Feature: Environmental Podcasting 101, Pt. I — Find Your Voice on the Digital Frontier
By Parimal Rohit
Welcome to a three-part series on starting your own podcast, brought to you by SEJournal’s own in-house radio experts, podcaster Parimal Rohit, our Inside Story co-editor, who wrote the series, and Karen Schaefer, our Freelance Files co-editor, who conceived and edited it. This week, Part I gets you thinking about the kind of podcast you want. Part II next week will help you understand the gear you need to produce podcasts and offer thoughts about hosting and structuring it. Then, in two weeks, Part III will get you going on marketing/promotion and fundraising for your podcast. Enjoy and feel free to email us at SEJournaleditor@gmail.com to let us know how you liked the series and if you’d like to see more similar features in the future. And in the meantime, be sure to check out SEJ.org's growing list of environmental podcasts. — The Editors
|The author at the mic. An experienced podcaster, Rohit is preparing to launch a new podcast this spring. Click to enlarge.|
So, you want to start a podcast, but you don’t know how? Or maybe you’re ready to go, but the few tutorials you’ve read or YouTube videos you’ve watched have left you unsure how to actually produce it. Or perhaps you’ve got all that nailed down, but you have no idea where to start for funding.
Whatever your question (or insecurity, struggle or obstacle), realizing your environmental podcast dreams does not have to be a daunting task. Yes, it can be a bit of a heavy lift to bring your idea for a podcast to life. But with a little patience and planning, you, too, can have your voice travel across the digital frontier.
That digital frontier, of course, is filled with a lot of information about podcasting. So, much of what will be presented in this three-part series would also overlap with content shared elsewhere.
The difference? We’re providing a unique combination of information to give you all the tools you need to make your podcasting dreams a reality. This how-to is more than the nuts-and-bolts of podcast production — it will also provide you valuable tidbits on podcast funding, podcast hosting and podcast marketing.
The bottom line: Podcasting is a valuable — and, perhaps, essential — tool for storytelling.
For environmental journalists, podcasting
might be the most effective means
to tell Mother Nature’s story.
And for environmental journalists, podcasting might also be the most effective means to tell Mother Nature’s story. One of the toughest challenges we face is how to best communicate the urgency of a story — be it the need to revamp Texas’ electricity grid to better handle future weather disasters or trying to decipher the context behind Iceland’s swarm of 20,000 earthquakes in 10 days.
Sometimes it might be best to tell such stories in an audio format, especially in today’s go-go-go world where people are on the road to somewhere (virtually or literally) and might not have the time to read a 3,000-word explainer … but can listen to a series of 35-minute episodes on a commute or daily walk.
With that, here’s your primer for fundamental environmental podcasting: In Part I, we’ll focus on creation and equipment; in Part II, production and hosting; and, in Part III, marketing/promoting and funding.
Let’s get you started!
Podcast creation: Find a unique angle
The first step in any pursuit of any podcast is, of course, to come up with an idea. Don’t take this step lightly, either. You might think you have a million-dollar-idea, but so does everyone else. Take your time and flesh out the right concept, which will need a unique angle. This unique angle must also give your audience something new and useful.
Your idea for an environmental podcast should be revelatory, not encyclopedic. This is not to say there isn’t space for explanatory podcasts, but you’re more likely to gain an audience — and funding — if you’re doing more than being an audio version of Wikipedia.
I started brainstorming my own environmental podcast in the summer of 2019. The title – Erased – was settled upon one year later and it will go live in April. Of course, I’m not suggesting you spend years developing your concept — but you should spend more than a few days. If you’re really anxious about getting something going, give yourself two or three months to flesh out your podcast.
These are the questions you should be asking yourself, as you fine-tune your idea and finally come around to a presentable show:
What is the topic I need to talk about and why must I talk about it?
- What’s the purpose of me talking about this topic? Is there a solution I hope to achieve?
- Who else is already talking about this issue and how am I being different?
- Is my unique angle interesting enough to others outside of my circle/bubble?
- Can I create multiple episodes on one issue?
- What is the story arc — why am I telling this story, what is the beginning-middle-end and what is accomplished by me telling this story?
- Is my story easy to understand, particularly by those who aren’t invested in this the same way I am?
Remember, a lot of people do care about the environment and would incorporate a few solutions-oriented action items into their lives. Try to ease them in and speak at their level. Meet them where they are, philosophically, and help them understand on the most basic level why this issue matters and what you can do to arm them with the right information (which they can then convert into action).
Some other tips (aka DON’Ts):
- Do not be a doomsday podcast.
- Do not stop at awareness; give your audience something more.
- Do not alienate anyone in your audience.
- Do not stay within the box.
- Do not preach or be long-winded.
- Do not speak to an audience of one (you).
The idea-formation phase is really important — give your idea a lot of thought. This should be your story arc:
- Introduce the issue.
- Explain the issue as quickly as possible.
- Make your revelation(s).
- Engage in a discussion with your revelation(s).
- Offer possible solutions.
- Keep the door open to revisit your explanations, engagements, revelations and solutions.
Stay tuned next week for Part II on podcast production equipment and hosting.
Parimal Rohit is a veteran journalist currently serving as staff writer for the Austin Business Journal and podcaster with The Asian Highway. He hosts two podcasts: Erased, an environmental news podcast that launched in March 2021 (follow on Twitter at @ErasedEnvironment), and Storytellers in Action. He is also the producer of The Brown Table - A Bollywood Podcast. Previous stops include The Log (recreational boating publication), India-West (ethnic media), Mirror Media Group in Santa Monica, The Signal in Santa Clarita and Buzzine Networks in Hollywood. Rohit also covered sports, politics and entertainment as a freelancer for several publications, including Campus Circle and Sun Community Newspapers. He currently co-edits SEJournal’s Inside Story column, is a member of the SEJ Awards Committee and is editor of the upcoming Covering Your Climate-Southwest special report.
* From the weekly news magazine SEJournal Online, Vol. 6, No. 12. Content from each new issue of SEJournal Online is available to the public via the SEJournal Online main page. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here. And see past issues of the SEJournal archived here.