Tag Archives: podcasts

A Writer’s Guide to Podcasting

Photo courtesy of SXC.

With this post, I’m starting a new series introducing readers to new media tools and venues they may not be familiar with. For the most part, I’ll stick with things that I’m familiar with, but a few of them may require me to learn along with you!

Podcasting is something that I’ve become a lot more familiar with in the past year. I suggested and organized a podcasting series at my day job, and I was offered the chance to co-produce a podcast series with a fellow blogger, Dee Wilcox of Creative Perch.

Why do a podcast?
It already takes quite a bit of work to be a good nonfiction writer, why bother diving into podcasting, too? Here are several compelling reasons, some practical, some philosophical:

  • If you want to work in the future, you will need to understand how a story can be presented across a variety of media–from print to audio to video to social media. Newspaper journalists are learning this one the hard way. Traditional journalism skills now form the core of a writer or reporter’s education–not the whole thing. Podcasting can be done on the cheap and is an easy way to demonstrate you know multimedia.
  • Podcasting improves your presentation skills. The days when you could depend on your portfolio to speak for itself are over. Journalists, particularly print journalists, are not renowned for their self-promotion skills or for their ability to connect with a live audience. Monica O’Brien, writing on her Social Pollination blog, makes the case that producing a podcast that you star in on-air can help you become a more spell-binding presenter:

“Don’t get me wrong, I can get through a presentation with a little practice and a powerpoint.  Most people can, but most also have plenty of room for improvement in their presentations … After some thought, I have concluded that the best way for someone to improve their presentation skills is through new media outlets, specifically a podcast or vodcast.

“The learning curve is steep, but worth the investment; in my observation you can make huge improvements on your presentation skills within 3 to 4 ‘casts.  How?  Well, obviously the practice helps, but there’s something that sets a podcast/vodcast apart from just doing lots of speeches – instant feedback … That’s what a podcast or vodcast allows for, which is why your presentation skills will improve more after a few ’casts than after an entire semester of Required Speech Class 101.”

  • Podcasting allows you to test market your ideas and stories. Britt Bravo, presenting at the February 2009 San Francisco Writers Conference, asserts that podcasting and blogging are ideal vehicles for gathering valuable marketing information about which topics and angles are popular among core members of their audience. In a book publishing environment where authors are expected to build their own “platform” before their book comes out, knowing who likes your work and will return again and again to it is crucial. Who knows? If they like it that much, they might even pay for it.
  • Podcasting forces you to write for the ear! Books that focus on the writer’s craft constantly discuss the need to read your work aloud. Poets, I’ve found, often make crackerjack reporters because they understand rhythm and meter in writing and use it to good effect in their writing. When you produce a podcast, all you have is the spoken word–yours and those of your interviewees–to carry your story along. (You can also use “wild” sound to tell a story, but that’s another post.) My first attempts at interviewing in a podcast required MASSIVE editing of my remarks afterwards–my sources did OK, but I realized that I tend to ask 3 questions at once, instead of one tightly focused one. In an e-interview, this might work, but when replayed out loud, it’s chaos! Later, when I was recording an intro for a podcast interview, I realized that the 1 paragraph “frame” I had created for my program, while it looked good on paper, was impossible for me to record without falling all over myself. Many rewrites and “takes” later, I had a simpler, less tongue-twisting version. Podcasting will make you a more ruthless editor of your own work–for the simple reason that you will have to listen to it over and over and over!
  • It’s possible to make money podcasting. You won’t necessarily be able to retire to your dream mansion, but plenty of people have made money directly or indirectly from their podcasts. Mashable had a great post late last year about 9 business models for podcasting and provided real-life examples for each. In an era when entrepreneurial journalism is on the rise, being able to figure out how to monetize the content you’re producing is a very good skill to have.

Getting started

OK, so you’d like to try to produce a podcast. One of the advantages writers have over many other podcasters is that we’re comfortable with interviews and many of us have a feel for how to organize content, either on the fly or via post-interview editing. You’ll want to lean on those skills heavily as you plan your first podcast.

Laying out the process step-by-step is beyond the scope of this post, but here are a few resources that can help you get there.

How to Create Your Own Podcast – A Step-by-Step Tutorial
About.com Guide Corey Deitz walks would-be podcasters through the basics of podcasting in detail.

How to Create Your Own Podcast With No Technical Knowledge
Deitz calls this guide, updated late last year, “Podcasting for Dumb Dumbs.” But it really just strips out the technical know-how and shows you some easy ways to focus on content and let web-based vendors help you record and produce your show.

Editing for Story
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer of the Speaking of Faith radio show, discusses the art of editing audio to tell true stories on the SOF Observed blog.

CBC Dispatches (Part 2): composing with sound
Second installment of a 2-part series on the Nieman Storyboard blog about the art of radio documentary storytelling. Wonderful tips and examples to help the reader understand how to make the most of the audio medium.

CDC – Podcast Best Practices
Ideas for effective podcasting from the Centers for Disease Control. Who would have thought a government agency would have such good advice on new media?

Podcasting Toolbox: 70+ Podcasting Tools and Resources
This Mashable.com’s guide is fairly old (2007) but so comprehensive it’s worth checking out.

10 Podcasts for Writers Worth Listening To
Dustin Wax of the Writer’s Technology Companion outlines 10 podcasts that either feature writers or are of use to writers who plan to podcast.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Look, listen and learn: Sites to inspire new writing ideas and creative cross-pollination

Sometimes, when you’re searching for a new non-fiction writing idea or seeking a new avenue of research for a current project, the best place to go to stir fruitful associations isn’t a word-based item, such as a book, magazine or text-heavy website. One of my secrets to successful creative cross-pollination is to shake myself out of my home discipline (writing) and explore other artistic expressions that can spark new approaches or generate new ideas.

Here are a few web links to visual and aural sources of inspiration. See if they don’t help you find your own treasure trove of writing inspiration.



Illustration courtesy of SXC.

I turn to visual links when I need an iconic approach to teach me the most direct way to represent an idea. As I noted a couple of posts back, information visualization has become quite popular in the past decade, influencing business presentations, lobbying campaigns, even journalism.

The VizThink blog recently posted a lovely presentation by David Armano of the Dachis Group (part of a talk he gave at Blogworld 2009) on the value of visual thinking. This to-the-point presentation also provides a nice example of how to turn an information-based project into a visual expression. It’s a great place to start if you have a cool story idea and you want to map it to get a visual perspective on it.

If you’re at a loss to figure out what sort of visual representation might inspire you, you can check out this periodic table of visualization methods which provides examples for dozens of methods.

Sometimes it’s not information you want visualized, it’s life itself. Here are a few of the places I rest my eyes when I want to use them to turbo-charge my writing:

Some of the most outlandish and thought provoking photos of design projects, from bus stops to shoes made of bread, I have ever seen.

It’s the world’s largest free online art community and there’s plenty of mind-stretching illustrations and photographs to see and ponder.

America Creates
A magnificent portal to some of the best American artists and crafters working today. Lovely photos of the artworks, as well as lots of information on the artists themselves. Awesome resource for arts writers, in particular, but a visual feast for us all.



Illustration courtesy SXC.

Music and the spoken word are both good for shaking up the grey matter. I often like to think about what songs would make a nice “soundtrack” to a narrative writing project I’m working on, and the composition process for creating music has many parallels to the writing process (and if the music has lyrics, is intertwined with it). And since writing evolved from the oral traditions of the world, listening to a tale told aloud is a quick way to discover how one’s words impact the audience.

Mashable.com compiled a list of 100+ musicians who are on Twitter. The artists mentioned range from Amy Grant to Weird Al Yankovic and almost anyone in between, including lesser-known artists such as Jason Drake’s one-man project Cassettes Won’t Listen. The list is a fun way to discover new artists or to keep up with the comings or goings of old favorites.

If you want to find new music to listen to, you can use a service like Pandora or Last.fm, but you could also check out StumbleAudio to expand your audio horizons. Kyle Judkins of Lost in Technology blog wrote a nice piece last year about using the service.

If you’re a fan of jazz, Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen blog wrote a series late last year about lessons from the art of jazz. It’s intended for his audience, who reads his blog for tips on how to make better presentations, but it’s about storytelling, nonetheless, and mostly nonfiction storytelling at that. Part one is a review of Wynton Marsalis’ book “Moving to Higher Ground,” and part two deals with jazz’s handling of structure and spontaneity. Both posts have generous video embeds either showing interviews with jazz musicians or performances.

On the spoken-word side of Internet audio, podcasts offer on-demand examples of good or not-so-good storytelling. Podcast Alley and iTunes offer access to hundreds of podcasts. Digital Podcast also offers podcasts and instruction on how to produce podcasts, as well as advice on how to use podcasts and other social media tools to build one’s business.

The question to you: What artistic disciplines or mediums other than writing do you turn to to revitalize your work?

Tagged , , , , , ,

What I did with my summer vacation…


Photo courtesy of SXC.

After the last post on the perfect writer’s “staycation,” a blog reader might think that I had spent the entire month on the beach! Not so, unfortunately … here’s a quick update of life in Write Livelihood land and a few links that I’ve been thinking about during August.

Time off: I did take a little time off from my day job editing a university magazine, but it was a working vacation. I visited Tucson to do a freelance story for a regional publication and ate a lot of delicious food, toured some beautiful buildings and generally soaked up the laid-back vibe of the Old Pueblo.

I also paid a visit to Antigone Books, the local feminist bookstore, and bought a book there—almost a requirement for those of us wanting to give business to independent bookstores. If you’re of a progressive political bent and live in southern Arizona, it’s worth a visit to Antigone. You will find books there that you’re less likely to encounter in a chain bookstore. For example, the store had a tremendous collection of books on sustainability issues, including several hilarious eco-memoirs of authors trying to live in a more “green” manner.

Assignments: I’ve been up to my eyeballs in writing assignments this month. Extra music stories for the biweekly I write for, the Tucson story mentioned above, and working on a podcast series at the day job. The podcasting is an “enterprise” assignment (self-developed) and I’m really excited about it, but like many such multimedia works-in-progress a lot of time has been spent ironing out technical glitches.

Vacation Reading: I’ve had a chance to read a lot of online articles, most of it focusing on what Web 2.0 is doing to writing in general.

Recommendations and the Reputation Economy

Adam Nash, senior director for product and user experience at LinkedIn, makes a persuasive case that the avalanche of information being created in our Internet world has created a resurgence of interest in considering the context and source of any claim, post, story, etc. The post is a good primer for writers and editors on how to give and ask for recommendations (on LinkedIn or for one’s portfolio site, etc.) that are specific, detailed and relevant.

Transparency is the New Objectivity

David Weinberger discusses the above assertion that he made at his recent talk at PDF09 as it relates to journalism in our current “Age of Links.”

Here’s one tantalizing tidbit:

“What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position. Transparency gives the reader information by which she can undo some of the unintended effects of the ever-present biases. Transparency brings us to reliability the way objectivity used to.

“This change is, well, epochal.”

Say Everything

This is a link to a brief Wired.com interview with Salon.com co-founder (and blogger) Scott Rosenberg related to his new book, “Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming and Why It Matters.”  He discusses why some journalists and novelist Doris Lessing think blogs will destroy civilization, who thinks blogs are old hat and where blogging will be in 2019. Very nice and a short read.

The Limits of Control

An interesting article from the American Journalism Review. With journalists and their employers increasingly active on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, news organizations are struggling to respond to a host of new ethics challenges.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,