Podcasts have risen dramatically in popularity in the past decade, and sometimes it can seem like everyone and their mother has a podcast of their own.
You’ve probably thought about starting one yourself on a topic that you’re interested in, but knowing where to begin isn’t always easy, which is why we’ve put together this guide on how to start a podcast to help you along.
What Is a Podcast?
If you’re out of the loop and have never heard of podcasts before, the simplest way to explain them would be as on-demand radio on the internet. Podcasts exist on all sorts of topics, including current events, history, video games, comedy and pretty much anything else you can think of. If there’s a topic, there’s probably at least one podcast that covers it in depth.
Podcast formats can be as varied as the topics they cover. Whether it’s a single host monologuing a story, an interviewer with a new guest every week or two friends exchanging banter, there’s really no wrong way to do a podcast.
How to Start a Podcast
So, where do you start? First, you’ll need a topic, and if it’s a popular one, you’ll probably want some ideas for how to make your show stand out from what can easily be a pretty crowded field. Although we can’t really help you with this part, we can shed some light on what comes next: the practical realities of producing and recording a podcast.
Before you start writing scripts and setting up social media accounts, you’ll want to look into what kind of equipment you’ll need. You’re recording audio, so you will obviously need some sort of microphone or recording device, as well as software to edit the audio into a tighter and more coherent package.
Podcast microphones range in quality and budget, from very basic devices that will run you less than $50, to professional equipment that cost hundreds of dollars.
If you’re just starting out, chances are you don’t want to drop several weeks of your salary on just the microphone, so you’ll probably want to start out with something on the budget side of things and then upgrade once your podcast has established itself.
A great starting choice that won’t break the bank but still offer you plenty of quality as a novice podcaster is the Samson Q2U USB/XLR Dynamic Microphone.
With a similar price as the Samson Q2U, the ATR2100 is notable for doing an excellent job of eliminating background sounds.
Unfortunately, the microphone is handheld (but not really portable) and doesn’t include a stand, which means that you either have to create your own or buy one separately.
Podcast Recording Software
Just like with microphones, there’s a wide range of recording software out there for you to use when recording a podcast.
Although more established podcasters with more heavy-duty needs might want to opt for something more professional, such as Adobe Audition, this will most likely be overkill for someone just starting out in the world of podcasting, especially as it carries a hefty price tag of $20.99 per month.
Luckily, there are some excellent (and completely free) alternatives for you to use. If you want to do your recording and editing on a Windows machine, your best bet will be Audacity. The software has been around for a very long time and features impressive functionality despite not costing you a dime.
On the other hand, if you prefer Macs, you can still use Audacity, but you also can’t really go wrong with GarageBand. Although the name suggests it’s intended for recording and editing music, it works just as well for the spoken word.
How to Record a Podcast
Once you’ve written a script (or just some notes, as not all podcasts have to be scripted), set up all your equipment and installed your recording software, it’s time to get down to business. At the end of the day, the actual act of recording the podcast itself is simple, especially if you’re using the equipment and software recommended in this guide.
All the microphones mentioned above are plug and play, which means that they don’t require any kind of setup beyond just plugging them in and checking that they’re picking up audio. Once that’s done, you just need to fire up Audacity or GarageBand, hit record and start talking.
Editing your content, however, is a much more complicated task, and it’s something that can take years of practice to get truly good at. Mainly, though, you want to remove or shorten any pauses you had to take while speaking, while also trying to isolate and cut out background noises that may have made their way into the recording.
Finally, if you’ve just recorded your first episode, there’s probably going to be quite a few pronunciation errors, places where you don’t properly convey your point, and other general mistakes that you’ll want to get rid of. Don’t let this dishearten you, though, as even the most successful podcasters make these mistakes long into their careers.
Recording a Podcast
- Plug in your microphone and test that it’s working
- Launch the recording software of your choice
- Hit record and start talking
- Edit your recording to remove long pauses, background noises and any mistakes you may have made
So, you’ve gotten all the equipment and used it to record your very first episode. What now? How do you distribute your work to an audience?
First, you’ll need to find a service to host your podcast. This is a similar process to setting up a website, which you should also be doing, so check out our list of the best web hosting providers.
Many web-hosting providers and website builders have specific functionality for distributing podcasts. If you’re not sure how to pick one, follow our tips in this article on how to choose a web hosting provider.
WordPress is a popular and excellent choice for both your website and podcast episodes (read our WordPress review), and if you’d like to learn more about how to set up and use the service, you can check out our beginner’s guide to using WordPress.
You’ll still need a web host, though, so if you decide to go this direction, have a look at our list of the best web hosting for WordPress.
Once your website is up and the audio files for your podcast is hosted on one of your pages, you need to submit it to the various podcast platforms out there.
There’s a whole bunch of these out there, but the two most popular ones are iTunes and Spotify. Don’t just limit yourself to these two, though, as you can quickly submit your podcast to other popular apps, such as Stitcher, Overcast and SoundCloud.
Luckily for you, Apple’s early dominance in this market has created a sort of industry standard when it comes to submitting your episodes, making this a much less cumbersome process than it could be.
Basically, you’ll need to set up an RSS feed for your podcast (and you can follow our guide on how to set up an RSS feed for more details on this) following the specifications provided by Apple. Once this is done, you simply need to register with the various platforms you want to distribute on and submit a link to said RSS feed.
If everything is as it should be in your feed, your podcast will be accepted, and within a few days to a few weeks (depending on the platform), your work will be available for anyone to check out.
Distributing a Podcast
- Create a website where you can host the actual audio files
- Create an RSS feed for your episodes following Apple’s guidelines
- Register a podcaster account on all the services you want your show to be available on (iTunes, Spotify, Overcast, etc.)
- Submit the link to the RSS feed containing your podcast episodes
- Wait to be approved
Tips for Starting a Podcast
Now that we’ve covered the practical aspects of podcast recording, let’s review some general tips and tricks to ensure your podcast resonates with your target audience.
Once you’ve chosen your topic and theme, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t stray too far away from it. For example, if you’re building a following around a history podcast, your listeners probably aren’t interested in a special episode covering the final season of Stranger Things.
You also want to make sure that you upload a new episode as frequently as possible, at least in the beginning.
If the nature of your podcast makes weekly or even monthly episodes unfeasible, then at the very least strive to keep your schedule consistent. Otherwise, you might find that your listeners lose interest and forget to stay updated with your feed, as they have no way to know how long they’ll have to wait for the next episode.
As we mentioned briefly earlier in this article, social media is another crucial aspect of podcasting. After all, no one is going to listen to your show if they don’t even know it exists.
By the time you’ve gotten all your equipment and software together and have started recording your first episodes, you should have also set up accounts and channels on various social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and others, and use these outlets to reach out to a wider audience.
A good place to start would be to find the social media presence of podcasts in the same genre as you and participate in discussions on the subject matter.
People who already follow and listen to these podcasts will be more likely to enjoy yours, and if they see you discussing your topic with podcasters they already enjoy and trust, they might be tempted to give yours a go, as well.
Make no mistake, starting a podcast — especially a successful one — is no easy task, but with a good idea, some creativity and drive, anyone can spread their word to countless listeners all across the world.
Even if you don’t end up as the next Dan Carlin or Joe Rogan, it can be an amazing outlet for your creativity, giving you the chance to explore and discuss a topic that interests you.
What do you think about our guide to starting a podcast? Did we miss a piece of equipment or recording software that you think is excellent? Is there some vital tip for starting out that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.