How to Start a Podcast
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Podcasting, much like blogging, has experienced a tremendous boom over the past decade. What began as a curiosity continues to increase in interest and listenership year after year. In fact, as of March 2018, over 25% of the US population has listened to a podcast within the past month.

That’s pretty impressive growth.

Beyond that, by 2020 its expected that the annual spending for podcast advertising will reach close to $400 million.

In other words, podcasting is big, and it’s only getting bigger. So just how exactly do you get in on the craze and create your own popular blog?

Thankfully, it’s not as difficult as one would think, although plenty of thought, consideration, and a few dollars do go into successfully launching your podcast.

What Is a Podcast and Why Are They So Popular?

What is a podcast and why are they so popular

Before we get into the How To’s and Do’s and Don’ts of creating your podcast, it helps to have an understanding of what a podcast is and who’s listening to them. If nothing else, it will help you start to focus on where you want to take your idea and how to flesh it out into something popular that people will want to hear.

A podcast, on its most basic level, is merely an on-demand audio program. There’s probably a more technical term for it, but it will only detract from the actual simplicity of the endeavor.

There’s a ton of variation on what the audio program may be about, but at its core, the podcast is nothing more than a person or group of people recording their thoughts or ideas on a particular subject and then making that recording available for public consumption.

The critical factor in what separates podcasts from other forms of media is the delivery method. The vast majority of podcasts can be acquired through multiple sources and listened to practically anywhere at any time. That’s not possible with most other regularly occurring audio (or visual) programs tied to either terrestrial radio or broadcast television.

The podcast is new media, and its growth is bound to more modern technologies for both its delivery and the manner in which people hear it.

That’s one of the reasons that podcasts have become so popular –  the on-demand nature of it. The other factor that has fed its rapid growth is almost anyone can create a podcast. In turn, this means the variety of topics that are available are vast.

From movie reviews to crime whodunits to sports discussions to educational presentations, any discussion on any topic can readily become a podcast.

There’s a good chance that if there’s a subject you have an interest in there’s a podcast available to match.

Which brings us back to our purpose here today.

If there are so many podcasts available, why on earth would anyone think to start another one? And most likely on a topic that’s probably already received the podcast treatment?

The question shouldn’t be why. Instead, it’s why not start your own personal podcast?

As we’ve seen the audience is there, and they are hungry for content. Even if it’s an old topic that’s been rehashed numerous times, people want and like to hear a new spin on their favorite subjects.

And that demand keeps growing every day.

With that as our jumping off point, let’s explore your initial steps to launching your podcast.

Podcast Basics: Techniques, Tools, and Technicalities

Podcast basics - Techniques, tools technicalities

When blogging all you need is a keyboard and an idea. Creating a podcast, however, involves a bit more effort and a few more tools to make it a reality. The good thing about this though is that you can make it as simple as you want or much more involved.

Further, your podcast is as much about you and your voice as it is about the tools you use and the ideas you want to communicate. And that’s where we’ll start, you, the host of your very own podcast.

Creating Your Voice

What initially draws listeners to a podcast is the subject matter and description of the listing. In equal measure, it may also be from a friendly recommendation or on online mention or referral.

The point is, first-timers are pulled in by the content, without really knowing a thing about you. If you plan on keeping and building an audience beyond a few friends and family members, you will need to ensure yours is an engaging voice.

Match Your Voice to Your Subject

Your voice is more than just how you say things. To be sure, you need to engage on a level that’s not always easy when a visual medium is missing. Making sure your verbal style fits with the material you present is one of the most vital factors to engaging an audience.

A few examples of this include:

  • If yours is an educational podcast, the students looking to learn something appreciate and expect a voice of authority. Waffling speech patterns or speaking without clarity or command of the subject matter will lose you respect and listeners.
  • Perhaps you want to focus on sports and your city’s hometown teams. Fans will want some level of excitement to permeate the broadcast along with a shared connection to the players, coaches, or history of the organization.

We could come up with countless other scenarios, but the point should be clear. Nobody wants to listen to a monotone robot drone on for an hour, unless of course, you’re trying to appeal to fellow monotone robots.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Aside from the authority, or excitement, or just general interest you lend to your subject matter, you’ll want to make sure to speak clearly, with a welcoming cadence that invites your audience to stick with you through the podcast.

This is critical if you want to create longer podcasts, but the approach rings equally as true on shorter ones.

People are investing their time with your webcast, and they are unlikely to return if you come across like you’re killing time or merely going through the motions, i.e., mumbling or drifting off with your speech.

Give Them All You Got

In other words, give your audience some personality. More specifically, give them your personality.

Let’s be honest. It takes some ego to think that we can create something that other people want to hear.

And you know what?

That’s perfectly okay.

In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s that ego, that love or knowledge of a subject that makes you the perfect person to create a podcast that everyone else should hear.

Let that shine through.

At the end of the day, regardless of the subject matter, other podcasts may be a bit more informative than yours. But if you conduct yours with far more passion, we guarantee that your podcast will be the most popular of the bunch.

Tools of the Trade

Podcast tools of the trade

With a better idea on how to approach your podcast, you’re going to need a few things to help you create it.

As we noted earlier, you can make your podcast experience as simple or as involved as you want. This also holds true for the equipment you use to record your episodes.

Equipment

The basic setup should include a microphone, headset, and pop filter.  You can easily purchase these essentials for between $100 and $125 total, and we recommend this route when first starting out. If you want to add a level of studio professionalism, a boom stand will add to the convenience of your recording.

More expensive setups can run in excess of $500, so upgrading as you become a more savvy podcaster is usually the best and most cost-conscious approach.

Here’s a breakdown of each tool and some things to look out for when purchasing your gear:

Microphone

There are tons of options available, but we suggest going with something rated higher on the quality scale. Your principal goal for any podcast is to create a quality recording, and an inadequate microphone will be easily recognizable for your listener.

There are two options available, analog or USB. Analogs will produce better sound, but you’ll need to purchase an XLR connector to link it with your computer. USB’s, on the other hand, will plug directly into your computer and allow you to start recording almost immediately.

You can also use microphone and headset combos, like a gaming headset, but those will lessen your sound quality and are not the optimal solution if your podcast will include more than one person.

Though not a requirement when first starting out, you’ll want to consider a boom arm at some point to secure your microphone.  This maintains your mic in a constant position and helps to minimize it getting jostled around. The steadier your mic, the fewer unnecessary noises and sounds you’ll have to edit out later.

Headset

The headset is there to allow you to hear yourself (and others) when speaking. It also serves as a great way to understand how you sound and to perfect your voice. You’ll find a lot of variety in this category, but you don’t need anything pricey or elaborate.

We suggest a good pair that will plug directly into your microphone.

Pop Filter

If you’ve ever listened to a spoken word recording and had your ears blasted by a hard consonant, particularly an authoritative B or P sound, then you heard a plosive. And your experience was missing the kindness of a pop filter.

Ensure your audience doesn’t suffer the same fate of decimated eardrums. Pop filters come as either a round screen that affixes to your mic or boom or as a mesh cover that goes over the mic itself.

Software

To record and edit your podcast you’ll need software to perform both tasks. There’s no need to make a major investment here, particularly in the early stages, as there is an excellent free option called Audacity available online.

Audacity can be added to either Windows or Mac platforms and is a widely used resource for podcasters, both novice, and expert alike. It doesn’t hurt that the software is incredibly easy to use, and there are a lot of online help tools if you do run into problems.

For Mac users, GarageBand is a great alternative that comes preloaded on the vast majority of Mac machines. It provides more than adequate tools for recording and editing a podcast.

Start podcast Audacity audio recording software

Since Audacity is the free option for all users, we’ll use that for our recording and editing examples. To download and test Audacity, follow these quick steps:

  1. Download Audacity from audacityteam.org. Follow the prompts to install the software.
  2. Once installed hook up your microphone to your computer or laptop and open the Audacity program.
  3. Make sure your computer or laptop recognizes your mic in the drop-down next to the microphone icon. Select it.
  4. From the Pause, Play, Stop, Forward, Backward, Record control panel in the top left of the screen, click the square record button and speak into your mic.
  5. Once you’ve talked for a few seconds, click stop and then playback your recording.
  6. You’ll need to export your file to MP3 at some point, so we suggest installing the Lame MP3 encoder as recommended by Audacity.
  7. Once you’ve installed the encoder, go into Audacity and complete the same recording as step 4.
  8. Once done, click File>Export Audio and choose MP3 Files from the Save as type drop-down.
  9. Name the file Test or a similar name and save it to your desktop.
  10. Locate the MP3 and then play it in your default MP3 player to confirm the file plays correctly.

After that, you’re ready to start recording your podcast.

Best Practices

As a podcaster, one of your primary goals should be to produce a professional sounding experience for your audience. Even if your recording occurs at the kitchen table of your apartment, there’s no reason you can’t create a studio worthy recording.

Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure a smooth session:

  • Make your recording in a quiet spot free from ambient noise and distraction. Any excess noise and disturbances can sometimes be difficult to edit out and severely lower the quality of your sound.
  • Find an optimal distance from your mic and stick with it. This may require you carrying out some testing and a bit of trial and error, but you do not want to sit too close to or too far away from your mic.

We will cover more specifics of recording your podcast shortly, but the last thing to remember to ensure a successful podcast is to relax and have fun.

The important thing is to get a few episodes recorded and focus on improving. The first ones will by no means be perfect, but you’ll soon enough get the hang of it.

Crafting the Perfect Idea

Start podcast - craft perfect idea

Podcasts come in all varieties with literally thousands of them available covering all manner of topics.

True crime and TV show recaps.

Self-help and personal finance.

Storytelling and tech reviews.

While the adage that nothing is new anymore may carry some truth, there still remains plenty of ways to present old topics in fresh ways. This is where you come in.

For the most part, podcasts are merely people discussing the things that interest them the most. Obviously, the professionalism of what’s available runs the gambit, from major media organizations that reach millions to small, do it yourself webcasts with an audience of five.

What those two podcasts have in common, plus all the ones in between, is that its just people delivering audible content, with their unique spin, to an audience eager to listen.

Figure out what interests you and develop your specific take on the material and an interesting way to present it.

Perhaps you’ve got an in-depth knowledge of a particular subject and can present it in an exciting, yet thoughtful way.

Maybe it’s just you and a few friends discussing local politics, opining on national news, or reviewing a recent movie.

The subject matter may not be original but your voice is, and that’s what makes podcasts unique amongst media today. They genuinely are created for the people and by the people.

Structure of Your Podcast

Once the creative juices kick in and you begin to formulate the general arc of your podcast, you’ll need to map out several other considerations to start bringing the idea together.

First, what will the style of your podcast be?

Presented on your own or with a friend or group of friends?

Is it knowledge sharing, informational, or a narrative?

Will experts or interviews be involved?

All of the above may change over time but its good to have a primary framework of how you’ll run your show. It makes it easy to plan and for your audience to catch on to each episode’s style and flow.

Second, how many episodes will you be able to create initially? If you’re looking to build a loyal following, regularly released content is a must. If your first batch of episodes is only five to 10 recordings, be certain you have enough material to fill each one.

Next, how long will each episode be? There is no right or wrong approach, but just like your episode count, make sure you have enough material to cover the time frame you aim to fill. Under most circumstances, your podcast frequency should dictate the length of each episode. For example:

Daily podcasts can be 15 to 20 minutes or less. Think updates of the day’s events or subjects that can warrant regular, daily coverage like the President’s day to day schedule or the recap of a professional or college sports team in-season.

Weekly podcasts can run from 20 minutes to a full hour. This length of episode can offer more in-depth coverage of the type of items we listed above, but also works well for in-season TV show recaps and/or discussions. It’s also a good time range to cover a topic and allow your listeners a week to digest it before the next offering.

If you go the route of monthly podcasts, one to two hours is the norm. These type of recordings are perfect for really deep dives into a subject or material covering a lot of ground and requires a more extended period to prepare for and produce.

These are by no means hard and fast rules, but they tend to be the generally accepted guidelines. Regardless of the particular path you take, keep your posting schedule consistent. Launch new episodes regularly at consistent intervals on the same day and time.

Consumers have certain expectations, and once you develop a following, its vital to meet whatever parameters you set. When an audience enjoys something, the like to know when and where they can get the next offering. It’s part of your job as a podcaster not to let them down.

Recording Your Podcast

Podcast tools recording your podcast

Voice? Check.

Equipment? Check.

Show idea and structure? Check and check.

Now to the fun part, it’s now time to record your podcast.

We’ve already covered a couple of important points about the environment to record in and how to interact with your mic. We will also again reiterate the importance of your voice and keeping a clear level of sound at all times.

With podcasting a purely audible medium, your voice and how you speak drives the entire mood and feel of your recording. If you sound aloof and disinterested, your audience may find another podcast that’s more engaging. If you’re overbearing and angry, it’s unlikely your listeners will stick around to see if you lighten up.

Bring a comforting vibe to whatever the discussion may be. If other hosts or guests are involved in the podcast, be accommodating and don’t speak over them or hold side discussions that end up as a mumbled mess to the audience.

As for your content, fill the time you’ve allotted for your episode and be sure to leave out any filler or unnecessary discussion that can derail your intended topic. If it helps, complete a quick overview of your talking points and the key themes you want to touch on.

While an outline can be helpful, we do not recommend scripting your podcast. Unless the approach you’re taking requires specific choreography, part of the allure of this form of media is the natural, off the cuff nature of it.

Especially in our digital age, people are looking for real connections more than ever. Podcasts are the modern day equivalent of sitting around the campfire and telling stories with your friends.

Editing, Hosting, and Promoting Your Podcast

Once you’ve successfully recorded your episode, it’s time to edit, package, and promote your audio masterpiece. These three areas work in tandem as the last steps to polishing your podcast and getting it presentable for the masses. The first of these is editing your recording.

Editing

One of the best parts of being a podcaster is the chance to refine and clean up your original recording before posting it for others to hear. Audiences, while seeking out that personal connection to the subject matter and presenters, still want to hear professional presentations.

Society has become accustomed to sharp images on their television screens and crisp audio from their headsets. If your webcast is to be a popular download for a broad audience your audio file needs to be as refined as possible.

Cleaning up your audio isn’t particularly difficult, and you certainly don’t need to be a tech guru to do it. Again, using Audacity as our example software, here are the steps to complete a simple edit and improve the sound of the file.

  1. Click and highlight the recorded podcast.
  2. Select Effect>Equalization and beside Select Curve choose LF rolloff for speech.
  3. Select Effect>Amplify. You can keep the default settings as is, so go ahead and select OK.
  4. Select Effect>Limiter. Use the following parameters:
  • Type: Soft Limit
  • Input Gain: 0.00
  • Input Gain: 0.00
  • Limit to: -6.00
  • Hold: 10.00
  • Apply Make-up Gain: Yes

Select OK.

  1. Select Effect>Normalize. Adjust the dB to -3.2
  2. Select Effect>Compressor. Select OK.
  3. Repeat Step 5.
  4. Choose a portion of your audio recording that has background noise. With it highlighted, select Effect>Noise Reduction. Select Get Noise Profile. Select the whole recording and select Effect>Noise Reduction again. Select OK.
  5. On the audio recording be sure to delete any errors or mistakes made during the recording.
  6. Select File>Export Audio. Next to Save As, name the file and beside File type select MP3 Files. Select Save.

From this point, the Edit Metadata menu will pop up. A few tips for completing this section:

  • Artist Name: Your Name or Your Website or Entity Name
  • Track Title: Episode Title and Number (Ex. My Podcast: Episode 1 (2018))
  • Album Title: Podcast Name (not the episode, but the whole podcast)
  • Track Number: Episode Number
  • Year: Year Released
  • Genre: Podcast
  • Comments: Brief summary of the episode.
  • SETSUBTITLE:
  • Copyright Message: Copyright information.
  • URL: Your website.

Once entered select OK. Your MP3 file is now ready.

Branding

Now that you’ve prepared your file, there are a few more items to address that will complete the packaging of your podcast. These will not only help add some additional flare to your webcast but will further distinguish it from other podcasts.

Selecting Your Name and Cover Art

Podcast basics - selecting your name and cover art

One of the most significant factors of your podcast is choosing the right name and cover art.

For your podcast’s name, you will want something that helps to set it apart but also captures the overall theme or tone of the show. If you already have a well regarded and robustly trafficked website, using your podcast as an extension of your establish internet presence is a good option.

You will also need to pick an image to further identify your podcast. This is not only helpful as a visual tool for people to discover your podcast, but it’s also a requirement for inclusion in the listings on iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcast directories.

Again, similar to the name, make sure the image art reflects what your show is about or at the very least is something that pops and is noticeable. You’ll also need to ensure that the show’s title is part of the artwork.

If designing logos is not your thing, then we recommend visiting a site like Fiverr to engage with an inexpensive designer. However you acquire your logo, be sure that it is in .jpg or .png format and is at a minimum of 1400 by 1400 pixels.

Theme Music (optional)

While not completely necessary, more and more podcasts are adding opening and closing musical cues to their presentations. It’s an addition that can add a level of professionalism and attention to detail that a lot of listeners appreciate.

If you’re using GarageBand in Mac for your podcast, you can quickly create an intro and outro from there. If you prefer others do the composing, you can visit and download what you need from free music sources like freemusicarchive.org or Vimeo’s music store.

Hosting Your Podcast

Hosting your podcast yibsyn

Once you’ve got everything organized, your next step is finding a host for your MP3 file. Hosting is a necessity to ensure your podcast is circulated to directories and RSS feeds.

Several of the top podcast hosts include:

  • Amazon S3: Amazon’s service has a free plan with limited storage. Their paid option only charges for the actual bandwidth and storage you use.
  • Libsyn: No free option, but do have a low entry-level plan that offers unlimited bandwidth for $5 per month.
  • Podbean: Offers a limited free option. Their entry-level paid option runs at $3 per month.
  • Podomatic: Free option offers ample bandwidth and storage. Also have a professional option for heavy podcasters.
  • SoundCloud: Free option that allows RSS distribution. Your podcast will also post to SoundCloud which enables you to push your file to blogs, websites or social media.

We recommend testing out several of the free options first before opting for a paid plan (you’ll also want to ensure you stick with podcasting before committing to any long-term strategies). Most of the sites make it very easy to upload and edit the metadata before any distribution takes place.

Post Your Podcast On iTunes

If you post nowhere else, ensure that you get your podcast listed with iTunes, the largest and most popular podcast directory today.

Post your podcast on iTunes

We also recommend Stitcher as a solid second alternative, but your initial efforts should be through iTunes. Here’s the best way to go about being listed in their directory.

  1. Make the Author, Title, Description and Cover Art of your podcast is in order as those are the primary search field the iTunes service uses.
  2. Copy your podcast’s RSS feed URL.
  3. Double check that yours is a valid RSS feed. Your host should have a validator to indicate your feeds validity.
  4. Open iTunes (download if you do not already have it).
  5. Go the to Podcast Store section of iTunes.
  6. On the right-hand side of the store under the quick link section, select Submit a Podcast.
  7. Paste the copied RSS feed URL in the blank field and select Next.

It may be as many as two weeks before you see your podcast listed as it works its way through iTunes’ review process.

Further Promotion

A few other efforts can further the reach of your podcast. First, you can embed your episodes on yours or someone else’s website. This will immediately grab the attention of those that frequent that site and allow them to listen to or download the webcast directly from there.

The embed method is beneficial if you want to offer even more substance to your website traffic or increase your audience through multiple content streams.

Finally, don’t forget about social media. When recording your podcast remember to promote your website or any social pages you might have such as Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also want to share your podcast through any networks on the latter two options. All it sometimes takes is the right share from the right person for your podcast to take off.

Conclusion

Though at first glance it seems an incredibly complicated process, creating and distributing a podcast is not the rocket science it’s made out to be. In fact, the sheer number of available podcasts should tell you otherwise.

Granted, it’s an endeavor that does involve a strong commitment on your part. And undoubtedly there is a learning curve and level of refinement that takes place as you improve your craft.

But sometimes the journey is just as much fun as the destination.

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be the next one to put your unique voice or spin on a topic and convince an audience to come along for the ride.

How to Start a Podcast

Written by Alex Jasin

Last Updated: August 28, 2018