It’s crazy to think that today anyone can start a talk show and broadcast it through podcasts. And you don’t need specialized equipment to start. Most of the tools you’ll need are commercially available. There’s even a chance that you already have all the tools you need to start recording.
If you’ve thought about starting a podcast but don’t know where to begin, we’ll walk you through all the basics and give you the confidence you need to publish your very first podcast episode.
Table of Contents
Let’s start by defining what a podcast is and how it works. A podcast is not that different from a radio talk show. The only difference is how they’re distributed and consumed.
Unlike a radio show, podcasts are posted and played online. You’d typically find them on podcast distribution services, but you can just as easily host them on your own website. Some even upload their podcasts on video streaming sites like YouTube.
There are other differences, of course. Podcasts have a niche audience. You can talk about a very niche topic and still find an audience that’s willing to listen. There are also fewer regulations, so you can include profanity if you want — something you wouldn’t want to do if you’re on the radio.
And the biggest difference is that podcasts are available on demand. Your audience can tune in anytime they want. They can even listen to several shows in a row if they have the time.
If you want to start your podcast, all you need to do is record your show, do post-production work, find a distribution channel, and upload your content. We’ll cover these steps in detail below.
People have different reasons for starting a podcast. For some, this is a hobby that’s easy to get into. They get to talk about topics that are close to their heart at length and share their thoughts with the world.
For others, it’s an opportunity to earn money on the side. Podcasts with a good following are attractive to advertisers. Since most podcasts cater to a niche audience, they can pick shows that target their core audience.
Artists use podcasts to get discovered or grow their audience. This is especially true for comedians and influencers.
Businesses and brands have also jumped in. They use podcasts to talk about their products and build their communities. Some organizations use podcasts to promote their causes. There are even churches that use podcasting as an extension of their services.
The entertainment industry also uses podcasts because it allows users to digest content while on the go. It’s no longer uncommon to find episodic shows and documentaries on different podcast apps and websites.
So it all depends on what your goals are as a podcaster.
The key to having a successful podcast is preparation. If you lay out the groundwork, the whole process becomes more manageable, and your output will be more polished.
Before you hit the record button, you’ll have to make a few decisions about your podcast.
Your target audience will dictate your show’s concept, title, topics, episode length, publishing data, and everything else in between. So it’s essential to know just who your show should appeal to.
Even if you already have a niche in mind, you’ll have to narrow your audience down.
Let’s use an example. Say you’re launching a podcast that’s all about building computers. Will you create episodes that even newbies could appreciate? Or do you want to dive into topics that might not be beginner-friendly?
Are you creating content for a specific community? Or will it work regardless of where the listener is from?
Knowing your target audience is the first step to launching a podcast.
A solid podcast name will undoubtedly help you find new listeners. So whatever name you choose, make sure that it’s eye-catching. It should also make it immediately clear what the show is all about.
Also, consider the following points:
- Keep your title short and to the point. This makes it easier for your listeners to find you or recommend you to their friends.
- Include your brand name. This goes double for businesses, influencers, or organizations that already have a strong following.
- Include high-value keywords. Do some keyword research to find relevant words or phrases that people search for often. This helps with discoverability.
- Show some personality. Setting the tone through your podcast title and description might push users into playing an episode.
You should also remember to check domains, and social media handles to see if your podcast name conflicts with other web properties.
Technically, you can have podcasts go for hours, especially if you’re hosting the show on your site. But it’s best practice to put a cap on how long an episode runs.
According to Statista, the average length of podcasts played by adults is 30 minutes (34%). But anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes works.
But if you frequently publish—like once or twice a day—you should try keeping your episodes shorter. Daily podcasts are hard to sustain since there’s only so much you could take about. You also risk losing your audience’s interest if an episode drags on for too long.
Remember: You’re probably not the only show that your listeners subscribe to. And they’d want time to consume other programs as well.
You can go longer if you only publish weekly or monthly.
Based on InsideRadio’s report, it appears that Wednesday is the best day to publish but only by a small margin. The number of episodes published on weekdays is just about even. What you don’t want is to put out episodes on weekends.
What’s more important is that you stick to a publishing schedule, so your listeners know when to expect a new episode.
Just like your podcast title, you’ll need to be smart about your episode titles. The same rules apply. You’ll want to do some keyword research so people can easily find them online. You’d want to be as descriptive as you while keeping the title’s length in mind.
Some podcasters include the episode number in their titles, which can help listeners navigate through your content library.
The planning process includes settling on a podcast format. The three most common types are as follows:
- Solo — This is the easiest format to use, especially for beginners. It has its pros and cons though. You can work on your own time, and you control the pace of the show. But it can be tough, especially for people who can’t carry an entire episode by themself.
- Multiple Hosts — This format has a more natural flow since you’re mostly having a conversation with other people. Also, the content is usually exciting, especially if the hosts have different takes on the issues being discussed.
- Remote Interviews — This format is popular because listeners are introduced to new guests each week. But it can be a logistical nightmare pulling off remote interviews. Also, you’ll need lots of connections to pull it off.
You’ll likely end up experimenting with these formats down the road. But since you’re only starting, it’s better to stick to one until you get your bearings.
After you’re done with the prep work, it’s time to start recording your podcast. Here’s a list of all the things you’ll need.
Remember when we said that you don’t need a lot of equipment to start recording a podcast? We weren’t kidding.
As far as physical equipment goes, all you need to start is a computer and a microphone. And as your podcast grows, you can add more equipment to improve your production value.
Let’s break down the equipment list.
Any computer should work just fine. But having a newer PC or laptop has its advantages. You’ll need a computer because you’ll end up using it as storage for your audio files. So make sure you have enough storage capacity.
Also, you’ll most likely use recording software and editing tools. So the faster the computer, the better.
Two types of microphones are commonly used in podcasting.
USB microphones are exactly as they sound. Mics that you connect to your computer through the USB port. This type of mic is popular with budget-conscious podcasters. And for the average podcaster, this is a fantastic starter mic. They’re also easy to use since the majority of USB mics are plug-and-play.
Then you have XLR microphones. While these are commonly used in professional recording setups, they are commercially available. Needless to say, an XLR mic is as good as it gets in the podcasting world. However, they are pricier than their USB alternatives.
And you’ll need other equipment for XLR mics to be usable. It uses a special connector so you’ll need the right kind of cables and an audio interface (mixer) so you can convert the analog file into digital format.
Another thing to remember is that XLR mics have settings that you need to tweak before using them. So you’ll need some knowledge in audio mixing to get the most out of them.
Aside from computers and microphones, you might also want to invest in headphones, pop filters, mic stands, and acoustic boards.
An audio recording software will not only help you capture your audio recording, but it also enables you to edit them. So you’d have a hard time producing podcasts without one.
Fortunately, there’s free software that you could use to record audio. But paid options come with features that might make your life a bit easier.
There are also podcast services with built-in editing tools that allow you to make cuts, add intros or outros, and more.
There’s nothing wrong with recording a podcast from your home. Some even record from the comfort of their bedroom. But you do need an atmosphere that’s conducive for podcasting.
You don’t want to record in a place that’s too noisy. Find a room that blocks outside noise effectively. And make sure you’re not disturbing your housemates or neighbors while you’re recording. You don’t want to start any conflict.
Soundproofing a room is a great solution if you have the budget.
But if you’re working with a team or frequently invite guests to be part of the show, you might want to work from a location that’s designed specifically for your show.
One of the great things about podcasts is that it’s mostly a free-flowing conversation that you have with co-hosts, guests, or your audience.
That said: You still need to have a script.
A script will serve as a guide, making sure you hit all of the points you want to make. Also, you’ll need a script for ads that you need to plug. Other aspects of your podcast might also be better off scripted like your intro.
Podcasts need to be edited for them to sound coherent. Here are some notes on how to edit a podcast.
The better you are at editing, the more professional your podcast will sound. The good news is that there are plenty of resources online that deal with podcast editing.
Even better, most podcast episodes only require minimal edits. These edits include removing long pauses, bleeping curse words (if you’re a family-friendly show), leveling audio, inserting ad breaks, and adding intros and outros.
While it can be difficult at first, you can master it with practice.
It’s when you step into complicated productions when you might run into trouble. If your podcast show is a documentary series, for example, then you might have to exert more effort than usual.
But if editing isn’t your cup of tea, then you should look into hiring a team to take care of all that for you. There are sites where you can hire freelance podcast editors. All you need to do is provide them your files and they’ll send back a finished file that’s ready for upload.
You can also hire a team to take care of the logistics for you. A good producer can handle backend operations so you can focus on the show itself.
Music in podcasts is a tricky subject because of copyright concerns. As you may have guessed, you can’t just add whatever song you like on your show. You could violate laws and get yourself in hot water.
There are workarounds but these are costly and not worth the time or effort.
If you want to add music to your podcast, you could look at services that provide royalty-free music. For a subscription fee, you can use any of the music in their library.
Depending on the service provider, it is possible to keep using the music in your podcast after you terminate your subscription. But terms do apply so don’t forget to read the fine print.
If you’re uploading your podcast to YouTube, then you’ll have access to the site’s free music library. Also, Spotify launched a feature that lets its users combine music and talk content.
By this point, you should have an episode that’s ready for upload. You’re now a few steps away from launching your podcast.
Your podcast’s artwork plays an important role in getting downloads. It should include the name of your podcast and visuals that communicate what kind of content users can expect.
It’s amazing how the right artwork can set the tone of your podcast.
If your podcast is about your company, make sure that your artwork is consistent with your branding. If it’s a show about you, then it’s good to include a photo of yourself. And if it’s about your hobby, use visuals that get your topic across.
What’s important is that you’re able to hit your publishing platform’s podcast artwork requirements. Almost all platforms have the same requirements as Apple Podcast so you can just follow their instructions.
Your artwork should be square measuring at least 1400 x 1400 up to 3000 x 3000 pixels. It should be in the RGB colorspace at 72 DPI. You could save it as a JPEG or PNG image. And you should compress the image so that it loads faster on mobile devices.
If you’re not savvy with graphic design, you could hire a freelancer to create a podcast artwork for you. It’s a good one-time investment.
The nice thing about podcasts is that you only need to publish them on one platform. After you do, you can use the RSS feed to redistribute it to listening platforms automatically.
That said, you need to find a reliable platform since this is where your content will live. You can think of podcast hosts like a server that stores all of your data.
There are plenty of options out there so choose carefully. Here are some things you should consider when choosing a platform:
- Bandwidth — Some platforms caps their storage space. This is especially true for free-to-use services. This will affect how many episodes you can upload. If you’re serious about podcasting and plan to do many shows, find a platform with unlimited bandwidth.
- Marketing Features — Look at all the features that help you promote your podcast to users.
- Analytics — You’d want the means to analyze your podcast’s success. Having this data lets you work with advertisers and sponsors. You should track how many people download your podcast episodes along with the listening data.
A podcast directory is where people listen to podcasts. The most common examples are Apple Podcasts and Spotify. But there are plenty more out there.
Sign up for all of the directories that you want your podcast to appear in. After you do, you’re going to submit your show by providing the RSS feed URL that’s provided by your podcast platform.
This might seem tedious but this is a one-time process. From here on out, the podcast directories will publish episodes every time you upload new ones on your podcast platform.
There are different ways you could monetize a podcast. Most use advertisers but they’re far from the only route you can take. Just remember: You can’t make money if you barely have listeners. So your priority should be gaining more followers.
Here are some of the ways you could make money off of podcasting.
- Donations — You could straight up ask your listeners for donations. It’s the easiest way to monetize your podcast but since users aren’t getting anything in return, it’s a bit harder to pull off.
- Subscriptions — Services like Patreon makes it possible to launch subscriptions that your users could use to find exclusive content and receive perks that regular listeners don’t get.
- Merchandise — Sell merch that includes your branding. Stuff like shirts, mugs, stickers, and plushies are great sellers.
- YouTube — You can reupload your podcasts on YouTube and turn on monetization. You can make money off the ads there.
- Affiliate Marketing — You can sign up for affiliate programs and use your podcast to earn money by selling products from third-party vendors.
- Live Events — Once you have a sizable following, you can do live events and charge people who want to attend.
There are a few things you could do after you’ve successfully published a couple of episodes.
You should consider building a website. Most podcast platform plans come with a website. But you might want to build a site from scratch since you’d get more control this way.
A mailing list is also something you should look into. It gives fans a chance to stay in touch with you.
But the most important thing you could do at this point is to start a podcast editorial calendar. This helps you publish content more consistently. And it also makes sure that you cover diverse topics.
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