Starting a Podcast – How to Find the Right Equipment, Record, and Build an Audience

By November 26, 2014 Blog No Comments
startingapodcastfeatured

startingapodcastfeatured

There is no doubt that podcasting can take any brand to the next level. It provides you with an additional channel for engaging your audience and building a following. It creates a personal connection with your listeners that just simply can not be duplicated through text or other means. But without specific knowledge, starting a podcast can be a real challenge. In fact – according to Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income, his Podcast was the number one way in which people found out about his blog. That’s kind of amazing, given how large his blog has become in its own right.

The increase in exposure makes podcasting a good idea for any business that can find enough content to make a podcast worthwhile. This should be achievable in most industries. For hobbyists, it likely is going to be a much simpler endeavor as they already have the podcast subject matter outlined.

Starting a Podcast – First Rule

The first and likely most important thing that needs to be considered before starting a podcast:

Do you have the commitment?

Like starting a blog, podcasting is exceptionally hard work and takes a long time to build up any sort of following.

Your first few episodes may be heard by literally no one. Of course, this helps if you have a semi-popular platform that you can leverage for your first listeners.

You’ll never find success in podcasting if you create a few episodes and then fade off into the distance.

Think of a podcast like a new TV show. If two episodes air and then then the company announces that the show has been cancelled and will not return for additional seasons – you’ll be much less likely to dedicate time into watching the first season.

This applies to podcasts as well. People want to follow a story. They want to get familiar with you as a host and follow along as your popularity grows.

Be committed. When you start, tell yourself that you aren’t just going to record one episode. You’re going to record 30. Then you can re-evaluate whether or not you would like to continue – because that is how long it takes to build any kind of audience for your podcasts.

In order for your podcast to be successful, you also have to enjoy it. If you aren’t enjoying the entire process, you probably won’t have the motivation and dedication required in order to grow it into something special.

How does Podcasting Work?

Before you can start podcasting, it is very important that you have an understanding of how podcasting works.

It’s not as simple as hitting the record button, and then hitting the upload button. It’s not too difficult – but certainly will take some time for you to familiarize yourself with the process. The good news is that it is likely easy enough for you to figure out in its entirety, and streamline the process for the quick recording of episodes.

Every episode that you create will be composed of one audio file. This audio file is most likely going to be a .mp3 or a .wav file. These are the most generally accepted file types of audio files, and you want to make sure that you make things as easy as possible for your readers.

We’ll get to the required recording equipment here in a bit, as some equipment will be required in order to record your podcast.

After recording your podcast, you have to name the file. I would recommend keeping it simple. For my first CopyThrive podcast, I named it CT001.mp3. This includes the acronym for CopyThrive, and an indicator of which episode has been record.

Once you have created the file, you don’t want to upload this file right away. Instead, you should tag the file with metadata and ID3 tags. This helps to ensure that the multitude of podcast players can display important data about your podcast. This can include the title of the podcast, the name of the host, the episode number of the particular podcast, and the cover design or avatar of your podcast. This is important branding information. It’s critical that this information is included in your file – or else you may lose potential readers.

Podcast Hosting

Once the audio has been tagged properly, then you can upload it. You can choose to host it on your own server, or use one of the many podcast hosting services that are out there. Personally, I would recommend hosting the podcast with the podcast hosting services as these audio files eat up a lot of bandwidth.

Some of the more podcast hosting services include;

RSS Feeds

It is important that you understand that although your podcast might be available on iTunes, it is not going to be hosted there. iTunes pulls the audio files from other hosts using an RSS feed.

If you aren’t familiar with RSS feeds – don’t be alarmed. They are relatively simple. In essence, they provide a standard way in which content can be syndicated. Sometimes blogs have RSS feeds, allowing others to use these feeds and syndicate the content that is posted.

For instance, websites like AllTop.com use RSS feeds to provide a streamlined way for users to see the most popular blogs within a given industry. There are many websites and applications that use RSS feeds for this purpose.

RSS feeds for podcasts work in a similar way. They provide a streamlined way for other third-party websites to syndicate your podcasts. When you create a podcast, Apple directly pulls your audio files from your feed and displays them on their own website. This might sound complicated, but the actual process of creating and generating feeds is relatively simple – but we’ll get to that here in a bit.

Considerations Before Starting

There are a few things that you need to consider before starting your podcast in order to ensure that you are creating something that is truly valuable, easy to promote, and tone-appropriate for your brand.

A few of the things you need to plan before hitting that record button;

The Title of your Podcast

Start by deciding what the title of your podcast is going to be. This is important as it will be the first point of entry for your brand into the mind of your listeners.

Branding is extremely important for a podcast.

I recommend choosing a title that is actually descriptive of what kind of content that you will be delivering.

But also take into consideration that iTunes is a search engine and you need to optimize the title of your podcast in order to help iTunes users search for your podcast. Many choose to do this through keyword injection into the title.

For instance one way we might set up our podcast on iTunes might look like this;

CopyThrive Podcast: Internet Business | Blogging | Content Marketing | SEO

This gives users several different terms that they can search for – and our podcast will be relevant to their interests. This is an excellent way to ensure that your podcast shows up as a source for multiple keywords and is easily discoverable for your audience.

The Host of the Podcast

The host of the podcast is every bit as important for your brand as the actual name of your podcast. Although most people use their real name (and you might want to for personal branding purposes), but you can also use a pen name if you prefer.

Try to stay within the bounds of reality. Don’t choose an over the top pen name. You want your podcast to have some credibility. I would recommend using your real name (or the name in which you do business under) so that you can leverage the podcast for your personal brand.

The Summary/Description

When you share your podcast in iTunes, you have 4000 characters to describe your podcast. Try to be straightforward and engaging with your summary and description as it can really help others to find you. Use good copywriting practices in your summary and description. This is an excellent space that can be used to drum up interest in your podcast for users that are on the fence.

Even some of the most popular podcasts desperately underestimate the effect that a great description could have. Make sure that you are keeping the important bits above the fold for most users, and putting some of the keywords and search-related filler content below the fold.

Great Artwork

The artwork for your podcast might actually be the most important aspect of getting some traction in the search results. The square image that you create will represent your podcast and be the image that sticks in the mind of your users.

The artwork for your podcast will be what people see when they come across your podcast in iTunes and other podcasting directories.

You want to make sure that your artwork;

  • Stands out from the crowd. If you can find a way to make it eye-catching without losing credibility you have a much better chance of getting them to click on it and therefore listen to your podcast.
  • A better chance of being featured. Podcasts with great looking artwork are much more likely to be chosen to become a “Staff Pick” or be featured in the “New and Noteworthy” section. If you have a budget for your podcast, starting with great artwork is an excellent idea.
  • Descriptive and informational. Your podcast artwork should be descriptive and informational. It should be immediately clear what your podcast is about from just looking at your image.

Specifications;

There are a few specifications that need to be taken into account when creating the artwork for your album. Keep these things in mind;

  • Your image must be 1400 x 1400 pixels. Of course, the image will be resized in most areas where it is displayed but for quality purposes – always use images of this size.
  • Must be a .jpg or .png file. I would also recommend saving it in the highest quality settings.
  • Readable in smaller sizes. Make sure that the name of your podcast and any descriptive terms are easily readable at smaller sizes. You can resize the image yourself to see how readable your text is.

Podcasting Equipment 

When you decide to start podcasting, understand that quality is going to be a limiting factor in the popularity of your podcast. If you use a low quality mic, your listeners will be able to tell even if it is somewhat subconscious.

But don’t fret – there are some great options available to beginners at reasonable prices. You don’t have to break the bank in order to set up a great podcasting setup that will sound good enough

The first thing that you need to understand is that the amount of equipment that you will require is going to depend mostly upon the mic that you choose.

Although there are exceptions to this fact, these basic rules apply to different types of microphones;

  • Headset Microphones: Although headset microphones might be the most comfortable to use and easiest to setup – I would not recommend using them. A vast majority of them will not have the quality level that you need to produce a high quality podcast without significant investment. I’ll be including some headset microphones in my recommendations list, but be warned that for the price you could get an XLR microphone that provides a much higher level of quality.
  • USB Microphones: USB microphones usually require the least amount of equipment. In most cases you will just need the microphone and a stand that will be suitable for your setup. Most microphones are also available in a package that comes complete with a stand (stands are generally usable with any type of microphone) and shockmount (the piece that connects to the stand and physically holds the mic). USB microphones in general produce lower quality audio than XLR microphones. However, there are plenty of USB microphones that are high enough quality for proper podcasting.
  • XLR Microphones: XLR microphones feature 3-pronged connection that require specific cables and equipment, but are generally much higher in quality than USB microphones. These are the microphones that are used in recording studios and produce a crisp sound quality. In order to run an XLR microphone into your computer you will need a Pre-Amp, which powers the microphone and allows you to set certain settings. There is a bit more of a learning curve to XLR microphones, but the quality ceiling is much higher. Decent XLR microphones can be purchased for $100-$200.

Equipment Recommendations

Here I’ll recommend some different pieces of equipment that can help you to create an extremely high quality podcast for relatively little investment. I’ll also suggest other pieces of equipment in conjunction with the microphone of your choice, in order to ensure that you have an idea of the total amount of equipment that you will need to purchase in order to be up and running.

Headset Microphones for Podcasting


 

Audio-Technical Broadcast Stereo Headset with Dynamic Mic Boom (XLR) 

audiotechnica

This is one of the few headset microphones that come with XLR inputs. It’s actually a very high quality microphone and I would recommend it to those that are deadset on getting a headset microphone. It delivers excellent quality, but is going to require the purchase of a Pre-Amp.

Necessary Purchase:  Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface


 

USB Microphones for Podcasting

USB Microphones provide some pretty solid quality, and are a good medium between headset microphones and XLR input microphones. There are quite a few USB microphones that are suitable choices for a podcast for the price. Here are some of the better microphones available for purchase;

Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone (XLR and USB)

audiotechnicausbxlr

This handheld dynamic microphone is an excellent budget choice for podcasters that want to get their feet wet. It provides pretty solid quality – certainly good enough to get started. Additionally, the fact that it works with both USB and XLR setups, which provides some flexibility. This would be a good starting point for anyone that wants to give podcasting a try but doesn’t want to make a huge initial investment.

Necessary Purchase (for XLR usage):  Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface


 

Blue Microphones Snowflake USB Microphone

blueusb

Blue Microphones have long been a powerhouse in the community. They are known for their excellent quality, but their low-priced options like this one are not anywhere near the standard of their other studio microphones. As USB microphones go – this one isn’t bad. It doesn’t have the warmth that you would expect from a Blue Microphone but it is quality nonetheless.


 

XLR Microphones for Podcasting

XLR Microphones provide the highest quality of any microphone. They are the same type of mic that are often used in radio programs and recording studio. They are usually a bit more expensive, but

Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone

heil

The Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone is the best quality microphone available at a budget price. It is a bit more expensive than the other microphones on this list, and since it is an XLR mic, it requires the purchase of a preamp. If you know that you are going to go all-in with your podcasting efforts, you might want to make the investment.The Heil delivers superior audio quality with the right warmth for a podcasting setup.

Necessary Purchase:  Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface


 

Audio Technica AT2020 Condenser Studio Microphone Bundle with Pop Filter and XLR Cable

71urk-wH-gL._SL1262_

The Audio Technica is a budget XLR microphone that is excellent for podcasting. With the pack that includes a pop filter and XLR cable, you get several items that you will require in order to use the mic. Like other XLR microphones, you will also need to ensure that you are able to secure a PreAmp with phantom power. For the price, the Audio Technica is an excellent choice.

Necessary Purchase:  Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface


 

Recording Software for Podcasting

There are many different software options for recording audio. Some are simple, some are much more advanced. The type of software that you choose depends on your own tastes. I do have some recommendations, as I have used a lot of these different options when recording songs or podcasts for niche sites.

Audio Recording Programs for Podcasts:

  • Audacity – Audacity is a relatively simple, free audio recording software. It is probably the most popular podcast recording software for beginners, because of the free price tag. It definitely provides a good starting point for anyone that is looking to get their feet wet.
  • Adobe Audition CC [Digital Membership] – Adobe Audition was originally released as Cool Edit Pro, and was one of the most popular audio recording programs. It was later released by Adobe and is available for a small monthly price through their digital membership. This is the software that I use in all of my audio projects.

Software for Recording Interviews and Co-Hosts:

Many podcasts will feature co-hosts or interviewees, and recording them can be a bit of a hassle. For this I recommend using Pamela for Skype. It’s the only software that I have ever used for this purpose and it has always been an excellent resource for me. It is simple to use, and allows you to record those that you are chatting over Skype with. I would recommend this software to anyone that is going to be interacting with guests in any way over Skype.

Podcasting Tips

Now that you have an understanding of the equipment that will be required in order to start your podcast, you need to take into account that simply having the equipment isn’t going to do too much for you. You have to actually employ some solid marketing techniques in order to hold the interest of your users.

There is a lot that goes into making your show engaging. Listening to someone that sounds like they belong on NPR, droning on for hours at a time can get old really quickly. You have to find ways to break up your podcast to keep the ear of the listener.

Here are some podcasting tips that you can employ to help keep your show interesting for your users;

Tip 1: Learn How to Mix Vocals

If there is one thing that affects the quality of your production more than anything else – it is the quality of your audios. This is a two-headed dragon. One main consideration for vocal quality is obviously going to be the quality of the mic that you purchase. But, in the end – your mic just sets a high bar. Great sounding podcasts have to be mixed properly in order to achieve a great amount of warmth and consistent sound throughout the entirety of your podcast. Learning how to mix vocals is not all that difficult – because you only need to get the basics down. It’s not like you have to learn how to mix vocals over instruments and percussion. That is a completely different situation.

In order to learn the basics, I would recommend checking out this course on UDemy , which provides a good overview of mixing vocals. It focuses on GarageBand, but many of the principles that are gone over throughout the course can be applied to nearly any program.

Tip 2: Create an Interesting Intro and Outro

A good podcast intro is great for branding and gives of the aura of professionalism. You can outsource your podcast intro fairly easily on Fiverr, which has a lot of voice talent available. There are even gigs that are designed specifically for podcast intros.

Make sure that your intro explains your podcast in-depth, and gives a good indication of the type of content that you will be providing. If you want to really go the extra mile, you can custom craft an intro for each episode. If you decide to do that, you can have your voiceover talent introduce guests and the like.

An Outro is also an excellent investment. You don’t necessarily need a voiceover artist for this aspect. Simply breaking down the information that you have shared in the podcast and letting your audience know where they can find more information about you is enough. Make sure that you end each podcast with an informational outro that recaps the episode and lets your audience know where they can find more from you. Make sure to display a call to action at the end of your podcast for those that would like to see more.

Tip 3: Decide How Long Each Episode Should Be

Understanding how long your podcast should be depends entirely upon your content. It should be as long as it needs to be, and no shorter or longer. Make sure that every minute of your podcast is engaging and on point. Don’t drag things out with useless content. Don’t try to make it overly short and sweet, while neglecting content that could be added to the podcast.

In the end, you need to be certain that you are able to deliver the best overall experience to your users. This is done by making every minute of your podcast as engaging as the last and knowing when to calls it quits.

Remember, you can always cut the podcast down in post-production. This is especially true for podcasts with sponsors, as they provide a natural break point in the conversations that you are having.

Tip 4: Direct Listeners to Your Website

Occasionally throughout your podcast, you need to be directing your listeners back to your webpage or blog. This can’t be understated. You should be doing this in the beginning, middle, and end of every podcast, preferably with both an audible and visual (for video podcasts) call to action. They might be listening to that one episode, but they need to find out where they can go to learn more, don’t they? Always let them know where they can go to keep up with your blog and future episodes.

Tip 5: Long Episodes Need Segments

If you are planning on producing a podcast that is longer than 30 minutes for each episode – you have to make sure that you are giving your listeners room to breath. Long episodes absolutely need segments. Think of the different sections that you are going to be including in each episode. These segments also give you a natural place in which you can include sponsored content.

Some different types of segments you might consider including;

  • Intro
  • Recap and Preview
  • Feature
  • Tips
  • ___ of the Day

You can also create individual intros for each of these section, which will make it much easier for you to ensure that you are properly spacing things out and giving your listeners time to breath. Remember – sometimes your listeners can’t listen to an entire podcast in one sitting. This gives them natural points in which they can pause and return later.

Tip 6: Don’t Over-Produce

You all know what I am talking about. When podcasts are filled with wacky sounds that would have been included in some 1990s radio program, it really grates on the listener. A little bit here, a little there, sure. But don’t over-produce your podcast to the point that things become annoying to your users. In the end, this will only backfire on you.

Feeds and Podcast Publishing

Now, back to the technical stuff.

In order to publish a feed that directories can read correctly, there are multiple tools that can be used.

Creating Feeds

For those that are running their site on the WordPress blogging platform, I would recommend using the Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting Plugin. It is by far the best plugin for podcasts and actually receives consistent support, which can’t be said for the other podcasting plugins that I have come across.

The plugin allows you to change the look and feel of your media player, which can play media files from whatever host you choose to go with.

This plugin allows you to completely automate the creation of your feeds. Just install the plugin, and go to the “settings” page on your dashboard. This is where you can edit the settings to ensure that all of the relevant information is displayed on your feed.

In the “Settings” page, click on “Feeds.”

This is the page where you can set your settings to ensure that your feed is created and then is able to be submitted to iTunes and other podcasting directories. This feed will be separate from any other RSS feed that is already created for your website. Make sure that you set the “Show the Most Recent” setting to a number that is much higher than 10. That way the directories will display every podcast that you create.

Once installed, the plugin adds a new section to every new post that you create inside WordPress, below the content area. Here you can add the episode name of your list.

Submitting to iTunes

Submitting your podcast to iTunes is relatively simple and straightforward.

Click here to open iTunes and be taken to the submission page.

Take the URL of your feed, and submit it to iTunes. Then, follow the steps that they walk you through.

You can also use Stitcher to submit your podcast to a wide range of content providers as well.  It’s a great tool for building awareness and driving new listeners to your blog.

Conclusion

There you have it. Step by step, the things that you need to take into consideration when you create a podcast.

Remember – in order to be successful, you have to dedicate yourself to your podcast. Commit to a number of episodes from the very beginning. That way you won’t become discouraged after publishing 5 episodes and not seeing any significant growth. It takes a whole lot of time to create a high quality podcast that attracts listeners but it becomes much easier when you have a catalog of podcasts available for your would-be listeners to listen to.

 

Schedule a Free Consultation Talk to us!