Podcasting Your Research paves a pathway to a new audience

The workshop emphasized the democratic aspect of podcasts and gave an overview of the technical skills needed to start one. PHOTO: OCV Photo / Unsplash

By: Emma Jean, Staff Writer

Academia and podcasting have a similar problem: unless you’re involved in them, they seem incredibly intimidating to get into. With academia that’s mostly true; a number of economic, systemic, and personal reasons make it inaccessible for a lot of people. With podcasts, however, that isn’t the case — to the same extent. If you have access to a recording device, editing software, and an internet connection, that’s all you need to share your work with the digital world. So what happens when you blend the two worlds together? According to SFU associate publishing professor and podcaster Dr. Hannah McGregor, you find a way to “mobilize knowledge” to a brand new audience. 

In McGregor’s online workshop, Unlock Your Research Impact: Podcasting Your Research, co-hosted with Lupin Battersby, she laid out the approaches that academics and enthusiasts take in creating podcasts, and a DIY plan for how to start one with no experience. As the host of Secret Feminist Agenda and Witch Please, Dr. McGregor’s experience as a podcaster is evident throughout the event, as is her enthusiasm. 

As she sees it, there are two main types of informative podcasts: radical amateurism — amateurs who research their passions and present that in a thought-provoking way — and nontraditional scholarship — academics who want to modernize their research and make it accessible to anyone who’s interested. If you think you could fall into one of those categories or even a blending of the two, McGregor had some DIY tips of what you could do to start a podcast tomorrow. 

As the workshop continued, McGregor created a step-by-step roadmap for aspiring podcasters. The first step is understanding the basics: podcasts are MP3 files that are uploaded to RSS feeds, or as she puts it, “a beautiful relic of an earlier internet.” She noted that, because of bare-bones minimum of the work and the non-algorithmic or corporate-driven platforms that they’re found on, podcasting remains a largely low-barrier medium where truly anyone could break through and find an audience. If you can understand those basics, you’re on your way to becoming a podcasting superstar. Pack it up, Joe Rogen. 

Next comes the technical part: understanding how to record a podcast. As McGregor puts it, learning how to podcast is like learning to play the guitar: you can learn the basic elements, play the top 40 hits and be just fine at podcasting, but mastering it takes a lifetime. Once you’ve chosen a format based on your topic and the labour you wish to put in, which she emphasizes varies wildly depending on which kind you choose, you can start writing, recruiting, researching, and producing the details you need to do it. 

The third part quickly turned into tech rundown as instructions on how to make a podcast took place. McGregor threw down pointers for how to make the best product you can:

  • Recording: 
    • A microphone — preferably analog for quality or USB for convenience (can be found for a low cost at electronics stores or online marketplaces like Facebook);
    • A quiet, sound-baffled space — blanket forts encouraged.
  • Editing:
    • For software, McGregor recommends Hindenberg as the best software and Garageband and SFU Library’s Adobe Audition as the best zero-to-low-cost options;
    • Back up all your audio files;
    • Create a distinct “audio palette” and style guide made up of the signature sounds, music and speech for your podcast that make you recognizable.
  • Publishing:
    •  RSS feeds will do the work for you, but find your best method.
  • Publicizing your work:
    • Find your audience and promote your podcast where they are.

With the rapid-fire advice, the workshop laid out a solid guide to hitting the digital airwaves. 

As McGregor spoke about podcasting as an often democratized, ground-up ecosystem, one that many people can access and contribute to, it seemed to offer an opportunity for the closed-off world of academic research to take notes. If greater access to information became possible, like it’s been through podcasting, that could lead to a more informed world. If you want to contribute to that, or if you’re just excited about what you’re learning and want to share it with the world, take McGregor’s advice and a microphone and go for it. 

An audio recording of the workshop is available on Soundcloud.