How to Start a Podcast: Complete Guide to Podcasting
Here is a complete guide for starting a podcast, covering everything from setup to how to get viewers and how to monetize.
If you’re looking to start a podcast, you’re in the right place. In this blog post, we’ll walk through everything from why you should consider podcasting to the actual steps involved in starting a podcast such as formatting, scripting, editing, publishing and much more. If you’ve already launched your podcast and wish to grow your audience, you’ll find a lot of useful information in this blog post as well. We compiled this guide after months of research and interviews with experts in the podcasting space.
Below are some topics we’ll be covering:
- Are Podcasts Popular?
- Why You Should Start a Podcast
- Understanding and Finding your Target Audience
- How to grow your listenership if you have zero (or few) listeners
- Picking the Right Podcast Format
- Podcast Studio Setup: Hardware
- Setting Up your Microphone for Your Podcast
- Podcast Studio Setup: Software
- Where to Publish and Host Your Podcast
- How to Upload Your Podcast on Your Own to a Popular Podcast Player
- How to Monetize Your Podcast
- How Much are Successful Podcasters Making?
- Recap: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Podcast
Are Podcasts Popular?
Podcasting is a massive market on the rise. Here are a few stats: 79% of the US population is familiar with podcasting and over 60% has listened to a podcast. In the US alone, it is estimated that over 100 million people will be listening to podcasts by 2024. Additionally, the podcasting industry is estimated to be worth a whopping $2 billion by 2024. Podcast listeners are more likely to have a higher disposable income than the average media consumer and, unlike other mediums, are considered gender neutral (though more people identifying as male generally listen to podcasts). Rise of autonomous cars and smart homes (all equipped with Alexa/Google Home) will further accelerate consumption. Given these statistics, it’s safe to say that the podcasting space is very popular and will continue to be for some time. .
Why Start a Podcast
- If you're already creating content elsewhere, podcasting is a great way to further grow your online presence. Maybe you are a video content creator or have a following on Twitter or Facebook. Launching a podcast is a great way to connect with your community in another meaningful way.
- Share your passion with the world. If you are passionate about a topic and want to share your knowledge with the world, podcasting is the perfect medium to do so. We’ve seen folks from all walks of life build podcasts; nothing is really off limits.
- Learn and try something new. The podcasting space is on fire and will continue to grow. If you want to try learning a new skill and or you want a new creative outlet, why not try starting a podcast?
- Connect with others. A global pandemic pushed us apart. Though it seems behind us in 2023, it's still worth using online communities to get closer to each other. Start a podcast to connect with other like-minded individuals.
- Earn money and build passive income. Yes, you can monetize your podcast (we’ll discuss how in just a bit). You can place advertisements in your show, earn donations or tips with Melon, make private, subscription-only episodes with services like Supercast, and much more.
- Use podcasting to promote your existing product or service. Perhaps you have a main business that is your primary source of income. You can use your show as a marketing tool to drive more sales to your business.
Defining Your Target Audience
Your podcast should be for someone, not everyone. If you build things for everyone , you will attract nobody. This is one of the recurring pieces of advice that we got from interviewing experts. Focusing on making a few people fall in love with your podcast and building a loyal community should be your main goal. We recommend starting your podcast from the heart and optimizing for a small niche - your target audience. Think deeply about what they might want to hear and cater to them.
How to Grow Your Podcast from 0 or Very Few Listeners
- Remain consistent. The only way to grow is by continuously creating content and putting yourself out there. Try experimenting with different podcast formats and pay close attention to what content gets traction and what doesn’t.
- Talk to others in your community and ask them what topics they want to hear about.
- Experiment with different titles to grasp people's attention.
- Invite your friends, family, and or your community (e.g. Facebook, Reddit, or Discord groups) to listen to your show and share your podcast with others who you think align with your target audience.
- Use SEO to optimize your podcast for search on Google. No matter where you’re posting your podcast you should be sure to title them appropriately, write clear descriptions and summaries using keywords that you target audience would search in order to come across your podcast.
- Cross-promote your podcast on your social media platforms. While things like SEO can help you attract new listeners to your podcast, you have to get comfortable encouraging people in your network to support and listen. After all, people can’t listen to a podcast that they don’t know about.
The number one piece of advice we’ve found in our research is to keep creating podcasts regularly and trying new things until you find what works for you. Don’t make every episode entirely different but make tweaks (with reason) and track how it impacts listenership/engagement. When you’re just starting out, you have more room to experiment since you don’t have a ton of eyes (or in this case, ears) on you.
Picking the Right Podcast Format
There are multiple podcast formats to organize and structure your show. Below are some to consider.
Bring on a guest, have them answer pre-written questions, and share their perspective on various topics with your audience.
- Pro: Very engaging format, 2x+ the audience and reach, especially if your guest has a following and will cross-promote.
- Con: Takes time to recruit interview guests and prepare them ahead of time.
With this particular podcast format, you can bring on a guest or co-host and discuss a variety of topics. Compared to an interview format, this is less formal and should make your listeners feel as though they’re listening in on a conversation between friends.
- Pro: Similar benefits to an interview.
- Con: You need to find the right guest or co-host because the chemistry among guests matters. It also takes time to recruit guests.
Here, you’ll discuss a topic that is relevant to your community.
- Pro: Will likely resonate with your community as long as you pick a topic that will capture their attention.
- Con: Takes time to research as you want to provide as much valuable, correct information as possible and position yourself as an expert or someone who is knowledgeable on the subject.
Discuss anything on your mind, including your hot takes on current events or trending topics.
- Pro: Endless freedom
- Con: You are responsible for carrying the entire show—no third party news or guests, meaning you must prepare to ensure a good flow while delivering interesting content
Discuss current events or commentate on something that is happening live (e.g. sports).
- Both pros and cons are similar to an educational show.
Bring on multiple guests to discuss various topics.
- Pros: Similar to an interview but with augment reach and content benefits from more folks on your show.
- Cons: Even harder to plan since you need to both recruit and coordinate schedules of multiple people. Plus you need to focus on moderating as well.
You are leading the narrative, either fiction or nonfiction, and captivating your audience with your storytelling skills.
- Pros: Can be highly engaging and lead to large audience growth, depending on your delivery and content.
- Cons: Requires significant research in preparations as the story should flow as much as possible for listeners to follow along.
All formats require work and planning but all can deliver great results.While it might be hard to find guests, you can slowly work on building your network. If you’re going to host guests, remember that they shouldn’t carry the show. Guests are often viewed as a panacea for a good show, but that is not always the case. It’s your job to recruit guests, research their backgrounds, and moderate to ensure good chemistry. Individual podcast formats, whether they be storytelling, commentary on current events, or an educational show, rely on you and can be just as captivating as a show with guests. Theyalso require work, research, and thoughtful delivery. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide which format is the best fit for you and the kind of content you want to create.
Podcast Studio Setup: Hardware
Below we will list a few recommendations, but the beauty of a podcast is that you can get started with just a computer and a built-in microphone: it’s that easy.
If you’re looking for a super-streamlined USB mic that will give you great sound with a small footprint, Yeti Nano is our recommendation. Yeti X gives you crisp and clear sound with additional pickup patterns for different recording situations and a smart knob that controls a variety of functions. Both mics feature Blue VO!CE vocal effects for fine-tuning your sound.
Some streamers prefer XLR microphones, which interface with professional audio equipment instead of connecting directly to your computer. An XLR setup makes it easier to use multiple microphones, which is handy if you stream with multiple people or need a secondary mic for playing an instrument. Plus, XLR mics give your setup a truly professional look. Ember and Blackout Spark SL are two popular choices among streamers.
If you want to go deeper into audio, you can add an audio mixer. Mackie ProFX8v2 is one we highly recommend. Also, check out this incredible getting started guide specifically built for podcasters from the team at Blue.
Other advanced accessories that you may consider for your podcast studio as you continue on your podcasting journey are: a mic stand, shock mount, high quality headphones, and noise canceling panels (not pricey and highly recommended for your recording space). Our research shows that best recommendations for your podcasting setup are: InnoGear Mic arm, Blue Yeti Shock mount, Logitech G Pro X, Rhino Acoustic Absorption panels (or Wedge Studio foam panels, if you’re on a budget).
Setting up Your Microphone for Your Podcast
If you’re using a USB microphone, connecting is as simple as can be. Blue USB mics are plug-and-play, but you can download Logitech G HUB to access Blue VO!CE, a microphone technology delivering real-time voice filters that reduce noise and makes your voice sound richer, cleaner, and more professional (on compatible mics). If you’re using an XLR microphone, you’ll need to first plug it into your audio interface, then plug that into your computer. If you’re using headphones, plug them directly into the output on your USB mic or audio interface to hear yourself without delay.
Next, position your microphone to capture your voice cleanly and clearly. If you have a desktop USB mic like Yeti X or Yeti Nano, simply place it about eight inches in front of you and off to one side, with the front angled up toward your mouth. If you have an XLR microphone, a boom arm like Compass will let you position it in just the right place (and quickly move it out of the way when you don’t need it).
Finally, if you’re using a mic with multiple pickup patterns, make sure you’re using the appropriate one for your situation. Cardioid mode is usually the best for streaming, as it captures sound only from the front and minimizes room noise. However, if you’re streaming with multiple people, you may want to try omnidirectional, bidirectional or stereo mode.
Podcast Studio Setup: Software
Key things to think about when looking at podcasting software for your studio setup are: (1) price, (2) editing, (3) customer support and (4) local file save. Below are some podcasting softwares that we recommend.
- Melon: Easy to use and comes with streaming and recording capabilities. Online tool (browser based) that lets you easily invite guests to your podcast.
- Streamlabs Collab Cam: Stream your podcast while recording to increase your reach. New Collab Cam feature enables you to add guests to your podcast by simply sharing a link (no software downloads required on their end). You can learn more about Streamlabs Collab Cam in this guide.
- Adobe Audition: Full-suite audio editor for post production. Offers audio restoration, sound removal, noise reduction and tons of features and visualization tools. Lacks MIDI support. Pricey relative to others in this list.
- GarageBand: Used by both beginners and professionals. Easy to edit your podcast. Great user interface, supports 24-bit recording. Available for Mac only.
- Audacity: Widely popular among folks getting started with podcasting. Free, offers many editing options, supports multitrack audio and batch processing. Lacks advanced features.
- Hidenburg: Multitrack podcast editing software for producers, audio journalists, and professionals. Best suited for spoken-word and storytelling podcasts. On the higher price range.
- Scribie: Audio and video transcription service which charges for the minute, starting at $0.10/min.
- Descript: An all-in-one audio and video editing service. Think of it as a Google Docs for podcasting where you can remove all the excess by editing a plain text transcription of your show and collaborate with others in real time. Features a stunning design plus multi track recording.
- Anchor: A solid service for recording, editing, and hosting podcasts. Free and comes with easy publishing options, but has limited host controls and limited to one podcast channel.
Software is going to be an essential part of your studio. You can get started with just Garageband (which comes free with Macs), Melon (available for free through your browser) or Streamlabs Desktop (free to download) and then add on more tools as you grow. The podcasting format you pick and your goals will play into what software and tools will best suit your needs.
Where to Publish and Host Your Podcast
Once you’re done producing your podcast, here are some options for where you can publish or host your show. If you are debating whether to use a podcast hosting service or to host it yourself - the main trade-offs are peace of mind and time in exchange for control and money. Yes, you can self host, but you’ll need to spend time on this and ensure it is reliable. You can also off-load this to a service and invest the saved time back into your content. These services do not just save you from storing the large files: podcast hosting services offer analytics, growth tools, customer support, team features and much more.
We’ve talked to dozens of industry professionals and listed the most commonly used services below. We’ve included both free and paid options.
Buzzsprout—modern interface that’s great for advanced users
- Pros: transcription service, multiple pricing tiers, advanced analytics
- Cons: 250GB bandwidth (not unlimited); pricing not as intuitive as others
- Price: free or starting at $12 per month for premium features
Podbean—one of the best free options with an easy to use interface
- Pros: strong distribution, easy to understand analytics, mobile app, solid monthly storage limits (up to 1.5GB); packed with features
- Cons: harder to publish to Spotify than others
- Price: free to try and up to $99/month for basic plan
Simplecast—popular and well-designed
- Pros: solid status if upgraded. Private podcasting, sharing, web players and ease of use
- Cons: 20K downloads limit; must upgrade for advanced stats
- Price: $15/month for a basic monthly plan after free trial
Transistor—great for folks who want an easy way to get started
- Pros: ease to use, automatic sync to Spotify, Convertkit, Hubspot, Twitter and unlimited storage; great private podcasting tools and highly regarded customer support
- Cons: download limits on unlimited plans
- Price: $19/month and up
Castos—unique design and added tools for growth
- Pros: Enterprise plans, unique design, growth tools (for a fee)
- Cons: No free version after 14 day trial
- Price: $19 per month and up
Spreaker—useful if you want to manage a podcast on multiple platforms through one account
- Pros: Team management, advanced analytics and access to monetization tools
- Cons: plans based on audio storage, lacking some features
- Price: $8 per month and up for advanced features
How to Upload Your Podcast to Popular Platforms
You can upload directly to Spotify or Apple. All you need is a name, cover art, RSS feed, and category where you want your show to appear.
For Apple you will need to create an Apple ID, upload to Apple Podcasts Connect, and submit your info.
For Spotify you will need to create a Spotify account, submit your RSS feed here, and go through the steps to fill out your info.
How to Monetize Your Podcast
Below are some of the main ways we’ve seen podcasters monetize their shows:
- Advertisement and sponsorships: These become more lucrative as you grow. Rates are custom per person and per brand. Advertisements can be placed before the show, throughout the show, and/or in the description. Leading tools to get this revenue stream are Midroll, AdvertiseCast and Ads by Achor.
- Donations and tipping: Often podcasters get started here as their income source as it’s available to everyoneCommon tools are Patreon, Streamlabs Tipping, Melon Donations, and Ko-fi. Some of these take a cut (Patreon) and others do not (Streamlabs and Melon). When companies don’t take a cut, 100% of the funds from your supporters go to you (minus standard processing fees).
- Paid and branded content: As you grow, companies may reach out to you (or you may pitch) for sponsored opportunities (e.g. a quick ad slot within an episode of your podcast).
- Premium content for paid supporters: This would mean early episodes, paid subs-only episodes, and private RSS feeds. Common tools used for this are Patreon and Supercast.
Advertising may seem like the most common revenue model, but it is not available to all and has its limitations. Having spoken to dozens of successful folks, we recommend that everyone, regardless whether you are just getting started with podcasting or a seasoned pro, incorporate donations into your show. This is an easy way to let your community support your podcast. Plus, there are options such as Melon and Streamlabs that do not cut into your donations revenue. You can learn more about monetizing your podcast by reading this helpful guide.
How Much Are Successful Podcasters Making?
First, we want to encourage you to focus on your journey. Yes, Tim Ferriss is successful, but he is his own man. This American Life has a big audience, but they’ve been hard at work for years with a large team. With that said, some of the top creators in the podcasting space make hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. H3 podcast is estimated to earn about $100,000 per episode. There are some solid data points here, but everyone’s show is different and we are confident that yours will be (or already is) successful as well.
- The podcasting space is large and growing quickly. Some podcasters have already built careers, a solid source of income, and an audience. Others are just getting started. It's a good time to get in.
- There are many reasons to start, ranging from just learning for the sake of a creative outlet to expanding your brand.
- Your target audience for your podcast matters. Focus on your niche and don’t try to please everyone.
- Picking the right podcast format is key. You can always experiment with them. All formats have trade-offs and can deliver results.
- Hardware for your studio setup can start with a built-in microphone (if you have a computer), but we do recommend a quality microphone like a Yeti Nano to start. As you grow, you can add more equipment to your setup.
- Software and tools for your setup can also start with free options and be expanded based on your needs, audience, and desired production value. Popular choices are Audacity and GarageBand. If you want free options and to host guests on your show, you can start with Melon or Streamlabs Desktop.
- Experts recommend that you use third party software to publish your podcast rather than self-publish so that you can focus on your content. Simplecast, Podbean and Transistor stood out to us as solid options.
- There are many ways to monetize your show. Donations and patronage are common among creators of all sizes. Services like Melon and Streamlabs Tipping do not take a cut of your donations so 100% of the proceeds go to you.
Check out this blog on how to record a podcast remotely and this blog on best live podcast software, which expands on some of the tools we discussed above. As always, enjoy making great content! We are here to support you along the way.