Getting started in podcasting


Belle Media’s Kay Hutchison shares her experience of launching a podcast and some tips for other publishers who want to do the same

We started our podcast in April in the midst of lockdown, partly as a useful marketing tool for Belle Media and partly to allow us to explore some interesting topics. My business partner and I have complimentary skills but very different interests. Sometimes our podcasts fit with our own titles, but just as often they don’t, and our subjects include politics, children’s books, wildlife conservation, mental health, music, travel and media. What matters to us is to build a core listenership.

Given my experience in radio and TV, you might think that starting a podcast would be a piece of cake. Our initial plan had been to record with guests in the same sound studio where we recently recorded one of our audiobooks, and we had made the decision to use an experienced audio producer / engineer who could look after the technical quality and work with us on a final edit; someone with whom we could build a rapport over time. We chose a broadcast platform (Acast), a title (Belle Books & Stories), an icon and music we liked, and a technical producer who could also provide editorial input whilst we were focused on the discussion.

In reality, by the time we were ready to roll, it was the start of lockdown and our initial plans were completely scuppered. Guests we had lined up were emailing to ask if we’d still be able to record our podcasts, and we knew we’d have to go back to the drawing board. Could we do it all remotely?

We tried to keep things as simple as possible. First, we chose the Zencastr platform to record remotely. Zencastr compensates for internet dropout and distortion by recording participants’ voices separately, and it’s only later that recordings are uploaded and mixed. It’s fine even when microphones are not great, as only a few authors have the latest tech and even fewer are technically minded.

The Acast broadcast platform allows you to incorporate a basic audio player within your own website, and gives you a professional library option too. It’s simple to use and allows you to add a relevant image, photo or cover for each podcast episode.  The podcast is automatically shared to other platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts (although the promised link with YouTube has yet to materialise). Their analytics are also very helpful.

If you are planning to launch a podcast, the key issue is content. Good preparation will help of course. You should book guests and arrange the practicalities well in advance of the recording day, and spend time doing your research and planning the questions. And be sure to have enough questions to allow the session to flow where it needs to on the day. As moderator, it’s down to you to be able to sustain an interesting conversation, which means planning more questions than you’re likely to be able to fit in. We tend to aim for 30 to 45 minute episodes.

On the day, make sure everyone is ready and happy. I usually record the whole of an interview first so that I only keep the guest as long as is absolutely necessary, before adding the music, intros and outros afterwards. All the work has been worth it: podcasting is fun and interesting, and our audiences are growing steadily.

Belle Media’s podcast guests have included Mavis Cheek, author of Amenable Women, on feminism, publishing and writing retreats; Sue Flood, Blue Planet photographer and author of Emperor: The Perfect Penguin; and Bruce Daisley and Dr Dina Glouberman, authors of The Joy of Work and The Joy of Burnout. For more about Belle Media, click here.