Even if you’ve never tuned in to the Joe Rogan Experience or Radiolab, you likely know what a podcast is. With 44% of the American population having listened to a podcast in 2018 and the number rising, the medium is on the rise. The benefits are clear: efficient operating costs, a simple production process, and the ability to engage audiences in an intimate manner wherever they are on almost any device.
But while it may seem easy on paper, many people are stuck when it comes to taking that first step to start podcasting. We’ve put together this guide to help with the basics. Whether you’re looking for a new way to connect with customers or you simply have a fascinating topic you’d like to explore and share with the world, we’ll break down exactly what you need to start podcasting.
Planning Your Podcast
The very first step in the journey to start podcasting is to come up with a plan. It’s an often-overlooked aspect which gets neglected in favor of the more exciting aspects such as recording and creation. But having a plan before you start is crucial. At this stage of the process you’re going to want to decide on three important things.
1. Your Topic
All good podcasts focus on a central premise or topic. It needs to be something from which you can generate a substantial amount of content. There’s a sweet spot to aim for here – if your topic is too general you won’t be able to attract a specific enough audience, but if your topic is too niche you likely won’t be able to squeeze out more than ten or so episodes. For example, starting a podcast about pens won’t get you very far, but talking about writing will. Find the sweet spot where information, entertainment and hours of content come together.
2. Your Show Format
All podcasts are styled differently and follow different formats. Are you a solo podcaster who simply spouts his streams of consciousness to his audiences? Will you invite expert and well-informed guests to talk about complex topics? Or will your podcast be more relaxed and conversational between multiple hosts? Answering these questions will help give your podcast a unique character which sets it apart from others and determine the type of audience which you’ll likely attract.
3. Your Show Name
Like any product or service, to start podcasting you’ll need a memorable name for your show. It needs to be something catchy and concise. Your name should let your audience know exactly what the podcast is about in a few short words. This is your identity and your brand, so it should be given careful consideration. It helps to pick a name that is broader than, but still conveys, the initial topics you want to speak about. This gives you more room for growth in the future should you choose to branch out into different themes and topics. You should also consider how a listener might search for your show, either intentionally or discovering through a search engine. Think about what keywords they might be using in either case to help along the brainstorming process.
Basic Podcasting Equipment
One of the biggest advantage of podcasting is the incredibly simple startup compared to video. On the most basic level, all you need is an iPhone or similar smart phone and you’re good to go. While the same could be said of video, with audio you don’t have to worry about any of the visual components. All you need is a quiet space. Or a loud space if that’s your thing! Of course, the sound and recording quality on mobile devices won’t be the best, so it helps to invest in some audio equipment from the get-go.
Good news! If you’re just starting out, this doesn’t mean breaking the bank and sinking thousands of dollars into studio-quality recording equipment. To start podcasting, all you need is an external plug-and-play microphone that plugs into your laptop, tablet, or phone. You can pick up a decent one for under $50. Something like the Samson Go Mic is great for beginners as you can always upgrade to better equipment as you progress. If you’re willing to invest a little more than $50, you’ll find a huge sound quality increase by using an audio interface and a microphone like the $99 Shure SM58.
Once you’re ready for recording you’ll need some software to support that audio and that means acquainting yourself with audio recording software known as a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW. This software or DAW will allow you to record your podcasts and export them in an MP3 format for publishing on your preferred podcasting platform. Your software should also allow you to edit recordings if you want to add any intros, outros or advertisements. If you’re a serious sound engineer who wants to push boundaries, then premium, paid-for software like Cubase or Adobe Audition is the way to go. If you’re not willing to pay, you can choose a free option such as Audacity or GarageBand.
After recording your podcasts, you’ll need a media hosting service to upload your audio files to. These files tend to be quite demanding on speed and bandwidth, so it helps to have a dedicated media host to support them. Libsyn is a podcast-specific hosting platform that offers affordable options for those just starting podcasting. Some other choices include SoundCloud, Blubrry, and Podbean.
Once you start uploading to your media host, you’ll be provided with an RSS feed. This feed contains all your podcast’s data and is what you submit to podcast directories and distribution services. Some podcast-specific media hosts will syndicate your podcast to the various distribution platforms for you, but regardless of where you’re hosting your podcast, you’ll want to confirm you’ve submitted to all the distribution channels you want to be featured on.
Some of the more popular channels are iTunes, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and YouTube. But there are new platforms emerging every day and with that in mind, submit to as many channels as possible! It’s generally free and exponentially increases your chances of being discovered by new listeners.
Start Your Podcast Now
Now that we’ve demystified some of the first steps towards starting a podcast, you can see it’s not too difficult. The main things to keep in mind are that you’ll want a plan! But as long as you have an idea, you shouldn’t let the technical details get in the way.
Start planning. Start recording. Start publishing. You’ll be surprised when you see how loyal podcast listeners can be. Within no time, they’ll be providing you with the support you need to take your ideas to the next level. If you need an extra boost from a podcast production company, they’re out there. So, what are you waiting for? Get podcasting today!