It's been an insane year.
What better way to reflect than to write, record, and make radio?
The first one, Starting A Podcast Production Company with Renay Richardson, highlighted a dire industry need for more people to find more ways to tell their stories, their way.
Now — as ever — radio is an inimitably powerful way to spread big ideas, create space for difficult conversations, and call for collective action.
"Your ministry is in your DNA. When you’re talking, when you're telling stories, you have something to 'minister' about. That principle informs the care and tenderness I try to put into Busy Being Black. It comes down to three simple questions. Why are you making it? Are you the best person to be making it? What do you want it to do? I want to change the world. Not everybody wants to change the world. Some people just want to make a podcast."
— Josh Rivers, Creator and Host, *Busy Being Black* podcast, Amsterdam, 2020
During Podcast Netwerk’s Podcast Conference in Amsterdam, Acast's Content Expansion Manager, Joanna Aveillan, shared the ultimate list of everything you need to start your own podcast from scratch - pre- and post-launch.
Joanna's presentation was insanely informative and useful — even though Hacker Noon's Podcast is already pretty well established; and especially because I'm currently volunteering for an activist entrepreneurship accelerator in Amsterdam — which involves the distinct pleasure of starting a 12-part podcast series, from scratch.
In this post, I'll share the first section of the ACAST-approved starting a podcast checklist I picked up at the Podcast Conference in Amsterdam, as well as how I'm applying those learnings to both The Hacker Noon Podcast, as well as my side project podcast for YOUth ACT (title TBD).
This post covers:
1. What you Need Before Launching a Podcast
- IDEA & CONCEPT
- TECHNICAL SETUP
- SHOW ART & NAME
In the next two posts, I'll cover the rest of ACAST's start a podcast checklist, sections two and three:
2. How to Launch In the Best Way, and
3. How to Grow Your Show.
Part 1: Starting a Podcast Checklist — Pre-Launch
🧠 How to Refine Your Podcast Idea and Concept
Here's ACAST's list of the practical questions people don't always consider when they're thinking about starting a podcast:
- What type of show: Lifestyle, news, comedy?
- Where will your podcast fit in?
- Format: Ongoing vs. Seasonal?
- Release day?
- Release frequency?
- Guests? What type? Who will source them? This takes a lot of time.
- Same format every time? Varying formats? Sometimes an interesting way to switch things up, and allows you the freedom to cover different subjects in different ways.
💡 Pro Tip: Try things out before releasing anything. Record practice episodes with friends to give yourself the space and time to correct rookie mistakes.
Refining My Podcast Ideas and Concepts
At Hacker Noon, we like to keep things flexible. Our publishing schedule is sporadic, to call a spade a shovel; and our formats range from hour-length conversations with deep tech experts to 15-minute debate clubs hosted by a robot. Our category is easy — all things tech (which is to say, all things).
🐟 YOUth ACT is a different kettle of fish.
Initially developed out of a collaboration between the Amsterdam-based Unicef and Amnesty Student Teams, out of a specific goal to go beyond awareness by addressing human rights and social justice topics through practical workshops and advice by local initiatives, thereby demonstrating how young people can take action.
YOUth ACT's work is targeted specifically at founders, advocates, activists, and social entrepreneurs under the age of 30, and part of their mission is to expand access critical social, political, and economic education — far beyond the walls of Amsterdam's ancient universities.
The 20/21 Content Calendar, outlined by YOUth ACT's Transformative Education committee, includes the following themes:
- Understanding Capitalism;
- Intersectional Feminism;
- Anti-Racism & Anti-Colonialism;
- Migration, Borders, & The State;
- Environmentalism & The Just Transition;
- Bodies, Health, & Medicine; Education, Pedagogy, & Ideology;
- Authority, & Legitimacy; and
- Alternatives to Capitalism.
How would you categorize a podcast created to address the above listed themes? As a quick Apple Podcasts category search reveals, the possibilities are endless. Here's an example of two potential podcast categories and subcategories I'm considering for YOUth ACT:
Technical Podcast Setup Considerations
- Self-produced, or do you want to pitch to work with an independent producer or podcast production company?
- You'll need to choose and sign-up to a podcast hosting and distribution platform (ACAST, for example, has Starter, Influencer and Ace tiers for creators.)
My Podcasting Tech Stack and Setup
Thanks to Hacker Noon, I am in possession of the standard starter podcasting mic — the infamous Yeti — and (also thanks to Hacker Noon) a recent Descript subscription means I can ask an AI to host a podcast for me when I'm short on time. As for studio setup, using the cartoid setting on my Yeti, with my windows closed, I don't find it necessary to record in my closet.
Prior to using Descript to record Hacker Noon's pods, I used Audacity. We use Podbean for hosting and distribution, and we upload mp4 versions of all our podcasts to Youtube.
I haven't decided which hosting and distribution platform I'll use for the YOUth ACT podcast yet, but I've gotta say Anchor's new 'shows with music' Spotify plug-in will be a game-changer, whenever we get access in the Netherlands.
Creating Podcast Show Art and Choosing Your a Podcast's Name
According to both Joanna from ACAST and the 2020 survey results pictured below, your show art and podcast title are a super important elements of user discovery (after episode titles and ratings, but those only come in play later in the process).
Things to consider when creating podcast show artwork:
- It’s going to be very small.
- Is your name and logo known by a lot of people? Even then, that’s not always enough. You want to convey what the podcast is about. You want to use your visual to create context.
- Unless you’re really famous — avoid using your face as your podcast show art.
💼 Good Example: The Daily Tech News Show
Things to consider when choosing your podcast's name:
- Should be engaging and original, but it also needs to have some connection with what you’re actually planning to talk about.
- Once you've got an idea you like, do your research — did anybody beat you to it?
- Remember SEO basics: don’t try to be too cute, your podcast title should be easily searchable from word-of-mouth recommendations.
- Watch out for unnecessary repetition. You don't usually need to use the word 'Podcast' in the title of a podcast, for example.
Optimizing Hacker Noon's Existing Podcast Name and Show Art
So, the Hacker Noon Podcast is currently called the Hacker Noon Podcast, and I'm 100% okay with that. None of our millions+ monthly readers seem to hate it, which is nice.
Maybe one day we'll do a Rabbit Hole-esque spin-off series and call it something else, in which case — I will most certainly put it to a public vote, as I've recently done with both Hacker Noon's podcast artwork and YOUth ACT's entire concept — a highly participatory process that's proven to be hella fun! Can recommend.
From a simple Slack poll, I learned that people like it when you put the squigly streaming-sound lines in podcast artwork (an hypothesis later confirmed over at YOUth ACT).
Before you scroll down to see what the Hacker Noon team had to say, choose your own favourite from the 6 options below:
Annnd — here's how the Hacker Noon team voted:
Creating YOUth ACT's Podcast Name and Show Art from Scratch
I started volunteering for YOUth ACT because of a burning desire to be part of better informed conversations.
With a civil rights movement to the right of me, anti-fascist revolutions to the left, here I was, stuck in the middle of global pandemic; armed with nothing but a decade-old liberal arts degree in dinner party conversation that is decidedly no longer rising to meet the needs of the moment.
Enter YOUth ACT: a student-led non-profit that aims to provide young people (under 30) with the audacity and tools necessary to engage critically with the causes they care about, and to transform their ideas into action in the field.
As mentioned, the weighty and important topics we'll be attempting to unpack in a 12-part audio series include:
Don't know if there's a catchy title immediately springing to your mind after internalizing all that, but I, for one, was stumped.
Here's the first slide I presented to the team:
And if you thought that wasn't mediocre enough, here's the second list of names I shortlisted:
Finally, this past weekend, on Saturday morning, I walked into my little garden with a cup of coffee and — suddenly, out of nowhere — it hits me like a tonne of bricks:
There's a free online podcast name generator for this.
I (quite literally) sprint back inside, throw open my Macbook, and boom, in under three seconds: Free Online Podcast Name Generator Town — Population Me, my friends. And there goes my weekend.
First — for your interest — the early results of the name generator exercise:
Throw Down Activism / Jam Activism / Pitch Activist / Actilytical / Activistology / Parley Radical / Go Time Radical / Coda Radical / Post Radical / Blackboard Radical / Intersectionverse / Intersection Sessions / Intersectionopolis / Intersectionry / Intersectional Feed / Instinct Critical / Criticium / Coda Critical / Tune Critical / Critical Analytica / Movementology / Off the Fence / Many Lanes / The Activist's Bookclub / Antilytica / Unschooled / Nonscholastic / Extracurricular / Unlearnology / Project Unlearn / Project Organise / Source Organise / Organise Jam
Next, almost an entire Saturday spent playing in Canva (is there any better way to spend a day?), iterating on V1 of a mood board I could use to kick off preliminary voting among YOUth ACT's Media Team.
Since we do most of our communication via Whatsapp, I decided to mock these up with mobile-first orientation.
The tagline, hypothetical episode titles, and manifesto were all included so that people could use that positioning to inform their feedback, which went something like this:
Armed with three clear leaders in the race to choose a name (Many Lanes, Activated, Critical Instinct, and Post Radical); six favourite design templates; and some feedback around making the art work more closely related to the subject matter, I created v2:
A potential blocker: The Activated Podcast is a thing that already exists. Another consideration is that 'Many Lanes' could be misconstrued to be a podcast about the automotive industry.
We're meeting to try and reach consensus later tonight; keep an eye out for my next post to find out what we land on in the end.
This post is the second in a series covering Podcast Netwerk’s Podcast Conference in Amsterdam
— which you should know boasted a truly mind-blowing podcast industry program — including the likes of Renay Richardson of About Race; Joanna Aveillan from Acast; Josh Rivers of Busy Being Black; Ashley Carman, senior reporter for The Verge; and Chana Joffe-Walt from Serial Productions, who helped us unpack the industry-redefining podcast, Nice White Parents. The program in is available for you to listen to on the Podcast Festival website, in exchange for a small donation — which, I promise you, will pay for itself twice over, within the first five minutes of your streaming session. Enjoy!
Read the first post in this podcasting series: Starting A Podcast Production Company with Renay Richardson, and be sure to stay tuned — next up: ACAST's starting a podcast checklist, sections two and three:
2. How to Launch In the Best Way, and
3. How to Grow Your Show!