How to start a podcast
If you’re an expert in, or have a passion for, a particular subject, and love to talk about it, consider starting a podcast. Learn how here
Podcasts are digital audio content that can be downloaded from the internet, and are often a part of a series of episodes that people can subscribe to.
In this article, we’ll cover:
It was in the early 2000s that we discovered how to publish multiple copies of the same MP3 file at the same time, and shortly after that the term ‘podcast’ was first coined. Then, in 2005, Apple built the podcast function into iTunes.
Fast forward to 2018, and podcasts – while still attracting an often niche or hard-to-reach audience – are a key form of content. With the creation of the British Podcast Awards, and with 30 September designated as International Podcast Day each year, this type of content is becoming increasingly popular.
So what does this mean for entrepreneurs? In this article, we’ll offer advice on how to make a podcast, including how to monetise it.
Now we’ve covered the rise of podcasts and explored how popular they are today, as well as what skills will stand you in good stead, let’s dive into the podcast creation process.
1. Think of podcast ideas
Firstly, you need to think about the content of your podcast – such as its subject, format and name – as well as your target audience. To do this, you should find your niche by thinking about your interests, knowledge base and what your audience wants to hear.
If you already have a product or service and you’re looking at starting a podcast as a way of directing more people to that, then your audience will be whoever needs that product or service.
Alternatively, if you’re starting from scratch then you may want to think about creating a listener persona – a profile of a typical listener that includes their likes and dislikes, and other details that you can refer to when planning your content.
In the planning stage, you’re essentially looking to identify your listeners, as well as a problem and a solution. You can find these by assessing what podcasts are currently available in the niche you want to break into – what do they offer, and importantly, what do they not offer? These gaps are opportunities that you can launch your podcast in to help build a listener base.
With your podcast theme, try to be as specific as possible – think about the different angles with which you can approach a given subject.
If you wanted to do a podcast about travel, for instance, you could specify a region (e.g. Europe), particular countries (e.g. France, Spain, Italy), as well as a type of travel (e.g. solo, adventure, family, long-term) and a budget level (budget, mid-range, luxury).
You could go even further and discuss certain types of transport (such as bus, train, plane, boat, walking, car) or aspects of the local culture (such as cinema, literature or sport). For example, you could end up with a podcast about solo travel in France with a focus on hiking on a low budget.
Some examples of very successful podcasts include Serial, an investigative podcast that examines one true story per season, as well as My Dad Wrote a Porno, a comedic podcast, which discusses a book that was written by the dad of one of the hosts.
Whichever subject you choose, podcasts need to be consistent. You’ll need to focus on a particular topic, set a recurring length and format, as well as enough content and interest to fill the episodes. Generally, podcasts are in the following formats:
- Solo – Only one presenter or host talking at length about each theme.
- Multiple hosts – Two or more hosts in discussion.
- Storytelling – A more descriptive style of podcast.
- Interview – Discussing a subject with a guest. Note that if you choose this style, you’ll need to be sure to organise and plan the interviews in advance.
- A combination of the above – While most podcasts tend to stick to only one of the formats, it’s possible to mix it up and include different types from episode to episode.
All podcasts rely on natural, unstructured speech. While you may plan the content topic and the format for each show, allow your thoughts to form freely and communicate this with your listeners. Often, your unique style of talking and presenting will be a major draw for why listeners choose your podcast.
What other factors do you need to consider?
- Name – Coming up with a podcast name is a key decision. It needs to be memorable and clear enough so listeners know what your podcast is about, as well as easy to say.
- Length – How long a podcast can be really depends on what you have to say and who you’re saying it to. A lot of people listen to podcasts while commuting, so it’s a good idea to aim for 20 to 45 minutes.
- Frequency – Most podcasts are released on a weekly basis, but it’s also possible to have daily, monthly or other frequencies.
- Intros and outros – These are the pre-recorded clips that precede and follow your main content. Intros do just that – they introduce the episode, such as the name, theme and hosts. Outros are placed at the end of the episode and usually include a call-to-action (CTA). Both intros and outros normally feature music.
There are many factors to take into consideration when learning how to create a podcast. However, due to the close connection you form with your listeners, your target audience should be the focus.
Podcasts are a way for you to find a community and connect with others who have the same interests and passions. It’s likely to be a trial-and-error process – often, the best way to learn what does and doesn’t work is by just getting started!
You can survey your listeners from time to time to ensure you’re still making content they connect with. Plus, you can always make more content than you’ll need and edit it down.
So, how do you go about actually creating your audio? Read on to learn about the equipment and software you’ll need to record a podcast…
2. How to record a podcast
Once you’ve identified the type of podcast you want to make, the next stage is to research the equipment and software that will enable you to record it. Generally, podcasts require minimal materials to set up, although there is the option to use additional equipment and software to enhance your offering.
The essential equipment you need to create a podcast is:
- A computer – to use the recording and editing software, as well as to publish the podcast and promote it
- A microphone – one which plugs into your computer’s USB port will be sufficient, offering improved sound quality as opposed to the built-in option on your computer
- Headphones – use these so you can hear yourself talking clearly and avoid any external noises interrupting you while recording
The key types of software you have to use include:
- Audio software – used to record your podcast’s content. If you have an Apple Mac, you can use its free Garageband programme. A mid-range option is Audacity, while Adobe Audition is ideal for more advanced work
- Editing software – enables you to hone the audio, such as removing spikes in sound, background noise or any content you don’t want to be included in the podcast
- Call recording software – if interviews will be the main focus of your podcast, you may want to use call recording software to create a copy of the interview and allow you to interview guests who aren’t in the same location as you
At this point, you’re ready to record your podcast. Ensure you have your audio software open and your microphone plugged in, then just press play!
What else do you need?
After recording your podcast, the next step is to publish and distribute it online. To do that, you’ll need to follow these steps:
- Save your recording in MP3 format – these types of files can be compressed (made smaller) and can be played on the majority of devices.
- Create an ID3 tag – these fields contain additional information such as host name and image details, as well as the episode and show title. These tags are how devices know what each MP3 file contains.
- Use a media hosting platform – you’ll need a service that’s separate from your website, as podcast files require more bandwidth (how much data can be sent in a certain time period) to be processed than what your site will allow. Some of the most popular ones include Blubrry, Libsyn, Podbean and SoundCloud
Bandwidth: how much do you need?
This depends on how many episodes you plan to publish and how much bandwidth each one uses. It’s always a good idea to have some additional bandwidth as a precautionary measure.
How to publish a podcast
Once your podcasts are uploaded onto your chosen media hosting platform, the next step is to publish them so that people can find your podcasts.
There are a number of sites you could use, including iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. We’ll focus on publishing to iTunes (Apple Podcasts), as it’s one of the most popular platforms.
- Go to iTunes Connect
- Sign in with your Apple ID
- Click on the plus sign in the top left hand corner
- Enter your podcast’s RSS feed details and click ‘validate’
- Review any validation errors (if any)
- Check the feed preview e.g. images, title, description
- Once all details are correct, click ‘submit’
If you don’t have an Apple ID, you’ll need to create one in order to submit your podcast to Apple.
Once you have submitted your podcast, it’ll be reviewed by Apple. If it’s approved, you’ll receive a confirmation email, which may take up to a few days.
3. How to promote podcasts
Promoting your podcast can be done in several ways, including:
- Optimising podcast descriptions
- Promoting on your website
- Sharing on social media
- Using images
- Redistributing content
- Submitting to channels with an RSS feed
- Getting your listeners involved
- Creating an email newsletter
Optimise podcast descriptions
In your podcast description, be sure to include keywords (words people would use to search and find your podcast in search engines) to help your content rank more highly on the search results pages.
Be practical too – use this as the space to let people know the episode name and number, as well as a brief breakdown of what the episode will focus on. It’s also the place to include an age rating (like a film) so people know what type of content to expect, and if it’ll be family-friendly or not.
Promote on your website
When you publish your podcast, you’ll usually be given the opportunity to include a link to a website. This is an ideal way to promote your podcast – either by connecting to a blog or website you already author, or by creating a new one for your podcast specifically.
You can use a website to promote your podcast before it goes live by offering a teaser clip or other content that gives people a preview. After your podcast is published, you can use your website to follow up and offer your audience transcripts or additional show information. It’s wise to have a few episodes ready before launching, so you can build interest and then maximise upon it by delivering new content quickly.
You may get a standard site with your chosen media hosting platform. You can use this, or you can opt to use a website builder to create your own site. Hiring a web designer is an alternative option too. You can compare website designer quotes by completing the form at the top of the page.
Share on social media
Another way to promote your podcast online is on social media. You can create profiles for your show on the major platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s a good idea to think back to the target audience you identified in the first step – what platforms do they use and what type of content do they like to consume?
You can use social media to build momentum, as well as let as many people as possible know about your podcast. You can use the descriptions, snippets and artwork from your podcast in your social media posts.
When podcasts are displayed on different channels (such as iTunes, SoundCloud or YouTube) they’re often displayed with an image, and when playing on a computer or device, they’re usually accompanied by an image on screen.
Just like you would with a company logo, using images and a clear design can help to make your podcast stand out, and can be used to promote it too.
Think about what images and designs best represent your podcast. You can create the artwork yourself or you may want to hire a graphic designer if you want a more professional approach. Be sure that your images are in easily shareable format, such as PDF or JPEG, so that you can use them on other platforms.
Submit to channels with an RSS feed
One of the key ways to get your podcast out there and noticed is by submitting it to the relevant channels, as mentioned above. An RSS feed allows people to subscribe and get updates all in one place, helping you to build an audience. RSS feeds are text files that can connect with a feed reader site to display content in one central digital location. If possible, get featured in the ‘new’ sections of these channels, so that listeners can find your podcast easily.
Chances are, the content you create for your podcast can also be used in other mediums. For example, you could film an interview you do so that it also becomes a video. Or, you could create a blog post about producing your latest episodes. This also works in the reverse too – use your blog, vlog or social posts as inspiration for potential podcast content.
Get your listeners involved
Who better to promote your podcasts than people who are already fans of your show? There are a number of ways to extend your audience’s input.
To begin with, encourage listeners to subscribe to your show so that they’re informed of new episodes. Welcome reviews so that potential listeners can read what others think of the show, and help you to get a higher rating.
For example, you could ask for listeners to leave you voice messages related to the show’s content that you can play in an episode. Or you could offer your listeners the chance to be in the show and record an episode with you. This could be offered as a competition or a regular feature to garner interest and keep listeners intrigued to see who will be featured next.
Create an email newsletter
As an accompaniment to your show, an email newsletter allows you to recap previous episodes, highlight upcoming shows and send out any other information to your listeners.
Also, as you’ll be collecting people’s personal information for your contacts base, be sure to understand what rules and regulations you have to comply with following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
4. How to monetise a podcast
After building an audience and committing to a podcast schedule, the next step is to think about how to make money from your podcast.
In the early days, your podcast is likely to be a side hustle, so monetised content can be a way for you to make money from it without having to commit to making your podcast a full-time job.
As many podcasts are free to listen to – and so don’t offer the option of paying for the content – you have to find other ways to make money from them. Generally, there are two options to monetise podcasts:
- Sponsored content or advertisements read by you
- Directing your listeners to buy certain products
How to secure advertising deals
- Work with brands that match your target audience’s interests
- Approach brands independently or work with an agency
- Adverts are placed at the start, middle or end of each episode
- Rates are based upon how many listeners you have and where in the podcast the ad is
Once you’ve secured a deal, the next step is to actually incorporate it into your podcast. Here are some top tips for delivering ads:
- Talk about the sponsor with passion
- Use your natural speaking voice
Podcast ads are unique because they are read by you, in your voice, and the host is a key part of a podcast’s success – people listen to your podcast because they connect with what you’re saying.
What are the next steps?
By reading this article, you’ve learned more about the essential steps of how to make a podcast.
We’ve covered how to think of ideas for names, as well as practical advice about which equipment and software to use. Plus, we’ve explored how you can promote your podcast and the different possible ways of making money from it.
So where do you go from here? The next steps are to put this guide into action and actually start – good luck!