There’s never been a better time to make a podcast: podcasts are soaring in popularity, the tech is easier than ever, and there’s still a lot of opportunity for new podcasters.
More people are listening to podcasts than ever before.
According to Edison Research, the number of Americans listening to a podcast each week has grown 120% over the past four years, and 90 million Americans 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 business, brand, or a personal hobby.
If you follow this guide, it will prime you 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. 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 a lot of unexplored space in the podcasting industry. There are at least 600 million blogs, 23 million YouTube channels, but only 800,000 podcasts in Apple Podcasts.
That means for every podcast, there are 750 blogs and 29 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.
Podcasts are as varied as the people that create them.
There are excellent podcasts about history, pop-culture, neuroscience, and even a fictional town where aliens are friends with the Yeti. The only limit to what you can do with a podcast is your own imagination.
Before we tackle questions about choosing a podcast name, format, and show length, let's consider some fundamental questions.
To start, ask yourself, "Why am I starting a podcast?" and "What is my podcast about?"
Once you've answered the why and what, the rest of the concept will fall into place.
So, "why are you starting a podcast?" To phrase it another way, "what's your goal or purpose for your podcast?"
To help you get started, here are some common goals in podcasting:
It's helpful to write your answer down so you can refer back to it as you develop your show's concept.
Now it's time to figure out your show's topic. Your topic can be as broad as pop-culture or as focused as discussions about recent Supreme Court rulings.
The only requirement is to be passionate about whatever you choose. It should be something you're excited to research and regularly discuss. Once you have an idea of what to podcast about, it's time for market research.
You can search your show's topic in Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes) to see if there are already podcasts in that genre. If there are, listen to a handful of episodes to see what they're doing well and think of ways they could improve.
When picking a podcast name, try to pick something catchy, memorable, and that will rank for your podcast's relevant keywords.
Here's Apple's advice for picking a good title for your show:
Pay close attention to the title, author, and description tags at the
- 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 do want to make it easy for people to find your podcast. If you have a one or two-word podcast name, add a brief description in the title tag to help search results.
Here are a couple examples:
Even though we're doing all the prep work, we suggest holding off on creating artwork right now.
Your podcast is in its infancy, and as a result, the concept of your show will probably change a little as you record your first few episodes. It's totally fine if this happens. It's easy to change the title of your podcast, but it's a real pain to change your artwork, especially if you already paid for it once.
We recommend waiting until after you record a few episodes before you create your show's official artwork.
Some podcasts just have a single host, others are scripted stories, or feature in-depth interviews.
The important thing is to choose a format that fits what your podcast is about and is something you're comfortable with:
When it comes to podcast formats, there isn't one right answer. So, let's talk about the most common formats:
Don't let people tell you there is an optimal length for a podcast episode.
You'll find shows like The Daily that are 20 - 30 minutes long, Accidental Tech Podcast that averages 2 hours per episode, and Hardcore History with episodes as long as audiobooks.
Your podcast should be as long as it needs to be, without being any longer.
Every podcast can benefit from editing, so get comfortable cutting out rambling segments, boring questions, and parts of the episode that don't add much value to the listener.
And remember: if you're producing quality, engaging content, be confident people will keep listening.
Podcasting can be a full-time job or something you do on the side. If it's the latter, you can have a more relaxed publishing schedule.
You might decide to publish every day like the Daily or publish a podcast series every two years like Serial.
If you have the bandwidth, we recommend publishing once a week to:
Once you have your podcast format, approximate show length, and publishing schedule, you're ready to invest in podcast equipment.
Podcasts have a low barrier to entry; if you want to start a podcast, it's relatively easy to begin the process with little overhead or experience. You can start recording a podcast with just your iPhone and a pair of headphones. Remember, your content is the most crucial part.
Nobody listens to a podcast because it has superior sound quality. But people will put up with less-than-optimal sound quality if the content of your show is excellent.
Picking the best podcasting setup can get confusing, especially if you don't have a background in audio recording. To make it easy, we put together three podcast equipment packages based on the number of people you're recording.
Disclosure: Some of these product links are Amazon affiliate links, which means Buzzsprout might receive a small commission if you decide to purchase them.
Once you've recorded your podcast, it's time to make edits and adjustments to get the best sound quality possible.
While there are options to edit your podcast on your Android or iPhone, their small screens aren't optimal for sound editing.
The great news is podcast editing software is surprisingly affordable.
Audacity is a free and open-source audio editor. Open source editors allow users to make changes to the original code easily. You can customize your user experience and make improvements where you deem necessary.
Audacity also comes with pro-level features, so your podcast software won't hold you back. We think the only downside to Audacity is its steep learning curve, but tons of videos and online tutorials are available to help new users navigate the platform.
GarageBand comes pre-installed on most Apple computers. If you don't have it, you can easily download it for free. We think GarageBand is a more intuitive interface than Audacity. There are versions for macOS and iOS, but it is not available on Windows computers or Android phones.Hindenburg
Hindenburg is a 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.
Alitu: The Quick & Easy way to Make your Podcast. $28/month.
Adobe Audition: Digital audio workstation software. $20/month.
Descript: Edit your audio by editing your transcript. Free - $15/month.
If you frequently interview guests on your podcast, or record with a cohost, chances are you will sometimes need to record your podcast from different locations.
The best way to do this is by using software specifically made for long-distance recordings.
SquadCast makes it incredibly easy for you to set up a remote podcast interview and gets the most high-quality audio possible. They're able to do that because SquadCast records lossless audio, provides separate tracks for each speaker, and offers video conferencing.
Recording each speaker on separate tracks will make things like removing background noise much easier in post-production.Zoom
Zoom has become one of the go-to online interview platforms for podcasting, primarily because of its above-average audio quality and ease-of-use for remote podcast interviews. While it will allow you to save each speaker's audio to separate tracks, it does not provide lossless audio like SquadCast.Skype
Lots of podcasters still use Skype to record their long-distance interviews. However, we don't recommend this software for three reasons:
Editing is where things get real, and where a lot of potential podcasters give up.
It's easy to get caught up in the idea of recording a podcast and quickly lose steam when things get technical or just plain difficult.
Try to remember: even the best podcasts had to start with a few bad episodes. Every show, and show host, has to find their footing, and the best way to improve is by continuing to record new episodes.
Rambling is one of the most common mistakes new podcasters make, and the best way to fight this tendency is by writing a podcast outline.
You don't have to write out your podcast verbatim, but even taking 15 minutes to jot down a list of bullet points will make a dramatic improvement in the flow of your episode.
If you're working with a cohost, 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.
While you might enjoy the echo you get singing in the shower, recording in small spaces with hard, flat surfaces will almost always mean a more reverberant-sounding recording, and that isn't what you want in your podcast audio.
If possible, record in a quiet, large room with plenty of space around you.
If a small space is all you have, try to find one with few reflective surfaces, or lots of material that can absorb the sound: furniture, carpeting, or even a closet full of clothes can help.
Finding a space that meets these criteria can be difficult, which is why a lot of podcasters discover that a simple walk-in closet is the best place to record.
Picking the right place to record your episodes is more important than buying the right headphones or editing software because the best way to deal with audio problems is to prevent them from happening.
If you manage to get a crisp recording from the start, you're much closer to a polished recording, and cleanly recorded audio will make the technical aspects of editing and mixing much more straightforward.
To get your microphone ready to record, connect it to your computer or audio recording device. For simplicity, we recommend purchasing a USB microphone unless you have experience with audio equipment.
We've all heard distracting plosives or "P-Pops" before and cringed at hyper-sibilant "S" sounds. Excessive bursts of air hitting the microphone capsule cause both of these issues, and in both cases, it 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 podcast audio.
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, and once you do, listen to the recording to see which position gave you the best audio quality.
So, you've written your outline, picked a place to record, set up your microphone, and practiced your mic technique. Now 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 for your voice if it starts to get dry, but try to avoid carbonated drinks as that will increase the chances of a burp or hiccup making its way into your recording.
Don't worry about mistakes, stammers, or a little silence. You can make all the necessary edits in the next step.
The editing process is where you segment your podcast, remove audible distractions, and insert pre-recorded ads, voiceovers, intros, and outros.
With the help of the right software and a few pointers, even the not-so-technically inclined can create a quality, well-edited podcast.
It's a behind-the-scenes process that requires a little preparation, but don't let the process overwhelm you.
With the help of the right software and a few pointers, even the not-so-technically inclined can create a quality, well-edited podcast.
Good intros done right can help improve the listening experience and listener engagement, but they aren't required, and it isn't your only option.
Here are a couple of examples from podcasts that highlight how different the beginning of a show can be:
Check out a few of your favorite podcasts and see which style will fit your podcast and feel authentic. Remember, you can always upgrade your podcast intro down the line.
If you decide to do an intro, you'll probably want to get some intro music. When you're looking for music, search for royalty free music that you can use in your podcast. Otherwise, you'll have to purchase your show's music.
Royalty-free music is great, but because it's free, other podcasters might use the same track you choose. Don't stress over this; many listeners will never notice. However, if you want more exclusive music, you can purchase a track for your intro.
If you decide to purchase a track, we recommend two different resources:
Once you've decided on your podcast intro and episode music, you're ready to edit your first episode.
We won't discuss podcast editing in full-detail in this guide, but we think these five universal tips will significantly improve your post-production.
Once you've finished editing your podcast, export it from your editing software as a full Wave file. Buzzsprout will automatically add ID3 tags and convert your file to the right file format and encoding.
However, if you're on Libsyn, Blubrry’s Wordpress Powerpress Plugin, SoundCloud, or another podcast hosting service, you'll need to export your file in the proper format.
Most podcasters export their episodes as MP3s to ensure compatibility with the most podcast apps. Set the bitrate to 96 kbps mono for spoken word podcasts and 192 kbps stereo for podcasts that feature music.
- 96 kbps mono for spoken word
- 192 kbps stereo for music
There are benefits to tagging your audio files with ID3 tags. These tags make sure your media player has the correct information about the episode.
Currently, most podcast apps get this information from the RSS Feed, but it might be lost if somebody shares the audio file itself.
If you're on Buzzsprout, all of your ID3 tags will be added automatically.
Now that we have your final file, we're going to upload it to your podcast host, Buzzsprout. Start by signing up for a free Buzzsprout Account. Once you login to your account, click Upload Podcast Episode and drag and drop your audio file onto the page. Once the file uploads, you can add the name and description for that podcast episode.
Once the file has finished uploading, Buzzsprout will optimize your file automatically.
Your podcast is almost ready to submit to Apple Podcasts and Spotify! You're about to share the content you've worked hard to produce, and it's almost in the ears of listeners.
Now it's time to make sure you're putting your best foot forward so your podcast will look great in every podcast directory.
While excellent episode content should always be the focus of your show, your podcast cover art is the first thing new listeners will see in Apple Podcasts or on social media.
Potential listeners should be able to figure out what your show is about by glancing at your artwork.
Here are our recommendations, based on Apple’s Podcast Artwork Requirements:
- Square Image
- 3000 x 3000 pixels
- Resolution of 72 dpi
- PNG or JPEG file types
- Colorspace RGB
If you have a design background, you can create your artwork using Photoshop or Sketch. But for everybody else, we recommend Canva or 99Designs.
Create It Yourself: Canva
Start by finding a high-resolution image as your background. We recommend searching Pexels because they have thousands of beautiful royalty-free images that you can use.
Then edit that image in Canva to create your artwork. Editing your image can be as simple as cropping the image and adding the title of your podcast.
If you have a few hundred dollars in your graphics budget, 99Designs is a great option to get a professional design for your podcast.
You can run a contest where designers compete to create the best design or hire a designer who's work you already love.
A podcast episode description is considered metadata. Metadata is information about your MP3 file: the name of your show, its description, episode number, the release year, etc.
Filling out these fields helps make your show visible on Apple, Google Play, and Spotify, or wherever podcast listeners search for your show's genre.
A good episode description is essential for success. It's the space where you explain what your show is about in one paragraph.
Make sure you're telling readers what's in it for them, and make it entertaining, too, so it will encourage people to subscribe.
You can always go back and change the wording, so don't let finding the perfect description take up too much time.
It's important to optimize how your podcast appears in Apple Podcasts, and one way of doing that is to pick the right podcast categories for your show.
Even though you can pick three categories, Apple Podcasts only cares about the first one, so make sure this is the category you want your show listed.
It can boost your show's visibility to choose a sub-category as well as the primary category. If your show is about politics, it's better to be at the top of a sub-category like News > Politics rather than being further down in the general News Category.
Getting your podcast listed in the top podcast directories is crucial for success.
Podcast directories, like Apple Podcasts, are a centralized place for podcast listeners to find new shows.
Getting listed in the top podcast directories is a critical part of your podcast marketing strategy because the majority of your new listeners will find your podcast through these directories.
With over 800,000 podcast listings, Apple Podcasts is the #1 podcast directory in the world.
Here’s how to get into Apple Podcasts:
Spotify launched its directory in 2018, and they've quickly become the second-largest podcast directory. That's because Spotify reaches a lot of people who don't yet listen to podcasts.
Unlike Apple Podcasts, once you submit your podcast to Spotify, it should be listed almost immediately.
Google Podcasts is a directory that allows your podcast to show up in Google webs searches and on Android phones. Rather than submitting your podcast to a directory, you just make sure Google can crawl your podcast website.
The website that comes with every Buzzsprout account is compatible with Google Podcasts, so most podcasters see their episodes show up in Google Results within a couple of weeks, without taking any additional steps themselves.
If you use another hosting service or your hosting solution, check out this article on how to get a podcast into Google Podcasts.
If you get your podcast into Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, your podcast is already in front of 95%+ of all podcast listeners.
You can stop here and submit to other directories later on. But if you're on a roll, keep going: there are a handful of other podcast directories where you can also get listed:
Now that you have a few episodes finished, it's time to decide how you're going to launch your podcast.
You have two options: The Grand Opening or the Soft Open.
When a production house releases a film, they usually have big promotions plans lined up. They'll pick a day to launch their movie, have critics and influencers preview it, and run a ton of ads to hype it up. You can do something similar for your podcast if you have access to influencers, an existing audience, or money to promote your show. You can follow the same script.
You'll pick a date a few weeks away, start reaching out to people you think might be interested in the show, try to get your podcast reviewed, and run a lot of ads to your podcast when it launches.
A little pre-show-launch preparation increases the chance that your podcast will jump in the Apple Podcast rankings, and possibly make it into Apple's New and Noteworthy section.
But if you're having a mild panic attack at the thought of promoting your podcast to thousands of people, then the Soft Open might be a better option.
I'm borrowing the phrase Soft Opening from the restaurant industry. Typically, a new restaurant will open a day or two before their advertised opening.
It's a low-key night the restaurant can use to work out their kinks without a lot of pressure or visibility. Employees invite their friends, and often the proceeds of the night are donated to charity.
There is less stress because there are fewer people around to see the mistakes.
Similarly, a podcast Soft Open is when you start podcasting without anybody listening. You begin publishing as if people are listening, but wait a week or two before you do any big-time promotion.
It's a way to overcome get comfortable with the idea of podcasting and get over imposter syndrome at the same time.
Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you're in over your head, everybody knows it, and it's just a matter of time before they expose you as a fraud.
You might be experiencing this if you find yourself saying things like: "Why am I even starting a podcast?" "Wouldn't somebody else be better at this?" "I'm going to look like an idiot when I publish this…" "There are already two other podcasts on the same topic, and they're going to think I copied them."
There is a comfort to realizing everybody else feels the same way. Everybody wonders if they're a fraud, and it's human nature for this feeling to spike before you do something public.
It takes a while to fade, but most people find that they settle into the role as they continue to publish shows and build an audience.
But it never goes away if you don't publish, no matter how great your podcast episodes are. Consistent publishing is key.
At meetups and podcasting conferences, it's common to hear that people are just about to launch their first episode, and it's not uncommon to see those same people the next year still waiting to polish the last episode before starting.
It's easy to tinker when you struggle with imposter syndrome and self-doubt because as long as you keep tinkering, you don't have to put yourself out there.
We suggest you pick a launch date less than ten days from now-like right now- and publish your episode either using the Grand Opening or Soft Open strategy.
By this point, you've put it in some real effort. Even if you don't have many downloads yet, it's important to remember that even one download is one real person listening to your show.
The average podcast gets a little over 100 listeners, so if you can get to 100, you're already better than half of all podcasters.
You probably don't have a community that's waiting for your podcast when you first launch, so it's essential to leverage existing communities.
This means finding groups of people who should be interested in your podcast, and then telling them about your podcast. Remember when we’re doing this, we need to add value to the communities you engage. If you just spam links on the web, people are going to be turned off.
You can do this by finding groups of people who should be interested in your podcast and telling them about your show. Remember: your aim is to add value to each community you engage.
If you use shady promotional tactics, it will turn people off. You want to honestly engage the community and offer your podcast as a solution to their problems (as long as it will help them).
Let's run through 6 marketing tactics we believe have the best chance to direct listeners to a new podcast:
If you run into any issues during your launch or have questions once you're podcasting, consult these Buzzsprout resources.
If you've made it this far and are ready to publish your episode, we'd encourage you to submit your episode soon and celebrate your accomplishment.
It's an accomplishment to launch your podcast, so from the entire Buzzsprout team, we congratulate you, and we can't wait to see how far your podcast takes you.