How to Start a Podcast
You love listening to podcasts. They make your morning commute tolerable and your walk back home an absolute delight. Now you want to have your own show and blast your wisdom into the podcastosphere.
When I caught the podcasting fever, I started my own podcast called Deep Fried Marketing with my humble friend and co-host, Nick Blackbourn. After one episode back in 2016 - not much happened. Until we realised: “This can’t be it. We enjoy debate and conversation and want to help fellow marketers uncover the nooks and crannies of online marketing.”
So we blew the dust off our equipment, opened our laptops and found our way back into the podcasting habit, with the support of friends, family, and a cold beverage of our choice. Podcasting is a fickle mistress.
With that in mind, here’s my distilled summary of the very bare basics you need to start your podcasting empire.
(I’ve read every single article about podcasting, so you don’t have to.)
Essential podcast equipment
Interesting content is paramount but so is fair sound quality. You simply enjoy a show more when it’s not recorded with an iPhone headset.
So you need a cheap and cheerful mic. Don’t go for anything fancy but buy something halfway decent. If you’re just starting out, spending more than £50 on a mic is a waste of money.
My value-for-money microphone candidates would be:
To make my box room studio set-up a bit more comfortable and improve recording quality, I invested very little money in a basic microphone arm with pop filter like the Neewer NB-35.
Use cheap headphones with good sound insulation if you’re doing podcast interviews or for editing.
The Dundonian Podcast Host wrote an excellent list with reviews for various kinds of podcast equipment. Absolutely worth checking out if you love your tech!
Regarding the recording environment:
- go to the smallest room in your office / flat / 12-bed mansion to reduce echoes
- close the window to shut out traffic noise
- make sure your neighbours aren’t arguing while you’re recording
Basic audio editing software and editing skills
Audio editing can seem scary at first. I vaguely remembered some key skills from my internship at a hospital radio station, which ten years ago felt like my first step towards a rather promising radio DJ career.
First step, download this powerful, open source audio editing tool called Audacity. Works on Windows, Mac, Linux. It’s all-around amazing because you can do so much with it - and thanks to a fantastic group of volunteers, it’s free!
(If you have a Mac, consider GarageBand for podcasts.)
Once you installed Audacity, go to YouTube and watch one of the tutorial videos for Audacity newbies.
Here’s a short list what I think are essential skills you should teach yourself for editing your first podcast:
- recording your episode or importing audio files
- decreasing or amplifying volume
- trimming and cutting audio: how to remove the parts, ehms and ois you don’t want in your finished episode
- removing unwanted background noises
- exporting your finished podcast episode to MP3 or OGG
If you have a podcast co-host or you’re interviewing someone, make sure you learn how to edit multi-track audio files.
No need for a fancy intro, just make sure what you recorded is interesting, coherent and sounds alright on your headphones!
If you want to learn more, I would recommend radio.co’s essential Audacity editing guide.
Distribution is everything
You recorded your first episode. Now, ideally, people should find your podcast. A great show that cannot be found is a no show… Here’s what you need to do:
- Create a simple WordPress or Squarespace page for your show. Upload each episode and write a short description on your website. Share link with friends
- Sign up to iTunes to get your show listed in Apple’s podcast directory
- Put your show on Stitcher, so Android users can find and listen to your podcast with their favourite app.
That’s the easy bit.
The hard part: finding something to talk about
You bought your brand new mic and greased Audacity. You’re ready to hit record but can’t think of anything that would be interesting to anyone else but you!
And I have to disappoint you. I can’t suggest a plethora of exciting, hot topics. Building an audience is hard. There’s no recipe for overnight success.
In the beginning, your podcast can simply deal with something you enjoy talking about. A hobby, a passion, your profession. If you have a longstanding research interest in the economics of small household pets in 18th-century Britain, start a podcast about that! And please send me the link, because I’d love to listen.
All I can say is: practise while no-one is listening. You probably won’t like your first episode and the following ten. But since nobody’s listening, you can experiment and find out what your show should be all about. Plenty of time to get comfortable with that whole podcast thing.
Sticking with it aka “the damn third episode”
Excitement wears off quickly. You will only produce new podcast episodes, if you keep things simple.
If you start out, having to do extensive research for every new episode or writing an elaborate show plan are all artificial barriers that will stop you from recording.
There’s always time to refine your podcast later. It’s important you make podcasting a habit. If that’s hard for you, ask a friend to be your co-host and sparring partner.
If you find having a script makes you feel more comfortable, write one.
I find it helpful to write a rough outline before recording a show. A simple, short list that I can use as a reminder of the points I want to get across.
And then rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
A great podcast is not all about the quality of production. If podcasting is your new hobby, there’s no harm in starting with cheap equipment. Don’t waste money on “the perfect setup” because many listeners won’t care.
Find a topic that interests you. And if you’re tired of talking about it, switch.
Make sure you teach yourself basic audio editing skills.
Upload your podcast to your own website or iTunes and Stitcher. Share the link with your friends and keep building your podcasting habit!