Podcasting 101: How To Get Your First Show Off The Ground, Even If You’re A Total Beginner
I’m so glad you’re thinking about starting a podcast! After dreaming about podcasting for years, I finally launched my first show, The Home Hour, back in 2012, and just a few months ago started up a small lifestyle podcast network, Life Listened. It’s been a fantastic experience, widening my audience reach and connecting me with fabulous, interesting people in my niche and beyond.
We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg with the potential of podcasting, and I truly believe that if you’re getting in now you are very much on the cutting edge: when it comes to growth and possibilities, the sky’s the limit.
While I’ve acquired a fair amount of podcasting experience, there are definitely experts that know a lot more than I do. So while this tutorial is pretty basic, I also link to more knowledgeable sources to help you work through some of the more technical nuts and bolts.
Remember, a podcast takes a lot of work to get off the ground, but not nearly as much work to maintain. If you show up consistently and publish, your audience and rating will grow!
I also link to several products below, some of which I use myself and some of which come highly recommended from sources I trust. (Just a note that many of the links below are Amazon Associates links, so I’ll earn a commission if you click and make a purchase.)
I hope you find this tutorial helpful! Please get in touch and let me know when your first podcast episode is live – I’d LOVE to hear it. You can reach me on Twitter @MeaganFrancis or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Things First: Why Podcast?
- Greater connection with current audience
- The opportunity to reach and convert new listeners/readers
- Ability to cover topics in a new way
- Potential for new revenue – podcast network ad sales, integrated campaigns
- Expanding market: ease of listening, in-dash applications make podcasts more accessible
- Abundant opportunity/low competition in the home/food/family space
- Educating existing audience about what a podcast is and how/when/why to listen
- Finding new listeners within podcast ecosystem
- Getting reviews and ratings
- Consistency – listeners will lose interest quickly if you are not consistent
- Network advertising
- Self-served ads
- Integrated sponsorships
- Sales and promotion of your own products and services
Equipment You’ll Need:
Microphone: You don’t need to spend a lot of money right away – but it is important to have something besides just your computer mic. Here are some options for when you’re just starting out:
- Blue Snowflake, about $40 on Amazon. Podcasting guru Pat Flynn recommends this as an inexpensive and serviceable entry point. It’s not pro level, but it’s definitely a great place to get started if you’re on a tight budget.
- Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone Silver Edition, about $110 on Amazon. A very popular, relatively low-budget option. Good quality for the price and easy to use with your existing computer setup.
- Zoom H4N Portable Digital Recorder, about $229 on Amazon. If you plan to record interviews away from home, this option is worth looking into.
- Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Microphone, about $229 on Amazon. This is the mic I use. It’s very easy to set up and the sound quality is very good for its price point. It most closely mimics a vocal mic, but in USB form which makes it easy to integrate with your computer without the hassle of dealing with XLR, the traditional microphone connector that does not plug directly into a computer. The Rode Podcaster works best with an overhead broadcast boom and shock mount, which you can find at a variety of price points online.
Earbuds or a headset:
No need to get fancy here unless you really want those noise-cancelling earphones – I just use a pair of regular earbuds (my beloved Beats by Dre!) But both you and any guests or co-hosts will need to have some kind of headset or earbuds to reduce the chance of creating feedback between computers.
If you’ll be doing interviews with people in remote locations, you’ll need software to record, software to edit, and sometimes additional software to move the audio files from one place to another. This is where things can get really complicated. Instead of trying to summarize this in my own words, I’m going to link to two articles here that feature two different methods for recording and editing. They’re both extremely comprehensive and do a better job explaining it all than I could!
- Skype – Garage Band via SoundFlower and LineIn – This is the method I use. It allows for greater control of the end product because we can separate out tracks (so, if the dog barks on our end, we can remove that without affecting my guest track.) However, it’s important to note that I have my extremely detail-oriented and techy husband helping me with the process. If I were doing this all on my own, I would probably choose a simpler, more streamlined method.
- Skype – Audacity This link leads to an extremely comprehensive tutorial on getting started podcasting by Pat Flynn. Video #1 demonstrates Pat’s suggestions for recording and editing. Definitely a must-watch.
Music – Finding music for your intro/outro can be tricky. We’ve had good luck finding songs we like on sites like Vimeo Music Store, then contacting the artist directly to negotiate a price and commercial license. GarageBand and other audio recording software often includes a fairly comprehensive selection of free music to choose from, too.
Storage – After you record and edit your podcast, you’ll need a place online to store, or host, the audio file. We use Podcast Hosting by Blubrry. It’s easy to set up, inexpensive, and fast; and we also use Blubrry for other podcast-related services, so it’s nice to keep everything in one place.
Setting Up and Submitting Your Feed – This is a really important and fairly confusing part of the process. The good news is you only have to set up your feed once. I use Blubrry Powerpress, which allows me to publish, syndicate, and submit to iTunes and other podcast applications all in one place. It also collects fairly robust stats. Here’s a link to Blubrry’s podcasting tutorial.
Monetizing Your Podcast
As we discussed during the workshop, I consider podcasting a long-term investment in my brand and my audience, and am only now beginning to consider monetizing options. Podcast ad networks work very similar to the way blog ad networks would…except the ad is in audio form. Each network has its own requirements and standards for how they like the ads to appear (some want preroll + midroll, some just ask for one or the other, and some podcasters even put sponsor spots at the end of the podcast.) Some podcast networks want you to work the advertisement into the flow of the podcast “live,” while others will allow pre-recorded ad spots.
- Approach brands you already work with and incorporate podcast ads into a package deal
- Consider signing up with affiliate networks like Commission Junction or ShareASale. Some options for tracking sales:
- set up landing page on your site and create custom URL to forward; include affiliate links in the landing page
- -or- give custom link that directs automatically through your affiliate link
- -or- give coupon code that allows advertiser to track sales from your show
What options are available to you will depend in large part on how much customizing the affiliate is willing/able to do and what approach you think will work best for your audience.
Don’t forget that your podcast is also an excellent opportunity to make your audience more aware of your blog and any products or services you might offer. So even if you choose not to directly monetize your blog right away, there is definitely the potential to indirectly earn income from it.
Promoting Your Podcast
This is a crucial step: let people know about your podcast! Consistently remind your audience about your show: promote on social media, alert your email list, and post about it on your blog. One standard practice is creating a “show notes” post for each episode, where you not only stream the episode but also pull together resources and links related to your guest or the topic of the show. You can see all my show notes at www.lifelistened.com
Depending on your audience, you may also have to do some educating so that your potential listeners understand how, why, and when to listen! I actually wrote a post teaching readers exactly how to listen to podcasts (and why they would want to!) You can see it here: http://www.thehappiesthome.com/listen-podcasts-beginners-guide-finding-organizing-listening-favorite-shows/
Just remember that podcasting – both producing your own and listening to other peoples’ – comes with a learning curve. As a podcaster, part of your job is to help your existing audience find and listen to your podcast in a way that works for them. So definitely don’t skimp on the promotion aspect!
You’re ready to start!
No, this guide isn’t 100% comprehensive, but if you’ve read the above you know more than I did when I got my podcast up and running.
Here are the steps you need to take now:
- Decide what equipment you want to invest in at first and purchase it.
- Choose software for recording, editing, and publishing your podcast (I’ve given you two options above under “”)
- Come up with a format. Will it just be you talking? Will you have a regular co-host or do interviews? If you’ll have other people on the show, figure out who they will be and set up a time to record together.
- Find music for intros and outros. You can have a canned, prerecorded intro or record the intro live every time. Many podcasters even have professional voice-over artists create fun, catchy intros for them.
- Record and edit your first episode.
- Write a show notes post
- Publish your podcast
- Promote far and wide
- Rinse, repeat! Remember, the most successful podcasts publish frequently and consistently. And I’ve found that the more of a habit I make podcasting, the more likely I am to show up again and again, week after week.
Good luck, break a leg, and don’t forget to let me know when your first episode is live!