Nine podcasting and audio tips for journalists
Podcasting advice from Wired.co.uk, the Economist, The Times and SoundCloud
There are lots of innovative uses of audio by news outlets. For example, when covering the story of the Colorado shootings earlier this year, the Denver Post used SoundCloud to share audio, including police dispatch calls; France 24 cuts snippets of interviews and embeds them within some stories, and BBC World Have Your Say segments parts of the radio show into easily digestible sections.
This feature compiles a list of audio and podcasting tips from Nate Lanxon, editor of Wired.co.uk; Tom Standage, digital editor, the Economist; Chris Skinner, freelance podcast and radio producer who produced The Game podcast for The Times; and Ben Fawkes, audio content manager, SoundCloud.
1. If you do not produce audio, consider changing that
Chris Skinner, who produced The Game podcast for The Times, encourages all large news outlets with a print legacy to showcase journalists' expertise.
"All national newspapers have such a wealth of talent at their disposal. You are really missing a trick if you do not get those voices out there."
During the Olympics, Skinner produced a daily podcast for The Times by interviewing correspondents and columnists and packaging them into 15-minute round-ups, which were offered on a variety of platforms including via The Times iPad app.
"Voices can promote your newspaper,' Skinner said.
2. If you do produce audio, consider segmenting
Many news outlets, particularly TV and radio broadcasters with a wealth of audio available, are finding creative ways to re-purpose that content.
For example, France 24 takes short snippets from interviewees to embed into online news stories, the English-language of Deutsche Welle includes audio as part of some stories, and BBC World Have Your Say cuts its radio show into segments.
The above outlets use SoundCloud to host the audio, which can be embedded into news stories.
Consider "segmenting and 'chapterising' your content into more digestible sections", Ben Fawkes from SoundCloud suggested. That helps "people's attention spans" and offers audiences a way of getting selective audio on demand.
3. Don't over spend on kit
Wired.co.uk spent £350 on equipment to create the outlet's podcasts, which get 20,000 to 30,000 weekly downloads.
"I've been in podcast studios that cost $1 million," Nate Lanxon, who produces and presents Wired.co.uk's weekly round-table discussion podcast, said.
"Although it's easy to make a podcast, it's not that easy to make a good one, but money doesn't necessarily be the deciding factor."
4. Don't take it personally
Another piece of advice from Lanxon is be thick-skinned when it comes to feedback.
"When people start listening to you instead of just reading you it becomes a lot more personal when they are critical because they are really criticising you and your voice rather than just whatever you've written. People should be prepared for that and learn to deal with it."
5. Cut out the waffle
Skinner likes to make podcasts "to the same standard as if it was being broadcast on FM radio".
He feels that 75 per cent of interviews are "waffle" and advises taking time to "trim out the excess stuff".
"I want every single little piece that I have to really zing," he said.
6. Write for the ear not the eye
Skinner urges those with a print background to be clear and concise when taking part in a podcast.
"A print journalist can edit once its on a screen in front of them but they must learn to do that while they speak."
Skinner, who presents the links between the interviews, does not encourage producing a packaged podcast in one take. "I will quite happily pick up and pick up if I think we can get better material," he said.
7. Aim high
Skinner also recommends being ambitious when requesting interviews.
"I would also suggest that people do not limit their ambition with who they aim to talk to. It's amazing just how important, famous, and seemingly hard to reach people will offer a bit of time for a short chat with a well planned approach."
8. Think about distribution
Make your podcast easy to access by pushing it to as many platforms as possible. The Economist offers it podcasts via iTunes, SoundCloud, 'Economist radio' on Facebook, a Chrome browser extension and the player on its own website, for example.
Skinner used "a GCSE business studies-type comparison", saying, "there's no point in opening a shop stocked with the best goods if no one knows where it is or when it's open".
Using SoundCloud as one of the distribution platforms means your podcast will be playable in Twitter within a tweet that is no longer limited to 140 characters. The integration means there is a play button in tweets containing audio.
"It's the next level of real-time audio creation," Fawkes said.
Lanxon from Wired.co.uk advises experimenting. "Don't necessarily think that your first idea for a podcast is going to be the best idea," he suggested. He binned the first ever episode as he decided it was not good enough.
"Failure should be seen as a very positive thing, because not everyone is necessarily going to respond well to your first experiments and so taking that feedback on board and listening to criticism is incredibly important."
Tom Standage, digital editor of the Economist also urges experimentation.
There are lots of different styles of podcast and "there isn't a right answer," he said. "We are all making it up as we go along and I think the crucial thing to do is experiment as much as possible both with the formats and with the technology."
Nate Lanxon will be running an audio workshop at news:rewired - digital stories, Journalism.co.uk's digital journalism conference, on Thursday 6 December. Agenda and ticket details.
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