Academic podcasting: The time is now

Podcasting is an easily produced, but powerful, medium to connect with potential or current textbook users, scholars in your discipline niche, readers of your work, and potential consulting clients. It can extend your brand and expand your professional network.

I have been mentioning in TAA media that now is great time—the very best time—to start an academic podcast. A hundred thousand new podcasts are being launched each month and podcast listenership is growing rapidly as mobile devices add native podcast apps, and platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and Audible add podcasts to their offerings. We are just now at the point where “start a podcast” is about to overtake “start a blog” as a search term in Google Trends.

An academic podcaster who arrives early and establishes themselves in their selected niche can become the literal voice of their field before others arrive. Yes—now is the time to start academic podcasting.

What is Academic Podcasting?

A podcast is a downloadable series of audio files focused on a theme, story, or topic. An academic podcast is an audio series that is created by or for academic professionals or students. It could provide a service to academics, it could be part of the learning process, or it could be a vehicle to discuss an area of scholarship.

How to Start a Podcast

If writing a book or article is done by putting words into a document and printing it, then producing a podcast is done by talking into a recording device (such as your smartphone) and uploading that file to a podcasting host. It really is that simple in terms of technical aspects. But of course, if a book or podcast is to be useful, there’s more to it.

The real work in starting a book or article is choosing a story, identifying an audience, working out the goals, and then making a list of strategies to achieve those goals. That’s also what we do to start a podcast.

Your Story

If you have an idea for a podcast, or a spark of an idea for a podcast, then there must be a story you are itching to tell—a message that you want to get out there.

It could be a story of you. That is, it could be experiences, lessons learned, or expertise that you want to share with others. The story your podcast tells could be a story of others. You might want to explore the ideas and experiences of others to learn from them. It could be an opportunity to chat with the “stars” of your discipline—or maybe just your friends.

Your Audience

As you start to settle on the story you want to tell, think about who wants to hear that story. This is your target audience or target listener. Is your story mainly of interest to others in your research area? …in the course or discipline you teach? …students in that course or discipline? …all academics or all students? …users of your textbook?

Once you determine your audience, create an avatar that you speak to when podcasting. This avatar is an imagined ideal listener who represents your target audience. If you speak directly to a single avatar as an individual, the intimate connection between podcaster and listener is enhanced. Knowing your avatar is important because that will influence every decision you make going forward.

It’s best to go deep, not wide, as you consider your ideal listener. Even podcasts meant for a general audience are not really for “everyone.” In academic podcasting, be the go-to resource for people who have a particular, focused interest.

Niche and Mission

Our niche is the subset of the entire set of podcast listeners made up of your target listeners.

Our mission is a way of looking at the story we want to tell. Another way to look at the mission is to think of the problem we are helping our ideal listener to solve. Why would our ideal listener want or need to listen?

It’s important to put our mission in writing. The writing process helps us refine our thoughts and our goals. It also reminds us of what we want to remember in order to stay on track to accomplish our intended goals. A good mission statement identifies and describes at least these elements:

  • The target listener (avatar)
  • Helping statement (how we will help the avatar solve their problem)
  • The benefits (what skills or insights will the avatar gain)

A good mission statement is thoughtful and complete—but brief. It’s not a manifesto, but instead just a few simple sentences that you can use to guide the process of getting your podcast organized and published.

Keep your mission statement handy—perhaps in a folder in your digital notebook. You need to refer to it frequently as you plan and implement every single episode of your podcast. If you don’t, and you start drifting away from your mission, you’ll possibly also drift away from your target listener and those specific concerns you are helping them with.

Get Help

Because podcasting is so huge and rapidly growing right now, there are a lot of resources available if you want to start now. However, it’s hard to choose.

Last summer, I organized a small group of folks from TAA to establish a private online community called Academic Podcasting. We’ve gained a few academic podcasters as members to help us. We’re learning together, in real time and in real life. We even have a “living lab” in the form of a new podcast we’re launching called The Academic Podcaster. We can thus see how the avatar, niche, and mission, are developed—and then how they drive the first steps of launching a podcast and beyond.

If you have an academic podcast, or are thinking of starting one, or just want to hang out with us, please join us. There’s no membership fee. Just go to AcademicPodcasting.org and sign up!


Kevin Patton is an award-winning educator and textbook author in human anatomy & physiology. In his fourth decade of textbook authorship, Kevin is also an active professor, blogger, podcaster, and speaker with a strong interest in the art and science of teaching. For more of Kevin’s tips, visit TheTextbookAuthor.org