The ‘Why’ Behind Your Content
On the road to learning how to start a podcast, asking yourself why you want to start one is the first step. It’s at this point that you make the most crucial decisions about your podcast. Your answer now will inform your marketing moves and the way you build your content.
Here are a few points to consider:
- Is your podcast an extension of something else you do (a blog, a Youtube channel, a newsletter, etc) or is the podcast the centerpiece that other things will be built around?
- Is this a podcast built for business purposes (whether for internal communications and training or branding and lead generation), or a personal project that you hope to expand on?
- What sort of story do you want to tell with your content – are you aiming for fiction or nonfiction? Episodic (like news or talk shows) or serialized (with a specific listening order)?
- Does your podcast aim to sell a service or a narrative, or does it exist as a resource for others to utilize in their journey to learn?
- What is your main goal? How will you define success for your content?
Going through these questions will help give you an idea of your audience, your update schedule, and even the tone you want to use when writing your podcast description/show notes/interactions on social media. Speaking of your audience…
Who Is Your Audience?
While learning about how to start a podcast and finding your reason for wanting to do it, you should also consider who you want as your intended audience.
For example, if you’re a more business-oriented podcast – like if your podcast is an extension of your brand, and you’re utilizing your podcast to sell a service – you’ll want to think about the kind of people that can benefit from your service. If you’re a fiction podcast, you’ll want to think about the kind of listeners that will enjoy and benefit from the narrative you’re telling. If you’re a podcast that focuses on pop culture topics, you’ll want to think about the people who will enjoy the topics you choose and enjoy your take on them.
It helps to imagine your perfect listener (or audience avatar). Are they quiet and more suited to a laid-back podcast, or heavily passionate about the literary theory you’re using for your analysis? How does this impact how they enjoy other pieces of content? How can you direct your content to be something they enjoy? How will they be listening to your show? Even further to that question, how is your perfect listener engaging with similar content?
By focusing on your audience avatar, you allow yourself to create more nuanced content and take more granular control over your show’s direction and promotion. This granular take will do more in attracting your audience than trying to take into consideration a thousand viewpoints. For example, say you want to start a podcast on comic books, which is a broad topic that appeals to a wide, casual audience. However, if you were to focus on one particular imprint, one particular comic run, or one particular character that you think your audience avatar wants to hear about, your audience can more easily identify what you are offering and why they might enjoy listening. If you aren’t already highly familiar with whatever space or subject matter you’re considering, spend some time doing a bit of research online and getting to know existing content and communities. You’ll be able to see what topics come up a lot, what your avatar’s interests are, even the “language” they speak and the ways they prefer to interact online. This will all help you hone your content, but especially your outreach.
If you’re concerned that someone has already covered a topic that you’re interested in starting a podcast for, think about what your unique take will be that you present to the audience. Maybe you’re covering an angle that few other people have covered, or you’re presenting it in a different format that other podcasters. The granular take can help you stand out from the crowd and know just who you are targeting. It also might allow you to cross-promote with others who have similar audiences, but slightly different approaches or niches.
Do you need an audience to start your podcast? Keeping your audience avatar in mind while creating your show is important, but you don’t need a large social media footprint to start podcasting. No matter what your online presence is, we have further resources on how to grow your audience before your podcast launches, which we’ll cover further down.
What’s Your Podcast’s Elevator Pitch?
In our Podbean 101 webinar, we make it a point to tell our attendees that the most important parts of their podcast are the title, description, podcasting categories, and logo. We’ll cover your logo and description further down, but let’s focus on your title and your description.
Your title and podcast description are what listeners look at when they browse podcasts in Apple Podcast, Spotify, Podbean, and other directories. In fact, an overwhelming majority of listeners say that a podcast description can make or break their decision to tune in.
In SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder, he explains that a script’s elevator pitch, or one-line, is the logline or one-sentence description that gives 4 big details about a project:
- The Hook: usually a twist that grabs the attention
- The Compelling Mental Picture: a good idea of where the script is taking place
- Audience: who the intended audience is
- The Title: the ultimate component that’s going to describe the premise
Whether or not your podcast is scripted, you can take these components and use them to write a good one-sentence description of your podcast. From there, you can build it up into your podcast’s pitch and description.
With Podbean, you have 1000 characters for your podcast’s description and 200 for your title. This is plenty of room to create a description of your podcast that entices the listener, informs them of the intended audience, and tells them how they can listen.
In our recent interview with Amy Whitney, she explores an important step to take with your description: SEO. By looking at the descriptions of podcasts within your genre, you can pick out phrases that are relevant to your podcast as well. In doing so, you’ll be beefing up your podcast’s SERP responses (SERP means Search Engine Results Pages) so that your podcast can be discovered and prioritized over other podcasts on the similar topic using specific keywords and search terms.
Naming Your Podcast
We’re not going to lie: in learning how to start a podcast and getting yours off the ground, a name can often be the hardest part. It’s the name that everyone is going to say. You’re going to say it a thousand times when talking about your content. It’s going to be on your podcast cover, your Podbean URL, and maybe business cards and merchandise you’ll be giving out at events.
Your name should pull double duty in being both descriptive of your content and being an enticing hook for your potential and current listeners. It’s one of the first things that listeners see from your show, so it can do a good deal of the work in drawing your listeners in. For some directories and podcast apps, such as Apple Podcasts, they’ll only use your title and author tags in their searches (and for some, just the titles). So your title really is your key place to use some good keywords without going overboard.
While there are really no rules in what you can name your podcast, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to how not to name your podcast.
- Hashtags and Keywords:In the desire to get your content in front of as many people as possible, you may feel the urge to use hashtags and keywords. While this is fine, the trouble lies in making your title nothing but hashtags and keywords you think people are searching for. iTunes/Apple Podcasts may either mark your podcast as spam or reject your RSS feed from the directory on the basis of it being spam. This goes for your description as well.
- Using Your Name: Unless you’re already popular with a large following that is quite familiar with your name, you should resist the urge to use your own name. Calling your podcast “The Allen Johnson Show” gives your audience knowledge of your name but little else. (There are some exceptions to this, of course – if you’re a name in the field and want your listeners to know, you can easily make your title something like “(Topic) with Dr. Allen Johnson.” Just use your best judgment.)
- Copying Another Show: Copying Another Show: We spoke about reverse-engineering your podcast description, but this should not hold over with your podcast name. Naming your show after another show is problematic and can confuse listeners, and it may even cause legal issues if the other show is trademarked. It may be different if your show is about the previous show (ex. THE JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE EXPERIENCE being a show analyzing The Joe Rogan Experience, or Good Morning Nightvale being a recap show for Welcome to Nightvale), but otherwise do your best to keep your podcast name original.
2. Planning Your Episodes
According to Pacific Content, the average length of a podcast episode is about 38 minutes. They cite that they create their podcast episodes around the mean average time the average US worker commutes, which is definitely one way to decide how long your episodes should be. However, you should also consider your content and how often you want to publish.
There are podcasts who enjoy microcasting (publishing episodes 5-7 minutes long), and there are popular podcasts pushing episodes that are several hours long (such as Joe Rogan Podcast). These short-form and long-form formats work better for different types of content. Your podcast length should take into account your chosen topic and the number of hosts on your show. This is also the point where research into other podcasts in your topic and genre could benefit you and your podcast. How long are their shows? How often are they publishing? Does your avatar like that type of show (or could they be looking for something different)?
Remember that you’re going to be listening to this content to edit it as well (or, if someone else is editing it for you, they’ll be listening to it to edit it). A good rule of thumb is that editing time is going to last about two to three times as long as your episode length is, so it’s best to keep this in mind when considering your working time to best plan out your podcast episodes.
Don’t be afraid to start small and grow your episode length as your podcast progresses. Starting with shorter episodes allows you to get used to the practice of editing and recording without overworking yourself. Be aware, though, that starting big and growing smaller general pushes listeners away instead of bringing them in, which is another reason to start small and grow from there.
Organizing Your Content
Depending on your podcasting genre and topic, you’ll have the opportunity to organize your content into segments that feature in each episode. Much like the news organizes itself by weather, sports, traffic, and such, you can create segments that your listeners can grow to depend on hearing.
Breaking your content into segments also allows you to keep your show’s focus without meandering off into other topics, meaning you won’t lose your listeners while you go off on a tangent. It also doubles as a good break in your content for things like advertisements and knowing where those breaks are located allows you to do things like monetize your back episodes.
Let’s bring back our comic book podcast example from before. What sort of segments could we create? You could cover recent releases, news in the industry, highlights of any writers/artists that do something you want to bring attention to, etc. Much like the news segments itself into breaking news, weather, traffic, sports, and smaller topics, you can also organize your content into dependable segments for your listeners to anticipate. You could even go a step further and intersperse these segments with music to highlight their separation, which will also give you a good spot for advertisements should you choose to monetize your podcast down the line.
Your Posting Schedule
Your posting schedule will contextualize your episode length. If you’re posting longer episodes, you can take the chance of having longer wait-times between episodes, whereas if you’re posting shorter episodes, you can have shorter wait times. Once again, there are exceptions to this (most notably Joe Rogan, who publishes hours-long episodes daily), but these general guidelines are a good place to start. They’re malleable, allowing you to adjust them as you start your podcast and move forward, and they remind you to keep your personal bandwidth in mind so you don’t take on too much.
(Sidenote: What is personal bandwidth? We bring this up in several of our webinars, but your personal bandwidth is basically what you have the energy and means to accomplish in a specific period of time. Sometimes we start to do something or agree to do something that overextends and overexerts our personal energy, leaving us distressed and unable to operate to our best ability. We have some tips coming up to help you balance some of your podcasting tasks, but the first step is taking into consideration what you’re able to do right now without overworking yourself. You may also encounter the term “podfade,” which refers to podcasters getting burnt out and quitting their show. Very few podcasts make it past 10 episodes, often a result of underestimating the bandwidth podcasting will take.)
Much like with episode length, feel free to start with a more sparse schedule and grow from there. Increasing your episodes throughout the month shows that your podcast is growing, and lets you explore to find the best times for publishing your content. Once again, be careful with starting with rapid-fire episodes and pulling back.
This is also your chance to decide if you want to publish episodically or serially. An episodic podcast is one that publishes daily/weekly/monthly, in the same vein of news programs or current event-based topics. The episodes stand alone and have no specific order to listen to/enjoy the content. A serialized podcast is one that utilizes seasons as an organizational tool, with seasons being organized by topic or theme that builds upon each other.
Pros to episodic podcasts: Regular updates have a higher chance of retaining an audience for longer, and the increase of updates means that you’re constantly creating content that can be indexed by search engines. Listeners can enjoy them in whatever order they wish (they can be evergreen or timely).
Cons to episode podcasts: The regular updates mean that your chances for breaks/downtime diminish, and if there’s a technical issue it will be more likely to push your publish date back. Time-sensitive episodes may be less likely to get ongoing traffic/become dated.
Pros to serialized podcasts: Having a specific start and end date to your podcast season means you can organize your content better, and frame topics with other similar topics. Listeners often tend to binge the whole series (or anxiously await the next episode, if not released all at one/already released).
Cons to serialized podcasts: It’s harder to keep up the hype between seasons, meaning you’ll be doing a lot more promotion work between seasons to keep up your momentum.
It’s up to you to determine which method works best for you, your podcasting style/topic, and your personal bandwidth.
3. Recording Your Podcast
When it comes to learning how to record your podcast, it can generally be broken down into hardware and software. However, there are some best practices to follow no matter how you’re recording your podcast.
How To Record Your Podcast Efficiently
- All the work that you put in with your podcast episodes – design, structure, length, etc – is for nothing if you don’t at least have a set of notes to keep things organized. While it’s your decision to script your content or not, it would be a benefit to you, your podcast, and your listeners to at least jot a few things down before you record.
- Remember to hydrate yourself and warm up your voice before you start recording. Not only will it help you speak steadily, but it will also help clear out any nervousness or anxiety you have about recording.
- You do not need a soundproof room to record, or even soundproof paneling (though if you want to invest in these things later that may be a good option). But you can also choose the best recording space possible and make some minor changes that will positively affect your recording. Big rooms with flat walls tend to echo, so try propping some pillows up around your mic and hanging blankets on your walls. If that’s not possible, try to record in a place with some clutter as that will disrupt any echo.
- Figure out how you’re going to position yourself while recording and do some test recording in that position to make sure your sound quality is good while in that position. Whether you’re standing, sitting, or lying down, you want to make sure that you test how your audio sounds so you can ensure you’re in the right position with your recording equipment. Also keep in mind that you’re going to be in this position for all of your recording, so it should be comfortable while also maintaining a good distance with your microphone.
You don’t need anything more than your phone to start recording your podcast. With the Podbean app, you can record and edit your content directly in the podcast app and upload it directly to your podcast feed. It’s a great way to start a podcast and get it out to the world, and there are even microphones on the market made specifically for mobile devices.
However, as your podcast grows and you become more involved with podcasting, you’ll have the choice to invest in two areas: your hardware and your software.
Hardware covers all the physical components you need when recording your podcast, including your computer, your mic, your cords/cables, and external mixers. There are different ways to set up your recording gear for different kinds of recording situations and environments.
Any computer works for recording, from the most powerful iMac and PC built to the small netbook you use for traveling. Keep in mind that your chosen computer will need to be able to run your DAW (digital audio workstation), meaning it needs the ability to run programs and needs the RAM to do so. You’ll also want USB ports to plug in your gear.
Microphones come in all shapes, sizes, and specifications to suit all budgets. The two key things to note are how they connect with your computer (through the USB port, making it a USB mic, or through an external mixer, making it an XLR mic), and how they pick up and output recorded sound (popular types of microphones are dynamic and condenser mics). USB mics traditionally facilitate a plug-and-play style of recording. However, mics that utilize XLR cables will need additional gear in the form of an external interface/mixer and cables to act as a go-between.
A Brief Overview of Dynamic Mics vs. Condenser Mics
Dynamic mics are often considered a rugged, versatile microphone for various situations. Due to their design, dynamic microphones provide high-quality recording and can handle loud frequencies and volumes, as well as can handle various temperatures and climate changes. A dynamic microphone will pick up fewer frequencies than a condenser microphone, but don’t let this take away from your thoughts of if a dynamic mic is right for you. Dynamic mics are great for studio recording and, due to tier sturdy nature, make great remote recording/travel mics.
Condenser mics are more sensitive than their dynamic counterparts in that they pick up more sound and capture a wider array of audio frequencies. A condenser mic will often capture a “closer to real” sound of what it’s recording. However, that also means that condenser mics become more susceptible to damage at higher frequencies/volumes and can often pick up unwanted noise during recording. A condenser also requires external power from an interface (called phantom power).
An interface is what you plug your XLR mic into, so you can control how much sound it’s picking up and putting out to your recording software. These interfaces will also have the ability to provide extra power to condenser mics (called Phantom Power or 48Ω), which need external power beyond your computer. These can be simple one-channel (IE one microphone) interfaces, or interfaces that have multiple channels for multiple mics. Multi-channel (or multi-microphone) interfaces are perfect for recording multiple people at the same time, so if you have multiple cohosts or anticipate having many guests at once, this would be a good tool to invest in.
Your recording software (also known as your DAW or Digital Audio Workstation) is going to be the program you record and edit with. You’ll want to become familiar with your DAW of choice, but they all offer the ability to record and edit your podcast audio. They come at a wide variety of price points suited for all budgets, but most will offer the same basic things.
The key thing to look for in your software is the ease of maneuverability in the interface. Because you’re going to be spending quite some time in this software recording and editing your podcast, you want to make sure that it’s a software that flows smoothly for you.
Some software to explore:
- Audacity (free and open-source, great for getting started)
- Adobe Audition
- FL Studio
- Ableton Live
- Logic Pro
Each of these allows you to record and edit your audio content, and the higher-end software usually has extra tools for doing different audio-related tasks, but the basics are covered with most DAW.