic News:

We celebrate awesome ladies in journalism and technology.

International Women’s Day was this past Sunday, so let’s all take a moment to appreciate some of the coolest women in the journalism and tech industry (according tojournalism.co.uk).

Included in this list are the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, an editor at BBC News, the director of Eyewitness Media Hub, and a Google Ventures partner who overseesHour of Code, which aims not only to make learning about computer science more accessible, but to also encourage more women into the field.  Most notably on the list (in SNO’s opinion) is Sarah Koenig, host and executive producer of NPR’s podcast Serial, which is something we frequently geek about here at SNO headquarters. We encourage you all to encourage the young women in your programs to stay involved in journalism, and give them opportunities to develop technical and computer skills; there is a glaring gender gap in the computer science field (only about 20% of computer programmers are women, according to the Smithsonian.)

The future of journalism education is up for discussion.

“A digital-first journalism school would … [be] re-created every semester through active engagement with professionals, incubators, accelerators and faculty to design boot camps, lectures, seminars, workshops, field trips, and self-taught tutorials designed exclusively to meet the learning needs of students now.” –Knight Foundation’s Journalism Education conclusions and recommendations report

As you can probably infer from the quote above, the Knight Foundation recently released a report discussing the future of journalism education; journalism professor Mindy McAdams gives a thorough aggregation of the report, as well as some of her own opinions.  In the digital age, writing for the web is becoming more that just a trend for journalists; it’s a necessity.  McAdams argues that, in higher education journalism programs especially, educators need to be open to a hybrid method; though they may be more “classically-trained,” they need to not only have at least a basic understanding of popular tech tools, but must incorporate digital tools and reporting into their curriculum.  Most educators believe a sweet spot between traditional journalism and digital journalism does exist, and that it it’s necessary to be teaching the fundamentals of both.  Digital journalism incorporates a lot more business and marketing than traditional journalism is used to, so educators would benefit from both learning more business language and strategy, as well as teaching it, as the intersection between the two is almost inescapable.  McAdams believes in digital-first instruction, in order to create digital-first journalists; which, in 2015, is truly the way things should be.

Meerkat and Live Tweeting.

Something we always preach to members of the SNO Network is the importance of live tweeting; whether it be a sporting event, an impromptu school evacuation, or a pep rally, utilizing your publication’s Twitter to give real-time updates can be a great way to show your student body that you literally always know what’s going on, and will break the news as soon as humanly possibly.  That’s why the new live streaming app for Twitter called Meerkat is a true blessing for scholastic journalism programs.

With Meerkat you can schedule streams, automatically connects all of your Twitter followers with your live streaming videos through Twitter, and you can even see comments on the screen as you film your live stream. This article points out a few of the design flaws of the app, but, if you are looking for an easy way to stream right from your smartphone, this seems to be a great way to do it.

Avoiding Scandal. (No, not the TV Show– you should definitely not avoid that.  It’s amazing.)

If we learned anything from HBO’s The Newsroom, (or Bill O’Reilly,) it’s the importance of fact checking breaking news stories.  The international journalists’ network compiled a list of their best tips to de-bunking breaking news that isn’t actually “news.”

These things also happened this week:

  • Apple had a keynote on Monday, where they unveiled the thinnest laptop ever created, available in three colors that will perfectly correspond with your iPhone.  Sure, there’s only one port on this new, fragile little MacBook, but you’ll look so great while using it, you might not even notice!
  • While we’re on the subject, HBO announced a currently Apple-exclusive new streaming service to be released in April; if you’re not excited about the timing of that release, you’re definitely not a Game of Thrones fan.
  • Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson probably won the award for “Best Movie Announcement of All Time.”