What is a Podcast?
A podcast is a modern-day answer to the old-timey radio show. With radio shows, you had to know when the show was broadcast. You had to tune in on time. If you missed it you wouldn’t know what happened until next week. With podcasts, your favorite shows are available on-demand. On any device with streaming internet.
It’s easy to see how the word ‘podcast’ is a mix of the words iPod and broadcast. Remember iPods?
Pocket Casts is the podcast streaming app similar to the old iPod. This dedicated podcast player app is like the iPod’s second cousin.
Since the first-ever podcast back in 2004, their popularity has seen incredible growth. There are now well over 500,000 active podcasts delivered in over 100 different languages covering all manner of subjects.
These include staple topics such as news, business, and current affairs to the weird and wonderful ones such as “Muse Stories – The Unusual History of Gnomes.”
One of the very best things about a podcast is if no one covering a topic you know about then you can easily make a podcast yourself. Even if your knowledge isn’t so vast, podcasts are perfect for storytelling or sharing opinions.
Chances are there’s someone out there who wants to listen to what you have to talk about.
How to Start a Podcast: In a Nutshell
How to start a podcast in four steps:
- Come up with a concept and unique perspective
- Develop a brand for your podcast and create cover art
- Record raw audio and edit into finalized podcast episodes
- Find a reputable podcast host without usage restrictions so you have space to grow
Sounds easy right? Actually, it kinda is. And you can do it all for cheap, or even free. Let us elaborate.
Share Your Two Cents Worth
Back in the day if you had something to say and wanted to tell the world the chances of getting your message out there would have meant needing either a lot of cash to buy airtime, knowing someone who could help, or both.
Nowadays, if you’ve got something to say it’s easy to start a podcast and the best thing is that you won’t need all that cash. In fact, you don’t even need to know someone who can help!
Setting up a podcast might appear daunting at first, but it needn’t be. The bare minimum required is something to record on, something to edit that recording and somewhere to host it. It’s surprisingly easy to get all of these things and at not much expense.
The “something to record on” includes a microphone and something to store that recording on. Sticking to a shoestring budget means there’s nothing better than ‘free.’ You can use your smartphone and the free earphones which came with it.
Smartphones these days provide excellent quality recordings. Teaming up the smartphone with its earphones, which will come with a built-in microphone, means you can get started straight away.
Just be careful not to move around too much or brush anything against the receiver while recording. No one wants to hear what sounds a t-shirt makes.
All those gamers out there can use their gaming headset to record. The microphones here work just as well.
Upgrade Your Equipment A Small Bit and Reap the Rewards in Sound Quality
If you have any budget to spend on equipment at all, it is wise to consider a professional microphone. If your podcast will involve interviewing someone then a look at microphones which captures sound coming from two directions (bidirectional) as opposed to one which will pick up sounds coming from the front only (these will drown out surrounding noise).
An affordable option is to pick up any of these USB microphones. They plug right into your laptop and have phenomenal sound quality for the price. You could even afford to get two so you can have crisp, clear audio for each of the participants in your interviews.
Audio Technica is one of the top brands known for their speech recording mics. They are going to be a step up in price but, when you’re ready it’s well worth the investment.
Regardless of which type of microphone used, it is always best to avoid using the built-in microphone on the smartphone (or laptop). These pick up too much ambient noise and will result in a poorly produced podcast no matter how quiet a room the recording takes place.
Now you have your microphone you can start recording your pearls of wisdom. Again, using your smartphones (or laptops), you can use a free voice recording app and get started. Press that red record button, and off you go.
A handy tip to remember when recording is if you make a mistake, do not stop the recording. Just continue. Make one long recording with all its beautiful bloopers because the next step is the editing.
Polishing A Podcast
Once your recording is complete, the next step is to edit. Editing will remove any awkward silences or mistakes created. Overall, the editing phase is a polish the recording to make it more pleasurable for the listener.
For this, you will need recording editing software. Staying with your shoestring budget level of ‘free,’ a good option is Audacity. It performs all the basic editing tasks well, and there are lots of manuals and tutorials online to help.
Again, if the ability to spend money is there; still don’t! Editing software can be expensive. With so many free software available there really isn’t a need to pay for it at this early stage.
After you’re done trimming out the ‘ums’ and ‘errs’ of your recording, you will need to optimize and export the audio file. This means to have the recording in a file with the best recording quality and formatted right. So it’s prepared for upload and syndication.
If you’re having a tough time with this you can find affordable podcast editors all over the internet. They will make you a professional cut of your podcast episode for only a few dollars. You’ll receive it completed and uploaded as an mp3 file and have saved yourself tons of time.
The end product of an editing session will leave you with a podcast that is now ready for the world’s ears.
The Importance of Cover Art
While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, in podcasting, the cover art matters. A LOT.
Hire a graphic designer to help with this task. You can find one for super cheap on services like Fiverr or UpWork.
They will deliver the files in whatever format you need them and you’ll look like a professional. The microphone, editing, and the cover art are where any money you have to invest should go when you start a podcast.
Spreading the Word
Your podcast is now polished, and you are ready to share it with anyone who wants to listen. For this, you will need a place to put it out there and publish it.
If you had a website of your own, you could publish it there. However, as a beginner, this isn’t such a good idea. When starting out, you don’t want the responsibility of fixing something if it goes wrong.
Having your website and podcast in one place is the proverbial, “putting all your eggs in one basket.” You don’t want to do this. You could blast it out on social media but, you have no followers because no one knows about you yet.
What you do want is to give your podcast to a reliable hosting company. Don’t confuse it with a web hosting company. The two are different.
Picking a Reliable Podcast Hosting Company
Picking a company to host for us means they will have the bandwidth to handle all those listeners rushing to hear your dulcet tones.
They will be better equipped to help grow your audience with the aid of something called an RSS feed (zero-knowledge required at your end about this as the hosting company will see it all of that).
And, most importantly, the hosting company will have the support team if anything goes wrong! That leaves us to focus on producing more podcasts.
Like with everything, there are many hosting companies available. Again, your shoestring budget will draw us to the free ones. Podbean, Buzzsprout, and Spreaker are currently three of the best hosting companies out there.
Up until now, you have been able to get away with not opening your wallet to produce your podcast. Or you’ve spent very little. Hosting is a good time to make a small investment.
‘Free’ usually comes at a price. Money saved becomes time lost. The free hosting services typically have a limit on how much you can upload or how often you can upload.
The cost of a monthly subscription varies, but some can cost as little as $5 a month, which is still rather cheap.
Once you pick a hosting company, you’re closing in on the exciting part. Soon, within a few clicks, your podcast will fly into the world like an audio dove!
So now your podcast is born. Now you need to get listeners. This is where the RSS feed mentioned earlier comes in handy.
Listeners will search for a podcast on a directory such as iTunes. Hosting companies such as Podbean will have their own.
Once you submit your podcast to the host you’ll be a part of their database and the major databases like iTunes and Google Play.
By adding your podcast to a directory, you allow yourself to become visible during a search. Your RSS feed will update those subscribed to your feed each time you publish a new podcast.
As your audience grows, it could be time to consider monetizing your podcast. How else are you going to fund that monthly hosting subscription or get that fancy microphone?
Gaining a large following can allow us to use your podcast as an advertising tool. Placing an ad or two within your show is an excellent way to generate revenue. Company sponsorship could allow for us to buy that microphone.
Likewise, you could shun outside help and make your own money from merchandise linked to your podcast or sell tickets to a live recording!
Whatever outcome, you have to remember to enjoy creating these podcasts. Practice producing them regularly. It’s quite all right to start a podcast just for fun.
Want to learn more about recording equipment?
Check out our complete guide to the best recording microphones here. We explore a ton of different brands, give honest reviews, and explain how they work. We also give you the scoop on where to get the best deal.