Podcasting is, without a doubt, one of the most transformative media formats on the market today. It has done for radio what print on demand has done for publishing — democratized the process in a revolutionary way. Anyone can make a podcast, and so the possibilities in this industry are wide-open.
If you listen to podcasts, chances are you’ve thought before about making a podcast yourself. The good news is that with only a few hundred dollars in equipment and software, you can launch your own podcast. Read on for a quick guide to podcasting 101.
Develop Your Concept
The first thing you’ll need to do when getting ready to launch your own podcast is decide what you want your podcast to be about. Because you don’t need to get the approval of a major corporation, a podcast can be about anything. In fact, there are already podcasts about almost any subject you care to name.
If you don’t already have a strong idea about what you want your podcast to be about, a good place to start is with your passions. What excites you, and what do you enjoy? If there’s a subject you’re an expert in, that’s also an excellent place to start.
Once you’ve decided on a general topic, you need to start narrowing down your niche. Let’s say you’re doing a podcast about gardening. Are you talking about vegetable or flower gardening, beginner gardening, master gardener courses, or gardening equipment? Will you have discussions about large-scale gardening, hydroponic gardening, etc.?
There are a thousand niches you can choose from. Inside of those niches, there are more ways to make money. Are you going to rely on sponsors or lead your listeners to a website built for affiliate marketing sales? These factors all have an impact on what you’ll talk about.
So you’ve narrowed down your specific podcast topic, and now it’s time to decide what to call it. As with any title in media, you want it to give some information about your podcast right up front. Try to use a term specific to the industry you’re talking about in the title.
At this stage in the game, it’s a good idea to start running your idea by some other people. Get feedback from others interested in your topic about your concept and your title. You should also start brainstorming specific episode topics with them.
Invite in Guests
Remember those conversations you’re having with other interested parties? While you’re chatting with them, it’s not a bad idea to ask if they’d be willing to come on your podcast sometime as a guest. Having guests involved with your podcast can be a great way to add variety and expertise to your show.
There are a few criteria you’ll want to have for your guests. First and foremost, they should have some level of expertise or interest in your chosen field. For instance, let’s go back to our gardening podcast example. If you can get the owner of a local nursery to come on your podcast, they can provide some valuable content.
How often you bring on guests is up to you and depends on what you want your podcast to be. Some podcasts are purely interview podcasts; if this is the case, you’ll have guests on every week. For non-interview shows, you may only have a guest appearance once every few months or so. Here are a few tips on how to interview for a podcast.
You’ll want to write out your questions for your guest before you actually begin recording and perhaps send them to your guest for review and approval. (Depending on the nature of the podcast, you could even have listeners send in questions to ask your guest.) Try to make the questions a good mix of entertaining and informative.
Set Up Your Studio
After developing your concept, setting up your recording space is going to be the biggest step in launching your podcast. As technology progresses and recording equipment gets better, podcast listeners expect higher and higher quality from their podcasts. There’s a fair amount of expertise involved in producing a good recording, so you’re going to want to do your homework.
The first step is to designate a recording space, assuming you aren’t recording your podcast on the go. You’ll want to choose a space with as few noise distractions as possible. These include ambient noise (such as from air conditioning vents and street traffic) and household noise (nurseries, dishwashers, washing machines, etc.). Even a little bit of noise can be a distraction and lower audio quality.
Make sure you test your recording space extensively before you start recording your first episode. You may be so used to the sound of the TV going in the next room that you don’t think about it until it shows up in the recording. This is to say nothing of the learning curve you’ll need to go through with your recording equipment.
When you record, you’ll want to make sure you stay close to the microphone and don’t move around. Even something as simple as turning your head can make a big difference in audio quality. Stay right up on the mic when you’re speaking, and back off a little when you aren’t to make sure you aren’t breathing into the mic.
Speaking of recording equipment, thanks to modern technology, it’s possible to record a quality podcast even without a designated recording space. The trick is to have a high-quality microphone and good recording etiquette.
For about $1,000 you can have a state of the art podcast studio. Here are some of the technology we recommend.
– Heil PR-40 Broadcast Quality Microphone
– Heil Microphone Shock Mount
– Fine Mesh Metal Screen Microphone Pop Filter
– Heil Heavy Duty Mic Boom Arm w/ C-Clamp
Mackie Mixer –
Different Types of Microphones
Choosing the right microphone for yourself can seem like a daunting task. There are dozens of microphone options out there. These options range from inexpensive Snowball mics to multi-thousand-dollar professional audio equipment. The important thing to keep in mind is which recording factors are important to you and how much money you want to spend.
There are two primary types of microphone: USB and XLR. USB microphones, as you might expect, have a USB connection that allows you to hook them up to a regular computer. XLR microphones need a professional audio interface (a mixer), so they can be a little pricier.
You’ll also be able to choose whether you want a dynamic or a condenser microphone. You don’t have to plug dynamic microphones into a power source, and they can accommodate almost any vocal range. But they also don’t adapt as well to abrupt dynamic changes (ironically).
You have to plug condenser microphones in, and they are usually a little smoother than dynamic microphones. They sound a little brighter than dynamic microphones, and they have a higher sensitivity.
If you’re recording in one studio that has good soundproofing, a condenser mic is your best bet. They are a little more sensitive and create a slightly better sound. But if you’re recording somewhere with a lot of background noise (such as mobile podcasting), a dynamic microphone will do a better job isolating your voice.
Editing Your Podcast
Okay, so you’ve developed your concept, arranged for guests, set up your studio space, chosen your mic, and recorded your first session. You’re off to the races with your podcast, right? Well, not quite.
To have a high-quality podcast, you’re going to need to edit it. Even the most professional among us say “um” and trip over our words from time to time. Unless you script out your entire podcast (which won’t work for an interview podcast), you’re going to have lulls in the recording that aren’t interesting. No one wants to hear empty spaces of silence when listening to a podcast.
When you’re editing your podcast, you’re going to want to keep a close ear on your tone between edited sections. The goal is to remove as many distractions for the listener as possible. Having a sentence that jumps from one tone of voice to another will not accomplish that goal.
You should also keep a good awareness of the pacing of your podcast while you’re editing. Space between words can have a powerful effect on the listener, for good or for ill. Think of every good dramatic pause you’ve ever heard for proof.
Another powerful tool in your editing arsenal is music. If you’ve ever listened to an old movie with no background music, you’ll know how much difference some good background music can make. Adding in some environmental tracks for tone or fun interstitials can be a great way to bring interest and character to your podcast.
Managing Your Branding
You’ve finished your editing, the recording sounds great, and you’re ready to make your podcast available to the whole world. But what cover art are you posting with your podcast? What does your description look like, and where are you advertising your new show?
Branding and marketing are as crucial to having a successful podcast as choosing the right microphone. After all, there are more than half a million podcasts out there. How are you going to make yours stand out?
Having a good piece of cover art for your podcast is very important. While you may have always heard not to judge a podcast by its cover, people do anyway, and you want your cover to be as amazing as your show. Hiring a good graphic designer is an excellent idea to make sure you get the best logo.
Social media is also going to be crucial to making your podcast a success. A recent estimate showed that about 68 percent of U.S. adults have a Facebook page. You’ll want to pull together a strong social media marketing plan to make sure as many listeners as possible find your podcast among the crowd.
Posting Your Podcast
At last, at last, it’s time to post your podcast. You’ve got the recording equipment, the concept, the branding, the social media campaign, the edited episode, and a whole wealth of experience. So it’s time to release your beautiful creation into the world.
The first step to posting your podcast is to find a podcast hosting company. These businesses provide a reliable platform where you can upload and store your recordings and then publish them. They’ll provide you analytics to show how many people are listening, as well as RSS feeds and more.
You will have to pay for any reputable podcast hosting platforms, so be sure to factor that into your budget. This fee will cover expanded storage and prevent you having uncontrolled ad content inserted into your show. Fees vary based on platform and plan, so you should be able to find one that fits into your budget.
Most podcast hosting companies will post your podcast to the five biggest podcasting platforms: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, PodBean, Stitcher, and TuneInRadio. Spotify is also a major platform, and they only work with certain approved companies.
Going Beyond Podcasting 101
Starting up a podcast isn’t something you do in an afternoon, but it is accessible to anyone. With a little planning and care, you can start your own show from the comfort of your own home and have it available for the whole world to hear. Step up to the mic and add your voice to the industry that’s changing the media world.