Making a podcast seems kind of scary (revised)

Last weekend, I spent a great deal of time searching through the depths of my Google drive. This led me to rediscover all of my college application essays; I had nearly forgotten about the one I wrote for the Michigan “community” prompt (a fact that would probably torture 17-year-old me, who spent so many hours agonizing over the 250 word blurb). It was about my identity as a member of the “community of oldest children,” and I knew this would fit all the origin piece boxes I had drawn up for myself. As I reread the essay, I decided, somewhat radically, that my first experiment cycle had to be converting this idea into a podcast.

Okay, if I’m being honest here, I didn’t just decide to go with a podcast for this experiment cycle because “it would allow me to bring together the voices of many different people who identify as part of this community” or because I thought “having people actually talk about their lived experiences will add a certain personal aspect to the piece.” Those are real goals that I have for this project, but the primary reason was simply that I have always loved podcasts. My dad got me hooked on This American Life when I was in elementary school, and I’ve been a fan of many others for nearly as long.

And I suppose this is also a personal endeavor in another sense. I recently joined the team that is jumpstarting The Michigan Daily’s news podcast, so I’m eager to figure out what makes a good podcast. Perfect timing!

Before I learned about what makes a good podcast, I wanted to understand what makes me so attracted to the genre. What’s so interesting about them, and why do I instinctively feel like they would be a good mode for this experiment? Well, an article from Vanity Fair describes the rise of podcasts as an “audio renaissance,” and the genre’s rise akin to that of blogs about 10 years ago. They are “a return to the intimacy, wombed shadows, and pregnant implications of words, sounds, and silences in the theater of the mind… Podcasts can induce [an] immersive, time-suspended float.” Right. That’s a beautiful way of saying audio is a unique manner to use to tell someone’s story, and sometimes it feels more personal to hear someone talk about themselves than it does to read words about them on a page.

So what did I find? Well, according to Mashable, the first step is picking a topic you’re passionate about. Easy enough. Next they suggest choosing between a video and audio podcast. According to the Mashable writer, video podcasts are more personal, and make it easier for the audience to connect with the subject. Personal, emotional appeal is definitely something I’m going for here, so that will be something I’ll have to put more thought into. The article also suggests planning content beforehand. This includes breaking the overarching theme up into segments, finding people to interview, and preparing an intro script.

A Forbes article instructs readers to make sure the show is consistent over episodes (which makes me realize that this isn’t just a one time thing— podcasts usually produce new episodes weekly, which is another important thing to consider). The article also talks about getting good equipment to ensure the best possible audio or video quality. I’ll have to look into renting out microphones from ISS or going to the recording studio on North Campus if I actually want to produce this.

Ok, so how am I going to incorporate these tips into my own project? Well, I have some initial ideas.

  1. Sourcing: my ultimate goal for this experience is to show how a wide variety of people have experienced being an oldest child, so I’m going to need to figure out how to reach out to people and convince them it’s a good idea to talk about their experiences on this podcast. I might be able to achieve this through posting on class Facebook pages, or finding friends of friends.
  2. Planning: I think the most effective way to get these stories across will be to let my interviewees drive the narrative. This will likely lead to a minimalist interview format, where I ask a few questions but let the interviewee do most of the talking. I’ll also want to segment the podcast, so the finished project is more like several different vignettes per episode (or one story per episode) than one big conversation.
  3. Recording: We recorded our News podcast at the Duderstadt Center last weekend, and the sound quality was fantastic (but I’ll need to figure out how to work the equipment—  and convince the interviewees to come to North Campus)
  4. Editing: I’ll want this to sound good, so I’ll have to figure out how to edit audio (probably my biggest challenge going into this project). For this, I’ll look to online sources and the audio editor of the Daily’s podcasts.

Excited to look exactly like this dog as I embark on an adventure into the unknown world of podcasting!

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