This is a beginner’s guide for editors wishing to record an audio interview to promote a journal, based upon the experience of Taylor & Francis staff, who have recorded a series of audio interviews with leading editors and academics.
You might be recording a one-off promotional audio interview for a specific event or print release, or recording a discussion of a panel or group. This guide will take you through your options to help you decide what would work best for you and your journal, and will also guide you through all stages of the process, from having the initial idea and interest to getting your podcast online.
Option 1: Standard interview
Questions can be as flexible as you like, and we would advise that you discuss your questions with your Managing Editor prior to the interview to draw on their experience of recording podcasts. You can also ask whether he or she has time to edit your interview for you, or whether you will need to go elsewhere for this to be done. The expert interviews we record usually contain the following list of questions. These can be modified, expanded, or omitted as you see fit:
1. For researchers or students who have never encountered the Journal of ..., what is the journal about in a nutshell?
- What are the journal’s aims?
- Which areas does it primarily focus upon?
- What range of issues and concerns does the journal aim to explore?
2. What do you think are the most contentious issues in contemporary debate and research in the subject area which your journal seeks to address?
3. Who do you feel make up your readership, your core audience?
4. What do you look for when considering articles and submissions?
- How do you spot a good article?
- What are the most common mistakes?
- What advice would you give researchers who would like to be published in your journal?
5. What are your aspirations for the future of the journal?
In addition to these questions, we would usually have a number of topical questions (around 5), related to the journal. Ultimately however, the questions can be anything you want, but you should keep in mind that your questions should be:
- Open questions that explore topics or require discussion or detail to answer.
- Occasionally, two-part questions: questions designed to link two issues together, e.g., “What’s wrong with XXXX and what, in your view, needs to be done to improve it?”
- Designed to interest your target audience and anticipate their questions and concerns. Your questions are for the benefit of your audience and should be on topics of direct relevance and interest to your target audience.
- Also of interest to others outside your target audience, e.g., linking to topical issues in the news at the time.
- Themed to consider other uses. We encourage interviewees to mention specific papers in their interview so that we can link from the transcript to the mentioned paper, helping to drive usage to the journal.
In a standard interview, you will first need to state the question before giving your answer, in order to help your Managing Editor or the person who edits it. It is also good practice to introduce the question in the first line of an answer, but this is not essential.
Option 2: Structured discussion
We have also had discussions between previous and current editors. This works well during a handover but can also be adapted for other purposes. In these sorts of discussions, it is just as important to plan and agree on what is going to be said to ensure that there is a clear point to the interview.
Alternatively, you may wish to divide up the questions for different people associated with the journal to answer. Again, we recommend that you mention specific papers so that we can link to them.
Making the recording
Deciding where you make the recording is crucial as it is important to minimize background noise as much as possible. Rooms at universities and institutes can be noisy with students and large groups of people moving about in corridors outside rooms. Since this most commonly happens at specified times, you can work around background noise problems. Conference rooms at hotels can be both quiet and noisy, and do tend to feature presentations in adjacent rooms.
If you are recording an interview and you notice sounds from a loud group of people outside or are interrupted in any way, simply pause, leave the recorder running, wait for the noise to subside and pick up the interview at the start of your previous point. We can edit the interruption out of the recording at a later date.
Before you begin recording, there are a few things to listen out for:
- Passing/parking vehicles; if you can hear them, the recorder can hear them.
- The air conditioning system. Be aware that your ears will be accustomed to this constant background noise.
- The cooling fan of a PC in the room.
- The cooling fan of a ceiling-mounted projector.
- Conversations in the room next door, particularly if they are close to the walls.
- The ring of a phone outside the room.
- The tick of a wall clock inside the room.
- Movement of any of the people in the room if they adjust their chair or rustle their clothes.
- Your interviewee making a point by tapping a pen or table.
Once you’re aware of these sounds, you can look for ways to counter them:
- Turn off the air conditioning system in that room.
- Turn off PCs and electrical equipment in that room.
- Unplug the phone (unless you need to be contactable).
- Remove the batteries from any clocks in the room (remember to replace them!).
- Minimize the number of people in the room during the interview.
The best advice is to go to the room prior to the interview with no one else and simply listen to the sounds in the room; then do what you can to minimize them.
2. Recording equipment
Whichever style of interview you choose, you will need something to record it on. We use an M-Audio Microtrack II digital recorder, but all you need is a good-quality digital recording device which you should be able to get from your institution’s IT department. Digital recorders are typically easy to use; it’s normally as simple as just pressing “record” and “stop!”
Once you have recorded your interview, send the audio file in WAV or MP3 format to your Managing Editor, who will then be able to edit and transcribe it, and make it ready for the web.
Some interviewees prefer to write a script to read from during the interview; others prefer to write bullet points to give their answers some direction. Either way is fine and it is worth noting that hesitations and unwanted speech can be edited out. If you do decide to read from a script, please send the script to your Managing Editor along with the audio files as we require a transcript and we can use this to get started.
Interviews should last roughly between 20 minutes and an hour. The interviews we host are usually broken up into bite-sized chunks, either by question (if a standard interview) or by topic (if a discussion).