By Kathy Jentz
More than half of all Americans listen to podcasts and that number is increasing every month. A quarter of those listeners report they regularly listen to a monthly podcast episode. Of those listeners, 80% listen to the entire podcast, or most of each episode. Businesses everywhere are trying to capture this new, loyal audience by either advertising or sponsoring podcasts or by starting one of their own.
If you have ever entertained the thought of having your own radio or television talk show, podcasts put that dream in your own hands. You can create one for little up-front investment and it can be a source of customer marketing and connection that is extremely valuable.
Before launching my GardenDC podcast earlier this year, I spent a month listening to every garden podcast I could find. There are many available but compared to other subject categories like sports or crime, horticulture is far under-represented. We are lumped under DIY, Home or even worse, “other” on podcast networks.
On your desktop or laptop computer, you can record your interviews online using a free site such as Zencastr.com. Add to that a good quality microphone and download an audio editing program, like Audacity. There is a bit of a learning curve, but there are many tutorials on YouTube and once you do a few episodes, it will be much quicker and easier for you.
There is also “an app for that” – actually, several – which allow you to do everything on your smartphone. They include apps such as Spreaker Studio, which has all the bells and whistles, down to the very basic “just get ‘er done” like Podbean.
Next, you’ll need to research and find a host service to post your podcast out on the Internet for you. There are many of these services. I can recommend Libsyb, Blurbrry, and TalkShoe.
If you have a blog, book or a newspaper column, you likely have plenty of material you can gather and pull from already. You can collect and read several blog posts on similar topics and make an episode from that material.
You don’t have to do it alone. You could partner with others to share hosting duties or you could be the only host and interview a different expert on each episode.
Maybe you offer regularly scheduled talks to local garden clubs or other groups. Those talks could easily translate into podcast episodes.
FAQs you gather from readers could also be the basis of your podcast material. Tackle a few of those and expand on them for your audience.
Letting folks know that your podcasts exists will be your biggest challenge. A few of us established garden podcasters have started a Facebook group in the effort to share our episodes and build the awareness of garden podcasts in general. It’s a public group and you can join at https://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenpodcasts. One of my goals in writing this blog is to get more GardenComm members sharing and building up each other’s podcasts. As they say, “a rising tide floats all boats.”
Whenever and wherever you can, you must get your podcast listed. There are several podcast networks such as Apple iTunes and Spotify where you will want a listing.
Building an audience will take work and you should be prepared to spend a great deal of effort to get those first listeners and reviews. After that, things should start growing nicely as folks will search for, and find, your quality content.
Let me be frank here, you are not going to make money with a podcast. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of podcasts earn nothing. You can view a podcast as a means to market your speaking business or your books. A podcast is another tool in your arsenal to publicize your brand.
There are a few ways to make back some of the cost of your time and equipment. One is to solicit listener support. There are various programs such as Patreon where listeners can go and donate a sum to support your work.
Another way to earn some pennies is through sponsorships and advertisements. This takes a bit of work on your part as it entails basically selling and you need to have a certain level of listener numbers to attract advertisers or sponsors.
Tips and Tricks
First, length matters. Amazingly, shorter is not always better. Podcasts averaging an hour in length are among the most popular, so think in terms of topics showcasing your expertise.
Personality reigns. You want great content, of course, but what keeps listeners coming back again and again is a connection with YOU. The want to listen to real, authentic people. Share your mistakes along with your triumphs and don’t be afraid to give listeners a window into your family or home life as well.
Be consistent. Set a schedule and stick to it. Whether it is weekly or monthly, your don’t have to commit to doing a podcast from now to eternity. You can start out scheduling your podcast as a limited series. For instance, you could create a 10-part series following your growing season and check in every two weeks with what you’re planting and harvesting.
Podcasting takes time. You should budget about five hours per half hour episode in your schedule. That average figure includes creating the content, recording it, editing it, then posting it.
Finally, keep it fresh. Record while you have good energy and are in a good mood. No need to rehearse it to death. Feel free to laugh and smile. You can edit out any pauses or “ums” later. Remember that “done” is better than “perfect.”
A previous version of this article appeared in the Mid-Atlantic Grower newspaper.
About the author:
Kathy Jentz is the editor of Washington Gardener magazine and a long-time DC-area gardening enthusiast. To book her for a garden talk, find her at: http:///greatgardenspeakers.com/listing/kathy-jentz.html.
Her latest foray is as the host of the GardenDC podcast. She can be reached by email at KathyJentz@gmail.com