Starting a podcast is easy. But becoming better by following self-serve, learn-at-your-own-pace materials will only get you so far. Sometimes, you need a specialized curriculum to make you a better podcaster.
Writing Podcasting for Dummies back in 2005 was one of the greatest experiences of my life. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that were it not for that experience I might not today have a full-time career in podcasting.
However, midway through writing the follow-on book, Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies-arguably the worst book title in the world-I had the opposite feeling. To be blunt; I actually hated the experience of writing that book. The problem? It was a fool’s errand. Going from beginner podcaster to advanced podcaster wasn’t then-and it certainly isn’t now-a linear path.
Instead, the journey to becoming a better podcaster is a thousand or more different paths, each winding in, out, and around the others. Making the decision to become a better podcaster is very much like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book, only many of the pages haven’t been written yet. At least not for you. Anyone selling you a master class on podcasting is probably only offering a master class in how they podcast.
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So today, I’m going to break down five educational resources-with one thrown in as a bonus-for seasoned podcasters that I recommend you investigate to see if your path is aligned with theirs.
What, only six? Yes. Only six. No, these aren’t the only six good educational resources out there. But I only have a limited amount of time, and I’m not trying to create a comprehensive list. You’ll find a chance to add your own at the end of this article.
On yesterday’s episode, I recommended you add the podcast HowSound to your listening queue. The host of that show, Rob Rosenthal, is an instructor for some of the Transom workshops. And Rob really, really knows what he’s doing.
1. Take a Transom.org Workshop
Remember that Transom’s goal is to make you the best storyteller you can be. That’s key in podcasting, but it’s also a key skill for presenters in other audio formats. I’m looking at you, radio. So if you’re still on the radio v podcasting kick, you might want to get over that before you enroll. It’s a dichotomy that, at least in this instance, is totally false.
The only bad news is that Transom’s workshops and training programs are on hiatus through the end of 2021, because of obvious reasons. So if you have money to invest this year, save it for next. And if you don’t, work it into your budget for 2022. These educational programs, like many good educational programs, are not inexpensive.
2. Read Out On The Wire, by Jessica Abel
It may seem a little odd that I’m recommending a book written in 2015, but this is one of those timeless books I think every serious podcaster should have in their head as well as on their bookshelf.
Bear in mind, however, that Out On The Wire is not a book filled with worksheets and actionable takeaways. Instead, it immerses you in the day-to-day life of a radio storyteller. Yes, radio. But don’t let that scare you away. This book is more about the process of making great audio. Things like gathering tape in the field. And what it’s like to participate in a group edit.
The other oddity is that the book is a graphic novel. I know, weird. But it worked for me and it’ll probably work for you, if you know about and can deal with those quirks going into it.
3. Get NPR-level Training From NPR
NPR was an early entrant into podcasting and remains one of the leading podcast publishers in the world. They are, without question, very good at what they do. Luckily for all of us, they’ve packaged up a wide range of incredibly insightful resources that podcasters can consume.
There are articles that break down the edit process, which is vastly different than the process of editing audio. You’ll find in-depth information on how to get better at accents or at least better at pronouncing names from foreign languages. There’s even a 35-point checklist on how to capture and publish the best interview possible.
NPR’s training site is a huge treasure trove of information that’s worth regular visits to see what new information they’ve made available to all of us. And a big shoutout to Andrew from the Motoring Podcastfor this suggestion!
4. Up Your Podcast Marketing With Polymash
Created by a friend of mine, Juergen Berkessel, the courses Polymash provides are very much focused on the marketing side of podcasting, but in perhaps a much broader sense than you’re thinking. For example, the construction of my website, Podcast Pontifications, was greatly informed by a concept I learned from Juergen. I paid a designer to implement the concept, and am thrilled with the results.
That’s what you’ll learn from Polymash courses-higher-level marketing and optimization strategies specific to podcasting. Yes, he does put out some courses at the 101-level. However, these are clearly labeled as such, allowing you to focus just on the more advanced educational materials.
5. Get Better With Other Podcasters In The Podcast Academy
This is not the first time an organization has tried to wrangle together the diverse and wooly groups that make up podcasters under one roof. And while the TPA (or I guess just TPA, since “the” is in the acronym already) gets its share of detractors, I have high hopes for the organization. I honestly think they are taking measured steps based on feedback from within the organization rather than developing and dumping a bunch of “podcast the way we tell you to!” materials on us sight-unseen. That’s smart.
It also means many people feel the organization may not react quickly enough or isn’t placing enough emphasis on one or more certain areas. And I agree. I too have been critical of TPA. But I’m being critical from the inside, as a paying member. I recently re-upped and have paid my dues for the second year.
I’m excited to see a shift in focus this year to mentorship groups where seasoned podcasters (and yes, some very green ones) meet and collaborate on a regular basis, allowing each small group (I refuse to call these small groups “pods” for obvious reasons) to evolve in its own way that serves the needs of in each small group.
If you’ve been on the fence, take this as a personal recommendation that you sign up to The Podcast Academy. But only if you really do want to become a better podcaster.
BONUS: Get Specialized Audio Training From The Podcast Audio Lab
I’ve listed this as a bonus because Marcus dePaula, the brains behind the Podcast Audio Lab, isn’t quite ready to launch the site. But he’s super close! Marcus is a true audio pro who has been providing some live trainings on particular aspects of audio editing, recording, and engineering.
But very soon, the site will feature much shorter, much more focused training videos designed to solve very specific audio/recording challenges faced by podcasters. He’s going to go well beyond the basics and get very deep. So if you like geeking out over podcast audio-or you know you at least need to learn the things people who geek out over podcast audio know-I think you’ll enjoy what Marcus is about to put out.
What Educational Resources For Seasoned Podcasters Did I Miss?
Because I know I missed a lot. As I said at the start, this wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive list. I’m not writing a listicle that I hope gives me an SEO boost. Gross.
However, I’d love to know what educational resources you rely on. Comment on the page, reply to me on Twitter, email me… or better yet, share your thoughts in the Advancing Podcasting community with a hundred or so other seasoned podcasters who want to get better at the craft of podcasting.
And if you found any of this at all helpful or have been inspired to invest in your own education to become a better podcaster, please return some of that value to me at PodcastPontifications.com/support.
Tomorrow, I’ll wrap up this mini-series with some pro-level tools and services that will make you a better podcaster on yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Links to everything mentioned in today’s episode are in the notes section of your podcast listening app. A written-to-be-read article based on today’s episode is available at PodcastPontifications.com, where you’ll also find a video version and a corrected transcript, both created by Allie Press. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media. Find out more at Simpler.Media.