Podcasting may be the ultimate democratization of radio. Anyone with an Internet connection and some inexpensive audio equipment can produce a podcast and make it available online. While we've already covered the process of finding, downloading and listening to podcasts in How Podcasting Works, this article will fill you in on the other half of the podcasting equation -- creating your own.
People podcast for many reasons. Most of them just have something they want to express: love for a certain TV show, knowledge about technology or just personality and humor. Some use podcasting as a way to draw attention to their other endeavors. For example, a band could podcast to get more people to hear their songs, or a technology company could use a podcast to advertise itself. Radio stations can use podcasts as an alternate means of distributing their shows to listeners -- many public radio stations in the United States do this. A few podcasters intentionally go into podcasting as a way to make money.
For Al Gritzmacher, creator of the Buffalo Live! Music Podcast, problems with getting the rights to play music in a podcast created an opportunity. "It occurred to me that one way to sidestep the stranglehold of licensing and copyright restrictions [on mainstream music] was to deal directly with the artists who hold the rights to their own music," Gritzmacher said. "Thus the idea of a local music podcast was born."
Of course, there are more lucrative ways to broadcast music, talk shows and other information. But how many people get the opportunity to have their own radio show? The handful that do have to deal with sponsors, commercials, station managers and corporate rules. Podcasting doesn't have these limitations, so it appeals to those with a do-it-yourself attitude. Plus, anyone can start a podcast. You don't need formal broadcasting education, experience or anyone's permission.
The final factor is cost. Starting a radio station costs, at the very least, tens of thousands of dollars. A basic podcast can be created with equipment costing less than $100 (not including an Internet connection and a computer).
Once you've decided you want to start a podcast, the next logical question is: what should my podcast be about? There are countless examples among the podcasts already in existence. Podcast.com lists podcasts by categories, which include comedy, news, health, sports, music and politics. Some examples include Mugglecast, which covers "Harry Potter" novels and films; The Word Nerds, who discuss the etymologies of words and other linguistic matters; Fantasy Football Minute, a podcast to help all fantasy football coaches and general managers; and NPR Science Friday, a podcast version of the weekly show broadcast on local public radio affiliates.
For your own podcast, you might want to try something similar. Perhaps a podcast about fantasy hockey, math or the "Lemony Snicket" books would fill a niche. Or, you could go with something that's completely unlike any other podcasts out there. Interview local politicians and edit them into a podcast about local issues. A student could make a podcast about her school, including interviews with other students, musical performances by the school orchestra and updates about upcoming events. This is one case where the cliché "the only limit is your imagination" is true.
There is one rule of thumb when it comes to podcasting, however: Make sure yours is about something you really enjoy. Chances are you'll never make any money with your podcast, so you might as well have fun with it.
We'll look at the podcasting business, from gauging success to making money off your podcast, next.