I recently started doing a podcast called Millennials in China with a friend. Having gone through the entire process of setting up the podcast, I thought it would be valuable to share it here on my blog.
You should consider the following things when starting a podcast:
- What is your brand/content going to be, and who is your target audience.
- Which format is more suitable for your podcast – solo, two person dialogue, or interviews.
- What equipment/software are necessary for recording your podcast.
- Which hosting service to use for uploading and hosting your podcast.
- Which distribution channels are available for your podcast.
- How might you monetize your podcast.
Now, I’ll walk through them one-by-one, based on my own research and experience.
1. Positioning Your Podcast
Before you start, you should have a vision of what your podcast will be like, what it will talk about, and who the target audience are. For most people, the goal of starting a podcast is to either: a) build a media platform to give yourself a voice and develop a following, which you can leverage for other purposes; b) to grow a large enough following so that you can monetize it.
Whichever goal you have (even if you just want to start a podcast for fun and develop your radio voice), you should have a plan before starting. Of course, you may not have everything figured out to the tee, but it’s good to have a general direction and a plan of the content you will produce.
Most importantly though, you must adhere to a strict schedule of producing content. The number one reason most podcasts and blogs die is that the creator gets bored of it or loses discipline, and stops producing content consistently.
2. Podcasting Format
Typically, popular podcasts involve dialogue between two people, usually co-hosts or a host and an interview guest. This format is most popular because people enjoy listening to a conversation – it sounds more natural, less staged, and is generally more interesting than one person’s monologue.
If you are podcasting on a certain niche area, you can think about interviewing guests in that niche, which should provide your podcast with a good diversity of content as well as a refreshing level of novelty.
On the note of targeting a niche – doing a podcast can also be a great way to network with experts and leaders in your niche. You are possibly creating a win-win situation by having a guest on your show – you mutually get exposure and endorsement.
3. Podcasting Equipment and Software
Podcasting can be done with minimal equipment and free, open-source software.
If you are just starting out and not too serious about professional quality, you can simply record your podcast using regular headphones with microphone input. If you are recording your podcast with a guest, you can simply do it via Zoom (or any other video/audio conferencing app) and its recording function. Alternatively, you can each record your own audio input locally (better quality) using a free open-source software like Audacity, and then you can stitch them together afterwards.
If you are serious about quality and having crispy clean audio, then you should absolutely invest in a professional microphone. An entry level professional mic costs only about $150, and a favourite of podcasters is the Blue Yeti USB Mic. It’s very easy to use – simply plug it into the USB socket on your computer and update the audio input settings on your computer. If you feel $150 is a bit too much, then you can start with a budget microphone such as the Samson Go, which only sets you back about $70 and is great value for money.
In terms of editing the recording, you can use Audacity – the UI is a bit old school since it’s an open-source software, but it does the job. If you are a Macbook user, you can also use GarageBand. Adobe Audition is a more professional software but it’ll cost you some money.
4. Hosting Your Podcast
The most important technical part of doing your podcast is actually hosting it on the internet and distributing it to various channels. Podcast hosting is similar in concept to website hosting – you pay monthly subscription fees to a company for them to host your data on their servers.
Some popular platforms for podcast hosting include Libsyn (Liberated Syndication) and Buzzsprout. I did plenty of research and comparison between the few popular platforms, and I ended up picking Libsyn. I knew of some podcasters who used it already, and they all gave positive feedback, and I can say that so far I have enjoyed using Libsyn. It has a slightly old school UI, but it is straightforward to understand and functions very well. No frills and effective. The hosting package starts at $5/month for 50MB, which is really only enough space for one typical podcast episode – okay for once a month episodes. Personally, I am using the $15/month package for 250MB, meaning that we have enough storage to release an episode every week. Your episodes, once uploaded and published, will be stored on Libsyn’s servers for as long as you are a member.
When you upload a podcast recording, you are able to input the title, description, and a bunch of other relevant information for the episode. As well, you are able to determine the info/descriptions for the podcast as a whole. With Libsyn you automatically get a webpage for your podcast, but under a libsyn.com domain. If you want to have your own domain for your podcast webpage (e.g. bestpodcast.com), you can simply buy a domain from a site like Namecheap and then connect the domain in Libsyn.
5. Podcast Distribution
Distributing your podcast means getting it published on user end podcast apps such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, etc. For some apps such as Spotify and Google Podcasts, the process is easy and automatic with Libsyn. You just have to select them as distribution destinations in your Libsyn account, and every new episode you upload will be automatically published on those apps.
For other apps such as iTunes, you need to go to their respective creator websites and sign in, then claim your podcast using the RRS feed link found in your Libsyn account. Once approved, those apps will then automatically pull from your Libsyn RSS feed for new episodes. This requires a bit more work and some waiting at the setup, but once it’s approved the process also becomes automatic.
To ensure that your distribution channels are setup properly, simply open up Spotify Podcasts or Apple Podcasts and search for your podcast – it should be there! Note that it typically takes 1-2 hours for the podcast apps to sync to your RSS feed, so give it some time after you upload your recording to Libsyn. Oh, and, don’t be shy about asking your friends and family to share your podcast!
6. Monetizing Your Podcast
Currently, the two most common ways to monetize a podcast are: a) charge a subscription fee for listeners; b) get a sponsor and work a message about your sponsor into your podcast recording.
A hosting platform such as Libsyn actually offers the subscription monetization model – which means you can simply use it to make your podcast subscription-only. Of course, you should only do this when your podcast is delivering tremendous value and you have a large and loyal following – nobody will pay money to listen to something that’s casual or doesn’t add much real life value.
If your podcast has reached a stage where you have a ton of listeners, you can gather that data and pitch your exposure to potential sponsors. This will require some business development on your part, but if your audience/impression size is big enough, it shouldn’t be difficult to get sponsorship interest, especially in niche markets. Typically for podcast sponsorships, you will deliver a message about the sponsor/product in your episodes, and the sponsor will pay you based on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) rate.
Armed with the above information, you should have no problem starting up your podcast. Ultimately, the most important factor is you – and the content you will create. Enjoy creating, and don’t forget that the most important thing is to keep your content creation discipline!