How to Launch a Podcast
Podcasts are an amazing tool to communicate with people, speak up about whatever you’re passionate about, or talk about anything that’s on your mind.
Podcasts have also collected a devoted audience across the U.S. According to a report from Edison Research, the number of Americans listening to podcasts every week has increased by 175% over the last five years, with approximately 90 million people listening to a podcast each month.
If you want to start your very own podcast but have no idea how to get started, you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading for some practical tips on how to launch a podcast.
Planning Your Podcast
1. Decide on a topic
First things first, you need to come up with your podcast’s main topic. Ask yourself, why do I want to make a podcast? This question will guide the perspective you want to build the podcast around, whether hobbies or advocacy or advertising your small business.
Then, ask yourself: why should people listen to me? What topic am I an expert on? What’s my angle? A topic like “current affairs” or “animals” is too broad, so you need to differentiate yourself. Take a look at how some current top podcasts have carved out niches within broader topics:
Of course, a podcast isn’t much without an audience, so another question you should ask is: who are you creating this podcast for? Your answers will help you curate your podcast’s format, style, and voice.
For example, if you’re making a podcast about your yoga hobby, your target audience will be other passionate yoga practitioners. You might adopt a more casual approach that focuses on home yoga tips, rather than focusing on cutting-edge political commentary.
2. Pick a Name
What’s in a name? Quite a bit, actually, since your name is how potential audience members will first notice your podcast. Choose a catchy name that incorporates a keyword or two for the content you’re putting out. You can check out a list of top podcasts for inspiration.
We recommend choosing a name that isn’t too specific, so you’ll have more flexibility as your podcast evolves, and one that isn’t too long or full of jargon. A little mystery isn’t a bad thing, but you don’t want to cross over the line into listeners having no idea what your podcast is about.
3. Design the Format
When planning a podcast, three main elements you need to consider are the length, style, and format of the podcast. Podcasts can take many different forms based on a variety of factors:
Your episode length should hit the sweet spot between “long enough to cover the subject” and “not rambling on endlessly.” Analysis of podcasting episodes by Pacific Content in 2019 suggests that the median episode length is about 36 minutes, so that’s a good rule of thumb, though by no means a requirement.
Your length really depends on your content. An overview of a scientific phenomenon could take 30 minutes, while a productive interview with a guest star could take over an hour. Do keep in mind that your episodes should be of a roughly consistent length with each other, so listeners know what they’re getting each time an episode drops.
As for style and format, these are also dictated by content and by what feels most natural to you. Does your podcast touch on current affairs that will draw a lot of heated opinions? You might bring on guest stars in an interview format. Is your podcast a fictional drama? You’ll probably need serialized episodes with various voice actors.
For the format itself, sketch out different segments that will keep your episodes more organized. For example: an intro, followed by an ad, followed by an interview, shout outs to fans, and a conclusion/outro. The more structure you can put in place, the easier it will be to translate your ideas from your brain to the microphone.
Preparing the Technical Side
Take a step back and assess whether you have the gear you need. Without doing due diligence about your recording gear, even the most well-scripted podcast might never reach its audience’s ears.
Microphones are the most crucial component to determining sound quality. Your laptop mic just won’t give you the level of high sound quality you need to cut out background noise, echo, crackling, and other disruptions.
Most podcasters choose either a USB or analog microphone. USB mics are generally cheaper and more convenient, while analog mics are pricier but of a more professional quality. The type you choose will depend on your budget and the seriousness of your podcasting project.
Here are a few microphones you may want to consider purchasing to ensure that your podcast can be heard loud and clear. If you get an analog mic, you’ll also require an audio interface to plug in your mic’s connectors, which can’t go directly into your laptop.
Depending on your recording space, some podcasters also recommend a pop filter to keep plosives (sounds you spit on, like “p” “t” and “k”) from popping into the mic.
2 . Recording and editing software
There’s basic free audio editing software out there, like Audacity or (for Mac users) Garageband. For more premium options, however, we recommend Descript.com and Squadcast, which are specifically aimed at podcast creators and offer a wide range of quality features.
Developing Your Podcast
There are a few extra touches you should make sure to prepare before launching your podcast.
1. COVER ART
Cover art is the first thing people see when they browse through a list of podcasts, so yours should be eye-catching and clearly represent what your podcast is about. The ideal size for your cover art is less than 500 KB, about 1400 x 1400 pixels, and in JPG or PNG format.
Not artistically talented? Never fear, most podcast creators pay someone else to make their cover art. Here are a few elements common to the cover art of top podcasts:
This last point is especially important. Test out your cover art to make sure it looks striking and readable on your laptop, your mobile phone, and podcast apps such as Apple Podcast.
2. INTROS AND OUTROS
The intro is the first thing that will play when your podcast starts, so think of something unique and engaging that fits your specific podcast. This could be a quality voiceover, a series of sound effects, or some royalty-free music along with key info like your podcast name, episode title/number, and the names of any hosts or guests.
Try to match your music or sound effects to your content. Contemporary music can go a long way in helping “set the scene” for a certain historical era or a specific genre of content (true crime, sci-fi, romance, etc.).
3. POTENTIAL GUESTS
If you’re planning an interview-based podcast, make an early list of possible guests for your show and start reaching out to them. Remember to draw up a list of back-ups as well: you don’t want an unforeseen, last-minute cancellation to derail your show.
Online services like Acuity Scheduling will make booking easier for both you and your guest so that you can find a mutually convenient time to record together. You can also choose to connect virtually using Skype or Zoom, which is especially practical right now given the ongoing pandemic.
Recording Your First Episode
At last! You’re all set up, your script is written, and you even remembered to grab a glass of water before you start speaking. You’re finally ready to start recording your first episode. What are the basic steps of this process going to look like?
1: Set up and test your microphone with your computer and recording software.
2: Make sure you have a quiet, interruption-free recording space.
3: Have your script(s) prepared and within arm’s reach.
4: If you have guests, set up their mics or Skype, Zoom, etc. for recording.
5: Hit that red button and start recording!
There are a lot of tips, tricks, and potential challenges that can go into each one of these steps depending on the editing software you use, the amount of guests, and factors like whether or not you have to record completely remotely.
The bottom line is, the more time and research you put into considering these factors before you start recording, the easier it will be for you to put together a clean, interesting podcast episode with less time and stress.
Where to Host Your Podcast
So you have your first few podcast episodes recorded. What now?
When choosing a reliable platform out of the many services available for your podcast’s web hosting, we recommend a host that’s designed for podcasters. They’re a one-stop-shop and hosted on media servers that will support the bandwidth your listeners need and enough storage for your media files.
Why is this so important? Otherwise, listeners can run into disappointing issues with downloading and streaming your episodes—not a great way to grow an audience.
Three of the most crucial factors to consider when selecting a podcast host are price, ease of use, and extra features. Let’s break these down in a little more detail:
Price: Higher prices generally entail more storage, more bandwidth, and more premium features, but as a starting podcaster you might not need these yet. Note that a lot of podcast hosting platforms will start you off with a free option or trial but also offer upgrades to higher, paid tiers later on.
Ease of Use: Some podcast hosts have interfaces that are more straightforward and user-friendly than others. Since this is your first podcast, you’ll probably value “keeping it simple” over lots of complicated features at this point. Bonus tip: find out what kind of technical support services your chosen host offers beforehand.
Extra Features: All hosts offer an RSS podcast feed to get your podcast into platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Many podcasters, though, also want to integrate with a separate website hosted on WordPress or elsewhere, to act as a landing page for intrigued internet searchers and visitors.
Does your podcast host give you site building tools to accomplish this? How about WordPress plugins or embedded episode players?
There are a ton of possible features in addition to website integration tools. If you’re a numbers person, for instance, you might appreciate a host that offers analytics on the amount of listens and other key data each episode pulls in.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to monetize your podcast now or in the future, see if your host has any tools for connecting with advertisers. Don’t forget to look at the Terms and Conditions for any unusual hidden clauses that could get in your way.
Distributing Your Podcast
So you’ve recorded and uploaded some podcast episodes. Now, you need to get people to listen. Consider these four tips for starting to grow your podcast’s reach through digital marketing.
1. Podcast Directories
Submit your podcast to multiple directories. This is pretty straightforward: the more directories you’re in, the more likely people are to encounter your podcast.
2. Use your networks
Spread the word across multiple social media platforms and ask family, friends, and other businesses to do the same, particularly if those companies are related to your topic or appeal to your target audience.
Remember to add relevant hashtags to any of your social media posts to get your podcast in front of more eyes. You can use online keyword tools and searches to look for the top/trending hashtags on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites.
Other podcasters are usually happy to appear on your show and will often return the favor by promoting your podcast in return. Also, always hype up your guest appearances to draw in more fans and followers of those individuals.
This includes tagging your guests on your social media platforms and posting pull quotes from their appearances. Guests with medium-sized (under 100,000 fans) followings are in that “just right” range— willing to appear on a smaller podcast, but also big enough to expand your reach.
4. Get listeners to act
How do you get listeners to subscribe to, follow, and share your podcast? Ask them! Without being too pushy or obtrusive, sprinkle a couple of CTAs (calls to action) at strategic points in your show where you remind listeners to subscribe, share, and leave ratings or reviews.
Ready to Launch
Congratulations, you’re ready to launch your first podcast! Now, clear your schedule for launch day (and the following week), cue up your social media posts and announcements, and remind yourself that you’re in this for the long haul.
Podcasts require work and dedication, so you might not see skyrocketing results in the first week. However, if you’re passionate about your topic and do your research, your podcast is likely to bring you—and your listeners—a lot of enjoyment.