It’s never been easier to start a podcast than right now. You probably have the tools around the house to get started today. However, just because you CAN record and release using your iPhone for a microphone and free software – doesn’t mean you should. Quality is the number 1 reason why new listeners leave a podcast and never come back, so it’s imperative that you release a high quality podcast from the very first episode.
Yeah, free hosting and iphones work but they’re definitely not the absolute best tools for the job. Sort of like trying to frame and entire house using a rock for a hammer. It’ll work, but it might take you 5 years and countless crooked nails.
Don’t lose subscribers and listeners to your podcast before they even get to your second episode. Use the right tools for the job. Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy thousands of dollars worth of equipment or anything. As a matter of fact, you can have a professionally produced podcast episode in less than a week for $99 by using one of our personal podcast producers.
So, back to the question. How do you start a podcast in 2019? Well, here is how we launch new shows here at Podzenith.
Step 1: Come up with a name and format for your podcast…and don’t forget to buy the domain.
This is the fun stuff. The brainstorming phase. You have an idea for a podcast and now is the time to really hone in on the details so you don’t end up rambling when it comes time to record.
What’s the format? Narrative style? Interview style? Laid back or professional?
Will one person be talking solo? It’s a little more difficult than you might imagine. Have you considered bringing on a co-host to help with banter?
Is your co-host local or do you need to patch him in?
And what do you call it?
These are all things that absolutely need to be established before you even crack a microphone. Take time to think about it. If you establish a format early it gives you the ability to remain consistent with your podcast. We’ve all heard those show’s that learn as they go and sometimes it can be a painful learning experience. Planning ahead limits those growing pains.
Once you have a format and name picked, it’s a great idea to purchase the .com domain for the podcast. Even if you don’t have a website immediately (we definitely recommend having a website at launch) this will keep squatters from jumping on your awesome domain name once you blow up. A $7 dollar purchase today could save you thousands in a few years. Trust us on this one. While you’re at it, it’s probably wise to grab all the social media handles. You’ll need them to interact with your minions of fans.
Step 2: Record a test episode of your podcast.
This is simply to test the concept of your podcast by itself. You’ll be leveling up when it comes time to record for real. Remember that iPhone recording we mentioned earlier? This is the time to do it. Hosting a podcast is significantly more difficult that most people think, and this gives you an opportunity to see exactly how long you can riff on a single subject. Have some notes ready and some subjects to fall back on if you hit a lull in the conversation. Don’t worry about bumper music or introductions right now. If you can go 30 minutes without losing pace, you might be onto something and ready to move onto the technical stages.
Step 3: Gather your needed software, imaging elements, cover art and other production materials.
This is where we really start getting into the weeds of how to start a podcast. Now that you have a proven concept, it’s time to put it on paper. Start with designing the cover art for your show. If you have a keen eye for design you can do this yourself (for free) using tools like canva.com. There are a lot of different views on size of your cover art, but you want to make sure it’s a 1:1 ratio and at least 1400 x 1400 px large. Don’t worry if you’re not much of an artist. You can hire a freelancer on upwork to do it for you!
Have a cover? Awesome! Look at you go! Now we need to gather our imaging elements. What’s an imaging element? That’s all the extra sound on your podcast that isn’t a voice. Your intro music, introduction, outro music, bumper music…all imaging elements. You CANNOT use just any old song on your podcast. You need to have a licensing agreement with the publisher to play their stuff on your show.
The good news is, the internet has a wealth of sites that make it easy to find royalty free music you can use for your podcast. Just be sure to read the attached licensing agreements and follow them to the letter. Don’t forget to read the terms either…some of them limit use for podcasting.
An intro piece is a little tougher. Using another voice gives your podcast some added weight and a more polished sound. So where do you find an intro person? Well, we do that. Just drop us an email for a quote. If you want to save a few dollars you can also user Fiverr, but we don’t recommend it. Just be sure to have a script for them hammered out before you hire them. 15 seconds is more than long enough for an intro and shouldn’t cost you more than $20.
Step 4: Choose and setup your hosting provider, RSS feed and syndication channels.
If you lack podcasting experience it can start to get a little tricky at this point. There are a number of hosting providers ranging in cost from free to “way too damn much”. So, how do you pick a host for your podcast? We recommend starting with one you can use! Check out a few websites and youtube tutorials to see if one interface seems more intuitive for you than the others. We love Libsyn, but clients have rave reviews for buzzsprout and blubrry among others. The key thing is making sure they’re an established provider that specializes in podcasts. A few years ago Soundcloud decided to offer podcast hosting and later closed the service. This required all RSS podcast feeds and archives to be moved over to a new provider…which is a huge headache and another reason why we love Libsyn.
The RSS feed is really the crown jewel here and the part you really need to nail. It’s the address for your entire podcast and where indexes will be looking for updates. Double and triple check this step. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you need a hand. We would be happy to help you through any issues…and tech support for most hosts is shockingly responsive.
Many providers allow you to syndicate your show from your hosting dashboard. You’ll want to make sure your feed is submitted to all of the popular outlets like iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify and other, smaller providers. This is important because podcasts, at this point, are very segmented as far as delivery goes. People listening on their work computer probably won’t be using the same platform as somebody on a road trip. You need to be able to reach both of them. iTunes is the 800 lb gorilla though so you’ll want to optimize for them. Make sure you follow their specifications or risk forever being buried at the bottom of the charts.
If you claimed your domain like we suggested earlier this is a good time to get a website up. We won’t give you a whole tutorial here but you can set up a free WordPress site for just the cost of hosting in a weekend. Email us for more information or to have us do it for you. We have WordPress pros on call.
Step 5: Level up with the correct podcast recording hardware.
This is where most new podcasts lose the plot in an attempt to cut some corners. Like we said earlier, an iPhone absolutely works…but it’s not the best tool for the job. If your audio isn’t of the highest quality, and people can’t understand you, it doesn’t matter how great your content is. You will lose listeners and never get them back. There is no recovery from launching a podcast with poor audio. You will get one chance and once they realize your show is a static shitshow they’ll move onto the next one. It’s harsh but that’s the reality of the podcasting game. Spend $100 dollars here and it will pay for itself in more ways than one.
Blue Yeti microphones are a popular selection for many podcasters but we’re not huge fans. It is DEFINITELY better than using your phone though. If we had to recommend a solid beginner mic that can scale with your podcast, we say to pick up a few Audio Technica ATR2100’s and call it a day. They have both USB and XLR connectivity so no matter your setup down the line, they should be future proof.
You can use an outboard mixer but we actually prefer doing our mixing “in the box” via software interface. To record your audio you can use a simple free software like Audacity to lay down your tracks. We also record podcasts on site in San Diego using those very same microphones and a Zoom H6 recorder. If you have a little coin to spend, we would definitely give that setup a ringing endorsement. If you can’t swing the H6 right now though it’s ok. Audacity will work just fine.
Step 6: It’s time to record your podcast for real!
Have a nice quiet space and some time set aside without interruptions? Great. Get your content ready and your show outline together because it’s time to record. Assuming you’ve purchased a USB microphone and are using Audacity, plug your mic into your computer and hit record. Make sure you’re getting levels from your mic and your inputs are registering correctly. Don’t forget to use headphones so you don’t get an echo and can check your mic placement. Once you’ve recorded a quick 2 minute test clip to ensure that all of your equipment is up and running, it’s time to go for real.
Now, this is the part that gets squirrely for most newbie podcasters. If you have an online co-host or a guest make sure you have a way to record them. This can be tricky due to delays, degraded audio or the dreaded feedback/echo issue. There are a number of ways to alleviate these problems, included setting up a mix minus with an outboard mixer, but in the name of simplicity we’re just going to recommend a simple software called Zencastr. You sign in, send a link to your guest and that’s it! Zencastr will record local instances of both of you. Your guest will be recorded locally on their machine, limiting audio degradation in transit. In layman’s terms, it gives us super clean audio without needing additional software or a mixer. You can even try it for free and if you only use it minimally each month, it remains free forever. I highly suggest you give them a shot. We’re not getting paid to plug them. We just really love their software.
Skype works well in concept but the timing is iffy and largely dependent on a strong internet connection by both people. They don’t record locally so all audio is subject to being compressed and roughed up before you even get a chance to edit it…which is literally the worst possible outcome for your editor. Clean audio is the foundation for everything.
Speaking of clean audio, don’t worry about your imaging pieces here. We’ll be adding them in post-production. Just start talking. At this point, we’re just collecting vocals. If your podcast was a band, we would still need to record the drums and guitar…we’re just getting the lead singer here. Everything else is going to be handled after we record this portion. The main point is to make sure there is no echo, background noise or other artifacts in your recording.
Shoot for 30-45 minutes for the first episode of your podcast. If you find yourself struggling to his 30 minutes you might reconsider your concept or take a break to give it another shot in a few hours. Just don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you can easily speak on a subject for a single 30 minute session, you’re probably going to struggle doing it week after week. Now is the time to make those format tweaks.
If you’ve made it through recording your first show and worked through the glitches, congratulations. Take a break and pat yourself on the back. You’ve made it further than 99% of people that want to start their own podcast.
Step 7: Edit, edit, edit your podcast…then edit some more.
We consider this to be the fun part but we’ll freely admit that we’re podcast obsessed weirdos. Adobe Audition is our weapon of choice when it comes to editing all of our audio. Literally everything. It’s available for a monthly subscription via Adobe Creative Cloud but you can try it for free during an initial trial period. If you’re on a budget, the aforementioned Audacity can work in a pinch with some additional VST plugins and effects.
You’ll want to clean up your vocal bits before you do anything else. Cut those lulls in conversation, sneezes, chair creaks or anything else that distracts from the content. If you have inconsistent levels, you might need to segment portions of the conversation for amplification. If you have a co-host or a guest you want to make sure to do the same for their tracks.
Now, lets add those imaging pieces. Intro, outro, intro and spots. Splice them all in and make sure it didn’t nudge your interviews out of sync. You’ll also want to do some minor level adjustment to get your sound bits within a reasonable db of each other. Don’t forget to fade the music in and out…abrupt stops are super jarring when it comes to music…think Animal House when the record stops playing.
Once you’ve cleaned up your source vocal recording you want to EQ and level everything. This is no one size fits all recipe for compression, EQ and leveling. It’s 100% dependent on what your audio needs. Maybe some boosted low end or a notch filter to cut out some obnoxious pronunciations. It really depends on the quality of your recording. If you took the proper steps for clean audio outlines above you’ll only have to do very minimal post production.
Cleaned up and EQ’d? Great! It’s time to review all your hard work. Grab a cup of coffee and listen to the podcast front to back. Listen with a critical ear and stop whenever you find you want to make some edits. Even the best podcast producers miss things from time to time and this gives you a chance to fix a small mistake before it becomes a public mistake. Listen with headphones, on speakers, in your car. Wherever you can. Try your best to sound great everywhere.
Once you’ve screened your show for errors and confirm it’s ready to go out, it’s time to export to MP3. Recommended settings vary for this step but we use 128 kpbs 44.1 in most instances.
Step 8: Release your podcast! (finally)
The culmination of all that work. If you’ve followed along to this point all you need to do is upload your mp3 to your host, fill in a few boxes and hit release. Since you set up your hosting and RSS feed earlier this is going to be super easy. Just be sure to double check that everything is to itunes specs. Upload size, cover art size, RSS settings…all the fun stuff. If you’re doing episodic cover art, make sure to put the correct art with your mp3. Nothing is more embarrassing than uploading “episode 7” on the cover of episode 3.
Step 9: Tell the world
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest. Your mother, father, cousin, mail carrier and dog. Tell everybody that you just released a podcast. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it…nobody cares. Make sure people care that your tree fell down. If you’re passionate about your subject it should be easy to brag a little bit.
And by now if you haven’t gathered that you probably need a website you should probably just stop now and watch a WordPress tutorial on YouTube. It’s really easy and will serve as a nice central hub for all of your podcast listeners. It’s way easier to drive people to mypodcast.com than it is to drive them to tweet a specific hashtag or join a FB group. A day of learning some super simple website tools will pay enormous dividends. Or, again, have us do it for you.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s alot.
You probably didn’t realize that it was going to be so involved and have so many steps and exceptions. It’s ok. Not everybody has the time, ability or capability to go through all these steps to release a podcast. That’s why we’re in business. We want to help people create better podcasts no matter where they are in the process.
So, if the steps outline above sound like too much to you, drop us a line. We’d love to help. We can help you record, edit, distribute and market your podcast. You can have as much (or as little) control as you want. Just want to record and have us edit and distribute? Great. Just production? We do that too. Want to website or RSS feed setup? Yup…you guessed it.
So what are you waiting for?! We gave you links! Start at Step 1 and work your way back down here. Or just give us a call. Either way, happy podcasting!