This week, Lucy Mowatt speaks to Business Growth Club founder Neil Foley about starting a podcast. As an experienced podcaster, he gives his tips and suggestions to help you get it right.
LM: Why did you launch a podcast?
NF: I like talking! From a business angle, I like [talking about] ideas.
I always do [the podcast] to promote other people. I’ve never done one just for me. So Mark [Keeler, a recent podcast guest] has just set up a new recruitment company, he’s a nice fella who knows what he’s doing, so we recorded a podcast.
I think, long-term, podcasts are probably quite good from a Google viewpoint, in the sense of Google has started to auto-transcribe podcasts. There was a time when you would use a transcription service, but transcriptions are very difficult to read. A conversation is very different from an article. So I don’t think there’s any value in the transcript other than Google seeing it and saying ‘Actually, these are some interesting words’.
Nobody, as far as I can see, has monetised podcasts. At least not well. A recent article I saw said that the UK revenue for podcasts last year was £20 million.
I heard that figure is predicted to triple next year.
That’s what I read. But that’s still only £60 million. I think it has a way to go before it becomes a revenue tool.
Some people do sponsorship. People like Seth Godin do various things but I always think they’re tacky. It seems crowbarred and doesn’t feel quite right.
It’s fine if there’s a link. For instance, on our dementia podcasts, it’s feasible we’ll get a link from somebody. It might be Alzheimers UK or somebody else who might want to put their name to it.
Do you need any fancy equipment?
I don’t think so. It is just so easy with this [Tascam microphone]. You could mic people up to it [plugging individual] mics in the bottom.
If there’s more than two of you, you probably need a studio. You can hire studios. For the Future Radio podcast, I think it cost something like 50 quid an hour.
If you want high-end you can go to JMS. They have a great reputation. They’ve got a great sound engineer and they’ll do the editing right away.
So you don’t use anything but the Tascam?
No, just this. You link it to your computer, then you can save it as a .wav file. It’s like a raw photo file. If you want to edit it, you can use the .wav, or export it as an mp3 or mp4. Then the file is ready to go.
You can use free software to edit. The best-known one is called Audacity and you can adjust the levels. Otherwise, I can introduce you to a music producer.
Which podcasting platform do you use?
There are lots and lots of different platforms around. The biggest is probably SoundCloud. I use Spreaker. You can set it up and call it what you want. It’s very sensible and straightforward. Very easy. You can edit the URL and everything.
You can also have different shows.
So I’ve got Business Growth Club and I’ve got a separate one, which I’m just finalising at the called Let’s Talk About Dementia.
With all of these things, you get a set number of hours to broadcast. You can then get the [individual] link for each and put it on your website, so you can share it. So when I’m on the Business Growth Club website, I post them under the Podcast Library.
Spreaker will also send it to iTunes and hundreds of other places including Facebook and Twitter.
Do you have any tips for launching a successful podcast?
I make a point of saying where we are. It’s almost as an excuse to say we’re at a cafe where there’s a bit of noise around and then people ignore it.
You might need somebody to do some of the [sound] levels if you’re in a public place. I send them to a friend of mine who’s a music producer. If there’s a Hoover going and stuff, he can take that out. I don’t have a clue where to start.
Rob Lawrence is the audio guru in this area. He’s a very lovely guy. He said that audio is so good now, that if you were in a string quartet and say I’m on the cello, and one of the strings is a bit out, they can go in and tweak that string, and also the relationship with the other three instruments. That’s crazy.
It’s good to know that if you do fluff up someone can put it right for you. I always say to people: ‘If we if you say something you don’t want to say, just pause and we can cut it’.
Do you edit your podcasts?
No, but I will if somebody says: ‘I didn’t mean to say that’. I don’t want to embarrass them.
I always try and do [the podcast] as if it’s two people talking at the next table and you’re eavesdropping.
Can anyone start a podcast?
Yes. I think that anyone can do it.
There’s a guy from an estate agent who was introduced to me because he’s interested in starting a podcast talking about property. He could talk to mortgage brokers, market surveyors, discuss common problems… There are so many things they can do to differentiate.
Have you been tempted to record video?
What I find with audio is that people just relax. They’re often nervous in the beginning, but then you get them going.
Being on camera puts so much more pressure on. If you get somebody with [the microphone] they just talk. You ask very open questions and get them to relax. They start talking about themselves and most people are quite happy with that. You get them on a subject they’re passionate about and it just comes naturally.
What are your thoughts on music in podcasts?
I did test music on the podcast but it’s often really lousy. But I can see why [podcasters] do it, especially if it’s high-end, like the BBC.
One of the best podcast I’ve ever listened to is called ‘The Ratline’ about a human rights lawyer called Philippe Sands. He finds the son of the Nazi who signed the death warrant for a lot of his family in concentration camps in Poland.
The son is trying to prove that they were just following orders and was actually a decent guy; a family guy. Philippe is trying very hard to understand the mindset etc. It’s fantastic, very high end. Great original music. It has very themed music that makes you think ‘wow, this is intriguing’.
Most of us can’t add music because it’s expensive. It’s time-consuming.
Are there any times when a podcast has gone wrong?
Only a couple of times. There was one with a lot of self-promotion. The person wasn’t very self-aware. That doesn’t mean it’s not good listening, but it’s hard if they are focused on one area, saying ‘I’ve done this’, ‘I’ve done that’.
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I’ve become more picky in terms of that. Definitely. If people are only interested in self-promotion, I’m not interested. I’ll talk to you if you can give value to people. That’s what podcasting is all about. It’s the best type of self-promotion. And that’s what I always start with. You’ve got to provide some kind of value to get people involved, and then your audience will naturally be interested.
Have you had any particular challenges with podcasting?
You need to be careful with music in the background. You’re not in breach of PRS, but there are bots that go around looking for copyrighted music and take files down. That is a problem if you’re recording in cafés, for instance. You need to be careful of music.
You need to be careful if you’re going to swear too. You just need to mark it as explicit. iTunes, in particular, doesn’t like it if the content is marked as being explicit.
Which podcasts do you recommend adding to a playlist?
Seth Godin’s [Akimbo] is a good one. His are about 20 minutes; not much longer than that. He’s like a whirlwind of multimedia expertise. And everything’s so pithy with him and so bang on the money. And he’s not afraid to be very controversial. He’s not afraid to do that.
There are some good history ones too. There is one on Watergate and there’s one on Clinton. You’ll find them if you Google ‘Watergate podcasts’.
I lived through Watergate and remember it and the stuff around it. So ‘All the President’s Men’, and stuff like that. They’ve dissected everything over 10 episodes with the original footage and the original evidence and people talking. It’s very interesting. You realise they were all crooks. It wasn’t just Nixon. He just got caught. He got caught on a throwaway couple of lines. He was getting away with the whole thing.
The Clinton one is equally good.
One I’ve got on my ‘to-listen’ list is the Mary Curie podcast.
What do you recommend for anyone thinking about starting a podcast?
Just do it!
You can listen to Neil Foley’s podcasts over on the Business Growth Club website.