We have entered what is being called the second golden age of audio. The first golden age kicked off with the advent of radio in the early 20th century. Today, things have changed. The star of the new golden age is the podcast.
According to Nielsen, 40% of Americans have listened to a podcast. That’s more than 100 million people, a figure that doesn’t even account for global reach. In early 2018, NPR podcasts alone received 121 million unique downloads per month.
You should consider starting a podcast. It’s one of the best ways to expand your reach, to get your creative work in front of more ears and eyeballs. Luckily, starting a podcast isn’t all that hard.
If you’re a podcast listener, you have probably experienced how the human voice can forge a bond between speaker and listener. This bond goes beyond what can be achieved through writing. Audio conveys warmth and personality. You feel like you get to know a podcast host. You find yourself listening to episodes while you drive, cook, and clean your room. You may even think about podcast hosts as if they were your friends. Podcasts are a great way to learn, to build your brand. Podcasts are powerful.
Given the diversity and popularity of podcasts today, it makes sense to strongly consider starting one. Hosting a podcast has so much upside. There’s so much potential to widen your audience and to keep your current audience updated on all the cool things you’re doing.
Attract a big enough audience, and you can even monetize your podcast. But that’s down the road. First you have to get started.
And guess what? Launching a podcast is actually pretty easy.
1) Identify Your Podcast Topic.
What will your podcast be about? It’s important to establish a focused theme. You will need to build aspects of your podcast around your theme. What kind of theme should you go with? Take cues from podcasts you enjoy, what you hope to get out of your podcast, and what you love to do.
2) Choose Your Podcast’s Name
Settling on a name is crucial. There are thousands of podcasts out there, a huge selection for listeners to choose from. Having the right podcast name is the difference between being passed over by a potential listener and catching his or her eye, getting new downloads, and gaining regular listeners.
Your name should give a sense of what your podcast is about. Planet Money, for example, seems like it would be a globally focused podcast about money. And that’s what it is. Song Exploder has a cool name (how do you explode a song?) and sounds like a podcast about music. Sure enough, it’s one of the best music podcasts on the web.
Your podcast’s name should creflect your brand and tone. When Alex Blumberg was launching a podcast company, he considered using the name American Podcasting Company. Just about every friend and investor he consulted hated the name. Eventually, Blumberg settled on the name Gimlet Media, a more casual title inspired by the classic cocktail. The name has the right mix of sophistication, intrigue, novelty, and fun. (Blumberg made a podcast about launching his podcasting business. That podcast, Startup, is packed with details you’ll find useful as you start in the world of podcasting.)
Finally, be sure to run your name by friends and family who aren’t afraid to tell you what they really think. If your podcast name needs some work, they’ll be sure to let you know. It may take some time to pick the right name. Don’t worry. It’s worth the effort.
3) Set Your Podcast’s Format
Podcasts can take a staggering range of formats. Some consist of interviews. Some simply feature the host speaking on the subject of the day. Some may feature several hosts in conversation. Some even spotlight performances, like readings of literary work or recordings of live concerts.
You will need to select a format and stick to your format pretty closely. Most podcasts keep the same format from episode to episode, giving regular listeners an idea of what to expect each time.
You will also want to settle on a general podcast length. Some podcasts run a few minutes. Some last two hours. Generally, podcasts that last very long periods of time are hosted by famous podcasters. It’s usually better to stick to shorter, more tightly edited episodes. Short podcasts waste less time, an asset people are short on these days. Also, short podcasts are more likely bring the kind of quick benefits that will keep listeners eager to download up your podcast.
4) Source or Create Podcast Art
When your podcast appears in podcast aggregators like iTunes, an image will appear with its name. A great way to attract potential listeners is to use a memorable image, one that grabs potential listeners. Of course, you’ll need rights to this image, so create the image yourself or outsource the job to a friend.
If you need help sourcing art, consider using a service like DesignCrowd. A digital marketplace for design, DesignCrowd consists of a pool of 600,000-plus freelance designers. It’s pretty simple to use. You specify what you want done. Designers create sample designs for you. You pick which one you want.
Finally, it’s best to use a square image for your podcast art. This may be a little restrictive. But most podcast aggregators display square images. You don’t want your image getting clipped.
5) Purchase Podcast Equipment
Without a doubt, the trickiest part of starting a podcast is getting equipment. That said, you can go from nothing to recording without spending much time or money on the equipment you need.
In theory, you can use the built-in microphone on your computer or phone to record your podcast. Too bad these microphones don’t produce good sound. Just about every podcaster out there recommends using an upgraded external microphone. By no means does the sound quality of your podcast doesn’t need to be flawless. It simply needs to be smooth enough that sound isn’t an issue. Nothing will listeners as fast as garbled or annoying sound.
A microphone can get you to that threshold level of sound quality. Lifehacker has a helpful guide to desktop microphones (although you can cheaper ones than those suggested in this piece).
If you’re making the time investment in launching a podcast, you may want to make a monetary investment in more than a microphone. A quality set of headphones will allow you to better hear yourself and whoever else is on your podcast as you speak, record, think, and move the conversation forward. You may also want to consider a pop filter, a truly nifty device. What a pop filter does is even out some of the sounds that tend to get disproportionately amplified by an external microphone.
If you want to soup up your podcast and have a budget, there’s an impressive array of other devices you can get. For a guide with a robust section on microphones that connect to phones and USB ports, check out The Podcast Host.
6) Research and Choose a Podcast Host
Your podcast will need to live somewhere on the Internet. There’s a good chance you will consider hosting your podcast on your personal website, but this isn’t always the best idea. Think of how big a single audio file can be. Now multiply that by your number of podcast episodes. Podcasts are simply too big to host on your typical personal website. A better solution is to use a third-party host.
In addition to its many other features, Archive.org allows you to host podcasts for free. The lone drawback to hosting on Archive is that, by many reports, the process isn’t as seamless as through other hosts. Archive is a great option if you don’t have the budget for a monthly podcast hosting expense. (Here is a guide to hosting on Archive.)
These hosting expenses, though, are usually modest.
The most basic plan available through Libsyn costs $5 a month. This plan lets you upload 50mb of audio a month. The next-level plan, costing $15 a month, provides space for 250mb. From here, more advanced packages are available all the way up to $75 a month. Some of the higher packages offer powerful features, like custom mobile apps for your podcast, and traffic analytics.
Other podcast hosts that could be a great fit for you depending on what you need. Bluberry is worth a look if you want to explore hosting from your personal website. Soundcloud offers a range of handy features, such as time-stamping comments based on where listeners are in your podcast, providing access to a podcaster forum, and letting you share your podcast in Twitter streams.
7) Create a Podcast RSS Feed
You will want to set up a podcast RSS feed through your host. This is where your tracks (episodes) will appear. You can add tracks or remove them. Your RSS feed will display track titles, descriptions, and podcast artwork. A good host will let you customize various aspects of your RSS feed.
8) Post to Podcast Aggregators like iTunes.
Many consumers get their podcasts through podcast aggregators: places like iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Overcast, and others are hubs where people go specifically to find podcasts. These aggregators let you sort through podcast libraries by category. From there, listeners can subscribe to podcasts or download individual episodes. Once you’ve subscribed, new podcasts will automatically download.
You want to be as visible on podcast aggregators as possible. Being highly visible is the absolute best way to build your audience. Two ways to increase visibility are to earn favorable ratings (on podcast aggregators that have ratings) and to get more downloads. Ratings and download numbers may even push your podcast to the front page of iTunes.
Some podcast hosts let you post to podcast aggregators in just a few clicks. If your host doesn’t, here’s a guide to how you can submit to more than 100.
9) Record Your First Podcast Episode
Start the recorder. Don’t worry. If you mess up now, you can edit later.
10) Tips on How to Conduct a Podcast Interview
Interviewing somebody on your podcast may seem intimidating at first. With practice and a few pointers, interviewing should become smooth. Even fun.
You will want to familiarize yourself with your guest beforehand. Visit his or her website, find out about current projects, and so on. Guests will want to plug their latest album, art show, or whatever they happen to be working on these days. Not only will some background research make your rapport better, it will give you the material you need to ask great questions, steer the stream of conversation into areas more beneficial to your listener, and pave the way to a better overall podcast.
Be sure to write down major talking points and questions before hand. You don’t have to write down everything, but it’s very helpful to have a list of broad topics and pressing questions on hand, to consult when needed. That way, you can reel in your guest if he or she veers off topic. That way, too, you can be sure to check all your boxes and cover the ground you want to.
11) Have a Good Time Podcasting
The best podcasts are the ones where the hosts appear to be having fun and doing interesting things. Even the most serious podcasts tend to incorporate low-key moments and fun asides. This is how you can forge a bond with your listeners, one that will keep them coming back. If you and your guests can have fun while delving into fascinating material, audiences will feel a connection, get the most out of your podcast, and keep coming back for more.