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Jul 31, 2016, 10:17 IST | Benita Fernando

Lend your ears to podcast evangelist Chhavi Sachdev as she tells us how to hop onboard the newest rage in town

Moving back to Mumbai from the USA almost a decade ago, Chhavi Sachdev first started making podcasts in 2008. Since then, she has launched and helped launch podcasts on a variety of themes. Her most recent podcast is called LSDCast (on love, sex and dating), in which Prem and Rogue answer questions on sexuality and romance in India. An upcoming podcast, in collaboration with Michael Burns who runs a popular storytelling event in the city, is called Tall Tales Takeaway, featuring non-fiction narratives from Mumbaikars, ranging from the supernatural to the romantic. In the past, Sachdev, an independent radio journalist, has run podcasts called Bombay Talkies (on people she interviewed), Bar Bar Dekho (on bartending and cocktails) and NRI (for New + Returned Indians).

Podcaster Chhavi Sachdev
Podcaster Chhavi Sachdev

While some of her earlier podcasts have come and gone, there is no stopping Sachdev. She unabashedly calls herself “a champion of podcasts” and publishing on her website (www.sonologue.com), she adds that radio channels in India are “a little bit of an insult to intelligence”. “FM is restrictive in its content and there is a way to circumvent. And since not everyone has crores to compete with a conglomerate, podcasts — audio that is nourishing for the mind — are the only alternative,” she says.

Most podcasts come in the true indie spirit; Sachdev would go as far as calling them “anti-establishmentarian, at least in their content”. Why, it is only here that you can find episodes dedicated to, say, genre fiction, and a community that shares your interests. “Podcasts are also time and location agnostic, making them accessible to listeners worldover."

The thrill or the ease of podcast listening has only recently caught on with the nation (much later than the rest of the world, admittedly), and so has the interest in making one. With only 20 podcasts streaming from the country currently, there is ample scope for more, says Sachdev. However, her Podcasting 101 sessions will tell you that it takes a little more than a smartphone to record a podcast, but hey, you don’t need a Masters in it. Not yet, at least.

But, we where’s the money in podcasting? Like all good things, is this something she and other podcasters do out of (gulp) love? “The whole ecosystem has changed. With good podcast productions, brand commercials or ads for other podcasts can be seamlessly woven in,” Sachdev says.

A podcast kickstarter kit from Chhavi Sachdev

Be yourself: A podcast is a conversation, not a lecture. It will help to have a script that is meant for the ear, rather than the eye. Run your scripts past people who can critique it and rehearse well. The best thing about a being a podcaster is that it is personal and transparent, unlike RJing, which usually requires an over-the-top style and personality. Keep it authentic, and audiences will align with you.

Garbage in, garbage out: There is no substitute for good equipment. A smartphone won’t work since you won’t be able to monitor your voice levels while recording, and neither will all dictaphones. These don’t come with required filters to block out hissing and popping. Research on recorders which will work with a variety of file formats.

Focus, focus, focus: With podcasts, it is better to be niche than be a generalist. The more narrow your area of interest, the better it will speak to a community of like-minded people. The areas that podcast-listeners most often tune into are news analysis, pop culture (films rule at the top of this list), narrative non-fiction stories and interviews. But, that’s no reason why you can’t make your podcast on recipe books or sports biographies.

Do your homework: There’s plenty available online in the form of tutorials and tools. All you have got to do is read up and be ready to tinker. As far as tools go, there are free tools, such as Garage Band on iOS. You could consider paying an engineer for recording, if you feel like spending the moolah.

Keep the date: You have got to be a regular if you want your podcast to be taken seriously. Don’t start something if you think you won’t be regular. Chalk out a production schedule beforehand.


Fresh Air

The award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues has a strong following. With an host as good as Terry Gross (in pic), it also draws phenomenal guests, making it the most downloaded podcast on iTunes in 2015.
Visit: www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/


The History of India

As the title explains, this podcast takes you through the history of India, with intereting titles such as ‘The throne of peacocks’ and ‘Chess and the emptyness of Pataliputra’.
Visit: www.sendmejunkeveryday.wix.com/historyofindia

UnFictional
Hosted by Bob Carlson, UnFicitonal is a documentary production with thematic stories. It is well-produced and sophisticated. Created by the most talented producers from around the USA, it raises the bar of podcast production. 
Visit: www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/unfictional

Podcasting 101
Where: Sitara Studio, Garage Galli, near Congress Bhavan, Elphinstone (W)
When: August 20, 10.30 AM – 1.30 AM
Entry: Rs 2,500
Call: 9833646717

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