Guide to starting a Podcast in 2021
Podcasts have become incredibly popular over the last few years. Now, in the UK alone, more than 6 million of us tune into a podcast on a weekly basis. If you enjoy listening to podcasts, or you’ve seen others reap the personal, financial or business rewards of putting together and sharing podcasts, you might be wondering how to launch your own offering. If this idea appeals, here’s a useful podcast guide that will provide all the information you need to get going.
The planning process
Before you go in all guns blazing ready to get started podcasting, it’s hugely beneficial to take some time to plan ahead. Whether you’re using your podcast for business reasons, you want to share opinions and views, or you’re keen to interact with people online and put a subject matter under the spotlight, you need to think about what you’re going to talk about, who you’re going to talk to, and how you’re going to make your podcast popular.
- Finding your niche
One of the most important considerations for anyone who wants to start a podcast is the theme. What is going to provide the meat of your podcast? What are you going to talk about? What kinds of subjects do you want to cover? To answer these questions, it’s wise to focus on issues or areas that interest you. What are you passionate about? What do you feel like you really want to discuss or put out there into the ether? You can cover a series of different topics, but your podcast should have an overriding theme, which enables the listener to identify what your podcast is all about. You can cover anything from mental health and wellbeing, fitness, and baking to weight-lifting, driving, gaming, and football. The choice is yours.
- Establishing your objective
The next step to think about is establishing your goal. What do you want to achieve from your podcast, and what are you hoping to gain from it? Are you starting a podcast to promote your business? Do you work in marketing? Are you interested in online engagement? Do you have a personal goal to talk about issues that affect or interest you? Are you keen to get a message out there or to help others by opening up or offering tips? Is podcasting set to be a new hobby? Once you’ve identified your objective, you’ll find it easier to put your podcast together and to stay motivated.
- Determining your target listener
When you’re setting up a podcast, it’s advisable to think about who you want to listen to your shows. Who are you aiming to attract? What do you think your audience is going to look like? If you’re sharing content related to health and fitness, for example, you’re aiming to attract people who have an interest in exercise, eating well and improving their general health and wellbeing. If you’re talking about a hobby, for example, movies or video games, you’ll be looking to appeal to people of a like mind. Once you’ve got a target market in mind, this will help you create content that is relevant to that listener. When you’re putting a podcast together, think about those people you want to lure in, and ask yourself if they would enjoy it. Having listeners in mind will help you to focus on relevant content and prevent you from going off on a tangent, which may not be popular with your subscribers.
- Gathering thoughts and ideas
You’ve decided what you want to talk about on your podcast, and you know who you want to attract. Now, you need to focus on the content and figure out how you’re going to add value to your listener’s day. Gather ideas, note down thoughts, take inspiration from blog posts, news headlines, video clips, films, TV programmes or anything else that gets your creative juices flowing and makes you think. When you’re coming up with ideas, you want to ensure that the listener takes something from the podcast, but also that they come back for more. This could be a practical solution or great tips, for example, in the case of a personal trainer with a health and exercise podcast, or in the form of belly laughs or reviews for podcasts that are related to hobbies or those that are designed to distract you from day to day life and put a smile on your face. Every podcast should provide the listener with a reason to tune in again. If you’re new to podcasting, and you’re ready and raring to get started, it’s always good to have ideas for episodes. If you can plan out 10 podcasts, for example, this will give you a clear picture of where you’re going, and how you’re going to progress.
- Choosing a name
If you search for podcasts online, you’ll find that there are thousands of names that pop up across various different categories. Unless somebody knows about your podcast from reading about it or via a recommendation from a friend or colleague, there’s every chance that it won’t be discovered unless its name appeals to that person. To capture audiences and pique the interest of those looking to listen to a podcast, you need a name that leaps off the page. Choose an original name, which will turn heads. You could opt for a practical name that focuses on the theme of the podcast, you could try and create a pun linked to the subject matter, you could opt for something obscure that conjures up curiosity, or you could simply use your own name. Explore different options, be creative, and make sure that the name is relevant to the podcast and that it’s likely to appeal to listeners.
Outlining your episodes
When you’re at the point where you’ve got a name, you’ve got a theme, and you know exactly what kind of audience you want to target, you can begin to focus on the structure and format of your podcast episodes.
One of the most significant things to think about at this stage is the length of the episode. Podcasts vary in length from around 10-15 minutes to over an hour. Many people choose to listen to podcasts when they’re commuting to and from work, so an episode that lasts 20-30 minutes is a good benchmark. The duration should depend on the content. If you’ve got plenty to say, and you don’t want to cut quality content out, don’t feel that you have to hit that 30 minute mark. There’s nothing wrong with having some episodes that last 25 minutes and some that are 45 minutes. Once you’re up and running, you can ask listeners for feedback related to the length of your episodes, and they will tell you if they think they are too short or long.
The next decision you might want to ponder is the frequency of episodes. Most podcasts have weekly updates, and that seems to work well, as many of us plan our schedules based on days and weeks. If you post a new episode every Wednesday, your audience knows when to expect a new podcast. Another option is to follow the pattern of TV series and produce a season of podcasts, for example, one episode every week for 6 weeks. You can vary the frequency, but it’s wise to avoid putting content out there for the sake of it or leaving lengthy gaps between episodes.
The format of your podcast is crucial, as it will help you plan each episode and create a pattern that becomes familiar to your listener. Consider how you want each podcast to sound. Are you going to talk for a period of time and share that monologue? Are you hoping to get guests involved and conduct interviews? Are you sharing the mic with a co-host? Do you plan to invite multiple guests to debate or discuss issues or share opinions or tips at the same time? If you are keen to interview people, write a list of potential guests, and start working on getting in touch with them and setting up meetings.
Once you’ve got your format sorted, and you know what you want to cover in the first few episodes, you can also start to think about the names of each episode. Like your podcast name, the titles of episodes can help to pull listeners in and encourage them to want to find out more.
Recording your first podcast
Now that your plans are in order, and you’re ready and raring to go, you can turn your attention to recording your first podcast. To do this, you’ll need equipment. If you’re just starting out and you’re familiarising yourself with basic podcast steps, you might not want to invest in high-tech gear just yet.
To begin with, you can create a podcast using fairly simplistic technology. A laptop or a computer with a microphone and a reliable Internet connection will be sufficient to record an episode, but it is worth noting that the quality may not be top notch and your options may be limited in terms of what you can do with the recording. If you’re keen to take the next step and you want to improve the sound quality, it’s a good idea to research USB microphones and look for products that have excellent reviews. It’s worth seeing what kind of equipment other podcasters use, for example.
To create your podcast, it’s also useful to have headphones so that you can hear yourself speaking and interact and engage with guests and interviewees. On-ear headphones tend to offer better quality than headphone-microphone combinations. To further enhance and improve quality, you can also buy a pop filter.
If your podcast is going well, and you’re ready to invest more and really polish your podcast up, you might also want to consider buying a suspension boom. This enables you to speak freely and move your arms around at the same time as enhancing sound quality.
Before you can get going, you’ll also need editing and recording software. Some computers have built-in software, for example, GarageBand on Mac, and you can also download free software via the web. There are also programmes you can buy like Adobe Audition.
When you’ve got all the kit, and you’re all set to go, hit the record button and speak into the microphone. It’s always useful to have a script or some bullet points in front of you and to have a few practice runs to build your confidence. Try and maintain a conversational tone when you’re speaking. You don’t want the listener to feel like you’re reading notes to them off a page. This is not an audiobook. Sometimes, it can feel a little odd talking into a microphone if you’re not used to it, so it’s helpful to try out your kit in advance of your first recording session.
Production and polishing
Once you’ve got your audio, it’s time to edit it and produce your podcast to ensure that it sounds seamless and slick. This is the part that eliminates the awkward silences and the umms and ahs, and you can also add music if you like. Use editing software like Alitu to iron out hitches and glitches, or if you’ve got money to spend or a lack of time, explore the option of outsourcing. Listen back to the episode a few times to make sure you’re completely happy with it. If you’re adding music, you can use free or subscription services. Examples include Incompetech, Music Radio Creative and Jamendo. To add the final touches to your episode before sharing, add cover art to accompany the name of your podcast and the episode title. It’s also useful to include a meta title and a short description of what that individual episode is about.
Sharing your podcast
To share your podcast and connect with listeners, you’ll need to register with a media sharing service. Popular platforms include Blubrry, Podbean, Libsyn and Pod.ad. Once you’ve done this, you can enable listeners to stream your podcast by signing up with services like iTunes and Google Play. If you have social media accounts or a website, you can share links to your podcast and build your audience.
Podcasts are hugely popular, and if you follow these podcast steps, you can get started in no time at all. Figure out what you want to to talk about, define your audience, and work on planning the first few episodes before turning your attention to recording, editing, and sharing.