Week 4: Podcasts & audio stories

Photo: pixnio.cm/CC

Australians are among the world’s most enthusiastic makers, streamers, and downloaders of audio content, according to this feature in the SMH.

The best audio stories are scripted, and if they contain an interview the questions are researched and written out beforehand.

Immerse, script, and record – an example by Nick Bennett:

This simple story script contains intro, outro, scene-setting narration, and questions for people involved in the story, which is about a sculpture exhibition in the Blue Mountains.

INTRO: Nick Bennett on the rainforest floor just below Scenic World in the Jamieson Valley, Katoomba. I’ve descended the world’s steepest incline – about 200 meters – in search of art treasure.

I’m here with exhibition manager, Lizzy Marshall.

Have some simple questions prepared, e.g.:

    1. What’s so grand about this location?
    2. What inspired an exhibition in the rainforest?
    3. What pieces really stand out to you?
    4. What materials have the sculptors used?

Narration: Like Bondi’s Sculptures by the Sea, I’m surrounded by sculptures in the Inland Sea.

    1. Are there any local artisans involved? (Terrance Plowright, Miles Davis…)
    2. What plans do you have for its future?
    3. How many visitors do you expect to have through?

OUTRO: Scenic World’s Rainforest Sculpture exhibition is on until March 11. I’m Nick Bennett – out & about for the Big Blue Breakfast on 900 2LT.

Useful resources:

Important to know! On copyright (especially relating to using copyrighted music in your podcasts and audio stories). Read Fair Dealing  and Using Copyrighted Music and Media in your podcast and audio stories.

Links for CC-licensed music and sound effects.

Beyond your phone: Recommended podcasting equipment list.

NPR Training – Storytelling tips and best practices.

Transom.org – The best site on the planet relating to audio and podcasting work.

Some listening recommendations.

Podcasting by commercial radio: iHeart, ACast, and PodcastOne.


Use your phone to record yourself in different environments. Try using the native recorder on your phone – does it allow mono and stereo recording? You can also explore recording apps – start with the ones at the bottom of this post or find your own (and tell us about them!)

Note that voice narration and interviews often sound better recorded in mono, but you can use stereo recording (many phones now have two mics) to great effect for SFX. If your phone does both, play with both.

Write a simple script and read it in the following places:

    • in the garden
    • on the street
    • in the bathroom
    • under your doona
    • inside your closet (if you fit 😉) – even the pros do this!

Put on headphones and listen to your recordings. What do you notice about each one? Think about the quality of your voice, atmospheric sounds or noise, tone, echoes, and other audio.

Were you able to create a studio-like sound environment at home? If you can it’ll come in handy when you want to do narration or record stuff without a studio.

Homework task for next week:

    1. Start to plan an interview for your assessment. Who will you interview, and why? How would you go about it? (Don’t freak out – we’ll be doing more on interviewing in the next two weeks.)
    2. Start thinking about how we can safely do vox pops, given our current lockdown situation 😬
    3. Find a podcasting app or site that suits you (e.g. Podcast Addict (Android), Apple Podcasts, Spotify, ABC Podcasts, This American Life) and listen to as many stories as you can. Make note of how stories are introduced; whether or not they contain interviews, sound effects, and music; and how an audio story ends.

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