How to start a podcast at UC Berkeley
Updated: Nov. 14, 2023
Hi, my name is Anne Brice. I'm a podcast producer and writer for Berkeley News in UC Berkeley's Office of Communications and Public Affairs. I write, report and produce Berkeley Voices, a podcast that explores the lives and work of fascinating UC Berkeley students, staff, faculty, and visiting scholars and artists. And I manage Berkeley Talks, a podcast that features lectures and conversations at Berkeley.
This is what I've learned along the way, and resources that have been useful to me. I am sure some of the things I do won't work for you and probably aren't the most efficient way, but they've worked for me to this point. Resources are always changing and I'm discovering better ways of doing things all the time, so I will be sure to keep this updated as I learn more.
When tightening up the theme and structure of Berkeley Voices, I found this step-by-step guide by Buzzsprout about how to start your own podcast to be helpful. And this guide by RSS.com has some great tips, too.
If you have suggestions or questions, email me at email@example.com.
Before you start a podcast at Berkeley, it's a good idea to make sure you have the resources to produce one. Many of us are managing tight budgets, so figuring out if you have enough human power in your office or department to produce a podcast is something important to consider.
Here are a few questions that might be useful to ask yourself:
- Who will produce your podcast? Producing a podcast takes time and there should be at least one person who manages your podcast. They don't necessarily have to be doing all the work, but they should be the point person and coordinator for the podcast.
- Are there students who want to be involved? I know some of the podcasts on campus have students taking the lead in interviewing and production. It's a great way for students to gain experience, and if you can provide credit or an internship or even a stipend, that would be an added incentive for them to dedicate their time to the project.
- Do the people working on the podcast already have experience producing podcasts or will they need training? Knowing the workflow of podcast production is important, and also having the technical knowledge it takes to record and edit a podcast.
- Do you have funds to hire outside support? I know many of us at Berkeley probably don't have a lot of extra funds to put toward podcasting, but if you do, it's always helpful and could be used for editorial support or editing or to promote your podcast.
Next, figure out what subject areas you are exploring in your podcast. Your theme should be focused, but open enough that you don't feel constrained. To crystallize your theme, you could develop a tagline, which most podcasts have. A couple examples of good taglines:
- Criminal is an award-winning podcast about true crime. Stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.
- This American Life is a weekly public radio program and podcast. Each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme.
And, what will you name your podcast? Ideally, your podcast name is simple, easy to remember and connects to the theme of the podcast and to your office or department or mission in some way.
- Some good Berkeley podcast names: The Science of Happiness podcast from the Greater Good Science Center and Talk Policy to Me from the Goldman School of Public Policy.
3) Release schedule
Figuring out how often and when you will release your podcast is another thing to to think about. We release Berkeley Talks every other Friday. While consistency is important when building and keeping your audience, at Berkeley many of us don't have time to consistently release new podcast episodes on a schedule.
A good option is to have seasons. You could produce a series of episodes — it could even be just six episodes and release one episode every two weeks. Then, take a break to produce more, then run the next series of episodes in season two.
You could also produce one season, if thats what you have time and/or funding for. We coproduced season two of Be the Change, hosted by Savala Nolan, director of Berkeley Law's Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice. It began as a summer podcast series in 2017.
Another option is to have occasional episodes that you release when you have the time. This is what we do for Berkeley Voices, just because we haven't had enough resources to produce it on a schedule or in seasons. It's harder to build an audience this way, but we all have to figure out what is manageable and works best.
Just try not to make promises that are difficult to keep (which I have done many times and regretted it!). We might have the intention of having a specific schedule, then then just cant make it happen. So, if you're not sure you can deliver, don't promise it. Listeners want to know what to expect.
There are several podcast styles you could explore, but try to keep it pretty consistent. You can always combine styles and mix it up from time to time, but people generally like to know what they're going to get when they listen to your podcast.
Different formats take more or less time to produce, and you might have a specific style you like the best, so those are factors to consider when deciding which one to use.
Here are a few formats you could explore. (I know there are tons more that I haven't listed, too.)
- Scripted narrative with interviews, narration and music. This is more time-intensive.
- One guest telling a story. This takes less time, but can require a lot of editing.
- Interview with a guest, plus an intro and outro. Can include more than one host and/or more than one guest.
- Lecture or conversation on campus. This is what we do for Berkeley Talks. We run a short intro, the talk, then a short outro telling listeners how to find us and asking them to subscribe.
- Two or more hosts talking about a subject without a guest. A good example of this is Stuff You Should Know. I think for this to work well, you have to have a good conversational partner and be as inclusive as you can with listeners.
- Get creative! Maybe your podcast is someone reading an excerpt from a book they wrote or two people acting out a play or something. There are a lot of different podcast formats out there that you could experiment with.
Recording interviews and events
While I have many years of experience recording interviews, I don't know as much about the techniques and technology required to record events well. But I know a little, mostly from talking to others who have experience with it, and I'm happy to meet and discuss what I know and/or connect you with others on campus who do this well. So, this section is mostly dedicated to how to do interviews yourself and places to record, plus who you can hire on campus to record your events.
1) Do-it-yourself (interviews)
- For remote recording: USB condenser microphone by Fifine ($25-$35)
- For in-person recording: H4N Zoom portable recorder and windscreen (around $220) + a mini tripod ($20)
- Rechargeable batteries I use the brand Eneloop with an Eneloop charger. I also always bring a backup of fresh non-rechargeable batteries.
B) In-person recording techniques:
- Always use earphones, mount and a windscreen.
- Go someplace quiet. Put your headphones on, press record, turn up the volume and listen. If you hear whirring or humming, try to turn off whatever is making the noise. If you hear street noise or someone talking, move to a quieter spot if you can or at least point your recorder away from the source. You can edit out some background sound in post if it's consistent, like a low hum, but it's good to try to get clean audio because all editing causes audio distortion to some degree.
- Ask the interviewee(s) to avoid touching the table, tapping a pen or creaking their chairs. Some interviews are conducted in the field or outside. In these cases, try to decrease background noise as much as possible and pause the interview during loud disturbances.
- Buzzsprout offers great advice for microphone recording techniques.
- Record room sound or normal background noise where you do interviews to use during editing if needed.
- Recording natural sound is a nice way to set the scene or give an example of something you mention in your story, eg. frogs ribbiting, flute music, peregrine falcons cakking, fire crackling, people chatting, Campanile chiming... you get the point.
C) Recording remotely:
- There are many ways to record audio from an interview or webinar so that it's useable for your podcast. Some capture better audio than others. Here's a running list that come recommended by podcasters:
- Headphones are not required, but are recommended to decrease echo and other background sound. (When an audio jack has three rings, it means it has a microphone.)
- External mics are not needed, but are recommended as well. I use the USB condenser microphone by Fifine and have used myH4n Zoom recorder as a USB mic both sound good.
- Close all computer programs and browser tabs, and turn off notifications and silence your phone, to eliminate unwanted audio interruptions.
- Use a web app: All of these record multiple tracks and record high-quality audio. Here's what Buzzsprout recommends for recording remote podcasts.
- Riverside.fm: I recently switched to Riverside to record Berkeley Voices, and so far, I LOVE it. You can create and schedule multiple studios and share a recording link ahead of time. And you can remove background noise during the interview (amazing!) and afterward, during processing. It only runs on Chrome and Edge, and isn't yet compatible with smartphones, but the audio is easy to record and sounds so good, I can live with these minimal limitations. Like many of remote recording apps, there is a limited free option.
- Squadcast: I stopped using Squadcast after it was acquired by Descript because it kept cutting out during interviews and became really unreliable. It's compatible with Android smartphones, which could be a bonus to some.
- Zencastr: This used to have a free option, but doesn't any longer and isn't as robust (in my opinion) as other apps, like Riverside. But for many podcasters, Zencastr is their go-to. It's compatible with iPhones and iPads.
- Cleanfeed: I haven't used this, but I've heard good things and there is a free option. It is compatible with several browsers, and works with tablets and smartphones. It can also be used with Zoom, but I couldn't figure out how to do this when I tried once before. To record each person in a separate track (multitrack), you have to upgrade a paid subscription.
- Use the record function within web conferencing/chat programs: It's not always the best-sounding, but recording separate audio files for each participant and using headphones (and an external mic, if you have one) bumps up the quality. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts all have a record function. Heres an article in Wirecutter about how to pull off a professional video call from home.
- Zoom: To record all participants audio streams as separate audio files, open the Zoom client and click settings, the recording tab, then enable record a separate audio file for each participant.
- Skype: Recorder for Skype can record up to four separate video tracks with the multi-track recording option. To do this ensure that multi-track is selected in your call recorder settings.
- Ask speakers to record themselves with a phone app: They can do this either during the interview or on their own time, if you send them questions to answer. I've mostly just sent questions for them to look over and answer on their own, and it's worked quite well. Voice Record Pro is a great app, but there are others that work well, too. Here's a list of other audio recording apps for Android and audio recording apps for iPhone.
- Here are steps to follow when using a phone app to record. First, if you're recording during the interview, you should set up your portable audio recorder to record your voice. Then, ask the interviewee to:
- Download the app to their smartphone.
- Put their phone on airplane mode.
- Find a walk-in closet or a quiet, non-echoey room to record in. The less reverb, the better.
- Set the phone at mouth level, either with a tripod or on another surface, like a stack of books. Have the mic angled toward their mouth about six to 12 inches away. They can hold it if they need to.
- Angle their phone's mic away from anything that hums or buzzes (a/c units, coolers, engines, etc). Often even small shifts in mic angle can make a big difference.
- Launch the app and push record.
- If recording during the interview, call them on their computer using a web conferencing/chat program, like Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or Google Hangouts. (You can also record within the program as a backup.)
- Once they're done recording, they can email or text you the audio file from the app.
D) Locations on campus to record (for free!):
- UC Berkeley students, faculty and staff can reserve the Ethnic Studies Changemaker podcast studio, created to give the Berkeley community a platform to amplify it's many voices. Learn more about the studio.
- The Berkeley Publications and Media Center offers registered student media organizations its office (MLK Student Union, Rm 177) for meetings and an adjoining studio for recording sound or filming. Media equipment is available for checkout from the Berkeley Publications and Media Center.
- Students enrolled in media production classes (who pay a $60 lab fee for expendables) and graduate students in art practice can reserve a space in the Digital Media Labs. Kroeber Hall Kr 295 is set up as a digital editing lab, with an independent sound recording booth and 24-hour access.
- DIY Media Service supports instructors who want to add video or audio into their curricula. Although this isn't specifically for podcasting, its a good resource that I thought I should include.
2) Hiring a technician
A) Lectures and events (in-person and virtual):
- Berkeley Audio and Video Services provides the Berkeley campus with professional event technology support, including PA systems, audio and video recording services, live webcasting and online media publishing.
- The Berkeley Language Center is also available to record audio of events. They don't get media releases or provide transcripts. To inquire about hiring the BLC for this service, contact Keith Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
B) Recording in a studio:
- The Berkeley Language Center studio offers recording services to the entire Berkeley campus. Technicians will record for podcasters; the studio space is not available to rent.
Now that I record from home, I have a soundproof studio, but any room that's small with a lot of stuff around to dampen the echo works. In a pinch, you can record in a closet — you just have to figure out what's available and works best for you.
Here's what I do:
- I use this USB condenser microphone made by Fifine that I plug directly into my laptop. The sound quality is great for the price and it's really simple to use. It comes with a little podcast stand that works fine.
- I have also used my H4n Zoom recorder as a USB mic. Here's a short tutorial on how to use an H4n Zoom recorder as a USB mic. It sounds surprisingly high-quality!
- I record narration directly into Riverside, which sounds great, but you can't hear your voice in your headphones. I have also recorded narration using Adobe Audition — it also sounds good and you can hear your voice in your headphones while you're recording. Here's how to start recording a new podcast in Audition.
Here's what I did when I recorded in the office:
- I plugged an XLR cable into my H4n zoom portable recorder and a higher-end omnidirectional microphone, which I mounted on a portable vocal booth stand.
- We built a little portable studio for about $500 using a camping structure frame thing that we hung sound-proof curtains from on all sides. Here are tips by Buzzsprout about how to soundproof a room.
- When recording, always wear headphones. Find a quiet room without an echo, avoid empty or expansive spaces with lots of windows.
- Try to turn off all background noise, like AC units, humming computers, etc. If you can hear people talking, stop recording until they are quiet or ask them to take their conversation farther away from your recording space.
- If you don't have a quiet, non-echoey room to record in, you might consider recording in a closet using a headlamp. Its not glamorous, but it works!
LinkedIn Learning offers tutorials, available to the campus community at no cost, on how to produce your own podcast. It covers how to identify your audience, choose a title, format and length, record and edit, publish and promote, as well as which equipment and software to use.
I also subscribe to several podcast newsletters, including Sounds Profitable and PodNews, which include a list of upcoming virtual and in-person events and trainings on a range of podcast production topics, from effective interviewing to growing your podcast audience.
It's a good idea to get media releases from people you record speakers and interviewees. Here is a podcast release form, where you name the podcast that the interview will be featured on.
- Remember: The podcast release form only gives permission for you to share the content on the specific podcast listed. Here is a broader media release form.
- Adobe Audition, which is what I use to edit my audio, is free for everyone on the UC Berkeley campus. Here's more info about how to use Adobe Creative Cloud applications at UC Berkeley.
- To learn more about editing in Adobe Audition, the campus community can take free online tutorials at LinkedIn Learning (formerly lynda.com).
- Leave a second or two of silence in the beginning and end of each episode.
- Spext is another option for editing audio. I haven't used it, but it comes recommended by Berkeley Advanced Media Institute. Its an all-in-one platform for voice conversations that offers automatic transcription, voice editing and repurposing.
- Free Music Archive. Be sure to follow the requirements given by each contributing artist. Creative Commons licenses are the most common kind of license on their site. Read their license guide.
- YouTube has a selection of public domain music, too.
- I usually use instrumental music by an artist called Blue Dot Sessions. They have their own website where you can download their music. You can use any of their music for free as long as you aren't making any money from your podcasts. If you are, then you need to buy a license with them.
- Also, I found this great site Public Domain 4U that has music in the public domain. You can search by genre or keyword.
When you open your hosting account, be sure to include a logo for your podcast and follow your podcast host's specifications. We recommend that you follow UC Berkeley's brand guidelines.
Our podcasts are hosted on Acast. It offers OK support, advanced analytics and unlimited episodes. At Berkeley, we qualify for 20% discount for the lifetime of an account, so to host one podcast, it's about $180/year.
There are a few free or inexpensive options that I know of:
- LaunchpadOne is a new, free podcast host that includes PayPal donations, a learning center and the opportunity to get discovered. I haven't used it, but it's worth looking into for a free option.
- For SoundCloud, there is a limit to how many minutes you can upload, but it's an option if you don't have the funds to pay for hosting and you're only uploading a limited number of podcast episodes. You can upgrade to a paid tier, but I don't recommend it. Most other hosting platforms offer better services and are more reliable than SoundCloud.
- JustCast isn't free, but its personal and starter plans are inexpensive, at $5/month and $9/month. It enables you to turn your DropBox into podcast hosting.
There are so many places to host your podcast. You should find one that works best for you. Here is a complete list of other hosting platforms you might consider.
To meet federal requirements, as stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), UC Berkeley needs to provide a written transcript of each podcast episode.
In November 2022, the Department of Justice announced a proposed consent decree with UC Berkeley, addressing alleged violations of Title II of the ADA. Here is more information about the actions required for UC Berkeley, including deadlines, and about how to make a podcast accessible. The campus's Digital Accessibility Team is offering individual consult.
For each UC Berkeley podcast created before December 2, 2022, the campus's vendor, 3Play Media, will provide transcripts free of cost. (This is not the case for podcasts created after December 2, 2022.) Here's how to submit a purchase order.
In my stories for Berkeley Voices, I provide a written version of the transcript with photos below the audio player. For Berkeley Talks, I publish the transcript in a separate post, then link to it from the main post.
- In a transcript, be sure to include:
- All words spoken. If more than one person speaks, identify the speaker each time, either by name or more generically, eg. Speaker 1, Speaker 2, etc.
- Other sounds, including sound effects, natural/background sound and music.
- I use Trint to transcribe my interviews for Berkeley Voices. It's pretty accurate, has time stamps, allows multiple team members to join and makes it easy to find specific phrases when I'm writing a script.
- There are several other services that provide AI-generated transcripts, including Rev, Temi and Otter.
- Spext is another option. I haven't used it, but it comes recommended by the Berkeley Advanced Media Institute. It's an all-in-one platform for voice conversations that offers automatic transcription, voice editing and repurposing.
- I use Rev by human professionals to create transcripts for Berkeley Talks. I post the entire 30-minute to two-hour lecture transcript, so I need these to be highly accurate. I also don't need to interact with the transcript, like I do when I'm writing a script for Berkeley Voices.
- It's also an option to use 3PlayMedia to have audio and video transcribed. It's a UC-wide captioning vendor.
1) Submitting to podcast directories
Here are some of the directories to which I've submitted Berkeley Voices and Berkeley Talks. Our podcasts are on many more, but I like these podcast listening apps because they refresh RSS feeds the most frequently, and they look and work the best. Most hosting sites also automatically submit your podcast to some directories.
- Apple Podcasts
- Amazon Music
2) Putting your podcast on YouTube
In April 2023, YouTube created a podcast tab. It's a great way to increase your podcast's visibility and grow your audience by reaching your existing followers on YouTube (if you have an account). It also provides more metrics about audience engagement than many podcast hosting sites.
Most bigger podcasts have already put all of their episodes on YouTube. Here are theNew York Times' podcasts and the Criminal podcast on YouTube. I'm in the middle of uploading our podcasts to YouTube. (We have a few hundred episodes in our archive, so it's going to take a while to get them all up.)
To begin, upload a podcast logo and description. Then, here's what I have been doing for each episode:
- I create an .mp4 in Adobe Premiere Pro using a static image (16:9 ratio) and the episode audio (.mp3). Here's more info about sizing for YouTube. You can also use PodViz to create videos of your podcasts for free. I don't love how the video looks, but it's easy and it works.
- Then, I upload the video to the YouTube podcast page and enter in a headline and description.
- An option comes up in YouTube to upload subtitles. I upload a plain text document of the transcript and select the without timing option. YouTube then matches the transcript with the audio. It can take several minutes depending on the length of your video and is surprisingly accurate. (You can do this later, too, if you don't have it available during the video upload process.)
- There are other options that you can consider, like creating an end card, which you can do in YouTube during or after the upload process.
- As you upload your videos, you can set your podcast and episodes to private or unlisted if you don't want to go public yet. If you do this, the podcast tab might not show up on your YouTube account until your podcast is public.
3) Group your shows in an Apple Podcasts channel
If you have more than one podcast, consider creating a channel on Apple Podcasts. If listeners like one of your podcasts, it's likely they'll like other related podcasts that you produce.
I am the first to admit: I struggle at promoting our podcasts. It's tricky, especially when there are so many podcasts out there and we don't have funding for promotion.
According to a 2023 podcast marketing trends report published by the Podcast Marketing Academy, podcasting is a challenging medium to build an audience in, and high-growth podcasts are more likely to use pitching podcast services and paid advertising. So while this can feel discouraging, I also find it kind of comforting — we're not alone! The data show it's hard to build a podcast audience!
Keeping that in mind, here's some useful advice I've heard about how to spread the word about your podcast:
1) Get mentioned in other people's podcasts
People find their podcasts organically. They want recommendations from podcasters they trust and enjoy listening to. So, instead of spending money and time on marketing campaigns on Facebook or other social platforms, focus on having other podcasts with similar content and audiences to yours mention your podcast. In return, you could promote their podcast on yours. Or, you could pay for them to promote yours, if you have the funds.
Go on as a guest onto other podcasts, like actors do when they're promoting a new movie. You don't necessarily even need to talk in detail about your podcast, but mentioning it might peak listeners' curiosity and get them to do a quick search and follow you. If they end up liking it, you have gained a listener!
2) Share with your audiences and across campus
If you already have an audience, share your podcast content with them. Put it in your newsletter, on your website and on your social media channels. Also, connect with other offices and departments on campus like us, at Communications and Public Affairs or UDAR, who might want to share your content.
We have experimented with creating audiograms to share on social using Headliner. It's easy and helps to pull people into the episode. Our social team has said it doesn't seem to make much of a difference, but it's a nice way to promote on social if you have the time.
The tools we have to measure the audience engagement of our podcasts haven't been great, but they have been getting better over time. Most podcast hosting sites provide some data, like how many listeners per episode, when they listen, which devices they use and which podcast apps referred them to your podcast.
Apple Podcasts for Creators includes more in-depth data, like what percentage of an episode your audience listened to and where they stopped listening, where people are listening from and how many downloads/plays each episode has had.
YouTube also offers useful analytics, including traffic source, viewer age and gender, geography, viewer duration and percentage viewed. There's one big area where YouTube differs from podcast sites. YouTube counts every view, so if one person engages 30 times, it counts it as 30 views. Podcast sites, on the other hand, count every listener as one play/download, so if one person listens 30 times, it counts it as one play.