I’ve been listening to podcasts for… a while. I don’t know how long, but at least four or five years. Maybe more. I really got into them for a bit when they were experiencing their renaissance around the release of Serial‘s first season. Back then I heavily favored Gimlet productions. I also dipped into The Indoor Kids from time to time and listened to the first thirty or so episodes of Kumail Nanjiani’s X-Files Files, watching along before listening to each episode. That was the show that made me want to start my own podcast; as I listened, especially during the segments where Kumail would dig up old posts from Usenet, I started developing the idea for a Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast that would, alongside rewatching, draw on my experience as a poster at the official BtVS posting board. So this podcast I’m just starting has actually been in development for four years. More on that later.
You can certainly listen to whatever podcast is trendy at the moment. (In the past year: Missing Richard Simmons, S-Town, Dirty John, The Daily.) Or venerable standbys (This American Life, Radiolab). You’ll definitely learn a lot. But I think you’ll do better with something that you’ll really love. That may be one of those podcasts I already mentioned. But it may be something else. People have written a lot about how there’s a discovery gap in podcasting, and I think that’s right. Until listener’s advisory in libraries expands beyond audibooks and music and starts to include podcasts, you’re going to have to do some legwork. Here’s how I’ve done that.
1. Get recommendations from friends and loved ones. My husband, Will, recommended Pop Culture Happy Hour to me forever before I finally listened to it and loved it. It was a lot like that Modern Family episode about wedge salad. (Sorry, Will.) It kind of seems like everyone I know adores Welcome to Night Vale. Podcasts have a viral-like spread through my community of comedy friends, which is how many folks I know got turned onto The Dollop and Hello from the Magic Tavern. And a recommendation from a friend is how I learned about Buffering the Vampire Slayer, which directly influences some of the topics I choose for Things of Bronze.
2. Let the internet tell you how to start. tl;dr: check out your favorite websites and other media sources to see if they have podcasts, ask your friends (see above), Google a topic plus the word “podcast,” use in-app lists of top or new or trending podcasts, find podcast directories. Or, what I’ve really enjoyed, check out this handy list of podcast newsletters from Bello Collective (more on that later, too). I used the in-app lists to find my current favorite podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression, as well as the super fun bomBARDed.
3. Pay attention to people you like – authors, comedians, actors, whomever – and check out podcasts that feature them as guests and podcasts they recommend. I’ve been dabbling in woo-woo as sort of an emotional antidote to the rigorous intellectual standards of empirical research, spending time especially in the Tarot end of the pool, and through following Bakara Wintner I found her guest appearance on Tarot for the Wild Soul, and via the website The Numinous I learned about Self-Service.
Keeping up with podcasting news and trends
Again, that Bello Collective piece is really handy. The top resources I’ve enjoyed for news are Hot Pod and podnews. They’ve kept me up to date on valuable projects like Preserve This Podcast and debates about recording loudness standards.
Advice on doing a good job
This piece from my podcast boyfriend Glen Weldon (look, the fact that he will never reciprocate my love is irrelevant as we’re both married and unlikely to ever spend much time together) is my favorite.
Developing, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering your podcast
This book, in spite of being ten years old, walked me through this every step of the way. I used Audacity for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on equipment, so I just used the same laptop I use for everything else and this cheapie mic – perfect because I wanted to be able to travel with it and record both solo stuff and group stuff.
In the future: hosting and marketing! Since I’m not ready to do those things, I don’t have a lot of advice on them, but I’ll be back when I do.