Podcasts are an incredible storytelling medium and have become a major source of entertainment, education, insights and inspiration across a wide range of topics. Internationally, podcasting has blown up in recent years with successful shows like Serial, This American Life and many others, but on the African continent, the trend is slightly more elusive.
Executive producer of the African Tech Round-up Andile Masuku says that one of the reasons he believes it’s important to produce podcasts featuring African voices is because, “We simply can’t trust non-Africans to accurately represent our interests on the world stage, or expect them to adequately articulate our values and convictions. This, I say not with a chip on my shoulder, but simply as a matter of fact”.
One of the most challenging aspects of podcasting is reaching African audiences. “For most Africans, accessing podcasts, or indeed any other web-based new media content, is not nearly as frictionless or affordable as tuning in to free-to-air radio and television, or even premium cable TV,” says Masuku.
Despite all the challenges, African’s podcasting media is growing. We share some few tips on how to get your podcast off the ground. Masuku and Ethan Baird, programming manager at GaySA Radio, suggest that first you need find your niche.
“A good podcast speaks to a very specific niched audience. If you have your niche down, you can then create meaningful content for that audience. But beyond that there are a massive amount of factors that determine what is considered a good podcast, and it comes down to a couple of key points: if you can add value to your listeners lives and/or entertain them you have a great podcast,” says Baird. The length of good podcasts varies, they can range between one minute to over an hour long. Baird says they key is knowing what to cut and what to keep. “A good rule of thumb is ‘Long enough that you get your message across, but short enough so that you leave people wanting more’,” he says.
Once you have your idea on paper, you’d need to gather the equipment to produce the podcast. Producer at Wits Radio Academy, Elna Schutz, says that you will need recording software to be able to record the podcast and edit it, and an actual recorder (possibly a USB microphone). More complex recording systems include: a mixer, multiple mics and soundproofing. For editing Baird and Schutz recommend Audacity, which is a great free software tool.
“If you want something more robust I recommend Adobe Audition,” says Baird. Hindenburg is another alternative which has a 30 day free trial. If you’ve an idea, the software and equipment ready; you are ready to produce some great content. Baird has created a podcast production cycle that can come in handy for someone starting out.
Masuku suggests that you watch basic sound production tutorials on YouTube to learn how to record and edit the content of your podcast. Once you’ve learned enough, it’s time to record, edit and publish your podcast. Podcast publishing platforms include popular choices like Soundcloud and Libsyn. For South Africans Masuku recommends iono.fm as it is a South African company with great customer support and rich features. “Every podcaster then needs to list their show with iTunes (it is the biggest podcast directory in the world),” says Baird.
Practice makes perfect and you’ll need to do a few until podcasting “feels as natural as breathing”, says Masuku. Once you’ve mastered the above guidelines you are set to take over the world.
While data costs currently limit podcasts’ reach to the better off in Africa, the pioneers of podcasting in Africa are building African and global audiences for African stories.
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