How to Start & Host Your Own Podcast
Table of Contents
- What Is a Podcast, and How Does It Work?
- How Much Does It Cost to Start a Podcast?
- What Is the Purpose of a Podcast?
- A Word to the Wise…
- How to Start Your Own Podcast
- You’re Done!
People say podcasts are the new radio – except that they’re tailored to today’s spoiled audiences. You get to listen to what you want, when you want it, rather than having to wait for the scheduled time of your favorite program. Podcasts cover an incredibly vast variety of topics – culture, entertainment, news, science, arts, documentaries, dramas… so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. We do our shopping, commuting, and exercising listening to Joe Rogan, one of those numerous podcasts about serial killers, binging on Culture Binge, or listening to David Tennant’s awesome talks with cool folks like Neil Gaiman.
Podcasts are also a new way for businesses to promote their brands – apparently, even McDonald’s has embraced podcasting as a brand-building technique.
But we’re not here to talk about fast food, we’re here to talk about you: you’re thinking about launching your very own podcast. Whether you’re planning to start a podcast as your new hobby (because knitting doesn’t quite cut it anymore), or as a way to boost brand awareness, you’ll need to devote some time and effort in order for the podcast to sound professional and keep listeners interested.
We’re here to take you through all the stages of starting and hosting your own podcast, from planning to taking it live. You’ll learn how to plan and create content, how to record your podcast, and finally – where to publish it. We’ll also get into the details of what gear you’ll need and how much it’ll cost, so you’ll know what to expect.
What Is a Podcast, and How Does It Work?
The Cambridge dictionary tells us that a podcast is a type of radio program stored in digital form, which users can download online and listen to on computers and MP3 players.
But we’re way past dictionaries – especially when it comes to podcasts – in the sense that people have taken them and made them their own. In a way, what a podcast is to a person is their niche, i.e. their favorite shows, topics, blogs, music, and even people (because, David Tennant and Neil Gaiman, right? Does it get better?) in the form of a free recording that they can browse through, download, and play whenever they want to.
How Do Podcasts Work?
You probably already have several favorite podcasts – and if you don’t, you’re in for a treat. You can find numerous podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the Guardian, Pocket Casts, Google Podcasts, and even YouTube. A lot of the time, you can both stream podcasts as well as download them to listen to offline later, by downloading the RSS feed.
But how does podcasting work for you, the creator?
There are several key steps you’ll need to follow, which we’ll cover in detail. In order to start and publish a great podcast, you should be clear on the basics of the process. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to do to create your own podcast:
- Figure out what gear you should get
- Come up with topics and decide on your niche audience
- Set up recording and editing software (we’ll focus on Audacity)
- Get ready for your first episode
- Record your podcast
- Edit your podcast
- Export your MP3 recordings
- Set up your brand (the name for your podcast, cover art)
- Choose podcasting platforms to host your podcast
That’s it, more or less. It may seem like a lot, but if you enjoy getting your story out there, you’ll enjoy the process too. Well, at least most of it.
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Podcast?
Recording, editing, and launching (hosting) a podcast doesn’t have to cost much at all – you can get away with spending as little as $200, assuming you already have a computer. If you’re looking for a cost-friendly solution, you can use free software (there are Audacity and GarageBand), too, so you’ll only need to pay for a microphone (you can get a great starter mic for about $60) and headphones (you can get a decent pair for about $70) to get things going.
Additionally, you’d need to pay for podcast hosting – which costs anywhere between $5 and $50 per month.
Of course, if you’re not on a tight budget, and want to purchase the best possible equipment along with premium editing software, starting a podcast can cost a couple of grand. Higher-end mics cost around $400, and if you want to get dual mics for better sound, that will – obviously – double the cost. Premium editing software comes with either monthly fees of around $10, or one-time purchases of several hundred dollars.
Lastly, there’s the cover art – the artwork for your podcast. Again, if you’re on a low budget, you can doodle something yourself or ask a friend to help you out. On the other hand, you can also hire a freelance artist to create it for you.
You can check out some more in-depth price breakdowns depending on what additional equipment you may wish to integrate into your podcasting.
What Is the Purpose of a Podcast?
In a nutshell, the purpose of podcasts is to distribute information. The internet has made it incredibly easy for anyone that can go online to access all sorts of content. Podcasts are a relatively new way for users to reach content – information – that they’re interested in. As they’re an on-demand type of digital technology, users can choose what to listen to and when to listen to it.
Overall, podcasts can help you spread your message to the world, or at least to your niche. It’s a cost-friendly, portable, and personal way to share something with a base of listeners. Whether it’s for work or for fun, a podcast can help you build relationships with people.
The more specific purpose of a podcast will vary based on your goals in creating it. As we’ve mentioned, podcasting can be a good way for businesses to build brand awareness. Interestingly enough, it’s also a good way for businesses to communicate with their employees and clients. For instance, companies that have employees on the road (service workers or traveling salespersons) can keep them up-to-date on things while they commute through podcasts.
Companies can also have podcasts that speak directly to clients, which is a much more personal way of addressing them and letting them know what’s new with the business as opposed to an email.
If you’re starting a podcast for fun, it’s a cost-friendly, convenient, intimate way to share your ideas and stories with others. And who knows, you may make it big someday – if that’s what you want. The potential of podcasts seems boundless – so far as you’re ready to do the work. Which brings us to…
A Word to the Wise…
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, it’s worth knowing that podcasting takes commitment. Especially in the beginning, and especially, especially if you’re new to the process (and recording and editing software), it will take a good deal of time and effort. Even the fun stuff – conceptualizing your podcast and coming up with ideas – may not be as simple as you imagine. And then there’s finding interviewees – if that’s a part of your plan – that will help you create fun content.
If you’re serious about your podcast, you’ll need to consistently produce new episodes. To gain a following, i.e. a loyal audience, you’ll need to be a regular presence in their lives.
If you’re hoping to earn money from podcasting, think again. Not many podcasters earn a lot – you’ll need to find sponsors, advertisers, or patrons – none of which you can get without having some leverage. And your leverage would be your audience – which again, you’ll need to work hard to gain and keep around.
If you’re starting out your podcast to build your brand, you’ll still need to work for it to be an effective channel through which you can communicate with your customer base.
And if you’re just starting a podcast to have some fun and share your thoughts with the world, great! It still involves work, though.
Of course, there’s also the financial side of starting up. At the very least, you’ll need to invest in a proper microphone and headphones, and possibly some premium software – the cost adds up and isn’t exactly negligible.
So, yes podcasting can be super fun, but be ready for some grunt work as well.
Now that we got all that out of the way, let’s take a look at how you can start your very own podcast.
How to Start Your Own Podcast
At last, we’ve gotten to the crux of the matter, which is how to record and publish your very own podcast.
Figure Out What Gear You Should Get
First things first: you need equipment to get started. We’ve broken down the gear you’ll need into two categories: essentials and optionals.
- Computer. You need a computer to start your podcast. Recording and editing audio doesn’t require a lot of power, so you don’t need to upgrade and get a new PC if you have one that’s functioning properly. Although people often record on Mac, Windows and Linux are great for the occasion too – in fact, Linux is increasingly used by professionals, as it’s compatible with a lot of open-source, free recording software.
Make sure your computer features all the ports necessary for recording. You’ll definitely need USB/USB-C ports (for microphones), an audio in-jack if you’re using an analog microphone, and maybe even a FireWire port – it all just depends on what the rest of your equipment will entail.
- Microphone. Getting two is optional, but one is a must. We definitely do not recommend using your laptop’s built-in microphone – it will sound bad. As we already mentioned, you can get away with an affordable, starter microphone that will cost around $60, but if you’re after something more professional, get ready to pay a couple of hundred dollars. Keep in mind that the difference in quality will be noticeable in the recordings, but it’s not a big deal when you’re just starting out.
You will need to decide between getting a USB or an analog (XLR) microphone. While analog microphones produce better sound quality, they are somewhat more expensive and require that you also get some extra tools – you’ll need to get an XLR connector, for instance. On the other hand, you can use XLR mics with other types of sound equipment – like with amps (if you record music, for instance), or a PA system.
USB mics are easier to use, as you can just plug in the mic directly into the computer and start recording. They automatically convert analog recordings into digital form. Plus, they’re cheaper.
If you have a headset with a good mic, you technically could use that too, but it’s rare that the mics on headsets are as good as individual mics. Plus, if you have a co-host or an interviewee, it’ll be awkward to use.
- Sound recording and editing software. To record, edit, and produce audio files – i.e. your podcast – you’ll need to download digital audio workstation (DAW) software. There are lots of professional-grade, paid DAW software options, such as Reason, though they can get quite pricey (for instance, Reason costs $399). Of course, there are cheaper options that come with less features, like Reaper (costs $60 for a non-commercial license).
And then there’s free, open-source software – like Audacity – which has plenty to offer for podcasting beginners. We recommend that you start your Audacity, and decide over time whether you need to pay for another program.
- Audio interface. If you get an analog mic and want to plug it into your computer so you can record directly onto it, you’ll also need to get an audio interface. Audio interfaces allow you to hook up one or few mics, and convert the recorded sound to digital audio. The price varies between $30 and $300.
- XLR recorder. Again, if you get an analog microphone, you’ll need to get a portable XLR recorder which will convert the audio from analog to digital. These are pricier than audio interfaces, and cost between $100 and $500.
- Pop filter. A pop filter can help you get a clear, crisp sound when you mount it on your microphone. They’re quite affordable, so they’re worth considering.
- Boom arm. A boom arm will hold your mic while you record, so your hands will be free to do whatever they may. It’ll also reduce shakes and cracks that occur with handheld mics, which adds in the way of good sound. Boom arms have adjustable height, so you can set them up in a way that’s comfortable for you. They usually cost between $25 and $100.
Come Up with Topics and Pick a Niche
What do you want your podcast to be about? True, there seem to already be podcasts about everything imaginable, but the trick with creating fun, original content on any given topic is delivery.
Think of it this way: two artists may paint the same landscape, but the two resulting paintings will be very different from one another. Consider Picasso’s still lifes – the subject of the paintings may be a bowl of fruit, but the cubist delivery is what makes them unique. So – while it may be true that there’s nothing new under the sun – perhaps no one’s told it the way you’re going to tell it.
Try to find your niche both in the specific topic of your podcast and in the spin you give to the story. It’s your spin on things – your unique delivery – that will solidify your niche and gain you a loyal listener base.
Let’s say you want to do a podcast about film. Consider what your favorite topics are in the broad category of “film,” and mull over what you can offer to your audience – and what they would be interested to listen to. You can then focus on a more specific topic – like film noir. Now, you can delve deeper into the world of film noir – inspirations, legacy, actors, directors, writers, costumes, origins, the culture, film history, and socioeconomic climate in which film noir was born and thrived.
Lastly, make your delivery original. Maybe bring in interviewees each week to focus on different aspects of film noir or different movies. Maybe listen to film noir-contemporary music in the background, maybe sip on Tom Collins highballs, or maybe integrate mini mysteries – much like the plot of a film noir – throughout your podcast.
It’s important to enjoy what you’re doing – your listeners will be able to tell if you’re having fun, which will make it easier for them to have fun, as well.
Set Up Recording and Editing Software
It’s time to download and install editing software – presumably, Audacity, which is free, open-source, and available on all operating systems (Windows, Linux, Mac).
LAME MP3 encoder (which exports audio files as MP3s) is built-into the software for Mac and Windows, and you can follow these LAME installation instructions if you’re using Linux.
- Head over to their website and download Audacity before installing it on your computer.
- Connect your recording gear – your mic, headphones, etc. – to your computer. Then, select the mic and other equipment in the Audacity menu.
- Make sure that everything is working properly by testing the equipment. You can do this by recording a couple of test outtakes on your mic using the Audacity interface. Then, listen to what you’ve recorded and see if it sounds good.
- Get familiar with the software by playing around with it for a bit. Try recording, playing, pausing, deleting, editing, and so on.
Get Ready for Your First Episode
Before recording your first episode, outline it. It helps to break down the topic and go over what you want to cover. Of course, you’ll need to carefully outline the rest of the episodes in your podcast, as well, but it helps to be especially prepared for the first one. Keep in mind that having an outline does not mean reading from a script. It’s just something to help orient you in your podcast. You shouldn’t sound like you’re reading!
Here are some additional tips which can help you prepare for your first episode:
- Introduce yourself. This is the first time your listeners meet you, so let them know who you are. What are your plans for the podcast? What topics are you passionate about?
- Listen to other podcasts’ first episodes. It helps to see how other podcast hosts made their first episodes. Listen to one or several which you found to be the most gripping, and see what those podcasters are doing right – then, try to integrate it.
- Keep a beverage near you. A lot of talking can make the voice sound hoarse. It helps to keep a drink – preferably water – near you, so that you can take a sip whenever your throat or mouth feels dry.
- Keep distractions to a minimum. If you’re sharing a home with others, make sure they know not to distract you. If you have pets, maybe restrain their access to your home studio – at least while you record.
- Take your time. You don’t have to get it right the first time. You can re-record some parts and edit out mistakes – so don’t rush anything.
- Relax. Everyone makes mistakes – especially at the beginning. You’ll learn from them, and it gets easier!
Record Your Podcast
Now you’re ready to record and edit your podcast. Audacity’s interface is quite simple to use and straightforward, so you don’t need to know much about recording to get into it quickly.
Before you get started, connect your gadgets (mic, headphones, etc.) and make sure they all work properly. You should also record a couple of seconds of audio where you talk, so you can adjust the audio levels, i.e. recording volume, from the sliders.
Once you’ve done fiddling with the settings, close your test recording.
One last thing to do before you record your show is recording about 5 seconds of silence – in the world of audio and video production, this is called room tone, also referred to as “presence.” These 5 seconds aren’t actual silence – they’re the sound of your room, with all its subtle tones and audio colors. Having recorded the room’s background sound can help you in your editing process if you need to edit out mistakes and cover up unintended background noise.
Once you’ve recorded your room tone, save it (in MP3 format). It’s finally time to do your first episode!
Click on record and start your podcast. If you make mistakes, keep going – you will be able to edit them out later. Once you’re done, save the podcast in MP3 format.
Edit Your Podcast
When you’re editing your podcast, there are two main areas we’ll focus on: adding sounds and editing out mistakes.
When it comes to adding sounds, you can be a bit silly and add sound effects here and there, but the main thing you may wish to consider doing is adding intro and outro music. Unless you’re a musician with some knowledge of composing and playing music, you can head over to the Free Music Archive (it’s all legal) and find music that you like and that suits the tone and topic of your podcast. You can search by genre, artists, song names, etc.
Once you’ve picked your piece, download it to your PC and then import it to your Audacity library. Open it as a separate track, and cut it down to (select) the seconds you want to use for intro and outro. Then, copy it and paste onto your podcast recording – at the beginning and at the end (you also may wish to have different music for the intro and outro). The last thing to do is go to Effects and use the fade out function for the intro (at its end), and the fade in function for the outro (at its beginning).
Edit Out Mistakes
Editing out mistakes isn’t just cutting out the parts where you make actual mistakes – it’s also reducing silences between sentences, making sure that the volume is consistent, and adding the room sound that you recorded before recording your podcast to places with undesired background noises. All this is important for your podcast to sound good and professional.
Listen to your recording and use Audacity’s tools to cut out sections you don’t want. You can also mute them, and then add the room sound on top of them if you’re trying to cover up stuff like background noise.
Finally, give your podcast a listen. If you’re not happy with the sound quality, you can play around with the compression and equalization (EQ) settings on Audacity to get a better, more balanced sound.
Export Your MP3 Recordings and Fill Out the Metadata
Once you’re happy with your podcast, it’s time to export it as MP3. This is quite easy – just go to File > Export > Export as MP3. Write down the name of your file and click on Save.
An Edit Metadata Tags window will pop up. This contains all the details about your recording, and you should fill it all out. It’ll be useful to have once you start filing your podcast episodes.
Some of the fields included are:
- Track: episode number, so One!
- Title: The title of your episode and its number.
- Artist: Your name, your cohost’s name, or your brand’s name.
- Album: The name of your podcast.
- Year: when the podcast is (will be) released.
- Comment: This is optional – you can just give a one-sentence summary of the episode or the podcast.
Some additional fields you may see (depending on the software) include album art, where you can put the cover you commissioned or created, a URL, and Design.
Set Up Your Brand
Branding is important in everything – be it business or creative projects. A catchy name and cool cover art can help attract listeners and communicate what your podcast is all about.
When you’re choosing a name for your podcast, try to keep it related to your podcast’s topic. For instance, Culture Binge breaks down all things pop culture, and it’s pretty clear from the name. But it also sounds pretty good! So if you’re doing a podcast about film noir, you can name it something obvious like Film Noir with Dolly (if your name happens to be Dolly), or something that includes a reference to the genre, like Dial P for Podcast. You get it. In any case, it should be easy for people looking for something in your genre to find your podcast.
The second part of branding is the cover art. We already mentioned it briefly in the section on how much starting a podcast costs, because you may wish to hire a freelancer to do it for you. People are visual beings, so having good-looking, eye-catching, cool cover art is important. And of course – you also want the cover art to reflect the subject of your podcast.
So for instance, if you’re doing a podcast about psychedelic rock, you want to get a cover that can easily be associated with covers of popular psych-rock albums (or if you’re really poor, you can just wing it with this mandala creator). If you’re doing a podcast about 60’s or 70’s art, you can commission a pop-art-looking doodle from an artist.
If you’re doing a podcast as a way to boost your business brand, you can use your brand’s logo as cover art. You can also use a photograph, and if you yourself are the main product of your podcast, you can even use a photograph of your lovely self.
The image is required by most podcasting platforms and will be visible to listeners in directories on Pocket Casts, iTunes, Stitcher, and so on.
Choose Podcasting Platforms and Host Your Podcast
Once you’ve done everything – recording and editing your podcast, writing out the metadata, preparing cover art, and choosing a cool title for it, it’s time to select one – or preferably, multiple – platforms where you can host your podcast. There are several places where you can upload the MP3 recording of your first episode, so that it will appear in directories, apps, and eventually – be easily reached by listeners.
Here are some great platforms for when you’re first starting out:
Seriously Simple Podcasting is a favorite for both new and experienced podcasters, because it’s a WordPress plugin. This means you can combine your podcast feed with a blog as part of a WordPress site (check out our WP hosting plans). Seriously Simple Podcasting offers:
- Have your podcast and blog on the one site;
- Simple WordPress plugin;
- Add analytics and other features;
- No extra cost other than your WordPress hosting, unless you take up their Castos podcast file hosting;
- Easy to connect and share through social media platforms, blogs, etc.
Soundcloud is a favorite for podcasters, because it offers:
- Free hosting and scalability;
- RSS feed uploads;
- Easy to connect and share through social media platforms, blogs, etc.
Libsyn is an old and trusted site for hosting websites. It offers:
- Unlimited scalability and bandwidth for an affordable price (about $5/month).
Podomatic is really easy to use and offers both free and paid (premium) plans. Still, for a beginner, the free plan has sufficient bandwidth and storage.
- Free and paid options;
- User friendly.
Podbean also offers a free hosting option, but it’s quite limited in bandwidth and storage. With the premium plans, you can get:
- Analytics tools;
- Podcast websites;
- Promotions, etc.
Once you’ve uploaded your podcast in a directory, you can get it onto Apple Podcasts, as it’s one of the most popular podcasting platforms. It’s also the main directory used by several other podcasting applications, because they make the directory available to everyone. To get on Apple Podcasts, you need to have a valid RSS feed and have all your podcast’s metadata information filled out in your hosting service (check out Apple’s requirements).
That’s it – more or less. Hopefully, you’ll have your own podcast up and running soon enough. You may wish to consider recording several episodes before launching your podcast, just to help you ensure that you’ll upload them regularly and keep a steady presence in the lives of your listeners.
You’ll also want to do some promoting when you’re starting out. Generate some buzz by sharing stuff about your podcast, like highlights or teasers on social media platforms, as well as on your blog/website – if you have one. You can start implementing hashtags and spreading the word on pages (like Facebook pages) that are related to the topic of your podcast. So if you’re a member of a film noir page on Facebook, share stuff about your podcast on there. That’s where your niche audience is!
Hopefully, you’ll enjoy doing your podcast, even if the process does require time and effort. Go and record already!
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