Local author’s tips for podcasting include creating an audience base, using good equipment

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Podcaster Harry Marks educates residents about what it takes to start a podcast.
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Podcaster Harry Marks educates residents about what it takes to start a podcast.
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EAST BRUNSWICK–Equipped with informational slides and years of experience, podcaster Harry Marks educated residents about what it takes to start a podcast.

East Brunswick Public Library Librarian Melissa Horizk said Marks is an author, the creator of “The Shelf Life: A Podcast Sitcom,” the co-host of “The Home Work” podcast, and a writer for Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities from iHeartMedia.

Having first given this presentation about four years ago at the library, the East Brunswick resident delivered his presentation on the changes in podcasting on July 22 via Zoom conference.

“So, what is the podcast? [To] put it simply, it is a digital audio file that you can download from the internet. That’s it. There’s really nothing special,” Marks said. “You know some really popular examples are ‘Serial,’ which a lot of people say kicked off the podcast explosion. I’m not so sure I agree with that but it definitely brought them more mainstream.”

Marks said other notable podcasts include “WTF with Marc Maron” which is a radio and internet show. There is “Lore,” hosted by Aaron Manhke, who was also his boss on “Cabinet of Curiosities” podcast, which has been a huge success and spawned an Amazon series and other shows on IHeartMedia.

“A lot of networks right now, we’re seeing podcasting as a way to broaden their intellectual property and rake into other things because anyone, be it a large network or a person like me who’s doing it on their own or someone like you who’s just getting started, podcasting is sort of a democratization of content creation,” Marks said.

“You can do it on your laptop with a simple $50 microphone and put something on the internet that thousands of people will listen to, or you can be a major network … like NPR and put in millions of dollars or thousands of dollars into creating a piece of intellectual property that will go on to great success,” he said.

Marks said usually podcasts can be found on Apple Podcasts, which was really the grandfather of podcasting.

“It started with Apple but the word podcast comes from iPod. They kicked it off. Their directory is the largest and the most popular,” Marks said.

Although Apple Podcast is prominent, Marks said people can also find podcasts on Spotify, Stitcher which was recently brought by Sirius, the Android Store and Soundcloud.

“[Podcasts] usually come out on a set schedule. They’re automatically downloaded to your podcatcher so you don’t have to keep going back and getting them. … For the most part, Apple Podcasts [or] iTunes is really where a lot of people get their start in podcasting and then listening to podcasts,” Marks said.

Reasons why someone would start a podcast, Marks said, may include:

  • They have a passion that they want to share with people about a particular subject/issue
  • They’re an expert in a certain field and want to share information and knowledge
  • They want to talk to other people and bring them together to discuss their passions or knowledge.
  • They want to tell a story, whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, in a creative way
  • They want to gain the confidence to get better at public speaking, interviewing or speaking with others.

“There’s a podcaster and author named Merlin Mann. He has this notion that anybody can make a podcast about ‘Star Wars’ … but only one person could be that person who makes that podcast … about that Jawa [character] in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope,’ and you’re the go-to person for that Jawa and you know everything about them,” Marks said. “So if you have a passion for ‘Game of Thrones’ or … about some TV show or something you can make a podcast about it and maybe you want to dive a little deeper.”

Marks said someone can carve out their own niche for a podcast if they find a particular aspect about a subject they are passionate about.

When starting a podcast, Marks said posting consistently and sticking to a set schedule is important. If someone decides to post a new episode that is 30 minutes long, but the next week post an episode that is two-and-a-half hours long, people might not tune in.

“In terms of consistency, stick to a set schedule. If you come out once a week every Monday at 8 a.m. make sure you come out every Monday at 8 a.m. If you miss a day, or a week or two, that’s going to be a problem,” Marks said. “People might unsubscribe, they might stop listening, or they might be asking, ‘Where’s the episode I’ve been waiting for?’  So make sure that you have enough ideas on the hopper [and] you have your episodes prepared so you don’t miss that schedule.”

Marks said thousands of podcasts exist, and if someone wants to start a podcast he or she needs to be dedicated if they want any chance of building an audience for themselves.

One of the most important tools needed to start a podcast, Marks said, is a good microphone.

“You can build a podcast with a $50 Blue Snowball which is what I did years ago and work your way up to something a little more high-quality,” Marks said.

Other types of microphones, Marks said, are a USB or a XLR microphone. A USB plugs right into the computer and an XLR is like a standard microphone cable that someone would need to plug it into an interface that plugs into a computer.

Marks said XLR mics are a great way if someone has two different dynamics, like two people, they are working with and they want to regulate them.

“Then there’s a condenser versus a dynamic [microphone]. So condensers can be a little more expensive. They’re very sensitive … and can pick up background noise easily. The dynamics are a little bit cheaper, but they’re focused so they will only pick up what’s right in front of them,” Marks said.

For example, Marks said the Blue Snowball is a great beginner microphone and it’s a condenser microphone so it is very sensitive, but there are settings on it where someone can adjust how it picks up the sound. There’s a setting where someone can talk right into it, which is a little less sensitive.

Marks said he highly suggests that potential podcasters should also invest in a shock mount and a boom arm as a way to elevate the mic off the desk.

“The boom arm … and then the shock mount. What it does is … if your microphone is sitting on a tripod and you bang the table or you’re typing, it’s going to pick up all that sound as you’re recording, you don’t want that,” Marks said. “So the shock mount, sort of, holds the microphone in the middle of everything on these bungee cords and keeps those little bangs and knocks from getting into your recording.”

Marks said a new podcaster must choose to upload their podcast on a free or paid hosting provider platform. Free hosting providers, although free, also come with different limitations. Some free hosting providers include Soundcloud, Buzzsprout, Podbean, Podiant and Ancher.

Equipment aside, Marks said a new podcaster should have a marketing plan when starting a podcast in order to establish, gain and maintain his or her audience. Creating a page for the podcast on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter is a great way to market a new podcast.

Some dos and don’ts for podcasting, Marks said, is don’t eat, before interviewing someone be prepared, and include show notes about what was discussed during the podcast.

For more information about podcasting, visit www.ebpl.org or the library’s Youtube page.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.