►Tell us about you and your podcast
TeachingAmericanHistory.org is a non-partisan non-profit at Ashland University in Ohio. TAH.org supports history, government, and civics teachers through a broad selection of continuing education programs, graduate courses and degrees, and resources for use with students. All our offerings have one thing in common: everything is rooted in primary documents.
We started our podcast a few years ago using archived audio from our monthly teacher webinars, and in addition to that we are now starting to produce original podcasts, starting off with interviews of the editors of each of our Core American Documents collections, a 40+ volume series of documents readers for American History and/or Government teachers. Our primary audience is high school and middle school teachers; however, we know that some students and citizens at large listen to our programs, as well. We are happy to offer our programs to anyone, although we seek to serve first the needs of teachers. Our podcast is simply named after our organization: TeachingAmericanHistory.org.
►Why & how did you start this podcast?
We started it primarily for two reasons: first, we were doing these great live webinars, where a national audience of teachers was interacting with a panel of scholars, asking them questions as they discussed various topics and events in history and government, always rooted in original documents, and we knew there were people who were interested in the content but could not attend the live shows. Second, we wanted to capture these great discussions and make them available for posterity, providing teachers with access to programs that can help them transition to using more original documents with their students, and (we hope) eschewing textbooks as much as possible. If you haven't picked up on it already, we're really serious about original documents.
►How'd you find the time and funding to do this podcast?
I work full-time for TAH.org as a Program Manager, arranging in-person programs in several states and managing our teacher webinars, and realized that with only a little extra work we could create a podcast, as well - and so I did.
►What do you gain from podcasting?
We experience no direct financial gain for our podcasts (or our webinars), and in fact we don't seek it. If someone likes our content and methods - our focus on documents and the discussion of them - and decides to enroll in a graduate class (we offer two accredited Master's degrees), then there is an indirect financial gain for our organization, but that in no way makes it back to the podcast budget line. We do this because we want to reach teachers where they are, and over the subjects they're already teaching, to help them hone their craft for the benefit of students.
►How does your podcasting process look like?
Our webinars are conducted via WebEx and I use a variety of tools to capture the video and audio and then process it afterward. Information about our webinars can be found at tah.org/webinars, and we post links to the handful of documents that form the basis of a given program's discussion well in advance of the monthly air date, in order that people can read them and take part in the discussion by asking questions of our panelists. All our panelists are academic historians and political scientists in our teaching network, and are the professors in our graduate programs, and so we know these people well and select them for each program based on their area of academic expertise.
►How do you market your show?
We have a large and growing email list of teachers who have downloaded resources from our site or have attended our in-person or online programs, and we promote our podcast and webinars to them, as well as through our website and through the usual social media outlets. We have a significant percentage of our subscribers who come to us through iTunes, but we also have many people who use our RSS feed directly in some other app or program. We are working to more effectively promote our podcast now that we have a deep catalog (over 100 episodes).
►What advice would you share with aspiring (new) podcasters?
Talk to people who run shows you like, and talk with people who know something about sound recording. I came to this as an "other duty as assigned" in my job, having been a classroom teacher and administrator before coming to my current position. I've had to learn all of this as I went, because I believed that it has value and that there is an audience out there that would want to listen if we offered it - and it seems that this is correct. Talk with people who've done it successfully and always look for ways to improve. Also, take notes as you figure things out so that you don't forget how you did it. Finally, create your own process flows and checklists so as to now forget what could be critical steps in setting up your program, recording it, producing and processing it, and getting it out there.