Podcast Glossary: A Technical Guide to Podcasting

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Last updated:
May 25, 2021
Podcast Terms Explained. A Technical Guide to Podcasting

Podcasting

PODCAST EPISODE. If a podcast refers to a show as a whole, an episode is a part of the show. Similarly, to TV shows, a podcast is made up of several episodes. All the episodes together create the podcast.

PODCAST FORMAT. There are different formats you can choose when starting your own podcast:

  • CO-HOSTED PODCASTS: Two or more hosts conversate about their expertise or experience.
  • INTERVIEW-BASED PODCASTS: A host interviews guests and guides the conversation around a specific topic.
  • MONOLOGUE/SOLO PODCASTS: One host talks about their expertise or experience.
  • PANEL PODCASTS: A discussion around a single topic between a group of which is moderated by the host.
  • STORYTELLING PODCASTS: The host narrates a story, fiction or nonfiction, and often includes sound effects and audio sourced from real-life.


Equipment

CONDENSER MICROPHONE. A sensitive microphone often used to record a larger area because it picks up more of the audio in an environment. They are also used to accurately capture the vocal performances of singers and actors in a studio environment. A condenser microphone needs its own power source: either a battery or what's known as “phantom power”.

DYNAMIC MICROPHONE. A less sensitive microphone that does not need its own power source. It is most popular among podcasters. Because they are less sensitive, they also have a lower risk of peaking or clipping throughout the audio.

Keep in mind! In essence, a dynamic microphone catches the sound that is right in front of it, whereas a condenser microphone picks up the sound from all around it.

INTERFACE. An audio interface acts as a bridge between your microphone and your recording platform. An interface will give you added control and will provide phantom power for condenser microphones. It is usually needed if you have an XLR microphone. This article covers audio interfaces in more depth.

MIXER. A device that allows you to mix different audio elements during your recording. Often, you can connect several microphones directly to the mixer and adjust the volume levels of each participant throughout the recording. However, most of these functions can also be done during the editing phase. This article covers audio interfaces in more depth.

Keep in mind! Interfaces and mixers are similar but work differently. An audio mixer takes multiple audio signals, combines them, and creates new output signals. An audio interface works as a “translator” between all your Inputs (microphones, instruments, etc.) and your laptop.

PHANTOM POWER.  Used to power a condenser microphone. It comes through a mixer, interface, or recorder.

POP FILTER. A device placed between your mouth and the microphone to help reduce plosives (i.e. popping of sounds of P’s and B’s).

POLAR PATTERNS. Microphones have so-called polar patterns that determine the sensitivity of the microphone relative to the directions and angles from which the sound arrives. Put it simply, these patterns are the areas and directions mics predominantly “hear” from. The most common types of patterns are Omnidirectional, Cardioid (unidirectional), and Bi-directional. Here you can find more information about polar patters.

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REFLECTION FILTER. A device that acts as a physical barrier between your recording room and your microphone. It holds back the unwanted noises and minimizes echo.

USB MICROPHONE. A microphone that plugs directly into a computer or mixing device via USB cable.

XLR MICROPHONE. A microphone that plugs into a mixer, interface, or recorder via an XLR cable.


Recording

CLIPPING. During the recording, the audio levels will be shown in a waveform. This wave rises when the levels are high, and decreases when the levels are low. Clipping happens when your audio is so loud that the waveform spikes and touches the edge of the recording window. This may result in glitches in your final audio. To prevent clipping, keep the levels below 0 dB, preferably between -3dB and -6dB.

COMPRESSOR AND LIMITER. We have these two terms together because they are closely related to each other.

  • COMPRESSOR. A tool used to bring down the loudest parts of the audio to even the volume. By doing so, it reduces the dynamic range of the audio.
  • LIMITER. A compressor is limited to a very high threshold (i.e. when to compress) and a very high ratio (i.e. how much to compress). Any signal above this threshold compresses to prevent clipping or simply going over the desired threshold.
Keep in mind! A limiter is a type of compressor, but not all compressors are limiters.

DAW. Digital Audio Workstation. Simply put, this is your editing software of choice to mix your podcasts. Some commonly used DAW are Audacity, Adobe Audition, or Reaper.

DOUBLE-ENDER. A type of recording in which all tracks are recorded locally and then pasted together during the editing phase.

Related article: Double-Ender Recording for Podcast Interviews with Remote Guests

DYNAMIC RANGE. Dynamic range is the difference between the signal and the noise floor of a recording. Put it simply, it’s the difference between the loudest and softest parts of a recording over time.

  • SIGNAL. The loudest noise that the system can produce without causing any distortion or clipping
  • NOISE FLOOR. The base-level noise that happens during your recording. It’s a low, background noise that we often barely hear.
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ECHO VS. REVERB. Echo and reverb are both caused by reflected sounds.

  • ECHO. Echoes occur in large areas, with enough distance from the source of the sound and the reflecting surface (usually, around 17 meters). If the sound wave reaches back after 0.1 seconds, we hear the reflection as a second sound (picture yourself shouting at a canyon and hearing yourself back).
  • REVERBERATIONS. Also called reverbs, these occur in smaller areas with less distance between the source and the reflection surface. When the sound wave reaches back before 0.1 seconds, it creates an effect of a prolonged first sound wave.
Keep in mind! Interestingly, the fact that echoes are heard like a second sound, and reverbs like a prolongation of the first sound has to do with our memory. When we create a sound, this original sound wave is still held in our memory for the first 0.1 seconds. When the wave is reflected back in less than 0.1 seconds, our memory still “remembers” this first sound wave, so we perceive the reflection as a prolongation of the original sound wave.
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EQ (Equalization). Equalization lets you increase or decrease specific frequencies within your audio. It appears in a window in your DAW. Each band of frequencies has a fader that you can shift down to decrease, or up to increase.

GAIN. Gain is another measurement for the loudness of the audio. Specifically, it refers to the input loudness from the recording source (as opposed to “Volume”, which refers to the output). Put into practice, when recording audio, the microphone signal will first go through gain before passing through the mixing and recording devices and coming out of the speakers, headphones, or other playback devices.

HARD LIMITING. Hard limiting enables you to flatten your waveform and give it a more consistent shape and sound.

HIGH-PASS FILTER. An EQ technique used to minimize or eliminate low frequencies from your audio: wind noise, microphone handling, or knocking booms.

LEVELS. This refers to the loudness of your podcast, measured in decibels (dB).

LIVE STREAMING. Live streaming refers to the broadcasting of a real-time, live video podcast to an audience over the internet.

LOCAL RECORDINGS. when you record locally, the recording will take place on your computer instead of over the internet. Local recordings will avoid disruptions caused by a bad internet connection and will ensure good-quality audio and video, regardless of your internet connection.

LOW-PASS FILTER. An EQ technique used to attenuate or eliminate high frequencies from your audio. This one is not used as much as the low-pass filter, but it can still be helpful.

PEAKING. Peaking occurs when a louder noise (e.g. laughing, coughing) causes the waveform of your audio levels to rise and draw a “peak”.

PROGRESSIVE UPLOADING. In software that counts with progressive uploading, the tracks are uploaded at the same time the recording is taking place, making the final upload time much shorter since the files are being uploaded during the recording.

REMOTE RECORDING. A podcast recording featuring several speakers, each located in a different place. There are several recording software that enable you to remote record. Would you like to create a remote podcast? Check out our guide about remote podcasting.

RIVERSIDE.FM. Now that you know about remote recording, it may be a good idea to introduce our product. Riverside.fm is a great tool to record your remote podcasts. Our advantage over competitors? Riverside.fm is optimized for audio, video, and live streaming. It also records tracks separately and delivers them uncompressed. It works with local recording and progressive uploading. Learn more about it here.

ROOM TONE. This refers to the ambient noise present in the room you’re recording in. Even if you think you’re in a completely silent room, there will always be some form of tone that the mic will pick up. When recording, it’s good practice to leave 5-10 secs of room tone before you start talking on your recordings. These extra seconds can later be used for transitions, patching edits, or noise reductions during the editing of your podcast.

SAMPLE RATE. You’ll want to set your sample rate before recording your show. A sample rate is, by definition, the number of samples of audio carried per second, measured in hertz (Hz). In practice, the sample rate determines the maximum audio frequency that can be reproduced. The higher the sample rate, the better your audio quality, and the larger the file size. Ideally, to record your podcast audio you’ll want to set it at around 44100Hz, which is standard for music and CDs.

  • BIT DEPTH. You’ll also want to set your bit depth prior to recording your audio. Each audio sample has a bit depth that determines the quality of the sound. As a rule of thumb, recording at 16 bits should work well for spoken podcasts.
  • AUDIO DRIFTS. With time, tracks recorded on different computers may tend to get out of sync. This effect is known as “audio drift”. In order to prevent audio drifts, it helps to set all recording devices at the same sample rate, as audio drifts are generally caused by sample rates that don’t properly match the audio settings in the recording. Furthermore, make sure everyone’s browser is up-to-date, and when possible, record on cooled-down equipment (and if that’s not possible, try closing any unnecessary programs during your recording).

TRACKS. The recordings of a source of audio or video. Ideally, when recording in your DAW, each person’s voice, music, sound, and camera should have its own track. Advanced recording software such as Riverside.fm will take care of recording separate tracks.

WAVEFORM. This is the display of how your audio is recording. You will see this on your DAW during the recording. Ideally, you’ll want the waveform to stay stable, without many “peaks” (highs) or “troughs” (lows).


Edition

COMPRESSION. By applying compression to your recording, your editing software will bring the loudest and quietest parts of your recording closer together, thus making the volume of the audio more balanced throughout the recording. However, compression can lower sound quality and make the music sound less clear.

CREATIVE COMMONS (CC). A non-profit organization that regulates the copyright licenses on different creative works. The organization works with CC licenses that creators can use to offer certain usage rights to the public while reserving other rights (visit creativecommons.org for more information). For example, CC offers a wide range of music and jingles that you can use in your podcasts.

JINGLE. A short piece of audio usually used to introduce your podcast. Jingles are commonly a piece of music no longer than 20 secs.

MONO VS. STEREO. The main difference between mono and stereo sound is the number of channels used to record and playback the audio.

  • MONOGRAPHIC SOUND. Mono signals are played back using a single audio channel. Mono audio can be reproduced on several speakers, but all speakers will be reproducing the same audio signal. Generally, podcasts are better recorded on mono audio.
  • STEREOGRAPHIC SOUND. Stereo audio will have the audio split across two channels. In this way, sounds on the left channel will be heard on the left headphone or speaker, while those on the right channel will come out of the right headphone or speaker. For the listener, this will create an illusion of being in a room with sounds coming from different directions.
Keep in mind! Stereo WAV files are virtual twice the size of mono WAV files. However, if you convert down to MP3 format, this difference can be eliminated.
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MUSIC BED. Having music play underneath speaking.

NORMALIZATION. A technique to make your waveform bigger or smaller based on its loudest peaks. Normalization even your audio out.

Keep in mind! Although it smoothens the peaks and troughs in a similar way compression does, normalization doesn’t change the shape of the waveform (such as compression), but it changes its size.


Uploading

AUDIO FILE. The audio file format of your recording. The most common types are .wav and .mp3 files.

  • .WAV FILE. This is the high-quality audio file that will capture every sound as it is recorded. During the post-production, you should edit using WAV files, and later convert your then finished episodes to a .mp3 format.
  • .MP3 FILE. This is the type of audio file you’ll use to distribute your podcast episodes. Exporting to .mp3 files will make the file smaller and allows for a quick and low bandwidth uploading and downloading. Although exporting will result in some quality loss, the change will barely be noticeable.

Related article: WAV vs MP3: What's the Difference & Which Is Better for Podcasters

BITRATE. This measures how many kilobits (kb) each second of your podcast audio equals to. Higher bit rates correspond to bigger file sizes and better audio quality. Bit rates become relevant when converting audio from .wav to .mp3, as the higher the bit rate, the larger the file will be. As a guide, a normal talk show podcast with a few jingles should count with around 96kbps. If it features a lot of music (music beds under voices and such), around 128kbps.

DIRECTORY. This is the place where listeners can find, listen, and subscribe to podcasts. Podcast directories don’t physically hold your MP3 files and therefore don’t allow you to directly upload episodes to their platforms. Instead, they receive your podcast information through the RSS feed created by your hosting site.

Related article: How To Publish A Podcast (Beginner’s Guide 2021)

HOSTING SITES. These are sites where you can store your final podcast .mp3 files. When you upload your files, you’ll need to fill in some specific information such as titles, descriptions, and artwork. Once all this is uploaded an RSS feed will be generated to distribute your podcast among your chosen directories.

ID3 TAGS (METADATA). This refers to the information attached to your .mp3 file, such as the podcast title, the episode title, the cover art, etc. Normally, your DAW will allow you to fill in all this information once you’ve finished editing your podcast. Such information is then found in your RSS feed.

RSS FEED. Stands for Really Simple Syndication. An RSS feed is a single link (i.e. URL) you’ll get from your hosting site when you upload your podcast files. The RSS Feed will get updated whenever you publish a new episode or make changes to your podcast. With the RSS feed, you can easily submit your podcast to different directories.


Promotion

AFFILIATE MARKETING. By working with affiliate marketing, companies will pay you a small commission when referring your audience to their products or services.

ANALYTICS. Metrics that will help you measure the success of your podcast. By adjusting your show to the statistical feedback, you’ll be able to improve your episodes. Most hosting sites offer reliable analytics tools.

AUDIO TRANSCRIPTION. Transcribing your podcast into a written text. Audio transcription will improve your podcast searchability by giving Google and other search engines an accurate idea of everything discussed in the episode.

CROWDFUNDING. In the podcast context, crowdfunding consists of asking your audience for small donations to support your work. Using Patreon will allow you to get funding from your audience on an on-going basis. This method, however, works best when you a solid audience base

EPISODE KEYWORDS. Specific words that describe the content of your episodes and, ideally, help others found about your podcast. Even if your episodes are thematically similar, using a different keyword will increase the chances of new people finding your show.

  • HIGH-DENSITY KEYWORDS. Keywords that are used most often on a webpage. You can find out which high-density keywords would be most useful with tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner.

MONETIZATION. Monetizing your podcast entails the different ways in which you can earn money from your show. Although the possibilities are endless, some ways in which you can obtain funding are by working with sponsorships, affiliate marketing, paid subscriptions, or crowdfunding. You can also use your podcast as a channel to advertise your own product, such as a book, a course, or some merchandise.

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PODCAST COVER. The visual first impression of your podcast. The first thing your audience will notice about your show is its cover, so making an appealing one can make a great difference.

Keep in mind! Some directories may also ask you to include a podcast cover in order to be featured in their sites.

SEO. Short for Search Engine Optimization, SEO refers to the practice of increasing quantity and quality of traffic to a website, blog, or video through non-paid search engine results. Projected to podcasts, SEO entails optimizing your content so that your podcast can be found by those who want to find it.

SHOW NOTES. Show notes are a written description of what happened during an episode. They may also include any additional resources that complement the content discussed during the podcasts (e.g. social channels, links to articles, bios of guests, etc.). Using show notes can greatly improve your SEO efforts.

SPONSORSHIPS. Sponsorships describe a relationship between a company and a content creator, in which the creator advertises and raises awareness of the company in exchange for some benefits. For example, a recording gear company may be interested in sponsoring a podcaster by giving them free gear or money and hope to increase its sales by having the podcaster’s audience know about its products.

SUBSCRIBE. When your audience subscribes to your podcast, they will receive the newest edition (episode) of your show as soon as it is available.

Interested to read more about podcast promotion? Read our guide about podcast marketing, promotion, and monetization.

After more than 60 terms explained, we hope the world of podcasts looks clearer to you. Would you like to start your very own podcast? Make sure to read our Beginner’s manual to learn about the creation of your podcast and the promotion of your show. Should you have any doubts, let us know.

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