How To Make Your Own Podcast, From The Woman Who’s Already Done It

Move over Serial, we've arrived

Podcast Helen Zaltzman

by Jess Commons |
Published on

Remember last year when we were like, ‘Come on guys, podcasts are cool, really’ and you were all like, ‘Yeah yeah yeah come back to me when you’ve got something cool to talk about’ and then late last year, a little thing called Serial came along that blew the whole podcast world wide open.

Now, people can’t get enough, from new start up Invisibilia to old time friend This American Life, girls our age are storming through podcasts like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, so obsessed are we that we’re guessing plenty of you already have made plans to start up their own.

Helen Zaltzman is a lady who knows just how to do that. One half of the long-running Answer Me This duo, she’s recently launched her new podcast The Allusionist, which looks at where different words have come from, which might sound a little dry until you consider that she’s looking at words like ‘going viral’ and erm, ‘cunt’. Nice one.

Anyways after only six episodes, The Allusionist is going swimmingly; the fortnightly episodes regularly featuring on the iTunes charts. Not bad considering Helen does everything herself.

Anyways, we decided to ask Helen how to go about setting up our own podcast, and she was only too happy to oblige. Here’s what she said…

First things first

‘You need a great idea and a personality that is easy to warm to when people hear you. If people don’t enjoy your company then they’re probably not going to listen!’

Don’t get hung up on the fact you don’t have fancy equipment

‘You don’t need very much in terms of equipment. You can do the whole thing on a smartphone. It’s piece of equipment that most people have – you don’t need to buy a mic or anything and the audio quality is getting better all the time. When it comes to hosting the audio (all podcasts need to be uploaded to audio hosting sites like Soundcloud) it’s only $12 a month. You don’t need a lot of money to get started.’

The real investment is your time

‘I think carrying on is the hard part. When you being a project you’re really excited because you’ve got this new thing and then you’ll get ground down by the reality of the project after a few months. It’s a lot of work doing a podcast, even if you do one that is very perfunctory. People need to realise that it takes a lot of time and that they’ll get tired.

‘This thing’ll happen that we call ”pod fasing”, where the episodes because more and more infrequent and then disappear. Prepare youself by saying this isn’t a very fun hobby and then it might turn out to be a better hobby than you anticipated. It’s always better to be pleasantly surprised!’

Regularity is key

‘I think weekly is ideal for building an audience. The Allusionist can’t be weekly because I’m still doing my other podcast but if do it monthly it’s very hard to build an audience because people just forget because there isn’t that momentum. They won’t go, ‘Oh it’s Thursday, so there must be a new episode today.

‘If you do it monthly people just don’t form the habit. So, if you can only afford to do 12 shows a year then rather than doing them monthly, a better option is to do two series of six that come out weekly. It’ll help you get more people on board.’

Getting guests isn’t as hard as you think

‘At the moment everyone I’ve had on the show has either been someone I’ve met at some point or who is a recommendation from a friend. Although I did just approach a charity to see if they’d be on it and they were like, “Nah too busy” and it was the first time people had said no, so I was a bit taken aback!

‘Generally though people don’t mind being asked and the worst that happens is they say no. Twitter makes it a lot easier if you haven’t met someone because it’s a less formal way of contacting them and it doesn’t feel too pushy or invasive.’

Getting it to stand out is tough

‘I started out with my other podcast in 2007 and even then it seemed to us like it was this impossible mountain to scale. There were all these BBC podcasts so we put in a concerted effort for PR – we wrote to journalists who wrote about podcasts, which is stil a good tactic because it’s hard for them to find new shows all the time. Also iTunes promotion is invaluable as well because they really want to help indie podcasts, but they’ve got 300,000 feeds that they’re juggling.

‘It is tricky to make yourself rise above the parapet and it’s basically another part time job in itself.’

There’s plenty of podcasts to get inspired by!

‘One I’ve been listening to for years is Betty In The Sky With A Suitcase which is a flight attendant gathering stories as she travels around the world from other flight attendants and pilots about weird things that have happened on their planes. She’s just such a winning personality, it’s delightful.

‘I also love a great podcast called Pitchwhich is like 99% Invisible but with sounds rather than objects. The other major podcasts I like are people spilling their guts about curious or traumatic things that have happened to them in life; it’s much more of an American thing but I love that stuff! Check out Love and Radio and Strangers.’

Helen is hosting the Sound Women ‘Future’ Festival on the 21 March. Get more info and tickets here.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Here Are The Best SEX Podcasts Out Right Now...

Podcasts That’ll Make Your Morning Commute A Million Times Better

What The F*** Are You Going To Do Now That Serial Is Over?

Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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