How to start a podcast

Complete guide to starting a podcast

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This is a complete guide on how to start a podcast. We will go through everything from the why even start to the actual steps involved in starting a podcast (spanning both hardware and software) to the podcast format, scripting, editing, publishing and much more.

If you are just getting started - you will have everything you need to start a podcast. If already on your way - you will find content to grow your audience. We wrote this guide after months of research and interviews with experts in the space as well as those who have failed.

Size of the opportunity

It’s good to spend time on something that appeals to many people and growing. Podcasting is a massive market on the rise. Here are a few stats: 70% of the US population knows podcasting and >50% listened to a podcast. That is >150M listeners in the US alone. Podcast listeners are more likely to have a higher disposable income then the average media consumer and unlike other mediums are gender neutral - meaning an equal number of males and females consume podcasts every month. 65% of active listeners started listening in the last 3 years, meaning the podcasting market is on the rise. Rise of autonomous cars and smart homes (all equipped with alexa/google home) will further accelerate consumption.

Given these statistics, investing time in the podcasting space today is probably a good idea.

Why start a podcast

  1. Grow your existing brand and build an audience: you are already creating content elsewhere and want to use podcasting to further grow your online presence. Maybe you a video content creator or have a following on Twitter or Facebook. Make a podcast to connect with your community in another way and grow your audience
  2. Share your passion with the world: you are passionate about a topic and want to share your knowledge with the world. We’ve seen folks from all walks of life build podcasts.
  3. Learn and try something new: podcasting space is on fire and will continue to grow. If you want to try a learning a new skill and or you want a new creative outlet - why not try starting a podcast?
  4. Connect with others: Global pandemic pushed us further apart. We can use online communities to get closer together. Start a podcast to connect with other like-minded individuals
  5. Earn money and build passive income: Yes - you can monetize your podcast. And we will discuss how. You can place advertisement in your show, earn donations or tips with Melon and or you can make private subscription only episodes with services like Supercast and much more.
  6. Promote your existing product or service: Perhaps you have a main business that is the primary source of income. You can use your show to drive sales to that business.

Who is your target audience

Your podcast should be for someone. 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. Focus on making a few people fall in love with your podcast and building a loyal community. More will follow.

So we recommend starting your podcast from the heart and optimizing for a small niche - your target audience. Thinking deeply about what is it that they want to hear and catering to them.

I started my podcast but have 0 or few listeners

Keep going. Create content and put yourself out there. Try experimenting with different podcast formats. Talk to others in your community and ask them what topics they want to hear about. Experient with different titles. Invite your friends, family, and or your community (facebook group) to listen to your show and to share your podcast with others. Number one piece of advice we’ve found in our research is to keep creating podcasts regularly and trying new things with each show.

Picking the right podcast format

There are multiple podcast formats. Podcast format is a way to organize your show - it is the structure of your podcast.

Interview where you bring on a guest and discuss pre-set questions targeted at your guest and his/her domain

  • Pro: engaging, 2x+ the audience and reach especially if guest is famous and will cross-promote
  • Con: time to recruit interview guests and prepare them ahead of time

Conversational where you bring on a guest or co-host and often discuss another topic

  • Pro: similar benefits to an interview
  • Con: chemistry among guests may matter, time to recruit guests

Educational where you discuss a 3rd topic independently. Often this is something relevant to your community

  • Pro: will likely resonate with your community
  • Con: takes time to research and you do want to come off as close to an expert as possible

Solo: you are discussing anything on your mind

  • Pro: endless freedom
  • Con: you are responsible for carrying the entire show so no 3rd party news or guests which means you must prepare to ensure good flow and deliver exciting content

News: you are discussing current events or commentating on something that is happening (i.e. sports)

  • Similar to an educational show

Panel: you bring on multiple guests

  • 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 now focus on moderating more.

Storytelling: you are leading the narrative - either fiction or nonfiction

  • Pros: can be highly engaging and lead to large audience growth, pending your delivery and content
  • Cons: requires significant research

In sum, all formats work. All formats require work and planning and all can deliver results. There is no free lunch. Yes it might be hard to find guests and you may not have the network, but guests can not carry the show. You must then moderate, research their backgrounds, and ensure the chemistry is good. Guests are often viewed as a panacea for a good show, but that is not always the case. Individual podcast format whether it is storytelling or commentary on current events or an education show rely on you and can be just as or more effective, but also require work, research, and thoughtful delivery. Try it!

Podcast studio setup: hardware

Below we will list a few recommendations, but the beauty of a podcast is that you can get started with a computer and a built-in microphone. It’s that easy.

Now, 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 the same crisp and clear sound with additional pickup patterns for different recording situations and a multi-function 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 deeper into audio - you can add an audio mixer. Mackie ProFX8v2 is highly regarded.

Other advanced accessories that you may consider for your podcast studio as you continue on your podcasting journey are: mic stand, shock mount, high quality headphones, and noise cancelling panels (not pricey and highly recommended for your recording space). Our research shows that best recommendations for your podcasting setup for each in order are: InnoGear Mic arm, Blue Yeti Shock mount, Logitech G Pro X, Rhino Acoustic Absorption panels or if you are on a budget the Foam Panels from Wedge Studio.

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 also download Logitech G HUB to access Blue VO!CE 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 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, (4) local file save

  • Adobe Audition: full-suit audio editor for post production. Offers audio restoration, sound removal, noise reduction and tons of features and visualization tools. Lacks MIDI support. Not cheap relative to others
  • Garage Band: used by beginners and professionals. Easy to edit your podcast. Great user interface, supports 24-big 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
  • Melon: easy to use and comes with streaming and recording capabilities. Online tool that is easy to get started and to invite guests to your podcast. It is a streaming and recording studio first, but it lacks editing features.
  • Wave: accounting service for freelances, including podcasters. To be clear, this isn’t an audio recording or editing product. This is an invoice creation and bookkeeping tool recommended by people in the space
  • 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 vide transcription service which charges for the minute, starting at $0.10/min
  • Descript: gorgeous audio and video editing service. Think of it as a gdoc for podcasting where you can remove all the excess by editing plain text transcription of your show and collaborate with others in real time. Stunning design. Multi track recording
  • Anchor: 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 Garage Band or Melon and then add on more tools as you grow. The podcasting format you pick and your goals will play into what software and tools you need.

Where to publish and host your podcast

You are done producing your podcast. Here are some options on 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-off is peace of mind and time for control and money. Yes you can self host, but you would 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 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. There are free and paid options.

Buzzsprout = great for advanced users with modern interface

  • Pros: transcription service, multiple pricing tiers, advanced analytics
  • Cons: 250GB bandwith (not unlimited); pricing not as intuitive as others
  • Price: free or 12/month

Podbean = one of the best free options with 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 then others
  • Pricing: free to try and up to $99/month for basic plan

Simplecast = popular well designed

  • Pros: solid status if upgraded; private podcasting, sharing, web players; ease of use
  • Cons: 20K downloads limit; must upgrade for advanced stats
  • Price: free trial; $15/month and up

Captivate = one of the best platforms for audience growth

  • Pros: easy to submit, unlimited team members, private podcast support, wordps plugins, tools for growth (email list, wordpres, listener links)
  • Cons
  • Price: $19 and up

Transistor = great for folks who want an easy way to get started

  • Pros: ease to use, automatic sync to spotify, converkit, hubspot, twitter and more, unlimited storage; great private podcasting tools, highly regarded customer support
  • Cons: download limits on unlimited plans
  • Price: 19/month and up

Simplecast = unique design and added tools for growth

  • Pros: Enterprise plans, unique design, growth tools (for a fee)
  • Cons
  • Price: $15 and up

Speaker = useful if you want to manage multiple podcasts through one account

  • Pros: team management, advanced analytics
  • Cons: plans based on audio storage, lacking some features
  • Price: $5.50 and up

How to upload your podcast on your own to a popular podcast player

You can upload directly to Spotify or Apply. All you need is a name, cover art, RSS feed, and category where you want your show to be.

For Apple you will need an Apple ID, upload to Apple Podcasts Connect and submit your info

For Spotify you will to create a Spotify account, submit your RSS feed here and go through the steps filling out your info.

How to monetize your podcast

Similar to other entertainment and creator ecosystems, the podcasting space despite its growth has a large power curve. This means that majority of the folks are trying to make it and a few people make a lot from their shows. We believe that this dynamic will change and as the space grows, income will be democratized and distributed more evenly.

Below are some of the main ways we’ve seen podcasters monetize their shows:

  1. 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, AdvertiseCase and Anchor sponsorships.
  2. Donations and tipping. This is available to everyone. Even a few loyal supporters can help. Often podcasters get started here as their source. Common tools are Patreon, Streamlabs and Melon donations, Anchor, Ko-fi. Some of these take a cut such as Patreon and others do not - such as Streamlabs and Melon. This means that 100% of the funds from your supporters go to you (minus standard processing fees)
  3. Paid content and branded content. As you grow you may get paid to produce content or produce branded content. Common tools here are Acast, Audible Shows and True crime garage.
  4. Premium content for paid supporters: This would mean early episodes, paid subs only episodes, and private RSS feeds. Common tools here 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, regardless of your format, platform, or experience. Plus, there are options such as Melon and Streamlabs that do not cut into your donations revenue.

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 at this 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.

To recap:

  • Podcasting space is large and growing quickly. Some already built careers, a solid source of income and an audience. Others are just getting started. Its a good time to get in
  • There are many reasons to start ranging from just learning to a creative outlet to extending your brand
  • Your target audience for your podcast matters. Focus on your niche
  • Picking the right podcast format is key. You can always experiment with them. All formats have trade-offs and deliver results.
  • Hardware for your studio setup can start with a built in microphone if you have a computer, but we do recommend a Yeti Nano to start. As you grow, you can add more
  • Software and tools for your setup can also start with free options and expand based on your needs, audience, and desired production value. Popular choices are Audacity and Garage band. If you want free options and want guests on your show you can start with Melon.
  • Experts recommend that you use 3rd 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 Streamlab do not take a cut of your donations so 100% of the proceeds go to you.
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