Producing a podcast is more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s also easier than I thought it would be. If that sounds confusing to you, imagine how I feel.
If I had known eight weeks ago what I‘ve learned in making these first six episodes of Love & Hope, I don’t think I would have started this journey. I’m not sure whether to be thankful for my ignorance or to wish I’d had the sense to stick to writing.
Love & Hope was an experiment for me. It was an opportunity to learn a bit about a new medium without jumping into something that I thought could possibly be popular. I chose a topic that wouldn’t interest most people, because I wanted a safe place to learn — without worrying about too many people listening and judging me.
So after making six episodes, what have I learned?
Late last year, I had recorded several random pieces of audio and shared them here on my website. In each case, it was just about 10 minutes or so of something like an essay. It was purely an audio version of what I’ve been writing for years.
When I announced this show, I thought I would keep doing exactly the same thing. I didn’t want to intimidate myself by having a format and music breaks and things of that sort. I wanted to keep it simple. I actually uploaded an episode very much like that. Then I realized it didn’t feel like a podcast, so I had to learn more and more. I deleted that attempt at an episode and built everything over from scratch.
When I started, I was most concerned about the audio quality and my ability to become a good performer. The writing didn’t seem that it would be that big a deal. So how have I done?
I’d say my audio quality is about 75 percent of what I’d like it to be, but I’m still embarrassed about not having that NPR-quality production sound. I have excellent equipment — great microphone, great audio interface and professional recording software — so the problems I still have are purely because of my own ignorance. I’ve spent countless hours trying to get the compression and equalization correct, but I think I’ve actually regressed.
My only consolation about sound quality is that most podcasts I run across have worse sound than I do. I’m just annoyed that I’m not matching the quality of the best. Not yet.
(For those interested in such things, I’m using a Heil PR-40 microphone, a UA Apollo Twin Mark II audio interface and I’m editing in Logic Pro X on a MacBook Pro. My headphones are Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones.)
My performance for audio is at about 50 percent of what I’d like it to be, but I’d say the only way to get better is to keep practicing. I’m convinced that I can be good at this, but I also know it’s going to take a lot of work to get there.
I would say my sound quality is probably what I would expect from a high school-level broadcasting student. My performance is what I’d expect from a college student who’s just starting in broadcast. As long as I look at it that way, I can live with my current limitations.
I had expected to be happiest with my writing, but I find myself the least happy with this area. I think it’s because I’ve already been writing for many years, so I thought I’d be able to write professional-quality scripts from the beginning — and I’ve found that it just doesn’t work this way.
Writing for voice is radically different from writing for print or screen. You don’t realize that until you start reading copy and realize that something which works great for print sounds ridiculous when performed. I’m working on that — and I think I’m getting better — but it’s frustrating to struggle with someone which has seemed easy to me for decades.
Given the time to get better at writing for an audio format and then performing for audio, I’m now confident that I can be good at this — but I’m nowhere near where I need to be if I want to attract a big audience with a professional show.
The episodes I’ve done so far are uneven and inconsistent. There will be sections that I think work very well and then other sections that feel like filler. I sometimes listen to the episodes after they’re live and realize how I didn’t tie ideas together properly. That will come with experience.
I had originally expected to do 26 episodes or 52 episodes of this show, but I’ve now toyed with cutting it off at 13 episodes. I don’t want to be lazy and stop it just because it’s a lot of work every week, but I’m not certain I have 26 weeks of material for this concept. I know what’s coming in Episode 7 next week, but I haven’t a clue what the subject matter will be for Episode 8.
Finding an audience for a new podcast is tough, and it’s even more difficult when the topic is such a specialized niche. I have a feeling that there is an audience for what I’m doing, but I don’t think they’re going to find it. I suspect the weekly audience for this show will top out at somewhere between 100 and 200, which is tiny.
If I can find the right concept — and if I can get enough experience to resolve my other concerns — there will be a bigger and better show in the future. When that happens, I’ll be aiming for a bigger audience, because there’s no sense in doing something such as this if you don’t have a nice-sized audience and if you don’t have a shot at making it earn some income.
I’m making a lot of mistakes at this point. I’m not good enough at grabbing audience attention with top-quality writing and performance. But I’m getting better. The feedback I’m getting says that some people are enjoying it quite a bit — and that makes me happy.
I hope one day I’ll produce a better show — better concept, better production values, better writing, better performance — and it will be worth a large audience. For now, I’m just thankful for the small group of listeners that I have. If you’re among them, I hope you’ll be patient with me as I work out exactly how to make this medium work — for me as a producer and you as a listener.