A beginner’s guide to starting and growing a podcast
With the recent surge in the popularity of podcasting, you might be wondering how to podcast for yourself or your business. It’s a great time to jump in – podcasts are gaining traction, yet this particular medium is not as saturated as other channels and you have the opportunity to establish yourself before the landscape gets too crowded. So, without further ado, let’s dive into how to podcast.
What you need to make a podcast
Before purchasing any equipment, do your own research, read reviews, and be realistic about your budget. You don’t want to go into debt trying to launch your show. Some of the basics, according to seasoned podcast host, include the following:
- You should get a decent quality USB microphone, so you don’t sound tinny.
- A microphone stand – some may include a shock mount (to reduce vibrations being picked up on the mic) and a pop filter (to reduce the explosive sounds made by B- and P-words, which blow air into the mic).
- A reliable and responsive computer.
- Editing software such as GarageBand for Mac users or Audacity for Mac and PC users (both of which are free).
- A webcam in case you need to do video interviews.
- Skype/Zoom/some other video chat service to record interviews.
- A URL for your podcast’s name — unless you want to host it on one of your existing business or personal web domains.
- If you will be interviewing people across the web, you need a fast and stable Internet connection – preferably fibre.
- You do need somewhere to host your podcast episodes because you can’t exactly record some audio and simply load it to iTunes. You’ll need a podcast host to store and distribute your audio files.
How to plan a podcast
Now that you’ve gotten the equipment under control, what’s next? There are several things you need to consider before you record your first episode, let alone put it out for the world to hear. When you begin your planning process, here’s what you should think about at a minimum:
What will the title of your show be?
While this may not be your first consideration, it is important to figure out what you will call your show before you start recording.
There are several options for your show’s name. Some people choose to use their business name for their podcast. Others choose to use their personal name.
You’ll also want to consider your show’s subtitle and summary or description. Your show’s summary should be 4,000 characters or less because that’s how much room iTunes gives you to promote what your show is about.
What are your podcast goals?
Are you hoping to make money directly or indirectly off of this new venture? Is this simply going to be a hobby? Or are you just learning how to make a podcast to see if you even like it? It’s important to establish what you want to get out of podcasting before diving in.
Who is your target audience?
This might be based on your podcast goals. Your target audience might be the same as your ideal customer avatar if your podcast is launched as a business marketing tool. If not, you should sit down and think about who your ideal listener will be. Like blogging, book writing and business, if you try to appeal to everyone, you’re more likely to not reach anyone.
Let’s say your podcast will be about how to train your dog. Your target audience would be dog owners who are wanting to learn how to train their dog, and your podcast should be developed and marketed as such. Using our dog training example, a podcast about that subject would likely have topics including, but not limited to:
- Toilet training
- Teaching them to sit/stay/come/etc.
- How to stop them from jumping/barking/chasing/etc.
- Training with treats (or without)
What will the format of your podcast be?
Podcast formats include:
- Non-fiction storytelling
- Fiction storytelling
If you set up your podcast to be an interview series, you’ll need to line up people for content creation. You’ll likely need scheduling software, you’ll need to create a waiver or legal release for your guests to sign, and you’ll have to figure out how to actually host and record the interview.
Are there branding considerations you need to think about?
If your podcast is a hobby or a new business venture, you may be creating a brand from scratch. On the other hand, if you’re treating it as a business marketing tool, you’ll need to consider your business’ current branding, goals, values, and so on.
For branding, you should start thinking about artwork including the image you’ll use on podcast platforms such as iTunes, as well as logos and other images you may want to use on your website, social media, newsletters and in all other messaging about your show.
How long will your episodes be?
Unlike a blog post where the length can affect SEO, a podcast can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as 90 minutes. Aim to address your content in sufficient detail without repetition or waffling – and take your cue from the needs of your users. You can send listeners a survey in a newsletter format, or ask on social media.
After all, you’re creating the content for them, so why not let them simply tell you how long they want the content to be? It’s better to err on the side of brevity than it is to bore the audience – a focused podcast should not be longer than an average commute. It’s ultimately about your listener, and what they need and/or want to hear.
How often will you release new episodes?
Some podcasters choose to release 10 episodes at once so their listeners can binge on them Netflix-style. Others commit to once a week or twice a month. Whatever you choose for your release dates, do yourself a favour and stick to your schedule. Consistency is the key to building and keeping an audience.
How to publish your podcast
Once you have recorded your episodes, it’s time to publish for the world to hear.
Publishing to iTunes
iTunes is the most popular for podcasts. Here are the steps for publishing your podcast to iTunes:
First, take your final audio file and load it to your podcast hosting service. This is where your audio and video files will be stored on a server, and from there you can broadcast those files to users on the Internet.
With your podcast host, you’ll be given a unique web address — an RSS feed — of your podcast. Before you can load it to iTunes, Apple requires you to test and validate it.
- Review Apple’s full instructions for testing a podcast.
- Once you have tested it, learn how to validate your podcast.
Additionally, Apple requires the following for submission:
- Make sure you have an Apple ID
- Give your podcast a title
- Write your description
- Load your artwork
- Choose the category that best suits your podcast—many podcasters recommend choosing up to three
- Select the language of the episode
- Mark whether the podcast is “Explicit” or “Not Explicit”
Once you have tested and validated your podcast, and provided the requirements mentioned above, you should be able to simply copy and paste your podcast’s RSS feed into iTunes and click “Submit.”
At this point, you will need to wait for Apple to approve your podcast. This can take up to a few weeks, but could be approved in as little as one to a few days.
Publishing to other platforms
Many podcast directories actually use iTunes to distribute your podcast, but you may need to load it to others. The top four that most people suggest adding your podcast to include:
For most directories, all you will need to do is create an account, add your RSS feed, verify ownership, and then press publish. Click each of the directories mentioned above for their instructions.
Publishing to YouTube
A lot of podcasters are choosing to upload their podcasts to YouTube as well to increase their reach and tap into some SEO juice.
Simply create an image for your podcast, convert the MP3 to an MP4, add the image as a static graphic, and voila! You’ll have a video version of your podcast that you can load to YouTube.
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