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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Conversational where you bring on a guest or co-host and often discuss another topic
Educational where you discuss a 3rd topic independently. Often this is something relevant to your community
Solo: you are discussing anything on your mind
News: you are discussing current events or commentating on something that is happening (i.e. sports)
Panel: you bring on multiple guests
Storytelling: you are leading the narrative - either fiction or nonfiction
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Podbean = one of the best free options with easy to use interface
Simplecast = popular well designed
Captivate = one of the best platforms for audience growth
Transistor = great for folks who want an easy way to get started
Simplecast = unique design and added tools for growth
Speaker = useful if you want to manage multiple podcasts through one account
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.
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:
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.
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.
"Melon is a great tool for creators of any kind to get their message and content out, gradually and surely grow their audience over time."
"Not everyone who needs to do a stream is a tech wizard with a super computer. Some people just want simplicity, and Melon has addressed this audience."
"Melon is a fantastic way to connect with my audience live without the need for any complicated software. It is simple, user-friendly and easy to set-up."
"Melon has been great in helping me livestream/record conversations. I'm happy to know that I can easily broadcast, even on the go."