Tech Column: The power of podcasting

Dale Wills
Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Self-proclaimed podcast fanatic Dale Wills makes a case for setting up a school podcast, hosted and created by students, to disseminate news to teachers and parents.

Adobe stock / Zinkevych

From CMU's indispensable Setlist of music industry news to Hrishikesh Hirway's treasure trove Song Exploder, podcasts form the backdrop to much of my working day. I am a podcast addict. There's something about the easy digest of audio information, the facility to be ‘hands-free’, the personal connection – or maybe even just the excuse to shut out background noise for 10 minutes – that makes podcasts the perfect format to keep up with CPD, challenge my opinions and biases, or just entertain me at the end of a long day.

The podcast industry has taken wing over the last few years. From a niche format for specialist interests, podcasting quietly and unobtrusively entered the mainstream and became part of the fabric of our listening habits. According to Statista, podcasting listenership has grown by 39 per cent over the last three years, and revenue generated directly by podcasts has shot up a heartening 45 per cent in the same timeframe, making podcasting the world's fastest-growing content format by some distance.

Nowhere is this explosion more evident than at the annual Podcast Show. In addition to showcasing the best in content, the exhibition shows off the latest technical additions to the market, marketing and analytics, and revolutionary new hosting platforms, making the journey of getting your ideas out to your audience easier than ever before.

New on the market

One of my favourite new innovations from this year's show is the Sound Capsule from Norwegian magicians Nomono. This sleek little black box unpacks into a podcasting powerhouse. Four wireless microphones unclip from the seamless exterior and clip on as either lapel mics, or sit neatly on a surface, ready to receive signal. The box then becomes a space recorder, utilising an onboard eight element Ambisonic microphone array for capturing room tone and scene tape in 3D spatial audio. The whole design comes in an ergonomic bell-shaped carrying case, which doubles up as a charger.

The real beauty of this design comes in the supporting software. The recording comes with an intelligent background noise cancellation feature, a massive time saver if your recording environment is less than ideal. The sound capsule then tracks the wireless mics around the space, tracking the sound to match and giving your final audio a sense of depth and perspective, which will bring it to life. And finally, the software normalises the audio signal to broadcast standards and automatically uploads the whole content to the Cloud with the encoding ready for distribution. This really is a one-stop podcast shop in a box!

4DC, a strategy and consultancy brand, also caught my eye with an exciting portfolio of analytical tools to support the birth and growth of your format. The London based team can map out not only how to reach your audience but, based on your listener profiles, what your audience react to and how to capitalise on that knowledge to build a loyal fan base. The group will not only offer holistic marketing and strategy advice, but they also get involved with production and distribution, creating the podcast equivalent of a record label for new casters.

School bulletin podcast

Some months ago, I worked with a mature student who, fed up with the endless stream of emails and paper from their children's school, set up a podcast training company aimed specifically at schools. He started going into his local primary school one afternoon a week and training the students in how to capture and edit content, how to upload it to school platforms, and how to produce engaging and newsworthy items for the parents and staff who make up the audience base. He now has six schools on his books and has just been approached by a university with a view to updating their news offerings – an impressive outcome from what started as a theoretical planning exercise.

Podcasting is the perfect format for schools: we have a ready-made audience who want to be kept informed; our audience is usually short on both time and inbox space; starting a podcast does not require a big initial investment; and the returns from engaging and entertaining your audience can be truly surprising. Not to mention the potential for embedding cross-curricular learning.

The only decision holding you back is how to host your finalised podcast. Intranet or parent portal sites offer one directly accessible solution and will make sure your business stays yours. For wider spread offerings, both Podbean and Libsyn offer a range of security features, while still distributing content on professional platforms. Both sites also look after indexing, analytics, and network traffic solutions, while offering a range of other tools to polish your final podcast: atmospheres, musical stings, sound effects, and even theme music suggestions.

Once finalised, content can easily be recut for inclusion on websites, video prospectus and online promotional material. Students love producing multimedia content – especially content destined for professional platforms. The question is not so much ‘should we make a podcast?’ as ‘how soon can we start?’