I used to be one of those people that never listened to podcasts, let alone on a regular basis. Then last year, a friend introduced me to my first podcast.
This podcast was a mystery drama that captivated me every morning on my drive into work. After I burned through a season of that podcast - much like binge watching a series on Netflix - I started digging for more and more.
As it turns out, I was not alone.
Looking at some statistics on podcast growth, I found out that 73 million Americans listen regularly every month to podcasts. This might not sound like much to some, but it is up almost 800,000 people from just the year before. This means that one out of every four people you know is secretly a podcast junkie.
Such audience numbers may even inspire you to start your own podcast. This has become increasingly easier to do, with services like Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Sound Cloud, and the like, but being easy to publish also means that there are unfortunately a lot of bad podcasts out there.
It can be difficult to know what to listen to, along with being tough to get someone to subscribe to your podcast.
A couple logical key factors are required for you to have a successful podcast.
You need to be intentional about providing content people want on a regular basis.
For a lot of churches, this could be something as simple as posting your sermon every Sunday. This gives people the ability to listen again or catch up if they missed the sermon live. This is also a good opportunity for people looking to try out your church, by giving them a taste of what your message and style is.
While a weekly sermon update is great to post, it doesn’t have to be the only post you make on a weekly basis as a church. It may be a good idea to add in a quick weekly update or thought in the middle of the week. This helps people stay engaged throughout the week and gives you the opportunity to provide additional relevant content to encourage engagement on a regular basis.
People are, for better or worse, creatures of habit, so consistency is key regardless of how often you post.
If your content and consistency are great, your podcast needs to sound good as well. This is an equal part of the cause and effect relation to success. This is the factor that transitions from the artistic side of the process, to the technical side.
It’s likely that you are already recording your Sunday services for one reason or another, but it never hurts to double check your configuration again, to optimize the capture of your message.
Make sure your recording is clean and at a good level. Test a few recordings to ensure you are getting the signal you want. An adequate level will help you have the best signal-to-noise ratio and will mean less processing during the editing process.
Once your signal is solid, you’ll import your audio into a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) on your computer. A few common options include, but are not limited to Audacity, Reaper, and Pro Tools. Audacity is a free option, while both Reaper and Pro Tools are paid options.
At this point in the process, if you are anything like me, you may want to let someone else take a listen to help with edits. I find that it is difficult to be impartial in producing your own content. For one, you know what you meant in the recording. Something like a pause may seem natural to you in the moment but may seem awkward on a podcast to others. This is where an outside set of ears can really nail down those key points and help make your podcast really special.
It is also important to make sure during the producing phase to verify that the loudness within the podcast is consistent. You don’t want an intro/outro to your podcast that is very loud, while having your message very soft. You can normalize your audio as well as compress your audio, to make sure you have a nice, even and consistent experience. Most editing software will also allow easy volume adjustment varying across the track for fine tweaks and edits.
As well as uniform audio within your podcast, you want to make sure that your podcast sounds similar (but not necessarily identical) to others in the same category. This means that your podcast holds up to the same standards that others in the industry use. You can verify this by doing A/B comparison tests.
If you do not believe that you compare favorably, go back and look at your compressor and normalizing process and adjust. This requires a little bit of work up front, but will be worth it in the long run as many of these settings can be uniformly applied as you use the same hardware every week requiring the same treatment.
If you plan to add additional podcasts to your rotation that are not your weekly service off of the board, you will need to procure a microphone and USB IO. These kits are easily available online and can be in front of you in a few days. The process, though, is the same. Make sure you have a good audio level into your DAW, and get someone to help produce your podcast.
As the popularity of podcasting grows year after year, millions of people tune in every month for podcasts. There are more opportunities than ever to reach out and connect to someone on their schedule and in their space.
Churches are capitalizing on this growing form of engagement to connect with a new demographic that is more portable, flexible, and digital than any before them. These individuals are actively looking for your message, but we need to ensure that the quality and consistency is up to par to keep those that we engage coming back.