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Getting started with podcasting at UCL

UCL has been podcasting since 2008 and today, we have grown with nearly three million listens over the years through Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunesU) and SoundCloud. Here’s a step-by-step guide to releasing your podcast via UCL’s publishing platforms.

CAM and ISD can help you create podcasts and deliver it to the public. To do this we’ve set out some guidelines to help you achieve great sounding audio and deliver it to the public. When you submit through the form below, podcasts are then made available on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Spotify, and wherever listeners download their podcasts.

If you are a member of staff and wish to develop a new podcast from your department, institute, centre or faculty, this guide can help, or contact podcasts@ucl.ac.uk and one of us can talk you through it.

STEP 1: Familiarise yourself with our criteria on what a good podcast sounds like

We want to be one of the best higher education institutions for podcasts.

Interesting editorial content

Is it interesting? and does it demonstrate the following: 

  • Improved the everyday lives in ways that the public can relate to 
  • Caused a step change in a particular area of life or society 
  • Is future-focussed or technologically innovative 
  • Resonate with people’s lived experiences 
  • Generate feelings of intrigue, wonder and surprise 

GDPR/ CMA compliant

Check for details on Data Protection (GDPR) and Consumer Protection (CMA) at UCL. 

On brand

  • Messaging: Disruptive, global, world-leading academic leadership and teaching, inclusive and accessible, innovative, multidisciplinary, publicly engaged
  • Tone of voice: warm, approachable 
  • Visual: correct use of logo, proof-read descriptions 

High sound quality

  • Audibility - Good sound” is subjective, but… is it loud/clear enough? 
  • Intelligibility – Would the 'person in the street' understand?  
  • Fidelity - does it sound like “being there”? 
  • Variety – Is there enough variety in the content eg. Music breaks, different sound worlds/ locations 
  • Host and speaker quality – Is there are good host and interesting guests/speakers? Is it conversational enough? Long monologues are challenging for the listener. 

Transcript 

Is there a proof-written transcript available in HTML format on your website? From September 2020, accessibility of audio visual content has been required.

Website presence 

Where are you linking to? A section on your department website to embed the podcast (so listeners can play it from your website), show notes with speaker names, descripts, and transcripts will be required.

Check out these UCL podcasts for inspiration:

STEP 2: Pre-Production

Research

Does this podcast already exist? If so, how is it different?

Create brief

It must contain:

  • Purpose of the podcast
  • Project sponsor
  • Budget
  • What will the podcast be about?
  • Is this a series or one-off episode?
  • If series, how many episodes do you plan to create? Multiple seasons/ series?
  • How soon do they need to be released or launched?
  • Who is the main target audience?
  • Where will they find it?
  • What need will it fulfil?
  • Podcast format – interview, panel, lecture, storytelling...
  • Is there a podcast example/ style you want to follow/ take inspiration from?
  • Who are involved in this podcast project and their roles?
  • What podcasting experience and resources do you have? Ex: Experience hosting/ interviewing, recording equipment, experience editing
  • Sample brief template (on CAM+ Sharepoint)

Who checks the brief?

  • Depends on scope and audience. If you wish the wider public to access this podcast on the UCL Minds SoundCloud channel, contact the CAM Campaigns Team on podcasts@ucl.a.cuk 
  • If outsourcing production and editing, the brief can be used to get quotes from UCL approved freelancers or agencies (requires staff login)
  • Guidance where to publish – public channels or privately through UCL’s internal systems
  • We now require transcription of podcasts – plan which transcription app to use (i.e. otter.ai, Microsoft, Trint), who will proof read it, and where on your podcast’s website landing page it will be located (it must be in HTML format)
     
STEP 3: Create the content

Podcasts are mp3 or wav files. You may create your own recording using a smart phone’s voice recorder, or a free desktop app like Zoom, Zencaster, or Clean Feed. If you are on campus, you may request the use of the studio through ISD’s Digital Media team. A good microphone can increase the sound quality of your recording. See more details below.

Alternatively, you can approach a freelance podcast producer or agency who can recommend ways to record and then they can edit it for you after. Here’s a list of approved UCL suppliers (requires staff login).

Equipment

If you have a recorder, USB mic, or a lav mic for smartphones – it makes sound quality much better. Here are some of the equipment most recommended. UCL supplier, WEX (business@wex.co.uk), can deliver within 1-3 working days.

  • Best hand-held digital recorder - we use the Zoom H5
  • Best USB mic to record on computer - The Samson Q2U or lower-cost Archeer
  • Best mobile phone microphone & splitter (if recording between 2 people) - Rode Smartlav+ and the SC6 Adapter, Saramonic lavmicro, or lower-cost option: Movo PM Lav mic

However, good quality PC headset with mic which you use for Teams (i.e Jabra) or a smartphone can work too. Do a sound test to check the quality of your recording.

How to create a home studio

  • Try recording in a location where there is minimum noise e.g. not near fridges, open doors and windows etc.
  • If possible, you can try recording under a duvet or thick blanket; or even in a wardrobe full of clothes! Soft textile surfaces are your friend when recording as they cut down echoes and sound reverberation, making a recording sound more professional
  • Using a ‘pop shield’ or the foam cover when using a mic to control plosive sounds like ‘B’ and ‘P’.

Watch video on using blankets to record / Watch video on making your own homemade ‘pop shield’

In some instances, recording with equipment plugged into a mains power socket can create a loud buzzing noise. Before recording your interview, try to record a test. If you hear a low buzzing noise, try recording with your laptop running on battery power, as this may fix the problem.

Recording

How to record yourself on your computer
There are two ways we know how:

  • Using an online platform to record – like Zencastr, Cleanfeed or Riverside.fm or
  • Using a software on your computer like Audacity

How to record yourself on your mobile phone
We recommend you use one of these apps for better sound quality, but your built-in voice recorder can also do it.

Save the audio file as mp3 (or wav)

Recording 1-1 / 1-Many interviews

  • If attempting to record interviews online, it’s best practice to try to get each person to record their part locally, as the audio sent via skype/teams etc is likely to be lower quality. After the interview, get each participant to send their recording to you – these parts can then be recombined into one whole.
  • Alternatively, to capture remote conversations with high quality audio, Cleanfeed allows multi-party, multi-track live recording on a browser for a small discounted fee of £15/mo. Zencastr (currently free during COVID-19) and Riverside.fm are great alternatives out there now.

Recording in takes

  • You do not need to get the recording right first time. If you are answering multiple questions, it would be preferable if you recorded each answer as a separate file and labelled each with the question number you are answering (see labelling conventions below).
  • If you make an error when recording (for example, if you stumble over or mispronounce a word), pause for a few seconds and then restart the sentence. This can easily be rectified in post as long as you restart the sentence (as this reduces the changes of a continuity error).

Editing

We recommend getting an experienced podcast producer to help you with editing. If outsourcing production and editing, the brief described above can be used to get quotes from freelancers or agencies whom you can approach (requires staff login)

Create UCL branded podcast thumbnail

Let’s make it easy for anyone to find and identify UCL podcasts. To brand your content as UCL means uploading with ‘UCL’ in the title and written in the description. Remember to use the acronym ‘UCL’.

Create a thumbnail where the UCL banner occupies the top third or left-hand third of the artwork. You can use any of UCL’s brand colours. Create artwork that is bold, avoiding excessive text and viewable on mobile devices, and carries UCL branding. Be mindful of colour combinations that might not be accessible to visually impaired audiences.

Contact one of our approved designers (requires staff login) or email design@ucl.ac.uk if you need help.

Artwork requirements

  • Size: square; minimum 1600 x 1600 pixels and maximum 3000 x 3000 pixels
  • Resolution: 72 dpi
  • File type: JPEG or PNG
  • Color space: RGB

NB: To be eligible for ‘featured’ placement in Apple Podcasts, artwork must be a 3000 x 3000 pixel JPEG or PNG file with 72 dpi in the RGB color space.

See the UCL Minds podcast directory for examples or see below:

UCL Minds podcasts example artwork
STEP 4: Place the content online

Fill in the Podcast Submission Form - access the form here

What will be required:

  • Link to download the MP3 file(s) – OneDrive/ Drop box/ WeTransfer
  • Link to your content archived on MediaCentral
  • Timeline & frequency - when you intend to launch and publish every episode, will it be weekly/fortnightly/monthly, or would the entire series be released all in one go?
  • Title of podcast series and description
  • Title of every episode and description which include speaker names, job titles, and key words to make your podcast discoverable
  • Link to your website where the show notes and transcript will be, tags/keywords
  • Link to download the thumbnail/ square graphic 3000px x 3000px for podcast players
  • Link to download the 800px x 400px graphic for the UCL Minds podcast directory
  • Once published by CAM/ISD, you will get your own RSS link which will be submitted to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, Google for audiences to more easily find it.

NB - For more information on how to accurately label your podcast, check the Podcast Metadata Guidelines (on Sharepoint - UCL login required). 

Further guidance on creating a podcast landing page on your UCL website

  • Provide links to platforms where people can listen, download and subscribe
  • Provide RSS feed URL for those who prefer to subscribe to podcasts in this fashion
  • If your website allows, publish individual episodes on separate pages.
  • Show notes and transcript for each episode (otter.ai does transcripts for free, but make time to clean it up and publish on your website)
  • Links and resources to more relevant content
  • Posting a web-based podcast player for casual browsers  
  • Drupal has a SoundCloud widget
  • Help existing listeners engage more with the show  
  • Help new listeners to find and test out the show  
  • Sample UCL podcast websites: IoE (faculty portal), MadeAtUCL (series), Eugenics (single-episode)
STEP 5: Promote and monitor listens of your podcast

Send CAM a link to your podcast to promote on UCL Minds channels (SoundCloud, Email Marketing, Website)

  • Email internalcommunications@ucl.ac.uk to promote your podcast to UCL audiences
  • Email suggested social media blurbs and any promotion graphics to minds@ucl.ac.uk and andrew.campbell@ucl.ac.uk to promote to central social media accounts (to be approved and scheduled by the social media team
  • When posting your podcast on social media, make sure to tag in relevant accounts, guests, including their institutions, anyone described in the podcast
  • Use hashtags #UCLPodcasts #UCLMinds
  • Monitor listens directly through the UCL Minds SoundCloud account (for podcasts that are open to the public)
  • If published for a private audience through Transistor.fm, email podcasts@ucl.ac.uk to request analytics.

If you’re ready to submit your podcast, you can submit it now