So You Want to Start a Podcast About Food? Here’s How
While we live in an age where content is churned out faster than you can blend together a kale smoothie (sorry), and the amount of that content has turned us into people with very short attention spans, I do think that in the end quality content will win out over quantity. As a writer, there is no way to continue your craft without believing that there is someone out there who is going to read your story, and read all of it. The internet age may have given us the fast food version of content – lots of it, whenever we want it, and most of it bad – but there are so many good things that the digital age has done for us as well. Podcasts is one of them.
I love telling stories, reading them and listening to them, and a good podcast has the power to not only inform, but also put you in a better mood. Why? I think it’s because for a half hour or so, you are focused, listening and concentrating on a specific topic. Sure, you might multitask a little and clean the house, or prep the evening’s dinner, but anyone who has listened to a podcast will know that to get the most out of them, you have to be paying attention. You must slow down and make some time to immerse yourself in the story.
My good friend Emily, who runs the blog Paris Paysanne, and has a book coming out this fall, recently launched a podcast, and besides loving all the work she does and wanting to get more people to listen to her show, I also wanted to know more about the process of making a podcast.
This was partly for selfish reasons (I too think I could make a good podcast, just like 99.8% other Internet users), but also for reasons related to the more common good (refer back to that 99.8%). I thought it would be helpful to find out how she went about starting a podcast about food, in the hopes that maybe we could all learn a little something.
So without further ado, let’s learn how to start a podcast about food. As the name of her blog indicates, Emily is Paris-based, but don’t let that intimidate you: this information can be used no matter where you are in the world.
What inspired you to launch the Paris Paysanne podcast?
I think the inspiration came from listening to other podcasts. I just really love podcasts and grew up listening to radio shows on NPR and that style of reporting and storytelling interested me. I liked the idea of taking a departure from writing and experimenting with a different form of media as well. There are very few Paris-based podcasts in English that focus on the subjects that I’m interested in and I wanted that to change, so I figured I’d have a go at it!
What are the basics that someone needs to have for starting a podcast?
You can geek out on fancy, expensive equipment or you can keep things very simple and cheap. As a beginner on a very limited budget, I opted for the cheap and simple route. Basically you need a microphone and editing software. I’ve used a few different microphone setups; you can buy inexpensive ones that you can attach to your iPhone, or just use your iPhone’s internal mic, the quality is totally acceptable.
If you’re using your phone to record, you’ll have to download an app to record with – the Apple files aren’t compatible with editing software, so you’ll need something like Wavepad to use when you record, which is a little annoying because you can only record small files – this is probably the main setback of depending on your iPhone as a microphone. I was lucky that my boyfriend had an older model of a Zoom H2 microphone that he lets me use, and I’m really happy with the quality (you could probably find this kind of microphone for not too expensive used). Then you just need to download Audacity, which is free audio editing software and you’re good to go. You could potentially not spend any money to set up your beginner podcast studio- isn’t that awesome?
What would your Podcasting 101 tips be?
First get comfortable with your material and the software you’ll be using. If you have no experience at all editing (even editing video is useful experience) then you’ll probably have a hard time producing a large, complex podcast at first- set your sights on something simple and maybe do a story that you won’t necessarily share with the world before getting down to your on-the-record stuff.
Think about how the medium changes the way you report/story tell. Interviewing people with a microphone is different than just having a chat with them for two reasons: 1) they’re constantly aware of the fact that they’re being recorded and 2) you’re going to be editing the conversation later. With those two things in mind, you have to modify your behavior and interactions slightly. I usually set up interviews by telling people that I’ll do lots of non-verbal agreement/encouragement (“uh huhs”, “for sures”, and “totallys” are great ways to validate your interlocutor’s points, but super hard to edit around if they overlap what the person you’re interviewing is saying) I also tell them that since this is recorded and not live, they can start sentences over, look things up, and do whatever they need to express themselves in a way they’re happy with.
Finally, when it comes to editing have fun. Honestly it’s so weird, editing makes me SO HAPPY. I don’t know why and didn’t expect that to be such a pleasurable process- I think it’s just that I like weaving things together and putting together the final product. There are so many examples out there of good editing, so no lack of inspiration. Mix in different media- I think you can use up to 10 seconds of any song for free- or other sounds to create a cool audio experience for your listener. Setting scenes with ambient sound, for example, is something you just can’t do when you’re writing, so why not go wild when working with audio?
In terms of crafting your stories, how do you go about it?
I’m still figuring that out. I’ve only done 4 episodes of the Paris Paysanne Podcast and I didn’t go into it with any criteria other than seeking out and interviewing people in the Paris food scene that I think are amazing and have something important to share with the community. So I just reach out and do the interviews, I try to get a good variety of subjects covered- a different food market every episode and then two segments on two different aspects of the Paris food scene, be it craft beer, craft coffee, local chefs, food writers, whatever. I also don’t have set questions, I like keeping things pretty informal and seeing what evolves during our conversation. That may seem lazy, and maybe I need to tighten the model up a bit, but I love being open about the people, length, and content of the podcast because I’m in charge of everything and can produce whatever I want! Which feels so good! Especially after having story pitches turned down, or writing in a style that is meant to be for a certain audience. For the podcast, I just think of the audience being me and my friends, and if other people like what I’m doing, that’s even better.
Since launching your podcast, anything you have learned along the way that has been useful?
Yes. I think the first thing I learned is that you have to get yourself going on projects by whatever means necessary. I think I wanted to start a podcast for almost a year and just never did it. Then I started telling people I was going to do it and was sort of obliged to follow through. The pilot episode was the result of me asking three friends if I could interview them, knowing full well that once I had those recordings I wasn’t just going to let them sit and gather dust. So I learned that if I feel accountable for doing something, I’ll make myself get it done. I’ve also learned that having a project that isn’t directed or censored by anyone but you is totally liberating and stimulating- now I have a fairly immediate way of sharing the stories and knowledge of the awesome people around me. If I meet someone cool at a party, I can just set up an interview and then whoever listens to the podcast can meet this cool person, too! It makes me excited about working in the information diffusion trade, which can sometimes be a disheartening gig.
What food podcasts do you listen to for inspiration?
I actually don’t listen to a ton of food podcasts- I really like KCRW’s Good Food podcast and the Cherry Bombe podcast on Heritage Radio, but I think most of my inspiration comes from creative and masterfully edited shows like This American Life, Radio Lab, and The Heart, to name a few. I don’t do storytelling like that on my podcast- though I’d like to try to do a few episodes in that style every once in awhile- but those podcasts are representative of productions that make me love this medium so much, and they make me want to aspire to make a better podcast every time!
Image: Patrick Breitenbach
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