1 year in: how I created a podcast
My Why audio version of this blog available here.
A year ago on 25 September 2021 the trailer for The Silent Why podcast went live, and I was officially a ‘podcaster’, though it did take me a while to feel confident enough to put that on my social media bios. Stupid imposter syndrome.
Then a year ago on 5 October 2021 the episode ‘What’s your Herman?’ and the first two loss interviews went live. ‘Loss of a marriage with Sue Brayne'; talking about her divorce and her very intentional long period of grieving on a narrow boat with her cat, and ‘Loss of parents to dementia with Katie Elliott' about both of her parents being diagnosed with Vascular Dementia combined with Alzheimer's, where she shared about the importance of being kind to ourselves and connecting with her parents through their conditions before they died. And I do want to say a big thank you to both of them for being willing to be interviewed without hearing any other episodes or knowing exactly what this podcast was going to sound like. Every podcast needs those precious first guests that believe in you and help you get the ball rolling.
So, a year in and I thought I’d take a moment to explain a bit more about what it’s like to produce and edit a podcast, why we called it The Silent Why, and why I’ve recently added ‘because shhh happens’ onto our podcast artwork.
A question I’ve been asked a lot over the last year is; ‘How do you actually make a podcast and get it onto like, Apple, or something?’ Well, strap in people, because I’m going to take you on the ride of your life, well it’s more of a short, steady teacup ride, through the world of podcast publishing.
So, let’s say you want to start a podcast, like many people who say they have a book in them, you feel you have a podcast in you, yearning to get out. And many people probably do have these things inside, but what they probably don’t have is many spare hours a week to record, produce, edit, publish and promote one, and that’s the first thing you need.
You might think the next step involves a microphone, but you’re wrong, it’s a pen and paper, and a whole lot of staring out of the window. Because you can’t start a podcast without an idea and a subject, and you can’t just have a subject you have to niche it down (or niche as they say in the US). You’re basically trying to come up with a gap in the market, a little corner that’s all yours, something people will want to listen to - you know, like grief, loss, death and all those feel-good kind of topics. So, rather than just talking about grief, as other podcasts already were, we decided to look at loss, not just bereavements, and to prove there were many different types, like we’d experienced with childlessness.
When you’ve got that sorted you have to decide if you’re just going to talk on your own about these things, or with a co-host, or other people, or with guests, interviews, panels, roundtables, etc etc. What’s the format?
Then you think about your tech setup, do you have a computer to record it on? Do you have a programme on that computer that records audio? Or will you use your phone? Do you want microphones? What sort? How many? Headphones? What sort? How many? An interface? What on earth is that?!
Then you’re almost ready to record, but you need to have finalised a name for your podcast (more on that later) and you realise you need to think about whether you’re going to use a script, or just wing it for your episodes. Having seen how much effort a script takes you’re mostly likely going to decide you can wing it, how hard can it be? It’s just chatting, right? Turns out - pretty hard. And I guarantee as you listen back to your incoherent babbling and realise your voice is officially the worst thing you’ve ever heard, you’ll start to wonder, and not for the last time, if this whole thing was a giant mistake.
Once you’ve pushed through all those self doubts and you actually have a recording you’re not completely humiliated by, you then need to think about whether you want to edit it. Do you want to have an intro and outro, do you want music? Yes, but is it so expensive or hard to find? Maybe not. Do you want to remove your mistakes and umms and errs? Why has the microphone picked up how loud my swallowing is? Why does my mouth make a click noise when I open it? What is wrong with my laugh? Why didn’t I notice that dog barking in the background or the child screaming when I was recording? How much sound proofing do I actually need to make this sound good and what on earth is acoustic sound treatment?!
Then once this is sorted and you have climbed the huge mountain that is audio editing and noise reduction and amplifying and compressing and limiting and fade in and fade out and hiding edit points - you have to find out how to publish it to the world.
More hours of research, and listening to podcasts on podcasting, and you realise you need a podcast ‘host’, not the person hosting the show, but a company that hosts all your episodes and distributes them to the podcast platforms like Apple, Spotify, Google, GoodPods etc. Podcast hosts are a bit like the people that host websites, oh my word, do I also need a website? Yes you do, although most hosts offer you a basic webpage you can use to get started. So, more research. Once you’ve looked at all the pros and cons on podcast hosts and costs and what they offer, you pick one and sign up. We chose a very friendly host that’s based in the US and came well recommended, with some good values and morals behind it - Buzzsprout. Then you pay them monthly depending on how many hours of podcast you’re going to upload per month, this can be from free (but your episodes are only hosted for 90 days) up to $24/£22 a month for 12 hours of episodes a month.
Then as you start to fill in all the necessary details, you realise that you also need some funky artwork for your podcast (in very specific sizes and formats) so you go away and work on that for a bit, again taking in all the advice on what this should be, say and look like.
Once that’s sorted you come back and fill in all the necessary details and eventually you’re up and running. Then your host provides you with what they call an RSS feed. Which is an essential piece of technology that powers every podcast. It contains all the information about your show and the episodes and passes it to podcast directories every time a new episode is published. To see an RSS feed in the flesh, it’s basically just a link like you’d get to any website with the host name in and some numbers.
Then you need to submit this RSS feed to all the directories you want your podcast to be found in, and the host helps you do a lot of this to make it quicker. Buzzsprout also provides us with a nifty link to see all the apps The Silent Why can be found on, as well as our social media, our YouTube channel and our website - thesilentwhy.buzzsprout.com/share.
You can listen to our podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn + Alexa, Podcast Addict, Castro, Castbox, Podchaser, Pocket Casts, Deezer, Listen Notes, Player FM, Podcast Index, Podfriend and GoodPods. So if you’re not keen on how you listen to podcasts and want a different user experience check out these apps all designed for podcast listening. And if you need any other help listening to podcasts, or you’ve got a relative that wants to start listening but you just don’t know where to begin when it comes to helping them or explaining it, then send them over to thesilentwhy.com/listentoapodcast where we’ve explained it all and provided links and help for Apple/Mac and Android/PC users.
Once you’ve done all this, you excitedly upload your podcast episode and then find another hundred things you need to give some time and thought to: how often am I going to release episodes? What day do I release them on? What time? What are my episode titles going to be? Are they supposed to have numbers in them? What will I write on the show notes? Does each episode need a separate web page link? What are my keywords? Do I need to do transcripts?…
Then when you’ve recovered from that meltdown you start more research about all these things, decide on a plan and spend the next ten months changing it or regretting it.
I decided to do a transcript for every episode to make it more accessible when it came to people wanting to read the content instead of listen, or translate it into other languages. However, this adds anything up to 1-2 hours to my work load each week, because as good as the AI (Artificial Intelligence) is around transcribing episodes for me, they’re never safe enough to put out without there being a mistake that might be insulting, rude, funny or inappropriate in there. Plus, when you’re dealing with people’s vulnerable stories about loss, it’s even more risky. So I also pay monthly for the transcription and then I go through it before I submit that with my episode on Buzzsprout.
Then you soon work out that it’s all very well hitting ‘publish’ and having a podcast episode out in the world, but it’s not much good if no one can find it, so you enter the world of social media and all the algorithms that will faithfully fight against you every step of the way.
There we have it, that’s a quick overview of the podcast producing life I have, there are different ways to do it of course but I’m just a one-man band (with the occasional help from my ‘Senior Editor’ and co-host), and not the large scale podcast machine that some are with teams of up to twelve people working on them to get them produced each week.
One of the things I wanted to mention today, on the week of our one year anniversary is the name of our podcast. Now all the great advice out there will tell you to name your podcast something that ‘says what it does on the tin’. So we would have gone down the route of ‘Let’s talk about losses’, or ‘The search for 101 losses’ or ‘A marzipan lover’s search for hope in loss’. Of course we ended up ignoring all that advice completely and just named it what we wanted to call it. Which you can probably get away with if you have a large celebrity as the host or a network pushing it hard for you, but we just wanted something we liked the sound of and would enjoy seeing on all our episodes, something with a bit of depth to it. I don’t advise this to others, but that was the option we went with.
So, why ‘The Silent Why’? Well, it was for a few reasons. In the initial pain of grief and loss there can be a lot of why questions. Why now? Why me? Why them? Why so young? Why so soon? Why couldn’t I be there? Why am I alone? Why don’t they help me? Why won’t they listen? etc. But so often a lot of these questions are left unsaid, silent, because people don’t know how to talk to others about them, because it’s just too hard or because there’s no one they feel they can talk to. Also there are often no answers to these types of questions, so the ‘silent’ part of this is two-fold. However, on the other side of the coin there’s a sort of assumption that when someone’s going through something hard, they’re often portrayed as bitter and shaking their fists at the sky shouting ‘WHYYYY???!!!!’ It seems like a common question people expect grievers to be asking when they’ve been through a loss. But our suspicions were that this question didn’t factor into grief quite as much as people expected. So we decided to ask all our guests if this was a question that they’d wrestled with, and we have, and so far, almost all of them have said either ‘no’ or if they did struggle with it, it was only briefly, and they soon recognised there was no merit in asking this question, because there were no answers. So, there’s another aspect to the ‘silent’, not only is it not asked for long, but it’s also frequently met with silence instead of answers. The Silent Why.
Plus, Chris and I have spent a large chunk of our lives (him more than me of course) saying this when people ask us what our surname is:
‘It’s Sandys. S.A.N.D.Y.S. Pronounced Sands. With a silent why.’
That’s just a little Easter Egg we wanted to throw in there for the few that like those kinds of things.
Early on in the podcast planning I was mucking around with words and playing on the ‘silent’ aspect of the name and ‘shhh’ and I realised it fit very nicely into the ‘s**t happens’ expression. An expression that basically says - bad stuff is coming in life, whatever you do, there’s no way round it. Now I thought this was very clever of me, but as they say, there’s nothing new under the sun and a quick Google search showed me there were a few sassy libraries that had also had the same idea at some point, but I kept it close as something we’d use at some point, and now we have. I’ve added ‘because shhh happens’ to our podcast artwork to nod a bit more towards what we’re all about. And again it works on a few levels because yes shhh does happen and the whole premise of our podcast is looking at the bad things that life throws at us and how we get/got through them. In fact the podcast only exists because ‘shhh happens’. But also, shhh happens, people go silent on issues like this, society goes silent on subjects like this, people don’t know what to say to others or they ignore them after they’ve been through something awful. There is too much shhh in the world of grief and loss, so we need initiatives to break that silence and bring the subjects into the light and through our speakers - enter The Silent Why. Plus, as a rule I don’t swear, so replacing the initial swear word with shhh is just another element that makes it uniquely mine. It’s not that I’m against swearing per se, it’s just that I grew up not doing it and I like to leave some words and language for those really, really awful moments so I have something to reach for, or shock with, if needed. Unfortunately I’ve reached the stage now where if I swore around friends - they’d just laugh! Not the reaction I’d be aiming for.
As a side note you might have noticed that we don’t cut out swear words on our podcast but we do bleep them. There’s a good reason for this, firstly, we won’t ever ask people to watch what they say because if ever there was time to describe things in fruity language, grief is definitely up there and we want people to be themselves, so we always leave it in when we edit, but we do bleep out swear words and here’s why. If there is swearing in a podcast I have to mark the episode as ‘explicit’ which puts a red ‘E’ on the episode to warn people so they might choose not to listen when kids are around or in the car etc. Explicit content isn’t just swearing it might be certain topics or subjects too. The down side of marking the episode as ‘explicit’ is that certain countries don’t permit explicit content to be played, meaning our episodes wouldn’t be available to listeners in those countries and it was very important to us that our content was available to anyone and everyone, wherever they live.
So here we are, one year in, and as I’ve said before I will continue to provide the podcast for as long as I can, I’m hoping forever really, but as you might have guessed this takes a lot of hours for no real pay, except the very kind donations I get through buymeacoffee.com/thesilentwhy. As it grows into a resource that can be used I’m hoping more opportunities will arise for me to create material, books, and other avenues of revenue that will help support it.
Sometimes I feel like I must be crazy taking on something like this at such an uncertain time financially in the world, but for the first time in my life I really enjoy getting up to do my ‘job’, I love where it takes me, what it teaches me and who I get to interact with. After all, some things are more important than money. I think. Yeah, I’m fairly sure that’s right.
If you’d like to help my journey there are loads of things you can do that bring me a lot of joy, you can share a podcast episode with a friend that might need it, you can share one of our posts on social media, you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube and ‘like’ us, subscribe, share or comment, or you can review us on a podcast app like Apple, Spotify or GoodPods to help others find us and give us a try (not all podcast apps have this capability, but anyone can go onto these apps and review and rate us even if you don’t use them to listen to us). Or if you really can’t be bothered with any of that nonsense you can just throw money at me through buymeacoffee.com/thesilentwhy. These things all help me more than you can know because other areas to try and get noticed like podcast awards cost a lot of money to enter, immediately giving the bigger budget podcasts more of a shot at winning them. It’s a bit like the book world and a lot of us indie podcasters and writers are rightly very bitter about the situation!
Thank you so much for listening and being part of this journey, I still can’t believe there are people that love to spend time with me like this, it warms my old heart.
And if you’re in that place where you’re struggling and don’t feel like you have a lot to offer the world right now, I know that feeling so well, but I remind myself that small acts are just as big a contribution to the world as giant ones. Just ‘liking’ a post on Instagram that made me smile through my tears, or sharing a quote that connected with me at the exact moment I needed it, or hitting ‘follow’ on someone who’s trying to do some good work, or donating to their cause or sharing their work with others, can take me less than a second, but I know it might make someone else’s day. And I’ve been on both sides of that and know for a fact that it is always a few seconds well spent.
I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do. Jana Stanfield