Several years ago, most people wrote off podcasts as a fad – and with good reason. While podcast usage stayed stagnant for years, a majority of marketers focused on producing content for social media outlets.
Then, an interesting thing happened. Podcasting became the next big thing. Again.
Edison Research found podcasting reached an all-time high in 2014. In fact, there are an estimated 39 million podcast listeners in February 2014, right here in the US.
But, does that justify you jumping on the bandwagon?
Jeff Bullas suggests that “podcasting is worth checking out” because is can help you get noticed in an ever-more noisy industry. Furthermore, because podcasts are longer than an average blog post, visitors tend to hang around your site longer. Plus, people like sharing podcasts on their social media channels.
If you’re interested in hosting your own podcast, here’s everything that you need to get started.
Before we get into the hardware and software you’ll need for to podcast, make sure you have a theme in mind – you just can’t hit record and start saying whatever it is on you mind.
In all likelihood, this should be relatively easy. If you’re passionate about music, then your podcast should revolve around the bands and songs you enjoy – just be careful to not play their copyrighted material. If you’re using a podcast to promote your online clothing business, then you could have a panel of guests discussing upcoming seasonal looks.
Wishpond’s “5 Podcast Ideas for Your Content Marketing Strategy” is a great resource if you’re still stuck trying to find a topic and figuring out how to make it exciting.
For a successful podcast, be sure to include the following:
- Set Goals (Are you selling a product? Networking? Establishing yourself as an expert?)
- Convert an Awesome Blog Post into a Podcast
- Have a Topic Series
- Invite Guests
- Engage the Audience
Now that you know what your podcast is going to be about, it’s time to get prepared. Just like a radio or television program, you need to have a script before you start recording.
Ben Adam-Smith from Regen Media, a UK-based production company, recommends the following template for a typical podcast:
- Featured Resource
- Listener Questions
- Call to Action
Of course, not every podcast will be the same. There will be times when you may not have a guest or conduct an interview, but it’s a solid starting point for your preparation. However, certain features of your podcast should remain the same, such as your intro.
As for the actual script, you don’t necessarily have to write it word-for-word. (In fact, you probably don’t have the time to!) Instead, your script can be the important points you would like to touch upon. Ultimately, this decision comes down to if you want your show to be more “polished” or “freestyle”.
Voices.com suggests you plan for a 10-15 minute program, with each topic lasting 2-3 minutes. It also suggests using conversational language to avoid industry jargon when composing your script.
However, many podcasts can last for up to an hour, and many are rich in industry jargon – it really depends upon your target audience.
If you are planning on conducting an interview, then take Copyblogger’s advice and make sure you know your subject, ask the right questions, and plan on being flexible.
You have theme, penned (or at least outlined) a script, and have some guests lined up.
Now it’s time to make sure you have all of the proper equipment to get your podcast going.
The first piece of equipment you need is a computer with an internet connection. After all, you can’t expect to just use a portable recorder for your podcast, right? You’ll need a computer and internet connection to upload your podcast when it’s completed – which I’ll get to shortly.
Next up is a microphone – which is where things can get a bit technical, tricky, and possibly expensive.
While your computer probably has a built-in mic, it’s not going to be the best option for a professional sounding podcast. Because of this, you’ll need to start shopping around for a quality microphone. Adrian Try on Tuts+ does an excellent job of breaking down the two different mics: condenser and dynamic.
Condenser mics are the microphones you usually see in a recording studio because they do a great job of picking up sound. The problem with condenser mics is they pick up everything, which becomes an issue if there’s a lot of background noise. Dynamic microphones, however, will only pick up the sound that’s directed towards it.
Another technical consideration is whether or not your mic will feature a standard XLR connection or a USB interface. A USB interface will plug directly into your computer and is perfect if there’s just one person on the podcast. If you’re planning on having several people join the show, then you should invest in an XLR microphone. Also, don’t forget to pick-up a pop filter to prevent those explosive breaths.
To help you on your podcasting journey, here are some of the best microphones on the market – in no particular order.
- Heil PR-40 ($327)
- Blue Yeti ($106)
- Rode Podcaster ($220)
- Audio Technica AT2020 ($99)
- Samson Meteor ($58)
- MXL 990 Condenser ($86)
If you want some detailed information on microphones, then it’s worth the time to review the thoroughly detailed Podcasting Handbook by Dan Benjamin.
In addition to a microphone, you’ll also want to purchase a set of headphones – which you will need during the edited process. To be honest, any set of professional headphones will work – such as the Sony MDR7506. The award-winning “how-to” podcast The Audacity to Podcast suggests that you consider comfort, sound leak, price and cord style when searching for headphones.
If you’re a beginner, or only using a single mic with a USB interface, then you won’t need a mixer or audio interface. However, if you’re using a mic with a XLR connection or use multiple microphones, then you’ll need a mixer like the Alesis MultiMix 16 USB 2.0 mixer or the Yamaha MW12CX USB Mixer.
Finally, you may want to purchase a portable recorder for the times that you’re out and about – such conducting an interview at an event or conference. Suggested portable recorders include the Zoom H4n and the Roland R-05. Or, you could just grab this nifty mic to use on your smart phone or tablet.
Of course, you’ll also need to have the right software to record and edit your podcasts. Mac users commonly use GarageBand, while Window users can access Sound Recorder. There are plenty of other options as well, including:
- Audacity – a free multi-track audio editor and recorder that can be used on Windows, Mac OS X, or GNU/Linux systems.
- Propaganda – award-winning software that allows you to record, edit and publish your podcast.
- Acoustica Basic Edition – another free multi-track option where you can edit and analyze your recording.
- Adobe Audition – a powerful recorder and editor that you’ll have to purchase following the free trial.
On top of recording and editing software, you’ll also need to download a MP3 converter – if it isn’t included in the software. There are a lot of free options available, but the Switch Audio File Converter Software is hard to beat, since it’s compatible with almost every operating system.
Another piece of software you should have for podcasting is Skype. You probably already have it downloaded, but if not, it’s definitely worth it. This way you can have a guests join you from anywhere in the world.
Hosts and Directories
After recording and editing your podcast, it’s time to share it with the world. Two options for publishing your podcast are Libsyn and Hipcast. Both services start at $5 a month and will distribute and promote your podcast. Each service does have some other cool features too, such as access to popular podcasts or having the ability to post your content via email.
You can also host your podcast on sites like WordPress – which makes it easy to share with others since it includes a link back to your site. Other free sites to host your podcast are PodOmatic, SoundCloud, PodBean and Archive.org.
Finally, get your podcast listed on popular blog directories and RSS feeds. You can find a list of popular directories on RSS Feeds Submit.
If you’re looking to gain some additional exposure and create unique content, then podcasting is worth investigating. As long as you find the right equipment, software, and distribution outlets, you could easily be on your way to becoming a podcast hero.
Do you have a podcast? If so, what are the tools and resources that you can’t live without?
Featured Image Source: Roberto Verzo/Flickr
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!