Media Nutrition Communications

Podcasting: Steps to Getting Started

An estimated 57 million Americans listen to podcasts every month, according to predictions by Advertising Age. Where people once read blogs by the hour, they now listen to podcasts by the audio minute. A decade in the making, podcasts may quickly become consumers’ go-to choice for information. Dietitians who have already started their own podcasts include Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN (Food Psych); Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN, HFS (Body Kindness); Paige Smathers, RDN, CD (Nutrition Matters); and Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE (Sound Bites).

What Is a Podcast?
By definition, a podcast is a digital audio file made available on the internet for download to a computer or mobile device.

These audio files are available for consumers to download or stream through iTunes, SoundCloud, and Google Play. When users subscribe to a podcast, they receive notifications when new episodes become available or content is updated. Podcasts are often shorter than an audiobook, but longer than a radio segment. Other than that, there aren’t many set guidelines; the length and topic of any episode is up to the host(s).

Just as nutrition-related blogs enable RDs to share recipes, services, and nutrition information with the masses, podcasts can offer a fresh educational medium and present RDs with the opportunity to interview other experts and explore nutrition topics in depth in an engaging way.

Why Should You Start Your Own Podcast?
Here are a few of the many benefits RDs can reap from starting their own podcasts:

  • Add your credible voice to the many nutrition conversations online and in media.
  • Share and establish your nutrition expertise.
  • Reach a new or larger audience beyond your website, blog, or local business.
  • Expand your communication and technology skills.
  • Connect with fellow RDs and other health professionals in your field through interviews.

How to Get Started
The following steps will help you build your podcast and get your voice heard:

1. Select a topic and show name. Take time to plan your goals for the show, the topics you want to focus on, and voice you want to use. Selecting a show name may take a while; give yourself some time during the planning process and jot down ideas as they come.

2. Determine your preferred show format. If you listen to podcasts or radio shows, think about formats you enjoy. Do you like when the host uses similar questions with each guest? Do you prefer conversations without formal questions? What types of smaller segments are included in the podcast (eg, answering listeners’ questions, addressing current events or trends)? Also consider whether you want to speak with guests (fellow dietitians, journalists, therapists, etc) or use a monologue format, as Julie Duffy Dillon, RD, does on her podcast, Love, Food.

I use a similar format for each show, but I use different questions, news articles, and listener questions for each guest. I cater to our combined expertise to make each show interesting and fresh. Keep in mind that, in some cases, the topics and questions you want to focus on will determine the structure of an episode; for example, a conversational format may be required to debate a controversial topic.

When I host guests on my podcast, I reach out to them anywhere from a week to a few months in advance and schedule them based on their availability or topic relevance.

3. Decide your technology and equipment budget. I own a microphone that plugs into my computer and use Zencastr, an online podcasting program, for recording my guests and myself. My total monthly podcast budget hovers around $35 to $40. You don’t need much to get started.

I recommend investing in the following equipment and programs:

  • headphones with a microphone (eg, iPhone earbuds) or a microphone within your budget;
  • a podcast hosting service such as Libsyn; and
  • a program such as Skype, Zencastr, or GarageBand (for Mac users) to record and edit audio files.

4. Record an episode. Once you’ve determined your topic and focus, and you have a content plan and have purchased your equipment, it’s time to record. Don’t be scared to do this. Practice and remember that you can edit or start over as much as needed. The more you record, the easier it gets.

5. Publish through an online hosting service. As mentioned above, I recommend starting with Libsyn as your online hosting service. You’ll need a hosting service to provide you with an RSS feed link for you show. Through many of these services, you can choose to have your episodes automatically sent to several podcast outlets such as Google Play, Apple Podcasts, and SoundCloud. Most services charge a monthly or annual fee, but often you can choose from various levels and start at a lower cost.

6. Submit to iTunes (optional). Before your show appears on iTunes, you must submit it for approval. I recommend recording a few shows and hosting them online on a website such as SoundCloud before submitting. To submit, you’ll need an Apple ID, a show title, artwork to Apple’s specifications, and an RSS feed for your episodes.

Processing and approval may take a few business days. Once approved, your new episodes will appear on iTunes each time you publish through your podcast hosting service. For more information about submitting podcasts to iTunes, visit http://itunespartner.apple.com/en/podcasts/faq.

7. Update regularly. Keep your podcast alive. Some shows publish in seasons and take predetermined breaks as TV shows do. Some shows publish weekly; others do so monthly. You choose what works for you.

This is a basic guide to getting started with your own podcast. There’s much more you can do with a podcast, and more high-level services and equipment you can use than what’s mentioned here. But all you really need to get your feet off the ground is a plan, some light equipment, and a publishing service. Add your voice to the growing number of RDs to strengthen our credibility and reach in the nutrition world.

— Heather Caplan, RDN, hosts the podcast RD Real Talk. She’s a freelance writer and owns a private practice for nutrition and run coaching in the Washington, D.C., area. Her work and nutrition philosophy focus on intuitive eating and eating disorder recovery. On her podcast, she explores these topics in addition to reviewing nutrition news, answering listener questions, and highlighting the variety of careers available to dietitians. She’s been featured in national publications, including EatingWell, Runner’s World, Women’s Running, Outside online, Fitness, and Washingtonian’s Well+Being blog.

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