A Brief Introduction to Podcasting and the Podcasting Studio at Bethany Lutheran College

Kurt Shrader (Mankato, Minnesota USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Kurt W. Shrader works in the Studio department at Bethany Lutheran College as the Access Coordinator for the Mankato and North Mankato community television station. He also directs Stone Path Studios, the student production company which tells the stories of churches and non-profit organizations. Kurt holds an AAS in business administration from Southeast Technical Institute, a BA in communication from Bethany Lutheran College, and a MA in film and television production from the Savannah College of Art and Design. While not working Kurt enjoys time with his wife Rose and daughter Evelyn, discussing religion and cinema with friends, and cooking new foods or tweaking old favorite recipes.

Podcasting – What is it and who listens?

By now most of you probably know what a podcast is, but let’s define our terms. A podcast is digital audio available over the internet for mobile devices and computers that can be subscribed to and received automatically. What a dry definition, and a broad one too, but it’s from that definition that the magic of podcasting erupts. For nearly any kind of topic you can imagine, there’s likely a podcast for it, and more and more people are listening to podcasts every year. In 2019 there were 14 million more weekly podcast listeners in the US than in 2018. Reduced barriers to entry in production, the saturation of internet connected devices, especially mobile devices for listening, and importantly the maturation and proliferation of popular podcasting platforms that leverage these technologies to automatically feed new content to listeners have led to the rise of the podcast.

How popular are podcasts?

According to Edison Research and Triton Digital, 32% of the US population listened to a podcast in the last month in 2019, compared with 24% in 2017. In the 12-24 age bracket 40% listened to a podcast in the last month. Do you listen to Spotify? What about your kids, nieces or nephews? In the 12-24 age bracket of Spotify users, 53% listened to a podcast in the last month. Further, all weekly podcast listeners in the US managed to listen to an average of 7 podcasts a week!

I interviewed Bethany Lutheran College’s Studio manager Greg Vandermause and artist and Minnesota Valley Lutheran arts teacher Ben Lundsten and got their take on Podcasting (jump to the end to listen to these interviews). As Greg points out you can be doing anything while listening to a podcast. And why not? We’ve been carrying around media players and computers in pockets and purses for some years now, they’re always with us. While you’re out and about doing anything, you can listen to anything, Ben shared the broad gamut of podcasts he listens to and it spans the range from mystery shows to comics, from the religious to cinema and creativity, and he speculates there’s a podcast for everyone, likely even one for crocheting. Like radio, podcasts can be highly produced or made quickly with one or two people in front of a microphone, but one thing that makes podcasts special, according to Ben, is their intimate connection with the listener and the communities that develop around the podcasts.

Podcasting at Bethany Lutheran College

Here at Bethany, studio manager Greg Vandermause has recognized the importance of storytelling and content creation in new media. Students are already consuming podcasts, and it’s important that we match our facilities with the consumption trends of upcoming generations. This year we built a podcast studio to provide students, faculty, and friends of the college with a place to make high quality productions easily. Our podcast studio is equipped with four of the industry standard microphone, the Shure SM7B, top of the line Yellowtec Mika arms, and the Rode Podcaster Pro. It’s that last item, the Rode Podcaster Pro, that is the key to making basic podcasts quickly and efficiently as it’s designed to make the gathering of quality audio with professional equipment as simple as possible. With only a little prep you can even run an entire podcast live to a recording complete with music and call-ins over the phone without a computer, all with just an easy-to-use audio board.

Facilities that simplify content creation would be meaningless without distribution. You can choose a single platform to distribute on, you can even choose YouTube and learn how to leverage the YouTube algorithm to get your podcast listened to by the vast numbers of people on that platform, as many top YouTubers are now doing with their own podcasts. Or, if you want to distribute on audio first platforms including Spotify and Apple there are services like Anchor that are free, very easy to use and make your podcast available on those platforms and more with only one upload.

Discussion and a Challenge

Should you be making a podcast? Do you have something to say and do you enjoy saying it? Do you already have content that is podcast friendly? Do you want to develop a listener base that can listen anywhere at anytime and is actively fed your new content when it comes out? Then you should probably start a podcast! Your podcast can be developed for a global audience, or for a hyper local one.

So, I want to know — What podcast can you imagine? What podcast will you create? Will you speak to the saints across the globe teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Will you encourage one another in your region or country by lending counsel? Will you connect us to the stories of the church in far off lands? Will your church or organization find a need in your local city and speak directly to a specific demographic there? This list of questions is too limiting! There are people who need to hear the Gospel, there are Christians that need more of Christ’s love spoken to them in their daily lives, indeed there are so many needs!

In every age the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been spread through the technologies of the day. In Luther’s day the printing press was the powerful new technology, and in our day we have numerous new technologies that can bring us together or drive us apart. Podcasting has enabled you to speak to an audience across the globe like never before, so what will you say?

Listen to the discussion

You might ask me “What did you say?” Well I’m glad you asked! You can listen to the conversation I had with Greg Vandermause and Ben Lundsten. Click the arrow-box and then the play button.

Using Bethany’s podcast facilities

Do you want to make a podcast in Mankato, Minnesota? You can learn more about the Bethany podcast studio by contacting any member of the BLC Studios team:

Greg Vandermause –BLC Studios Manager

Seth Grabow – Production Specialist

Kurt Shrader – KTV Access Coordinator, Stone Path Studios Director

Here are some sources of digital usage data and podcasting on YouTube..

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Josh A (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 3:57:00am
As a student here, I have gotten the opportunity to use the podcast studio several times. It is a great blessing that we are able to use top of the line technology along with having people such as Greg, Seth, and Kurt who are always willing to help us with any questions we have.
Rev. Luke Ulrich (Mt. Olive Lutheran Church & School (ELS) - Mankato, MN) 2019-10-22 3:06:10pm
Forgive my ignorance in this realm... But how important is it to have a regular set release of your podcast? What if I want to make a podcast but only get around to recording it irregularly? How does that work? Will people drop out and lose interest? Or do they subscribe and get notifications whenever you drop a new one? What is the ideal length of a podcast that people are looking for? What if it's only 10 minutes long? What if it's 3 hours? How much do factors like this matter in the podcasting realm?
Kurt Shrader (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-23 7:19:21pm
How good is your content? How much does someone want to listen to it? I'd recommend checking out CGP Grey on YouTube. He has a great following and he does not do regular posts on his main channel. He doesn't even do the social media thing very much. For length, it depends. Do you have 3 hours of good content? Somebody will listen if they care about it. Maybe you can break it up and have smaller podcasts or YouTube videos that pull a single topic out of a larger conversation, that then link back to your full discussion.

Regular posting is only one tool in the toolbox for getting your content out there. Asking yourself why somebody might subscribe and listen to YOUR podcast may help answer how important it is to be a regular and frequent poster. Remember too, the power of subscriptions is that if you are irregularly posting you can still get in front of people without them having to constantly check your website. It's important to remind people to subscribe to your channel for this reason.
Emmanuel Luangkhamdeng (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 3:58:43pm
Podcasts have been taking over 2019, and this is a great medium for people to relate with as they do other activities such as exercising or driving. And I'm so glad that Bethany has decided to have a podcast studio on campus. This is a wonderful way for students to become involved with media and the process of sharing their values and information with the world around us. It was wise for Bethany to have this so that we can make the most out of our technology and use it to our advantage whether that is sharing the Gospel, encouragement, or entertainment for others.
Samuel (Student at Bethany Lutheran College ) 2019-10-22 4:08:49pm
Well Podcasting is just a revamp or classic talkshows and soap operas. So its easy to see how people of any age would enjoy them, but the young generation definitely has shown interest.

Kurt Shrader (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-23 7:10:44pm
Prior to radio we would go and listen to people play music in person, or go to hear a lecture, or hang around a campfire and entertain each other with stories. Radio revamps the spoken word, it revamps music listening, but the differences should not be understated, so too the difference between radio and podcasting should not be understated. The types of content we have now are even more varied than was ever possible in the radio model, the ability to connect consumer and producer together is unprecedented as well.

In the radio age we were able to spread a handful of voices to massive numbers of people, now in the podcasting age we can spread a multitude more voices over a larger geographic area, but in many cases to fewer ears. We're witnessing what may be the final stages of the de-massification of mass media, and we continue to break down barriers between producers and consumers in the creation of the "prosumer", something that was posited by Marshall McLuhan in the 70s (although named by someone else?). We no longer have to simply consume, we have the power to create in media like never before and to collaborate with the creators.
Shoshana Bruner (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 4:06:44pm
I completely agree with you, Emmanuel. Podcasts have been growing in popularity dramatically, so it was great that BLC jumped at the opportunity to create a studio space just for that. It is great that students can use podcasts to do anything from sharing the Gospel all the way to using it as a social platform, such as how Marissa Voss has her Maverick Hockey Live podcast that connects with broadcasting.
Adam B. (BLTS) 2019-10-24 2:13:50pm
What are good, practical ways to promote a podcast?
Kurt Shrader (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-24 4:00:22pm
In no order and by no means exhaustive:
Mine your own content: pull a salient quote from your podcast episode and a graphic you can post to Twitter, Facebook, etc, and link to the episode! You don't even need to use any pictures, just make a graphic that looks pretty with all text. I've heard of but not used online services like Canva or Pablo that can make this easy. Or, if you have a video or audio clip you can share that. When you are sharing, remember to post natively whenever possible, that means if you are going to post a short audio or video clip to promote the podcast don't rely on a link to another service to serve that clip, upload it directly to the platform you're promoting on.

Cross promote: Once you have some a bit of a catalog of podcast episodes and you've been regular or close to it reach out to other people running podcasts that are similar or related and cross promote each others podcasts. Appearing as a guest on each other's podcasts is an easy to do that, then just remember to mention the other podcast!

Snail mail and door to door: Physical mailings aren't dead yet... I'd be curious to see if a new, multi faceted approach to canvassing might be useful. Let's say your church has a weekly podcast episode, or two. Ideally more than just your sermon, maybe it's the sermon with a brief introduction recorded specially for each sermon episode, and maybe you record a short devotion weekly, or a brief 15 minute podcast bible study. Can that podcast feel like it's a local thing? Can you be talk about or mention issues and events locally? Could you be talking about family or social issues people in the community care about? Okay, then when you go out and canvas you're not just inviting people to church or to an event, you can promote the podcast. Here at the college I've heard our admissions director talk about how we have to have plenty of information online, that people want to stand off at a distance and get the info of and the feeling about a place before they ever make HUMAN contact. How is your church making that possible? A full on church service is really something meant for your congregants, to feed them with word and sacrament. If you were to have a podcast that bridges the gap, let's people know you're here, you're talking, they can feel like they're getting to know you and what you value. Could it become part of a more effective outreach strategy?

Be on multiple platforms and : If you're using something like anchor.fm you can easily post to multiple podcast platforms, but maybe you should also post to Youtube. Then embed the podcast, and the latest video onto your website. Websites with video tend to be favored by Google, so your podcast could help with SEO of your website, which could also help with your podcast!

Encourage participation: Algorithms for any platform I know like participation, so you can encourage comments, but if you do take some time to respond... Or maybe enlist people from your congregation or organization to help respond to comments too. Maybe it's like designating greeters on a Sunday?

There's plenty more ways, but there's a few things to consider.
Sean S. (Bethany Lutheran Seminary) 2019-10-24 2:15:07pm
How should a church and a synod rank podcasting in evangelism? Is it more effective from a synod point of view or a particular church to use as outreach in their own community?
Kurt Shrader (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-24 4:41:55pm
I honestly don't know.

I think that your ranking may have something to do with the skills resources and willingness of people available to the organization.

But what kind of a podcast? What are you putting out? I think you need to define an audience and how you're going to talk to them. If you know that, then maybe you can prioritize. A hypothetical podcast, about we don't know what, talking to we don't know who, cannot be ranked. Timing may even play into specific targets of opportunity. For instance if you are in the ELS, WELS, or parts of the LCMS then maybe now is the time for a podcast that's purpose built towards leading congregations and individuals that care about the exclusivity of the Gospel and authority of Christ and Scripture out of ELCA and to a place with like minded believers (maybe it already exists?). Maybe that opportunity was really a few years ago and the time is gone. I don't know.

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that podcasting could be a small step someone outside your organization could take into your world, a less intimidating way to familiarize yourself with an organization and its people. From a theological and language perspective a synod could make a podcast more oriented towards the shared ideas and culture of the organization, whereas a local congregation might see another benefit in that listening to a podcast can allow familiarization of the prospect with the actual individuals they might come into contact with at your church. If this really is a utility a local church podcast can provide then I think it would be valuable to bring on congregation members occasionally in some way. This is an open question for me. But something to remember if you're thinking of using a podcast in this way is that it could be a long game. That is, podcasting for three months may not be enough to see a benefit, sometimes you need to message to people for a year or even for years on end! Why does it always seem there is a sale going on at the car dealership? It's because buying a new car is a BIG decision. You don't buy a new car every three months, not even every year, and yet the ads keep coming, and when you're ready, now you're paying attention to who has the sale. Before that those ads may be familiarizing you with the people, and their values, or maybe it's reinforcing the love and values of a brand of vehicle, BMW is the ultimate driving machine and so they create envy for the driving experience, mini-vans are about families. What is your congregation about? What is your synod about? Who are you targeting? And at this point, what are you saying to them? You don't have to say everything up front and all the time, but realize that it may take a while for someone listening to have an event in their lives that pushes them to come through your church doors.

I am a big proponent of not manipulating our services to focus on the outsider and in not adopting new trends and technology into our services, instead keeping the services focused towards feeding the congregation. My outlook is not everyone's, certainly, but how we welcome people into the community of God's people, and into His house is something I think there is still a lot of innovation to be done, especially considering how technology is re-framing our society. I think experimentation may be key. If anyone knows of a church using a podcast as a hyper local tool I'd love to hear about it. I'll do a some looking myself.
Jace Fellers (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-25 4:18:43am
Mr. Shrader,

Thank you so much for what you had to say about podcasts. It is fascinating to see the "numbers" for how many people listen to podcasts while doing literally anything!

I do have a question that came to me while I was reading your article. Why do you personally think that podcasts have become such a big thing? I, personally, like to listen to only one podcast every so often, I’m just curious to see what you have found about this question.

Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
Abby Olson (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-26 3:48:45am
I go to school here, I have never made a podcast but I have worked with Greg and I know he is awesome and is really good at what he does. I have listened to some different podcasts in the past and will look at some here at Bethany.
Kelsey and Jenna (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-10-28 12:49:53am
Thank you, Mr. Shrader, for your post.

It is always great to hear of the new ways that Bethany is thriving. I personally enjoy listening to many podcasts while I do homework. What are some of the topics that the Bethany Podcast discusses? Is the content directed toward the students of Bethany or the community in Mankato?

It is hard to evangelize in the 21st century but this could be a great way to appeal to the younger listeners, as you mentioned, in the 12-24 age range. WLC has a podcast run by the campus' pastors called 'Let the Bird Fly' which was intended for youth ministry as well as the older members in the community. Something that makes this podcast interesting is the chemistry between the WLC pastors and theology experts. They have fun and the audience can hear that which puts a smile on everyone's face.
Kurt Shrader (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-31 4:13:13pm
Thanks for the comment. We actually don't have an official Bethany Podcast at the moment. There are many individuals which are working on podcasts in different areas, and some official podcasts that are being discussed and are in consideration. Each podcast would have it's own target audience that could be anything from Mankato area, to alumni, to parents of students or another audience entirely. It would all depend on the podcast.
Marissa Voss (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-28 11:29:03pm
I loved this article, because podcasting is such a huge platform in our society, and in my age group. There are many young people who listen to podcast when cleaning, eating, or driving. Something I thought was interesting about this article was that that "32% of US population listened to podcast in the last month in 2019, compared with 24% in 2017." I was just fascinated that the podcast listening has spiked that much in only 2 years. It show that podcasting is such an growing field of interest in the United States, and has no show of stopping.
Nathan Sargent, Alexis Gantner (WLC) 2019-10-29 2:29:45am
Mr. Shrader,

I found your presentation to be very informative on a subject that I have always been curious about but have never really investigated. I can tell that podcasts are becoming a much more popular topic these days. I appreciated your emphasis on the need to share the Gospel through podcasts as a way to reach out to the younger generation and relate to them. Do you have any suggestions of podcasts that you listen to that you would recommend to someone who is new to listening to them?
Kurt Shrader (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-31 4:07:40pm
In the audio recording near the end of the article Ben Lundsten mentions a wide variety of podcasts he listens to, that's a great place to start. I am not nearly so avid a podcast listener as he. Now if you want to hear some very highly produced podcasts, check out PRX.org That's public radio, and you can listen to some of the highest quality in terms of writing and production value.

Someone who is doing something interesting with podcasts as a piece of a media puzzle in the church is Matt with the Ten Minute Bible Hour. I honestly haven't listened to any of his podcasts yet, but he's been doing a series of church visits on YouTube where he goes to churches of different denominations talks with the pastors about the physical places of worship, how their theology is reflected in those spaces and in their worship practices, and what that theology is. He just visited an LCMS church and posted that video in the last few days. It was good to see an outsider's perspective on the more high church Lutheran practices (of which I am a fan, more please!). Now Matt has his own message and his own podcast, but he isn't ramming that down your throat during his YouTube video church visits, instead he is respectfully going to these different churches and asking questions and learning, then he is encouraging people to come and get more content from him. If anyone has listened to his podcasts or any of his other content I'd love to hear your thoughts on him.

A great take away from Ten Minute Bible Hour is how he is using multiple platforms and content that is native to a particular platform to feed into the the native content of another platform.
Sashia Swenson (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-11-03 8:41:45pm
I didn't know that there was a studio for podcasting at Bethany but I think that it is an amazing opportunity that they grabbed a hold of. I don't regularly listen to podcasts but I know many people who do. I can see how podcasting is another tool that can effectively spread the word to many people since listeners of the platform is continuing to increase.
Harold and Morgan (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-03 11:51:54pm
I actually have two questions or thoughts about the use of podcasts in the world of Christianity and spreading the Word of God.
1. With the growth in popularity of podcasts and the continuing growth of social media, do you feel as though some churches may end up going straight to a digital front when trying to get the word of God out to people? It may be easier for lots of people to just sit on their own time to listen to the word instead of going out and commuting to a church to hear the word. I know for myself personally, I would rather just listen to a podcast or audio recording of my church sermon.
2. If churches were to go strictly digital and only use social media and podcasts to preach the message, do you think it would still have the same feeling as being in a church or area with many other Christians hearing the word? For me, I feel a more personal connection to the word when I am alone listening to it. However, I feel like I am able to feed off the energy of others when I am with other Christians hearing the word.
Kurt Shrader (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-11-05 6:05:05am
Harold & Morgan, thanks for your comment.
1 - This is already happening. They're called televangelists. And many of them have been focused on media first for some time. Is there anything wrong with a television only, or social media only, podcast only, or all digital only gospel preaching and teaching outlet? No, but they can never and should never be substituted for the real thing. A podcast or a TV show, or a Facebook live stream can never replace what is real, and what has promise. It is true that the Word of God works, and does not return to God void, it does its work! But Jesus says that the people who love him keep his commandments, and Jesus says "take and eat" Jesus says "baptize", and Paul talks about spurring one another to love and good works not neglecting to meet together. These are not digital churches, these are body and blood churches, these are word connected with the water churches! The church exists where we meet around the things God has promised to be efficacious, churches of Word AND Sacrament are churches that have real promised power, and churches that forsake the sacraments are sad places indeed!

2 -
Psalm 1
1"Blessed is the one...
2 whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Find every way you can to meditate on the word! I would be careful to not confuse hearing the Gospel and its exposition with church of Word and sacrament. See answer 1. But what a wonderful time we live in where we can find so many ways to bring the Word to so many people! But I don't think we will ever, or should ever try to replace the local church.
Thanks for your comments!
Kostiantyn Skorenkyi (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 7:22:11pm
I am from Ukraine, and I am studying for ministry at MLC.

I love listening to a podcast. Every time I go for a run or driving a car, I turn on a podcast and listen to it. Sometimes I notice that I more listen to a podcast then watch movies or videos on YouTube. The reason for this is because I’m a college student and not always I can find a time to relax and watch something, but you can listen to a podcast anywhere you want.

I think having a podcast studio in college is great, but how does that work?

I think the podcast is one of the best ways to spread the Gospel through technology. People don’t always have tome to watch videos or movies, but you can still listen to a podcast. Thank you for this podcast studio. It is very important to teach students how all this works, so they can use this technology in sharing and spreading the Gospel.
Marquis (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-11 4:04:42pm
I think podcasts are a good direction because you can talk about things across the world and get it out to everyone due to media. This can be big for everyone because now you can hear about what is going on with different areas of the world from the people in the communities.
Kendall P (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-11 9:03:31pm
Great Article! Podcast are the new medium in today's society and I think it's fantastic that Bethany Lutheran College gets the oppurnity to have its own. Spreading the gospel through these podcast is a great way to reach the youth community. Being a Lutheran school what are some of the topics your podcasts touch on and what are the limitations you have to puton them?
Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-12 7:19:21pm Moderator
(The questions posted just above arrived too near the scheduled close of the discussion window to receive answers.)