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Book Review: Podcasting Hacks by Jack Herrington

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Warren Kelly recently reviewed the new O’Reilly book Podcasting Hacks from the perspective of someone with experience in radio. As someone without any such experience, I wondered whether the book would be able to offer me any insights into how to start podcasting as essentially a deaf, dumb, and blind newbie to the field. Some might well say, “Gee, Bill, why didn’t you go out and by one of those Dummies books, you dummy?” Well, because I’m stubborn, of course. I don’t want anybody to actually see me with a Dummies book. I want to appear as if I know what I’m doing (which does raise the question of why I’m presently confessing to the real state of affairs &#8212 undoubtedly it has to do with a weird confessional sort of vanity).

Anyway, back to the book, in which author Jack Herrington says “An hour from now you can be a podcaster.” It’s taking me a bit longer, but that’s my own fault, not Jack’s. The book is actually chock full of good advice and practical “how to” tips (it’s not chock full of nuts, however). Herrington starts with the basics of understanding podcasting, both as a listener and as a producer. He then walks readers through the act of setting up the first podcast and builds on a singular theme: the idea that podcasters should strive not only to create the best podcast they possibly can, but that they should continue to build upon their prior success.

As Herrington writes in Hack #10, starting out doesn’t require much of an investment. Using Audacity and a simple computer microphone (even an internal one, if your computer has it) you can create a basic podcast. He provides simple instructions on the use of the Audacity program (it’s relatively easy to use, although it probably helps if you’ve used other audio or video editing programs just to have a feel for the interface &#8212 not that any experience is required, mind you). However, he suggests that neophyte podcasters (such as yours truly) “develop a new way of listening to podcasts.” He wants us to become critical observers, studying the structure, style, technical elements, and content of various podcasts.

In general, these are the recurring elments which are most important in podcasting. As Herrington writes, there are normally certain recurring elements, or “format elements,” that encourage listeners to return. A podcaster’s style can be of critical importance, especially when contrasted with the content of the podcast itself. As he puts it, “you can learn from what does and doesn’t work.”

I appreciated some of the more simple tips, such as Hack #11, about “professional quality podcasting.” As with many people, I’m uncomfortable with the sound of my own voice. While I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking, I’ve never really done much recorded speaking. Consequently, the tips on how to speak in order to avoid “popping” various words, and how to prepare material in advance so that I’m not as drifty as I am prone to becoming, were quite helpful.

But the book really isn’t just for someone like me. It’s also for someone looking to move well beyond the developmental, toddler stage and into podcasting adulthood. There are tips on setting up a podcasting studio, selecting an appropriate microphone (a basic podcaster can go with any old thing; a serious podcaster might start looking to upgrade). From technical tips on reducing noise, mixing multiple tracks, and much more to suggetions on how to build a format for a news, personal, or other type of podcast, Herrington covers a lot of ground.

Podcasting Hacks was a valuable resource as I explored how best to dive into podcasting. And where’s that first podcast, you ask? Well, as with so many projects around Wallo World, it sort of stalled out because of the overambitious nature of its host. I kept tinkering with the thing and then got distracted by something else and never quite finished it. However, I hope to wrap it up shortly and finally say that yes, I’m a podcaster too. If a procrastinating one.

Author’s Note: This article was originally posted at Wallo World.

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