How to Start a Podcast

By Rory Monaghan

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I have had several people reach out to me and ask for tips on starting a podcast. Rather than continue to respond to each person with a diatribe of steps in an instant message that isn’t very readable, I figured it could be worthwhile to share this for everyone in this blog post.

So here are my tips for getting started:

1.)  Subject Matter

If you are thinking of starting a podcast, you likely already know what topic you would like to cover. It is worth while to check out other podcasts in your topic area of choice to figure out how saturated the podcast market is for that topic. If it is pretty saturated, don’t become disillusioned. Keep on reading and we’ll figure out how to make your podcast shine brighter than the competition.

2.)  Show Format

This is crucial. You likely already know what you’d like to cover on your podcast but do you know what format your show will take? When researching your space e.g. maybe you want to cover sports, do you notice a trend in other shows? Is it usually a couple of hosts having a discussion about the big stories that week? Is there usually a large panel discussion? Is it a news report style podcast? My advice is to try to find a format that makes your show unique. Will the show be audio only? Will it have a video edition? What does your competition do? Do something different. Something that makes you stand out.

3.) Frequency of Episodes

It has been said if you pick a fixed day of the week and time to publish your episodes you will be more likely to have a consistent audience. Personally, I don’t set a fixed day of the week and time. This is because it would be very difficult for me to meet the same deadline each week while working a full-time job. I tend to publish my episodes toward the end of the work week. This suits the format of my podcast as it is a weekly news format. If you do a sports podcast, you may want to do a live podcast right after a game finishes to capture that audience of people who are excited after a game and want to hear what others think. It really all depends on your audience and how you believe they would like to consume your show. This is something you could also change a few months into your show based on trends of numbers of listeners on certain days and times.

4.) Length of Episodes

If you have answered the last few questions for yourself then that may determine the length of your episodes. What I have found is the shorter the better but sometimes short episodes compromise the quality of the content. I try to stay under 30 minutes and ideally under 20. I have had people tell me they wish the episodes are longer but most people appreciate the brevity. In fact, some people use podcast apps that allow them to speed up the audio to x1.5 to get through the episodes faster. I don’t do that myself but I can see why someone would. We don’t have all day and night to listen to podcasts no matter how valuable the content may be.

5.) Name and Claiming the Name

Naming products is the most difficult part in the process, in my opinion. Find one you like and make sure it hasn’t been taken yet. It is a good idea to also create a logo for the show to use on the podcast channel. Make sure the domain is also available for a web site and the social media pages are also available. These are very important to claim before beginning your show as this is where many people will share and potentially find your podcast.

6.) Dedicated Email Address & Site

Once you have a name for your show, buy and register the domain and setup an email address to field questions from listeners but also for when you want to run a competition and to use for setting up channels on various different podcast platforms. I have used Blacknight, GoDaddy and Siteground for buying domains and hosting but there are many great options out there. Pick a provider you prefer.

7.) Recording Software

Some podcast platforms also provide their own recording and editing software but if you want, you can use your own software for recording. I use TechSmith Camtasia as my episodes also have a video edition. I have friends who use Discord. Others who use Zoom and just record to their PC or to the cloud then edit it later. Camtasia is great because the editing tools are excellent and it provides the ability to extract only the audio as well as publish a full video but it is not an option for doing a live show. I suggest you look to YouTube (possibly with Zoom or Google Meet as both allow you to have a video call and select to stream the call to a chosen YouTube channel), Discord or Mixlr for good live features. If you have an audio only show you can record using built in free software in your Operating System of choice and then use free software for editing too such as Audacity. I output my audio as .wav. WAV as a format is uncompressed so the audio can be cleaner in this format.

Note: If you notice your recorded audio only comes out of a single speaker then toggle the stereo/mono setting as pointed out to me by Ruben Spruijt.

8.) Primary Podcast Platform

To publish episodes, you will need to choose a platform to upload to. I use SoundCloud but there are several platforms you could choose from. They mostly work the same in terms of getting the episodes published. Important: This will be the platform you always upload the audio track for your episodes to each time you complete an episode. You do not need to upload the file in every platform e.g. no need to upload to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Soundcast, Podcast Addict etc. if you follow step 9, each new episode will be distributed to the various platforms for you.

9.) Setup a Channel in Each Platform

It sounds like more work than it really is. Just create a channel on the different platforms you’d like your show to appear on. This may be services like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, SoundCloud and Spotify. Services such as Podcast Addict don’t require you to setup a channel. They aggregate other services and automatically publish all podcasts. When you have picked your podcast platform of choice for publishing every episode e.g. SoundCloud in my case. You can copy your show’s RSS Feed. (In SoundCloud, this is found under Settings–>Content) Then just paste this in when setting up the other channel pages. That is about it.

10.) Recording Equipment

This will depend on how you intend to record. Some people do in-person panel discussions thus each person needs a lapel mic and it needs to be picked up by the recording software. You will notice some trends if you check out the biggest names in podcasting. Many podcasters go for the Shure or Rhode microphones. I personally have a Shure SM7B and an Elgato Wave-3 mic. When using the Shure mic, I have it plugged into a Focusrite Scarlett Lite 2i2. For the Elgato mic, I just plug it directly into my laptop via USB.

Both mics are great. I have been told by some that the Elgato actually sounds better. I use the Elgato when I am travelling as I leave my Shure mounted in a Rode Arm mount in my office at home. If you plan to record yourself for the video, I recommend you check out the Elgato webcam or even better if you have a compatible DSLR camera use that with the Elgato Cam Link. The mic you choose may depend on the environment you will use when recording. If the space will be very quite it may not be too important what you choose. If it is not very quite you may want a mic that condenses the sound.

I use an Alienware M15 Laptop as my PC for recording. What is great about using this beefy high spec machine is that the episodes render relatively quickly. On my old Surface Pro 2, audio could take 10+ minutes to render and video usually took close to an hour. Downside of the Alienware is the fans on the machine are super loud. I use HWiNFO64 to disable the fans while I record the audio. I don’t recommend this, it is very risky but when choosing my PC I went for power without considering the downsides of the fans.

10.) Thumbnail Images

One tricky part for beginners that shouldn’t be difficult but is, is your episodes’ thumbnail images. If you have a video edition on YouTube or Vimeo you might think about creating a video thumbnail then re-using for your audio podcast BUT beware, the audio channels only accept images that are 1500 x 1500 pixels maximum. If you do not set the image correctly, you may find your podcast may not replicate across platforms. Try to stick with those dimensions.

11.) Consistency in Settings

Be sure to use the same name for Publisher and Name. If you do not you may find your show not replicating across the different platforms. Above you see that I went with no spaces in the Publisher and I regret it every day! I can change it according to SoundCloud but am very weary of doing so. I also am not too pushed to change mine as I found the name of my show isn’t necessarily the most search friendly as it is. That is ok for me as what I cover is pretty niche. Most people who find it, will find it via word of mouth or social media share. There won’t be millions of people looking for Enterprise IT news on Spotify or SoundCloud 🙂

You will also want to consider how you name your episodes, what tags to use and what description to set. I have changed my show naming structure multiple times. I try to use naming that other podcasts use that I enjoy. I don’t really use tags but probably should. My descriptions are usually a synopsis of the episode and a link to the episodes landing page on the podcast’s website.

12.) Promoting the Episodes

You could consider advertising via Reddit ads, Google ads, LinkedIn messages, Facebook ads and Twitter promoted tweets. I find Reddit ads and LinkedIn messages to be effective and worth the money. Of course, if you have a good social media presence already then using that will give you a good boost. If you have a mailing list, frequently highlighting the podcast via emails could help too. Most of my subscribers come from other people sharing my show on social media.

12.) Podcast Analytics

Unfortunately, analytics for gauging how many people listen or watch your podcast each week is still a weak point for podcasts, in my opinion. SoundCloud have enhanced their analytics with the new Insights dashboards which are pretty nice but I still question its accuracy. Podtrac is considered the best and once again, I find it lacking. Of course, if you do have a video presence too then no matter which analytics you use those videos views will not be counted.

That’s it for this post. If I think of more that I feel could be useful I will update it. If you have questions that are not answered let me know on Twitter and I’ll try my best to answer and update this post to share with everyone.

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