Back to basics! This isn’t a detailed process for how to edit episodes, setup your website, or get into iTunes. These are the core 10 principles for starting a podcast, even if it’s not your first time!
1. Make plans
Before you buy any equipment, before you start a website, and before you do anything else with your podcast, plan what kind of podcast you’ll host and what you want to share.
I recommend that you create a list of topics that will become future episodes. It’s okay for your list to be vague, such as “1. Facebook. 2. Twitter. 3. YouTube.” When you get into planning your individual episodes, you can develop these ideas into content to share.
Also figure out how you want to present your information. Will you be in-depth? Will you try to pull out undiscovered truth? Will you take a comedic approach?
What will your schedule be? What are your goals and how will you work toward them? Whom do you want involved? What do you want your audience to take away or do? How will you use your time (it takes four or more minutes for each one minute of good content)?
Plans aren’t scripts that you must follow to every detail. It’s okay to change things, squeeze in something else, and ad lib here and there. But the main thing is to have a core direction you can always get back to when you veer off course.
You can use Evernote, Workflowy, Google Drive, a text editor, or even paper and pencil for making your plan. The tools don’t really matter, but how you use them and what you create with them is the art.
Remember the wise words from an admiral in The Hunt for Red October, “Russians don’t take a dump without a plan.” So even if you think your show will be crappy, still make a plan!
2. Collect quality content
You probably want your podcast to be great and the content you share will be the largest factor. Find or create the content you want to share.
For finding content, read and watch a lot for ideas of things to include. If you’re creating your own content, red and watch a lot for inspiration.
When your content is relevant to your show’s niche, entertaining, engaging, or educational, your audience will want to share it with others.
3. Get the right tools and equipment
It doesn’t cost thousands of dollars to start podcasting well. It seems all podcasters have a crush on the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB, but for good reasons! For only around $50 (plus $6 for a windscreen), the ATR2100-USB returns great quality, connects directly to any PC, and you don’t have to throw it away if you upgrade to a mixer in the future.
If you’re just starting out, don’t get the expensive stuff unless you fully commit yourself to your podcast. But if you just want to get started and aren’t sure how long you’ll do it, then keep your costs low for launching.
Generally, you won’t need a mixer until you want to do more complex things, like live-mixing, live-streaming, have multiple cohosts, or use advanced audio equipment.
I usually don’t recommend launching with video, but when I do, I suggest you focus on quality audio first, then lighting, and then the camera.
4. Record and present the content well
With a plan, good content, and the right equipment, it’s time to press record!
Whatever content you are sharing, present it clearly and confidently. Focus on what you want your audience to receive from your content or what you want them to do. If you’re a comedy podcast, you want your audience to laugh; if you’re a business podcast, you probably want your audience to succeed; if you’re a review podcast, you probably want your audience to discover something new; and so on.
When you know what you want your audience to receive or do, your presentation will continuously point them to that.
How well can you tell a story? How memorable can you make a lesson? How practically can you inspire? You don’t have to be a professional speaker to be a great podcaster, but good communication skill is a must!
5. Give authenticity
Treat your podcast like it’s just you and me, and you are telling me something you’re excited about. You probably would not put on a “radio DJ voice,” and you also probably wouldn’t be dry.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be real, be excited, be you. Realize that, unless you’re a celebrity, people will care first about your content—it’s what usually attracts them. After you win them with your presentation of good content, then they’ll start to care about your personality.
So it’s okay to let some real life into your podcast. Tell your relevant stories, connect with your audience, speak to your listeners or viewers as a friend instead of an audience, and let your emotion through.
6. Edit and produce
After you stop the recording, it’s time to turn it into an episode! For audio, I recommend Audacity, Hindenburg, or Adobe Audition. For video, I recommend iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Screenflow, or Adobe Premiere Pro.
Try not to be a perfectionist when editing your episode. If you have too many ums and other verbal crutches, learn how to avoid them and edit out when they’re too distracting. If there’s too much background noise, shut it off before you record or seek to reduce (not completely remove) it with software.
Keep your editing process simple, especially in the beginning. The fancier you try to get, the more time or money it will cost. If it’s too much work to release an episode, you’ll either not be consistent, or you’ll give up quickly. (I was a perfectionist when I started and it took me two years to release only nine episodes.)
For audio podcasts, I recommend that you export a WAV file from your editor and use iTunes to create a mono MP3 at 64 kbps. For video podcasts, I recommend that you export as MP4, 640 × 360, 24 frames per second (FPS) for downloadable files, and 1080p (if possible) for YouTube. Most video programs have good presets for these.
7. Launch or upgrade your website
If WordPress and your own hosting is too much, then consider LibSyn for a trustworthy all-in-one solution (website, media hosting, RSS feed) and use promo code “noodle” for a free month.
If you really must start out with free stuff, then use Tumblr or Blogger to host your website, Archive.org to host your files, and run your RSS feed through FeedBurner.
Try to at least have your own domain, so you can tell people, “visit myawesomepodcast.com” instead of “visit myawesomepodcast.wordpress.com.” Create email forwarders for a Gmail account as your podcast email address.
Write show notes, attach your podcast file, and click publish! This is as easy as writing an email and attaching a photo.
When you have your first episode online, then it’s time to get your podcast in places where podcasts are listed. Take your podcast-only RSS feed (this is usually /feed/podcast from PowerPress) and submit it to the top podcast directories: iTunes, Stitcher, Zune, BlackBerry, TuneIn, and any mobile podcast apps you see.
Make sure you have some great podcast cover art and good titles for your show and your episodes.
Now that you have something to offer, it’s time to grow your audience. This will be an ongoing process with many choices. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Invite guests on your show who will share the episode with their followers.
- Be a guest on someone else’s show to be discovered by their audience.
- Connect with people on social networks and share when you publish new episodes.
- Ask your audience to share the show with their friends and followers.
A common theme in the most successful promotion is word of mouth. A proverb in the Bible says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2 ESV). It’s always best to let others be the ones promoting you instead of your promoting yourself. The best way to get there is to give!
10. Measure growth
Use Google Analytics to track your website traffic. Use LibSyn or Blubrry to track your podcast downloads.
Don’t obsess over your numbers! Realize that the median podcast gets 160 downloads per episode. If you’re anywhere near that or above, then you’re doing well!
When looking at your podcast stats, ignore the “monthly downloads” and consider only your per-episode downloads after at least a month.
The main things you should look for a spikes that may reveal better content (or at least better titles), and you should see gradual growth.
Repeat for every episode
These 10 steps aren’t just for starting your show, but for keeping it going. Every episode should begin with a plan; every episode should use the right tools; and you should promote every episode you release. Turn these steps into habits, and you’ll have a great podcast with ongoing growth.
What about making money?
There are many ways to make money with your podcast, but it’s not a core step to launching a successful podcast, so I didn’t cover it here.
What about you?
How did you start your podcast? Do you regret missing any of these steps? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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