More people are listening to podcasts than ever before. According to Edison Research, the number of American’s who listen to a podcast each week has grown 100% over the past four years, and 67 million American’s listen to a podcast every month.
As the audience for podcasts continues to grow, there has never been a better time to start a podcast for your church, business, or a personal hobby. If you follow this guide, you’ll be primed to launch your own podcast and take advantage of this exciting new medium.
Podcasts are a great way to build a genuine connection with your audience. Instead of the fractured connection you make through social media, podcasts allow you to engage your audience with unique long-form content. And podcasts are more convenient than blog posts: people can listen to podcasts while driving, working out, or just doing chores around the house.
There is also a lot of unexplored space in podcasting. As of 2018, there are close to 50 million YouTube channels,1 440 million blogs,2 but just over 550,000 podcasts listed in Apple Podcasts.3 That means for every podcast there are 800 blogs and 90 YouTube channels.
Imagine the incredible opportunity there was to start a blog in 2004 and you’ll have an idea of where podcasting is today.
Step 1: Develop your podcast concept
How to pick a title, format, and theme for your podcast
Podcasts are as varied as the people that create them: there are great podcasts about history, pop-culture, neuroscience, and a fictional town where aliens are friends with the Yeti.4 The only limit to what you can do with a podcast is your own imagination.
Before we start tackling questions about podcast name, format, and length, we’ll want to consider a couple more fundamental questions. To start, you’ll need to ask yourself “Why am I starting a podcast?” and “What is my podcast about?”
Once you’ve answered the why and what for your podcast, the rest of the concept will fall into place.
Why are you starting a podcast?
The first question to tackle is “why are you starting a podcast?” To phrase it another way, “what’s your goal or purpose for the podcast?” To help you get started, here are some common goals in podcasting:
- To generate leads for a business
- To be recognized as a leader in an industry
- To share an important message
- To have fun
It’s good to write your answer down so you can refer back to it as you develop your podcast concept.
What is your podcast about?
The second question is deciding what your podcast is about. It can be as broad as pop-culture or as focused as discussions about recent Supreme Court rulings.5 The only requirement is that the topic has to be something you’re passionate about—something you’re excited to research and discuss on a regular basis.
Once you have an idea of what to podcast about, it’s a good idea to do some market research. Search Apple Podcasts and see if there are already some podcasts in that space. If there are, listen to a handful of episodes to see what they’re doing well and think of ways they could improve.
What’s the best format for a podcast?
Some podcasts just have a single host, others are scripted stories, and others feature in-depth interviews. The most important thing to remember is that the format should fit what your podcast is about and be a format you’re comfortable with.
Here are a few of the most common podcast formats:
- Interview podcasts: These are podcasts with a single host who interviews people in a particular industry. Examples: The Joe Rogan Experience, Fresh Air, and Trained by Nike.
- Scripted non-fiction: These shows are mostly serial podcasts that have a single theme for a full season. Examples: Serial, Slow Burn, and Hardcore History.
- News recap: A podcast that recaps the news in a specific industry. Examples: The Daily, Kickass News, or Planet Money.
- Educational podcasts: These are scripted non-fiction shows that focus on teaching their audience. Examples: Stuff You Should Know, Hidden Brain, and TED radio hour.
- Scripted fiction: These podcasts are most similar to radio dramas and are often scripted and highly produced. Examples: Bubble by Maximum Fun, Limetown, and Everything Is Alive.
How do I pick a name for my podcast?
While Shakespeare might have thought “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, he never had to rank for keywords in Apple Podcasts.
When you’re picking a podcast name, you’ll want to pick something that’s catchy, memorable, and will rank for keywords that are relevant to your podcast. Here’s Apple’s advice on how to pick a good title for your podcast:
Pay close attention to the title, author, and description tags at the '<channel>' and '<item>' level of your podcast. Apple Podcasts uses title, author, and description fields for search.
The metadata for your podcast, along with your podcast artwork, is your product packaging and can affect whether your podcast shows up in relevant searches, and how likely users are to subscribe to it.
Make your title specific. A podcast named Our Community Bulletin is too vague to attract many subscribers, no matter how compelling the content.
From Apple’s Podcast Best Practices
You don’t want to stuff your title with keywords, but you want to make it easy for people to find your podcast. So if you have a one or two-word podcast name you should add a really brief description in the title tag. Here are a couple examples:
- Akimbo: A Podcast from Seth Godin. Most people searching for this podcast will probably search for Seth Godin. That’s why it’s important to include his name in the podcast title.
- Syntax - Tasty Web Development Treats. There probably aren’t many people searching for “Syntax” in Apple Podcasts that haven’t already heard of this show, but by adding “tasty web development treats” the podcast can show up if somebody searches for “Web Development.”
How long should podcast episodes be?
Don’t let people tell you there is an optimal length for a podcast episode. Take a look through the top podcasts and you’ll find shows like The Daily that are 20 - 30 minutes long, Accidental Tech Podcast that averages about 2 hours per episode, and Hardcore History with episodes that are as long as some audiobooks.
Your podcast should be as long as it needs to be, without being any longer. Be comfortable with cutting out rambling segments, boring questions, and parts that don’t add much value to the listener. But if you’re producing great content, be confident that people will keep listening.
Step 2: Get some recording equipment and software
Podcasts are awesome because they have such a low barrier to entry. You can start recording a podcast with your iPhone headphones and grow your way into a $20,000 podcast studio. Just remember, your content is the most important part. Nobody listens to a boring podcast just because it has great sound quality.
What’s the best podcast equipment?
Picking the best podcasting setup can get confusing, especially if you don’t have a background in audio recording. To make it easy, we teamed up with Anthony Tran from Marketing Access Pass to put together three podcast equipment packages so you can find the right setup for your budget.
What’s the best podcasting software?
Once you’ve recorded your podcast, you’re going to want to make some edits and adjustments to get the best sound quality possible. The great news is that podcast editing software is surprisingly affordable.
Here are our recommendations:
Audacity - Free - Mac, Windows, & Linux
Audacity is a free and open-source audio editor. It comes with pro-level features so that your podcast software won’t hold you back. There are versions for Apple, Windows, and Linux computers. The only downside is that it has a steep learning curve, but there are tons of videos and online tutorials to help.
Check out our Audacity tutorial for podcasters to get started.
GarageBand - Free - Mac & iOS
GarageBand comes pre-installed on most Apple computers. If you don’t have it, then you’ll be able to download it for free. It’s a bit easier to start using GarageBand than Audacity, but unfortunately, it’s limited to Apple devices.
Hindenburg - $95 - Mac and Windows
Hindenburg is pro-level audio editing software for radio and podcasts. It isn’t as cheap as Audacity, but it offers a lot of built-in podcasting features. We recommend starting with a 30-day trial on the Hindenburg Journalist version.
Read more about picking the right software and equipment for your podcast. And check out this post, for in-depth reviews of podcasting equipment.
Step 3: Record your first episode
When people ask Stephen King how to become a great writer, he always tells them to start by becoming a great reader. In the same vein, you’ll become a great podcaster by listening to podcasts. If you don’t listen to podcasts already, start by subscribing to a handful and listening to some episodes.
How to write a podcast outline
One of the biggest mistakes new podcasters make is that they tend to ramble. The best way to fight this tendency is to write a podcast outline. You don’t have to write our your podcast verbatim, but taking 15 minutes to sketch out an episode with bullet points will lead to a dramatic improvement.
If you’re working with a co-host, share the outline with them so you can work on it together. Now you’ll be on the same page and prevent your conversation from going down a rabbit hole.
How to pick the best place to record your podcast
While you might really enjoy singing in the shower, recording in small spaces with hard, flat surfaces will almost always mean a more reverberant sounding recording. If possible, you’ll want to record in a quiet, large room with plenty of space around you.
If a small space is the only one available, try to find one with fewer reflective surfaces or lots of material that can absorb or diffuse the sound: furniture, carpeting, or even a closet full of clothes can help. This means that for a lot of podcasters, the best place to record is in their walk-in closet.
Selecting the best place to record is more important than picking the right headphones or editing software. The simplest way to deal with audio problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place. If you get a crisp recording to begin with, you’ll be much closer to a polished recording. Cleanly recorded audio will make the technical aspects of editing and mixing in the next step much easier.
How to set up a microphone for a podcast
To get your microphone ready to record you’ll need to connect it to your computer or audio recording device. For simplicity, we recommend purchasing a USB microphone unless you have experience with audio equipment.
- USB Microphones: Plug your microphone directly into a USB port on your computer. Once plugged in, go into the settings of your audio editing software (Audacity, GarageBand, etc.) and make sure that your microphone is highlighted as your audio input. Once you’ve selected your microphone as your audio input you are ready to record.
- XLR Microphone: If you don’t have a USB microphone, chances are your microphone has an XLR connection. For an XLR microphone, you can use a USB interface (like the Scarlett Solo) to record directly from your microphone into your computer. Another option is to hook up your XLR microphone to an external audio recording device (like the Zoom H4n) that will save your audio to an SD card.
How to speak into the microphone
We’ve all heard distracting plosives or “P-Pops” before and cringed at hyper-sibilant “S” sounds. Both of these issues are caused by excessive bursts of air hitting the microphone capsule, which is a symptom of poor mic technique.
If you notice too many plosives or harsh sibilance in your recordings, the simplest solution is to move off-axis from the microphone. Setting your mic up to the side, angled slightly toward your mouth, will prevent bursts of air from hitting the capsule directly and can result in a smoother, more natural tone.
In general, you want to position your mouth 2” - 4” away from the microphone for the cleanest sound, but the optimal distance may vary based on your microphone. Try recording yourself talking at a consistent volume at several different positions. Once you’re done, listen to the recording to see which position gave you the best audio quality.
Grab a drink and start recording
So, you’ve written your outline, picked a place to record, set up your microphone, and practiced your mic technique. It’s time to grab a drink and start recording your first episode. Having a glass of water, coffee, or whiskey nearby will do wonders if your voice starts to get dry.
Don’t worry about mistakes, stammers, or a little silence. You can make all the necessary edits in the next step.
Step 4: Edit and export your episode
Once everything is recorded, you’re on to the editing phase. Let your content goals be your guide here—are you looking for a leaner, faster pace? A shorter runtime? Does it make sense to preserve a conversational dynamic? Is it a narrative format, an interview, a monologue?
Identifying your goals before you start cutting and crossfading will keep your episodes flowing naturally.
Tips to edit your podcast episode
Use crossfades between clips: Every time you cut a clip/region in your DAW, make sure you insert a crossfade to join adjacent clips. Forgetting crossfades can lead to distracting pops or clicks in your published episode.
Pay attention to your breath: Make sure you pay attention to where you are taking breaths between sentences. It can be easy, especially if you’re editing at a low volume, to cut breaths in unnatural ways and cause a “hiccup” or double-breath effect.
Trim filler words and false starts: Once you’re editing, you’ll probably begin to notice just how often “um,” “uh,” and “like” make appearances, or how often speakers begin a sentence before they have a complete thought to share. It can help trim time (and make everybody sound more eloquent) to simply delete fillers and false starts altogether. Be mindful to preserve inflection, though. If the sentence flow sounds halted or unnatural, it’s better to leave it alone.
For a deeper dive into editing, check out our guide on how to record, edit, and mix a great sounding podcast.
How to export a podcast episode
Once you have finished editing your episode you’ll want to export and optimize your audio file. You can skip this section if you host your podcast on Buzzsprout since this is all done automatically when you upload a new episode.
What’s the best file type and bitrate for a podcast?
Most podcasters export their episodes as mp3s to ensure compatibility with the most podcast apps. You’ll want to set the bitrate to 64 kbps mono for spoken word podcasts and 128 kbps stereo for podcasts that feature music.
64 kbps mono for spoken word
128 kbps stereo for music
Do you need ID3 Tags?
There are some small benefits to tagging your audio files with ID3 tags. These tags make sure that your media player has all the correct information about the episode. Right now, most podcast apps will get this information from the RSS Feed, but it might be lost if somebody shares the audio file itself.
The only downside is that tagging your audio file can add time to your podcast workflow without enough of a payoff.
File types, bitrates, and ID3 tags on Buzzsprout
If you host your podcast on Buzzsprout you don’t need to stress anything in this section. You can upload any file type and we’ll automatically convert it to the correct file type and bitrate.
As you add episode details like a title, description, and images, Buzzsprout will automatically tag your files with the applicable ID3 tags.
Step 5: Upload your episode to your podcast host
Now that you have your final audio file, it’s time to get your podcast online. You’re going to need to find a reliable place to host your podcast and a way to generate an RSS Feed.
Here are the four main reasons you’ll want to find a reliable podcast host:
- Bandwidth: It’s tempting to use the same server for your website and audio files, but once you start to get traction you’ll risk bringing your website down every time you publish a new episode.
- RSS feed: You can generate your own RSS feed, but it can become really time-consuming. There are also different tags and fields for directories like Apple Podcasts that you’ll have to add in addition to the RSS 2.0 specifications.
- Embed players: If you have your own website, you’ll want an easy way for people to play your episodes from your web pages. Once they listen to a few minutes, they’ll be able to subscribe to your podcast in their favorite podcast app.
- Social sharing tools: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have their own unique ways to share audio files on their platforms. You’ll want to share your podcast in a way that it can be played from within these platforms so you can grow your audience.
Hosting your podcast with Buzzsprout
Back before we launched Buzzsprout we had a small website building tool designed for churches and non-profits. As podcasts grew in popularity we had lots of clients ask us for help in starting a podcast, so in 2009 we launched Buzzsprout as an easy way to host, promote, and track your podcast.
Here’s a bit of what you get with Buzzsprout:
- Reliable podcast hosting
- Podcasting statistics
- Ability to publish to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and more
- Social sharing tools
- Automatic file conversion and ID3 tagging
- Customizable embed players
- Podcast scheduling
- And an awesome support team
You can get all of this on a free Buzzsprout plan, so you don’t have to commit to anything to start podcasting.
Start a Podcast for Free
Step 6: Get listed in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify
Now that you’ve hosted your podcast and generated your RSS Feed, you’ll want to get your podcast out into the world. If you want to get in front of podcast listeners then you need to get listed in the largest podcast directories: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
It’s a common misconception that Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes) hosts your files, but they are actually a podcast directory. The best way to explain it is to think about an address book. An address book lets you know where people live. If you don’t have somebody’s contact information in your address book, then it’s going to be hard to find out where they live.
Listing your podcast in these directories will ensure that people can find your podcast when they search for it. Getting into these directories is the most important step in marketing your podcast.
Here are step-by-step guides to getting listed in the most important podcast directories:
You might have heard people recommend getting listed in Stitcher, iHeart Radio, or other podcast directories. These aren’t as important as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify, but they can provide another location for your podcast to get discovered.
Check out our list of podcast directories to find other places that would be good to list your podcast.
Step 7: Never stop improving your podcast
If you’ve made it this far you have officially made your own podcast. Thousands of people think about launching a podcast every month, but very few people actually follow through with it.
But don’t slow down now! The most important piece is to keep learning and improving your podcast as you launch each new episode. Here are a few resources to help you continue to grow as a podcaster:
Learn more about podcasting with these guides
These in-depth articles will help you tackle some of the more difficult issues in podcasting like building your website, recording long-distance interviews, and creating your podcast artwork.
Join a podcast community group
There are lots of great podcast community groups where you can meet and interact with tons of experienced podcasters. Getting connected to one of these groups is a great way to ask questions, get recommendations, and stay up to date with changes in podcasting.
- Buzzsprout Podcast Community Group on Facebook. This is a group where podcasters can ask questions, share podcasting best practices, and bounce ideas off each other. We'd love for you to be part of this vibrant community.
- Podcast Movement Group on Facebook. This group was started by the co-founders of Podcast Movement. It’s a great place to ask questions and learn more about podcasting.
- /r/podcasting on Reddit. If you’re more comfortable on Reddit than Facebook, check out the podcasting subreddit. It’s full of useful guides, ideas, and discussion.
Connect with your podcast listeners
It's great to get feedback on your podcast from your listeners. They’ll give you great ideas for new episodes, ways to improve your show, and most importantly: encouragement. Here are two in-depth articles on how to get feedback from your audience and how to turn your listeners into raving fans.
Subscribe to a few podcasts about podcasting
There are a lot of good podcasts about podcasting. Listening to these podcasts is a good way to keep up with industry news and get advice from people who are experts in the field. Here are a few of our favorites:
If you want to find one that is more tailored to you, Harry Duran of Podcast Junkies put together an awesome list of all the podcasts about podcasting.
Are you ready to start your podcast?
Podcasting is a growing medium that makes it easy to reach your audience. While it’s growing super quickly, there is still a ton of opportunity to launch a podcast before the market becomes too competitive.
We went through each step of making a podcast, from developing your podcast concept, to recording your first episode, to steps to continue improving once you launch your show. So what are you waiting for?
It’s time for your voice to be heard!
Create your podcast
1. How Many YouTube Channels Are There? at https://sidekickcollab.com/how-many-youtube-channels-are-there/
2. How many blogs are there in the world? at http://mediakix.com/2017/09/how-many-blogs-are-there-in-the-world/#gs.Wcjoi1g
3. 2018 Podcast Stats & Facts at https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/
4. Welcome to Night Vale at http://www.welcometonightvale.com/
5. First Monday's at http://www.firstmondays.fm/