| For all of quarantine, and for more than half a year before it started, when I haven’t been working on PCHH or writing up film and TV reviews, I’ve been working on a Big Book Project on behalf of NPR. You’ll hear (much) more about it when it comes out this summer, but for now: It’s a book about how to conceive, create and launch your own podcast, drawn from interviews with NPR podcasters – a group of people that encompasses not simply our many podcast hosts, but also the producers, editors, engineers, composers, and marketing folks who work on our shows behind the scenes.
I worried, when I started writing, that the advice these NPR folks would offer wouldn’t easily apply to the at-home, D.I.Y. podcaster the book’s aimed at. After all, we’re a network – for us, the people, the equipment and the means of distribution come factory-installed.
Turns out? Everyone I talked to had practical, useful, actionable advice for starting out. And I talked to a lot of people.
Like, a lot. A great many. Hordes.
Which brings me to the ostensible subject of this newsletter, a recent cringey-titled article in Vanity Fair about the trend of big-time celebrities “discovering” podcasting. I don’t right now have the requisite room (or bourbon) to share my manifold thoughts on that trend itself, but this quote from actor Adam Devine stopped me:
“We record [our podcast] and then poof, pow, surprise! It’s in your earholes the next day.”
Others noticed it, too. Not in the same way I did – not at first. The New York Times morning newsletter quoted this same Devine comment, but did so at face value, without a trace of the pitched incredulity I experienced upon reading it. (When this same comment was picked up on Twitter by The Cut’s Avery Trufelman, however, the mass WTFing from other podcasters that ensued was reassuring, and heartening.
Look, I’m not throwing Devine under the bus, here. He’s just describing his experience: He and his pals enter a studio, talk into microphones, and leave. That’s his job.
But quotes like that one only reinforce the distressingly widespread and howlingly wrong-headed belief that podcasting is just about hitting “Record,” and then hitting “Upload.”
I’ll grant this much: When it comes to making your own podcast, the barrier-to-entry is low – just a mic
and a laptop.
But the learning curve? Is steep. Prohibitively so, if you want to make a podcast that’ll stick around.
Devine – and every NPR podcast host, for that matter – has disparate teams of professionals behind them, doing the work that few see, but absolutely everyone hears: Scheduling, researching, recording, editing, engineering. You don’t notice the work of blading out “ums,” “ahs” and lip-smacks, smoothing out everyone’s audio levels, and excising conversational dead-ends, because you’re not meant to. That’s people doing their jobs.
When NPR’s Podcast Start Up Guide comes out this summer, it’ll be full of hard-won, practical advice on every aspect of podcasting – questions to ask yourself before you start, questions to ask yourself as you record and edit, questions to ask yourself before you launch your podcast out into the world and questions to ask yourself once it’s out there and you start to get feedback.
You can answer any and all of these questions “Nah, I’m not gonna worry about that, thanks.” That’s entirely up to you. But just know that those questions exist, and exist for a reason, and that thinking about them – as the TEAM! OF! PRODUCERS! behind PCHH do, every day – will make your podcast better.
PS: Speaking of that team of PCHH producers: I shall henceforth only refer to Jessica Reedy as “Poof,” to Mike Katzif as “Pow!” and to Candice Lim as “Surprise.” You are hereby invited to join me in doing so.