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How to start a podcast

And not f*ck it up...

31% of podcasters give up before releasing just five episodes… a sad stat we're trying to change.

This guide will teach you not just how to start a podcast, but how to keep at it.

For more help, join WhatPods, a global community that helps you make better podcasts, from ideation to monetisation.

Otherwise, let's get started…

One thing that has been very helpful is to network with other podcasts. I am routinely interviewed on other podcasts, and I am always asking other podcasters to come tell stories on my podcast. And I'm constantly telling our listeners how important it is to us that they tell their friends about our podcast. Nothing seems to work quite as well as word of mouth from those who love what we do.

Kevin Allison, host of RISK!
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Contents

CHAPTER ONE

Podcasting secrets

CHAPTER TWO

The art of Ideation

CHAPTER THREE

Technical know-how

CHAPTER FOUR

Editorial advice

CHAPTER FIVE

Post-Production

CHAPTER SIX

Distribution

CHAPTER SEVEN

Audience Growth

Chapter one

Podcasting secrets

HOW TO START A PODCAST

In this chapter, we'll address some of the secrets to forging a successful career as a podcaster.

We'll highlight some of the challenges and share some insights to help you overcome them.

Don’t brush over it. This chapter is probably the most important of them all. Seriously.

Make a podcast that you yourself would go out of your way to listen to. You can't just be your charming self; you have to offer some specific reason for other people to pick your podcast over the vast competition out there.

Sean Carroll, host of Sean Carroll's Mindscape
Is there a career in podcasting?

When Spotify placed a private bid to purchase Gimlet Media for $230 million in 2019, the dream of making it big in podcasting was ignited.

Source: TechCrunch. How To Start A Podcast

With fewer than 20 shows and five years in operation, the bombshell Gimlet acquisition put us on notice that there is success to be had in podcasting, by those who know how to find it.

And finding it was not something Alex Blumberg and Matthew Lieber did by accident. The network’s founders raised $1.5 million to launch Gimlet’s first stable of shows, led by StartUp, and went on to raise another $6 million before the sale to the music streaming giant.

Alex Blumberg and Matthew Lieber. Source: Ozy. How To Start A Podcast.

The ambition for most budding podcasters is to do four things: sit, talk, be heard, and earn an income.

Some, like Blumberg and Lieber, have figured it out, and make an honest, and sometimes enviable, wage from their work. The overriding majority haven’t, and need help getting there.

What follows is an enormous body of work to help you succeed as a podcaster. WhatPods is a professional network and learning community to help podcasters win (join here). This guide is a testament to that. We update it regularly with the best advice on how to start a podcast.

One bit of advice I can give is for new podcasters to write out a list of reasons they’re starting their podcast. Actually write it out and put it aside. Every so often, look at the list and remember why you’re doing it. It can help push you past the rough spots or guide your goal setting. It can also help you reassess if you find you’ve veered too far from your foundation.

Lars Hacking, host of Rusty Hinges
How do I actually make it in podcasting?

Warren Buffett is famous for his secrets. His investing activities have netted him billions and, despite the stock markets being open to us all, none of us could dream of rivalling him.

Why? Because most of us haven’t uncovered the secret sauces of hyper-successful investing. We read 'how to' guides to money-making, which are generally rehashed tidbits of common sense investing, and we implement well-worn strategies guaranteed to be mediocre.

The secrets to podcasting success are just that: secrets.

Despite our suspicions that most reading will brush passed this opening section, it’s those who take the time to read these secrets, and adopt them, who stand the best chance of succeeding.

Don’t give up because someone doesn’t like your content. Set goals, plan ahead, ask for help, and, most importantly, have fun! I have a few podcasts now and it still hurts when the negative reviews come out, but I always tell myself that not everyone is going to like it.

Heather, host of Nature vs Narcissism
Secret one: The odds are against you

There’s a dirty little secret known to everyone who’s written a guide to podcasting. And because we’ve written this one, we now have the secret. And this time we’ll share it with you. Here goes:

Most people who start a podcast quickly give up. To be more precise, 32% of podcasters don’t even make it to five episodes and almost 90% don’t get passed 100.

The above sentence is the most important you will read across any of the how to start a podcast guides available to you online, bar none.

Every month, thousands of people search the phrase, ‘How to start a podcast’ in Google. But they’re searching the wrong phrase. What they should search is, ‘How to not stop podcasting.’

Joe Rogan is often pegged as a controversial figure, but his success in podcasting can’t be denied. With millions of listeners, he charges brands a huge premium to advertise on his show ($75,000 an episode, apparently).

Joe Rogan Experience Youtube channel. Source: Youtube. How To Start A Podcast.

But Rogan’s podcasting prosperity was not guaranteed from the outset.

If you go back and listen to the first episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, you’ll hear what could only be described as a minimum viable podcast episode, a freewheeling stream of consciousness, interrupted regularly by his producer’s attempts to perfect the production quality.

More than 10 years and a thousand episodes later, Rogan is now a behemoth on the podcasting landscape, with guests from all over the world lining up to share his air time.

Joe Rogan Experience. Source: Apple Podcasts. How To Start A Podcast.

But if he’d done what 50% of all new podcasters do, and give up before episode 10, he’d be forgotten. Don’t set out wanting to start a podcast. Set out never, ever wanting to stop.

My number one piece of advice is coming up with a plan and knowing your target audience. How many times do you want to publish a week, what will the workflow look like, how long do you want the episodes to be, who do you want to reach and how will you reach them? How is your podcast different from others? And what are you passionate about?

Anney and Lauren, hosts of Savor
Secret two: Don’t throw darts

A blind monkey throwing darts may almost have a better chance of succeeding in podcasting than most humans who embark on it. This may sound harsh, but it’s not intended to be.

It’s intended to shock you into understanding the need to plan for your show to succeed.

You may not have the resources of a large media organization, but you shouldn’t use that as an excuse not to think as strategically as they would about how your show is going to work.

Some of the questions you need to ask and answer are:

  1. What exactly is your show idea? Can you say it succinctly and powerfully in 30 seconds? And, when you do, do people get it and love the sound of it?
  2. Who exactly is your audience? What are they currently listening to? Will your show be on par or better than their current options? Have you validated the concept with them?
  3. What exactly do you want to accomplish with your podcast? Are you starting it to make money? To build a personal/company brand? Or are you just passionate about a topic?
  4. How will you acquire your first 100 listeners? Where do they hang out online and offline and how will you get your show in front of them? And how will they respond to it?
  5. What will make your show unique? What will make it better? Why would those in your target audience choose to listen to you over the hundreds of thousands of other options?
  6. Do you have the time and commitment to see the podcast through to 50, 100 episodes?

We can’t emphasize the importance of audience research and validation enough. One of the biggest problems creative people encounter is assuming once they build it, people will come.

Trust us, this almost never happens. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this way.

How To Start A Podcast.

Instead, come up with several concepts for shows and share them with a lot of people in your target audience. If they’re not that interested in the concept, they absolutely won’t listen to the show, no matter how much you force it.

Never ignore your audience, and, unless you’re podcasting as a hobby, don’t start a show that doesn’t test well in concept. When you’ve found a concept that works, you’ll know immediately.

Define what success looks like and then do a reasonable trial to see if you can achieve it. If your goal is to reach a lot of people, perhaps if your podcast isn't getting 1,000 downloads per episode by the end of year two you should move on to something else. Or perhaps you wish to make money with the podcast so you define success as making $1,000 per month by the end of year two.

Jim Dahle, host of White Coat Investor Podcast
Secret three: It pays to pre-podcast

We know a guy who records a podcast episode every day on his drive in to work. But you won’t have heard his show because he’s never published any of the episodes. Instead, he’s using his commute as a training ground to achieve podcast mastery long before he goes live to the public.

More than podcasting mastery, pre-podcasting gives you the opportunity to test your staying power. Remember, 32% of podcasters give up on their show before releasing just five episodes.

There’s a piece of social advice that’s relevant to people (like us) who agree weeks in advance to attend social gatherings only to pull out on the day of the event with a feeble excuse. The advice is to imagine that the event is taking place the evening you receive the invitation. If you wouldn’t want to attend the event that night, you probably won’t want to attend on the actual day.

The same goes for podcasting. If you’re unable to pre-podcast five episodes of your new show in a test environment, you’re unlikely to make it to five when the show actually goes live.

On the flipside, if you have no problems getting the five pre-podcast episodes in the can, you’ll have no problems beating the odds of podcasting failure.

Source: Anchor.fm. How To Start A Podcast

To start pre-podcasting, you can use Anchor. It’s the simplest way to get started podcasting and doesn’t require you to have even a microphone. Start recording tidbits and full episodes, seeking feedback from friends in your target audience before going live with a polished episode.

Spend your efforts on high quality content, not production. At least for non-fiction content, people will listen to a podcast with poor production values and great content. Once you have a following, you can worry about production.

Stever Robbins, host of Get-It-Done Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More
Secret four: Podcast success is no longer technical

When podcasting was new, and you could count the number of hosts on two hands, the trick to being successful was to simply figure out how to do it. Those who understood RSS feeds and knew their way around a digital audio workstation had an enviable opportunity to win.

The game has changed significantly since then. These days, there’s no correlation between knowing how to start a podcast and being successful at it. Once you’ve figured out how to start a podcast, you’re no better off than the hundreds of thousands of others who’ve done the same.

In other words, don’t treat this guide, or any other like it, as a ticket to podcasting success, because it isn’t. Making a successful podcast is like raising a happy and healthy child: the job doesn’t end once the baby is born; the birth is, in fact, the beginning of a very, very long road.

Chapter Two

The art of Ideation

HOW TO START A PODCAST

In this chapter, we'll help you come up with great ideas for shows and episodes.

We also built the WhatPods' Ideas tool to help you get real-time feedback for your show and episode ideas.

Click here to submit your first idea or contribute feedback to others.

There are many moving parts to what makes a successful podcast. One of those parts sounds simple but is oftentimes overlooked: is the topic of your podcast something you are entranced with? Is it something you could talk about for hours on end? Is it something you're willing to research or examine for hours, weeks, months, even years?

Andrew Jenks, host of What Really Happened?
How do I pick a winning show idea?

When you start a podcast you want it to last — beyond five, 10, 25, even 100 episodes — so you need to pick a concept that best guarantees podcasting longevity, in the face of low listener numbers and no interest from sponsors or Patreon donors.

How To Start A Podcast.

Passion can be one source of that fuel. After all, when you’re truly passionate about a topic you can likely talk about it every day for hours on end, regardless of the plaudits or profits.

If you’re getting into podcasting as a hobby — with no need to monetize and no qualms about how many listeners tune in — and if you have a topic you’re particularly passionate about, which you think will generate enough content for you to publish an unlimited quota of episodes, do it.

But passion isn’t the only source of fuel for podcast longevity.

Another source of fuel is success. Tangible success hits your brain like a reward, and rewards are the best source of motivation, which fuels persistence.

If we were to go back and start a podcast five years ago it would be in the true crime genre, such was the world’s hunger for true crime podcasts at the time. Presuming we executed well and each episode was engaging, we’re confident we could’ve built an audience.

We’re not particularly passionate about true crime, but if we had done our research back then we could’ve sniffed the wind and realized how much interest there was in the genre at the time.

If we were to start that research today, we’d spend a month on it, visiting all the top podcasting charts (across Apple, Spotify, and the web). We’d take notes on each show featured there and classify the shows by genre, format, number of hosts, etc., to identify any recipes for success.

When we’d shortlisted a genre, we’d listen to a handful of popular shows and a handful of unpopular shows and note the differences. We’d keep notes on what we liked and what we didn’t and condense it all into a detailed strategy for our own podcasting success.

How To Start A Podcast.

The problem with podcasting about your passion is it may not give you the best chances of success. If you want to truly succeed in podcasting, you need to approach it like a business, and businesses rarely succeed in the absence of detailed planning and objective execution.

Lastly on show ideation, you also need to settle on a show format. The common types are:

  1. Single host, no guests: often seen in the true crime, education, and history genres, where the subject matter is the protagonist and the host just delivers the message;
  2. Single host, guests: often seen in the self-help, business, and general interest genres, where the show is built entirely around interviews with notable or knowledgable guests;
  3. Multiple hosts, no guests: often seen in the comedy, storytelling, and current affairs roundtable genres, where the chemistry of the hosts carries the show; and,
  4. Multiple hosts, guests: probably the least common of the four, often seen in the sports genre, where a panel talks about the game and brings in experts for sporadic interviews.

Choosing a format is entirely up to you, but remember your job is to deliver the most compelling listener experience to your audience, so take your time settling on the best one for your show.

The last comment we’ll make on show ideation is not to be afraid if you want to launch a show in a crowded category. Crowded categories have listeners, and you’re likely to attract more of them with a good show that competes in a crowded category than one that wins a dead one.

How To Start A Podcast.

Talk about what you care about, because passion makes research easy. Engage with and appreciate your listeners. Don’t read one star or five star reviews—read the ones in the middle for the most constructive criticisms. Most importantly—have fun!

Jessa and Nick, host of Getting Off
How do I come up with fresh episode ideas?

Some species of sharks must keep moving to survive, taking in oxygen only when they’re in flight through the water. If they were to stop moving, they would asphyxiate and die. These species are obligate ram ventilators, and in the ocean of podcasting you need to be one.

Remember, 32% of podcasters give up before releasing just five episodes, so you need to find methods for ideating new episodes all the time. The moment you stop, you asphyxiate and die.

The method we recommend is to use the Ideas’ tab in the WhatPods’ community. You can either submit your own episode ideas to get feedback from the community, or just borrow ideas for episodes from those that are popular within the charts. Click here to submit your first idea.

Consider creating a podcast with someone you have a lot in common with. A trusted co-host can make your podcast more interesting and also offer you the encouragement to keep going when you feel like throwing in the towel. I can't tell you how invaluable it has been to have my best friend Matt with me while creating our show How To Money.

Joel and Matt, hosts of How to Money
How do I find a co-host for my show?

Not all podcasts need, or are even suited to having, multiple hosts, but there are advantages to it. Co-hosts can generate chemistry that would otherwise be lacking if you hosted solo, and you can split the deluge of podcasting tasks, like editing, between you to save time.

If you’re in the market for a co-host, we recommend you register a host account on WhatPods (which you can do here), then check out the podcast host directory, featured below:

Our goal is to connect podcast hosts from all over the world, across all genres and experience levels. To find a potential co-host, or to just connect with hosts you admire, filter your search, view profiles, connect with hosts you like, and, once connected, we’ll introduce you by email.

When I started, I had the full corporate backing of Slate and Panoply, which was invaluable. I could never have done it on my own. Podcasting is a team effort. There are very few people who are good on mic and who are also good audio engineers and also good sales people and can also build out a studio and who also just have the discipline to keep on going, week in and week out. If you don’t have a team, it’s very, very difficult to make a podcast happen.

Felix Salmon, host of Slate Money
What name should I give my show?

Believe it or not, your show’s name can be critical to its success because it’s the first line of attack to cut through to an audience. We’ll quickly outline three name formats you can stick to.

Naming it after yourself

Unless you have a strong personal brand, we don’t recommend you name your show after yourself. The Joe Rogans and Oprah Winfreys of the world can do it because it helps them get audience cut-through, but if you have no public reputation it’s unlikely to work for you.

Naming it to suit the search engines

If you’re show is on a topic, like fly fishing, you might name it something boring but searchable, like Fly Fishing for Beginners . So long as the topic isn’t super competitive (and therefore crowded with search results), it’ll help people find your show when they search the topic.

Naming it something catchy

The final naming mechanism to get audience cut-through is to name your show something catchy and, therefore, shareable. When you connect a catchy name to a compelling show concept, you’re arming your audience with all the ingredients they need to talk about your show.

How should I name my episodes?

Your episode titles should be equal parts concise and descriptive.

If your show centres around interviews, title your episodes with your guests’ names; if your show centres around a topic, title them with the sub-topic addressed in the episode.

Remember, the titles of your episodes will be indexed by the podcatcher apps, so you want to give listeners the best chance of finding your show by making the episodes highly searchable.

Importantly, too, start the episode title with the episode’s sequence number (i.e., your first episode should be something like ‘Episode one: Barack Obama’, and so on).

How should I format my show?

While it may not be wise to condense your entire show into a predictable formula, you may want to set a consistent format for your show’s main elements before you start.

Show formats can streamline the recording process for you, the host, and give some structural predictability to your audience. Here’s a good format that’s used across a lot of podcasts:

  1. Introduction
    1. Episode teaser
    2. Intro music & welcome
    3. Pre-roll ad read
  2. Body
    1. The content of the episode (interview, etc.)
    2. Mid-roll ad read
  3. Conclusion
    1. Call for reviews and/or listener contributions
    2. Outro music
    3. Post-roll ad read

I had about a zillion ideas for podcasts, but I was thinking about those podcasts like I think about print stories. It was only when we started putting together OVER MY DEAD BODY that I realized that I needed to approach audio stories differently – not only did there need to be plenty of tape, but there needed to be compelling tape. And my interviewees needed to be good storytellers. With a print story, you can compensate for a lot by amping up your narrative voice. With a podcast, it's not so easy. This is a long way of saying get that good audio first, and the rest will follow.

Matthew Shaer, host of Over My Dead Body
Chapter Three

Technical know-how

HOW TO START A PODCAST

The technical learning curve of podcasting seems impossible. It's not.

In this chapter we discuss everything you need to know to get started.

There are more opinions about technical podcasting than there are microphones. Don't get caught up in the crossfire of perspectives.

Use this chapter to get set up, and get podcasting.

When you are starting your podcast, start it with purpose. At the end of the day, your podcast ins't about you, it's about the people listening. Make sure you focus on the quality of content, and don't get caught up trying to make it perfect. Create a consistent habit to upload your podcast episodes because you never know what life you will impact. Start today, and never stop.

Casey Adams, host of Rise of The Young
How much will a podcasting setup cost me?

What you invest in your podcasting setup should be relative to your podcasting experience.

If you’ve not recorded a podcast before you should spend next to nothing until you can convince yourself that you’ll be able to make a good go of it (we suggest starting with just Anchor). Then, as your experience grows, and as your momentum is maintained, you can upgrade.

How do podcasts actually work?

A good podcast episode lives within us all, but there’s a journey it must go on to get from your mind to the ears of your audience. We’ll outline the journey now, so you understand it clearly.

From mind to device

The first step in the journey is to get your podcast episode from your brain to your device, be it a phone or a computer. For this, you need a microphone, which we’ll deal with in detail, below.

When you have the episode recorded onto your computer or phone, you’ll likely need to make some edits and adjustments, like adding intros and outros and removing any parts you don’t want going live, which is where editing software like Audacity comes in.

You’ll also need to package the episode audio file up with some meta data and your podcast artwork before it’s ready to be uploaded to the internet for distribution.

From device to internet

When you have your episode on your phone or computer, and you've edited and packaged it up nicely, the next step is to upload it onto the internet so people all over the world can access it.

This is where podcast hosting services, like PodBean and Blubrry, come in. They will host your show on their servers, either for free or a monthly fee, making it playable for anyone online.

From internet to listeners

After your episode makes it to the internet via a hosting service, the last step is to push it to the popular podcatcher apps, like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, for listeners to find and listen to it.

This process (called 'distribution') is simple and can be done from inside whichever hosting provider you choose (we’ll go through this in detail, below). You simply tell the hosting provider to syndicate your show, via its RSS feed, to whichever podcatcher apps you want it to go to.

After you set up your show's distribution once, you simply upload new episodes to your hosting account. They’ll push automatically to the podcatcher apps, appearing in your show’s feed.

You don’t need to shut yourself in a closet or spend a ton of money on sound dampening foam to avoid reverb issues. You can use moving blankets (or any blanket) to help dampen the echoes. Either on the walls or just hang them close to you in the room. Your main objective is to make sure the echo doesn’t bounce straight back to the microphone so anything you put up on the walls to make the sound bounce another way will work just fine.

Adam and Matt, hosts of GraveYard Tales
Where should I record my show?

Step one in the podcasting process is to record your first episode, which requires a suitable recording bunker, and the good news is you don’t need a state-of-the-art studio to get started.

How To Start A Podcast.

Unless you’re intentionally recording a live show, the space should be quiet and furnished with noise-absorbing things like pillows, blankets, couches, and clothing. A closet works well but only if you’re recording alone or with guests on the phone. Otherwise, a small study or a bedroom with sound panels installed on the walls is fine if you’re recording with a co-host or guests.

If you have the budget to invest in acoustics, Joe Casabona recommends these Auralex acoustic sound panels and these AmazonBasics blackout curtains. However, you should be able to achieve a close result on a lower spend if you do your research and get creative.

Get the best equipment you can afford. Give everyone their own mic and definitely don't use the mic built into your laptop.

Alex Robinson, host of Star Wars Minute
Which microphone should I buy?

Once you’ve chosen a good spot to record, you’ll need a microphone.

Choosing a microphone can be a dangerous rabbit hole to start down. Unless you have time to become an audio geek, the sheer number of mic specs to get your head around can bury you.

From our surveys, there are more than 250 different models of microphone used by existing podcasters, each with a different price point and configuration of specs. So, how do you separate out the perfect mic for your needs from this enormous blob of choice?

Frankly, what microphone you choose doesn’t matter too much, particularly in your early days of podcasting. While the dream of every new podcaster is to record with state-of-the-art equipment, your show’s chances of success depend on much more than the mic you use.

How To Start A Podcast.

Of course, you don’t want to sound terrible, either, so what follows is a breakdown of microphone setups by complexity and price point. As well as this, WhatPods also has its countdown of the 20 most popular microphones for podcasting, as voted by thousands of hosts:

WhatPods’ list of the 20 most popular microphones for podcasting. How To Start A Podcast.
Level one — Phone or computer microphones (Free)

The cheapest solution is your in-built phone or computer microphone. Alison Green, the host of the Ask a Manager podcast, has recorded all the episodes of her show with her phone’s mic. And, as you can hear, it doesn’t sound too bad, nor has it hampered her show’s popularity.

The beauty of the phone mic over the computer mic is its proximity to your mouth, which means it does a good job of isolating your voice. So, unless you plan to hold your laptop up to your face, we recommend you use your phone mic over your computer mic. That said, with the phone mic you have to be careful of the popping that can occur when you speak too sharply into it.

If you’re an iPhone user, and you want to upgrade from the phone’s internal mic, you can also consider buying a dedicated iOS microphone like the Shure MV88, which retails for about $150.

Level two — USB microphones ($50-$250)

If you’re not satisfied using your phone or computer microphone, the next step up would be a USB microphone. The popular USB mics range at a cost of between $50 and $250.

For context, you’ll see two main types of microphone on the market: XLR and USB.

USB mics are simple because they connect to your computer via a USB cable, whereas XLR mics need to pass through a device, like an interface, before connecting to a computer via USB.

If you’re in the market for your first microphone and you hadn’t known the difference between an XLR mic and a USB mic until now, you’re best bet is to go with a USB option. XLR microphones can be complicated to setup and use, whereas USB mics are super simple.

You might be drawn to an XLR mic that’s cheaper than a USB mic, but when you buy an XLR mic you’ll also need to buy a mixer or interface to connect into, so the overall cost can be higher.

The five most popular USB podcasting microphones on the market are:

Click here to see all the popular USB models.

Level three — XLR microphones ($100-$400)

As we said, above, XLR microphones are a little more complicated to setup than a USB microphone, and they’ll end up costing you more. But they do have their advantages.

For starters, because equipment manufacturers have been making XLR microphones for decades longer than USB microphones, there are tons available, with a huge variety of specs.

Also, because XLR is a superior connection type to USB, XLR microphones generally have a superior sound, though the difference is minimal to the untrained ear, particularly in podcasting.

And because XLR microphones connect to your computer via a recorder or an interface, which generally come with multiple XLR ports, they allow you to record with multiple microphones.

If you’ve been podcasting for a while and you’re looking to upgrade your equipment and/or you’re a competent AV guru, then buying an XLR microphone might be the right choice for you.

The five most popular XLR podcasting microphones on the market are:

Click here to see all the popular XLR models.

If you do decide to buy an XLR mic, you’ll need a device that converts the analogue audio from the mic into digital audio, which can be uploaded to your computer. Your options for that are:

  1. A portable XLR recorder, which captures the audio on a memory card, for it to then be uploaded to your computer (like these ones); or,
  2. An audio interface or mixer, which act as a middleman device to connect your analogue XLR microphone to your computer via a USB cable.

If you’d like to learn more about microphones, go here: Types of Microphones.

Have fun with it and stay as relaxed as possible during recording sessions. If you want the pod to succeed, you have to stay in it for the long game. It takes time to find your audience and not every episode will be as successful as the last.

Kate Clark, host of Equity
Which hosting provider should I choose?

As we said above, you’ll need to host your podcast episodes online. You can do it yourself with regular web hosting, but you should avoid that and get dedicated podcast hosting.

There are plenty of podcast hosting services, each with different offerings and price points. We’ll share the main ones so you can make a quick decision and move on.

Understanding storage and bandwidth

Before you start researching hosting providers, you’ll want to estimate how much storage and bandwidth you’ll use, as most services will charge you based on one or both of these metrics.

Storage has to do with the size of your episode files. If each episode is 100MB and your hosting provider gives you 100MB of monthly storage, you’ll be able to publish one episode per month.

Bandwidth has to do with the number of people who download your episodes. If a million people download them, more of your hosting bandwidth will be used than if only ten people did.

How much bandwidth will I need?

Most hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth these days, so you shouldn’t need to worry about it. In fact, we suggest you avoid any service that doesn’t offer unlimited bandwidth.

How much storage will I need?

This depends on two things:

  1. How big are your episode files?
  2. How many episodes do you plan to publish each month?

If you plan to publish a new episode every week and each episode is under 25MB, then you’ll only need 100MB in monthly hosting storage (four weeks x 25MB). But if each episode is quite long, and averages 50MB, you’ll obviously need 200MB in storage (four weeks x 50MB).

An episode we recently created ran for 14 minutes and was 10.6MB. If we had 100MB in monthly storage, we could comfortably publish nine episodes/month without exceeding the limit.

If you’re unsure how much storage you’ll need, we suggest you record one episode of your show before you sign up to a hosting service. See how large the file is, then just multiply that file size by the number of episodes you plan to publish every month and you’ll have your answer.

How do hosting services charge for storage?

You might get confused with how the hosting services charge for storage. We’ll outline the main ways, below. Make sure you’re clear on the method your chosen service uses before signing up.

Some services might give you a fixed amount of storage, say 10GB, for you to use at your own pace before needing to delete files or increase the storage. Your mobile phone works like this, where you either need to delete photos or upgrade the phone to get access to more storage. Unless the amount offered by the service is huge, we don’t recommend this option as you’ll eventually need to delete old episodes, which isn’t ideal, or pay to upgrade your storage quota.

Other services might give you a new allocation of storage every month. For example, Blubrry’s starter plan gives you 100MB of new storage each month. If you published four 25MB episodes in January, you’d have to wait for February for a new block of 100MB storage to release more.

Blubrry’s pricing model, based on fresh monthly allocations of storage. How To Start A Podcast.

Other services might give you rolling storage, which works like demerit points on your driver's licence, where you have to wait for a re-issue of lost points. That is, if you upload a 25MB episode today, you’d have to wait 30 days for the service to allocate you a fresh block of 25MB.

Then there are those rare services, which offer unlimited storage. We’d only recommend you go with one of these services if it’s either (a) inexpensive, relative to limited services or (b) you are publishing such a high volume of episodes every month that you need the unlimited storage.

Making a public commitment to a consistent schedule helps so much. I've done 942 consecutive daily episodes of Side Hustle School now, and it all started from saying "I'm going to record a different episode every day in 2017." Here we are two years later and it's still going strong. If I just said, "Oh, I'm going to publish episodes every now and then"—I'm certain it would have petered out long ago.

Chris Guillebeau, host of Side Hustle School
Free hosting solutions

Although free hosting might seem like a godsend to a budget-constrained podcaster, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. For each service outlined, pay careful attention to the cons.

Anchor Anchor.FM. How To Start A Podcast.

Anchor has done great things for podcasting. The app is incredible because it includes all the tools you need to launch your show. But its major drawcard is its offer of free, unlimited hosting.

On the surface, this decision by Anchor is a very charitable one. After all, the company itself would have to foot the bill to host all of our content on its own or Amazon’s servers.

But be mindful that tech companies have very cunning ways to make money off their users, and it seems as if Anchor plans to do what Facebook has done: monetise our data.

Before you decide to host your show free with Anchor, make sure you do your research into their Terms of Service, particularly Article 4, which outlines the company’s very broad rights to use your content without paying you. For more on that, read Amy Oztan’s very informed views.

Buzzsprout (free plan) Buzzsprout. How To Start A Podcast

Buzzsprout has a freemium business model, offering two hours of free podcast hosting per month (details here). Unless you’re experimenting with podcasting, we don’t suggest you bother with this free offering. Even if you don’t plan to publish more than two hours worth of episodes every month, Buzzsprout only hosts the episodes for 90 days on the free plan (meaning, after 90 days, your episodes will disappear). Also, your episodes will be furnished with ads.

Podbean (free plan) Podbean. How To Start A Podcast

Podbean also has a freemium business model, offering five hours of free storage and 100GB of bandwidth monthly. If you’re committed to going with a free hosting provider, and you want to avoid Anchor for the reasons outlined above we suggest you go with Podbean over Buzzsprout.

SoundCloud (free plan) SoundCloud. How To Start A Podcast

SoundCloud also offers a limited free hosting plan, with three hours of free storage per month.

Edit well. So many podcasts start out as long, rambling chats that haven't been edited at all, but if you listen to the most successful ones they're always tightly edited. Get to your point quickly - you probably don't need an opening 20 minute chat about what you had for breakfast before you get to the meat of the show - and listen afterwards with an objective ear, cutting out anything the listener won't find interesting.

Anna Ptaszynski, host of No Such Thing As A Fish
Paid hosting solutions
Blubrry (starts at $12/month) Blubrry. How To Start A Podcast

Blubrry is one of the most popular paid hosting solutions. You get unlimited bandwidth on all the plans, but pay for storage. You get a fresh block of storage to use monthly, so with the 100MB plan you get a new 100MB block of storage at the start of every month.

The plans are:

Level one $12/month for 100MB in monthly storage (no video podcast uploads)

Level two $20/month for 250MB in monthly storage

Level three $40/month for 500MB in monthly storage

Level four $80/month for 1,00MB in monthly storage

Level five Unlimited storage, with the price negotiated with the Blubrry sales team.

Buzzsprout (premium plans start at $12/month)

Buzzsprout. How To Start A Podcast

Buzzsprout also has premium plans. Unlike Blubrry’s offering, which includes unlimited bandwidth, with the Buzzsprout premium plans you are capped at 250GB of bandwidth (which is probably as good as unlimited, unless your show really takes off and is in high demand). Buzzsprout also charges based on episode duration, not file size. The plans are:

Level one $12/month for three hours worth of episodes

Level two $18/month for six hours worth of episodes

Level three $24/month for 12 hours worth of episodes

Castos (starts at $19/month) Castos. How To Start A Podcast

Castos offers unlimited hosting and bandwidth on all plans. This makes them expensive, unless you expect to publish a lot of episodes every month to a large audience. The plans are:

Level one $19/month (no video podcast uploads)

Level two $34/month (no video podcast uploads)

Level three $49/month

Libsyn (starts at $5/month) Libsyn. How To Start A Podcast

Libsyn offers unlimited bandwidth on all its plans, then charges for storage. The plans are:

Level one $5/month for 50MB in monthly storage

Level two $15/month for 250MB in monthly storage

Level three $20/month for 400MB in monthly storage

Level four $40/month for 800MB in monthly storage

Level five $75/month for 1,500MB in monthly storage

Podbean (premium plans start at $14/month) Podbean. How To Start A Podcast

Podbean offers unlimited bandwidth and storage on all its plans. The higher monthly price points come with additional features, which you should review on the pricing page. The plans are:

Level one $14/month (no video podcast uploads)

Level two $39/month (video podcast uploads allowed)

Level three $129/month (additional business podcasting services included)

SoundCloud (premium plan for $16/month)

SoundCloud. How To Start A Podcast

SoundCloud also has a premium pro plan, with unlimited uploads and bandwidth for $16/month.

Stand up when you record your podcast. Listeners can sense energy and standing automatically increases your energy and vocal fullness and volume.

Dan Miller, host of 48 Days to the Work You Love Internet Radio Show
Which headphones should I use?

You’ll need a set of headphones for when you record, so you can hear yourself, your guests and co-hosts talking. Your phone’s headphones will do, but you’ll be much better placed if you invest in a good on-ear, noise-cancelling set. Here’s a good guide for selecting a good podcasting set.

Do I need a pop filter?

A pop filter is a small mesh or fabric screen that sits between your mouth and the microphone to reduce the effects of plosives. By diffusing the air before it strikes the microphone capsule, a pop filter eliminates the distortion and ‘popping’ noise that plosives cause.

Common in professional studios, pop filters are also good for podcasters. And unlike most gear, they’re inexpensive to buy and simple to make at home.

When you buy your microphone, you should enquire about a compatible pop filter and compare the cost of buying one to making one from scratch (instructions to do that are here).

Do I need a boom?

A boom is an arm that holds your mic in place. They alleviate the strain of handling the mic and, by keeping it at a fixed distance from your mouth, can maintain the quality of your sound output.

While a boom is beneficial, it's not necessary, particularly when you're using a mic with a stand. We'd recommend avoiding the added cost until you’ve got some success under your belt.

Do I need a shock mount?

A shock mount is like a boom, but it's designed to keep your microphone steady on your desk, instead of in midair. Like the boom, a shock mount is a nice-to-have, but isn't necessary.

You don’t need famous guests—often ordinary people have had extraordinary experiences, and they may be more relatable to your audience (sometimes the most interesting guests are the listeners in your audience). Make it a point to ask guests questions they’ve never been asked before and resist the temptation to invite guests who agree with what you think. Share your platform with people who make you think.

Adam Grant, host of Worklife with Adam Grant
How do you record with guests and co-hosts?

Another area of concern for non-technical podcasters is how to record with other people, like guests and co-hosts, particularly when they’re not in the same room as you.

How To Start A Podcast.

Anchor has a fantastic feature that makes recording with others super simple. It’s called Record with Friends and lets you record with up to 10 people, anywhere in the world, over the phone.

If you're not using Anchor to record your show, you can just use Skype, which now lets you record your conversations, or services like Ringr.

For more info on recording your podcast remotely, check out this guide by Rachel Corbett. Here, too, is a guide from Audacity that explains how to record with two microphones at once.

How do I take listener contributions?
How To Start A Podcast.

While not all shows are suitable for listener contributions, some are, and you may want to encourage your listeners to participate in some form or another.

Unlike radio, podcasting doesn't allow for real-time listener contributions, but you can nonetheless facilitate listener participation if you’re set up technically to do it.

Anchor lets you collect voice messages from listeners via a unique link it generates on your behalf. You share the link, listeners follow it to record their messages, and the messages are collected in the app for you to listen to and feature the best ones in future episodes.

Outside of the Anchor app, there are tons of other solutions to achieve the same result, including setting up a Google Voice number or using a service like SpeakPipe.

For more info on taking listener contributions, check out this guide by Buzzsprout.

Chapter four

Editorial advice

HOW TO START A PODCAST

In this chapter, we'll discuss some tips to help you make super compelling podcasts.

Like it or lump it, your show will only find and grow an audience if it's compelling.

While technical polish is nice, mastering those aspects will be a waste if your core product, the content itself, isn't worth listening to.

You have to have a point of view. There are so many interview-based shows out there, and so many of them are just like the others. If you want to gain and grow an audience over time, you have to have some unique, compelling point of view that causes listeners to choose you over the countless other options out there. It could be your interview style, or the specific types of questions you ask, or your personality, but it has to be clear why you are different from the others. Don’t rely on the guest to bring that uniqueness. You have to define your show.

Todd Henry, host of The Accidental Creative
Master polish or master rawness

Reid Hoffman’s podcast is well crafted and polished. Joe Rogan’s podcast is raw and organic. Both are wildly different in terms of their production approach, yet both are wildly popular.

Unfortunately, too many podcasters set out to replicate one of the approaches, but don’t work hard enough to perfect the ingredients that make the approach work so well, and ultimately fail.

Some set out to craft wonderfully produced and editorially crafted episodes, but don’t have, and don’t develop, the production or editorial chops to execute the Hoffman way of podcasting.

Others set out to be as charismatic and authentic as Rogan, but crack under the nerves when the mics start recording and the episodes ultimately come across as contrived and rehearsed.

The best piece of editorial advice we can give is to pick one of these styles and work hard to master it. If you want well-crafted, polished episodes, take the time to make each episode bulletproof. If you want freewheeling, authentic conversations, hone your interviewing charisma.

We find that podcasters who start out trying to achieve both, generally achieve neither to the degree required for the style to work for them, so don’t try to nail both when you’re starting out.

How To Start A Podcast.

There are some genres in podcasting where scripting episodes works. True crime, for example, is fine to be delivered off a pre-written script. As is history, education, and a few others. For these, careful scripting and pedantic post-production is welcomed, if not expected.

For other genres, though — including sports, comedy, interview, and roundtable — any signs of the episodes being contrived or overly produced can undermine its authenticity and appeal.

Pick a style and continuously work to master it.

Three interviewing commandments I learned years ago from a mentor: Do your homework! Read the guest’s book. Find out all you can about her or him. Have a good idea of where you’d like the conversation to go. You’ll relax and be better prepared to go down paths you didn’t expect. Second, learn to listen! You won’t discover those promising paths if you make the interview about yourself and what you want. Lastly, have fun!

Mat Kaplan, host of Planetary Radio: Space Exploration, Astronomy and Science
Focus hard on manufacturing compelling audio

Judge Judy, Dr. Phil, and Jerry Springer have each aired for an average of 186 episodes across 22 seasons and several decades. Each has achieved an incredible editorial feat. What’s made them so popular is their ability to manufacture compelling television for their audiences.

How To Start A Podcast.

Your job as a podcast host is to strive to strike the same level of editorial impact on your audience with your podcasts as the creators of those shows have struck with theirs.

Our point isn’t that you have to create cringe-worthy, personal human drama podcasts. More to the point, you have to uncover and leverage the elements that will make your show compelling.

When you’ve done that, the podcasting world is your oyster.

In an interview, don't talk too much. Let the silences speak for you. People get uncomfortable with silence, and if you let it linger, they tend to want to talk and fill that gap. As a journalist, I try not to be the one who fills that silence.

Josh Dean, host of The Clearing
How do you interview?

A good interview has to be interesting, informative, or otherwise captivating. Few people naturally have elite interviewing chops, so if you’re launching an interview show, you’ll need to master the dark art. While they’re not definitive, we’ll briefly cover a few tips to get you going:

Put your interviewee at ease
How To Start A Podcast.

Interviews suck if the interviewer and guest are tense and haven’t built a rapport with one another. So before you start recording, spend fifteen or twenty minutes breaking the ice. Talk about things that have nothing to do with the interview in order to build some baseline chemistry.

Be prepared, but not robotic

You want to know your guest and prepare for the interview, but you don’t want to be so rehearsed that you come off as robotic. Don’t write out a list of the fifty things you’ll ask the guest; instead, let the research you do on them guide the conversation naturally.

Don’t anticipate: listen

Connected to the last point, don’t spend the entire interview anticipating the guest’s answers and waiting to fire back with your next, rehearsed question. If the guest wants to take the conversation into an interesting space, let them take it there and adapt your questions.

Grow the conversation, don’t constrain it

On our point above about not preparing a list of concrete questions, you should instead prepare a handful of leading, open-ended questions that invite your guest to be expansive with their answers. If you constrain them with tight questions, you’ll get tight, predictable answers.

Using silence is underrated. Let the best moments breathe before moving on. Don't optimize for people who listen at 1.5x speed. Optimize for passive listening.

Josh Muccio, host of The Pitch
Don’t panic over silence

Inexperienced interviewers freak out about an interview going cold, so they tend to ramble or ask stupid questions when the guest stops abruptly or the conversation hits a lull.

Experienced interviewers handle silence by taking the opportunity to reflect on the interview before guiding it back onto solid ground. If you encounter silence in an interview, voice your reflections and purposefully guide the guest into a new stage of the interview.

Probe, respectfully

Sometimes guests give bad answers. The answer might be vague, misleading, or even inappropriate. Inexperienced interviewers are often afraid to probe their subject when a bad answer emerges, but your job is to get the best possible interview out of your conversation. If that means probing for a deeper or better answer, don’t be afraid to do it. Just be respectful.

Embrace your knowledge gap

You should be well prepared for an interview, but if the guest steers the conversation into an area where you lack knowledge or expertise, say so. Don’t pretend like you know what the guest is talking about in an effort to keep the conversation afloat. Your knowledge gap will inevitably be revealed. Instead, take it as an opportunity to educate yourself and your listeners.

Stay professional

Interviews can sometimes get emotional, and you actually want to draw emotion from your guest. But it’s not your job as the interviewer to succumb to the emotion, so stay professional.

Get interview closure

A good way to end an interview is to spend a few moments thanking your guest for taking the time to be a part of the conversation. It’s also a good time for them to close out the interview with any final remarks, which might include giving them the opportunity to promote their work.

How long should my episodes be?

Simple. For as long as they’re still interesting.

One of the best podcast hosts we’ve heard recorded just seven episodes of a true crime show, with each episode lasting fewer than 10 minutes. We devoured every precious second of the show, such was his hosting mastery on display. Then you have the Joe Rogans of the world, who can keep an audience engaged by simply talking to an interesting guest for hours on end.

Again, your episodes should be just as long as they’re still engaging, and not a second longer.

How often should I release episodes?

Again, simple. Release an episode every time you have one that doesn’t suck.

How To Start A Podcast.

We highly recommend you don’t become formulaic for the sake of formula. There are hosts who reliably release an episode every week and each one is fantastic; then there are hosts (like Dan Carlin) who release an episode sporadically, when they have enough good content to make one.

Then there are hosts who reliably release an episode every week and each one sucks, because they are a slave to the formula and not to recording episodes that are genuinely compelling.

If you’re going to be a podcasting slave, make sure you’re a slave to the job of engaging your audience. It’s an extremely difficult job and is impossible when you don’t take any notice of it.

Breaks can seem like you’ll lose subscribers but, you won’t - take the time you need for yourself. Don’t cut corners & always release content you’re proud of.

Lanie Hobbs, host of True Crime Fan Club Podcast
Should I release episodes in seasons?

Some podcasts break their episodes up into seasons, like a television show. We like the idea of doing it, too, if you have a show that aligns to the format. Not only does it keep things structured for your audience, it also keeps things fresh for you because at the end of every season you have the opportunity to take a break, regroup, and rebuild momentum for a new season.

If you didn’t structure your show in seasons, and you took a three month hiatus from recording every year, your audience might reasonably think you’ve dropped off the face of the planet. But if you prepare them for it by embedding the break into the show format, you’ll get away with it.

And taking an expected break from the show might just be a good thing. We know of a few sports podcasts that take a break in the off-season, and it has a huge effect on us as the listener. We start to miss it in those months when there’s radio silence, so when they come back on the air we return to the show with a huge wave of enthusiasm for fresh episodes.

Chapter five

Post-Production

HOW TO START A PODCAST

Once you've finished recording your first podcast episode, you'll need to edit it.

The post-production work for a podcast can take more time than you might anticipate, so you should be aware at the outset of what's required.

In this chapter, we'll discuss everything else your show needs to go live.

Don’t be too precious about your work. Be willing to cut. Shorter and tighter are usually better. Remember — nobody knows what you leave out.

Portland Helmich, host of Stranglers
Choosing & using recording/editing software

To record and edit your episodes, you’ll need a software editing tool. There are many options, but the premium ones can cost a fortune and you should be able to get away with a free one.

Of the free options available to you, the two best are:

  1. Audacity (Windows & Mac)
  2. GarageBand (Mac only)

Of the paid options available to you, the best one is Adobe Audition.

Adobe Audition. How To Start A Podcast.

We won’t go into detail on how to edit in this guide because there are experts who will do a far better job of helping you than we will. Here are some fantastic tutorials for each tool:

  1. Editing with Audacity (here)
  2. Editing with GarageBand (here)
  3. Editing with Adobe Audition (here)

The biggest thing for me is planning + routine. The reason why I’ve had no issues putting out a great weekly show is that I plan the episodes on Sunday and record on Thursdays, without fail. Everything is scheduled in advance and I stick to the plan. Of course, this is also about mindset and discipline.

Nick Bradley, host of Scale Up Your Business Podcast

We will say that if you’re not smart about it, editing can take up an enormous amount of your time, time which should otherwise be spent improving your show and growing your audience.

So, when you’ve settled on your preferred editing tool, quickly learn how to use it and quickly streamline your editing workload by creating editable episode templates.

An episode template sets a mould of all your audio elements — your intro and outro, show body, music snippets, and ad reads, etc. — in the structure you want them. For each new episode, you then duplicate the template and drop in the newly recorded audio into its assigned place.

Of course, if you don’t have the time or inclination to master the editing skill set, you can always outsource the work to a professional. This article will help you find a good service for that.

Intros and Outros

It’s a good idea to record a stock intro and outro for your show, which you can add at the start and finish of each of your episodes.

Your intro should be used to set the tone and generate a hook for your show whereas your outro should be used as a call to action to get your listeners to do something important, like subscribe to the show or leave a rating or review.

You can record your intros and outros yourself, or, to get a custom, professional podcast intro, you can use a service like Music Radio Creative, which charges $465 for an intro and outro, three feature jingles, and help with your show’s branding.

Music Radio Creative. How To Start A Podcast.

Good sound is important, but what is even more important is editing. Try editing the first episode, if you're not used to editing podcasts, three times before you release it, and only after practicing around with some unimportant audio. Taking out DMs (disgusting mouth noises), overly-long pauses, and splicing together sentence halves are crucial skills.

Sophia and Gabriel, host of Breaking Math Podcast
What music should I use and how do I find it?

While having music in your episodes isn’t mandatory, a lot of hosts choose to at least include a track in their intro and outros.

The trick is knowing where to find music to use in your show. In this regard, what you’re looking for is ‘copyright free’, ‘royalty free’, ‘stock’, or ‘library’ music. If you choose to include music in your show you must avoid breaching copyright over the tune.

There are a few sites online that make copyright free and financially free music available to you to download, but because the tunes are free they’re not very unique, and the music isn’t always the highest quality. That said, if you’d like to check them out, here are a few of the better ones:

  1. vimeo.com/musicstore
  2. Incompetech.com

Your best bet is to pay for a copyright-free song to include in your show. If you can afford the $10-30 fee to licence the tune, you’ll stand a much better chance to find a high-quality song, quickly. To browse for premium, copyright-free music check out any of these sites:

  1. Jamendo
  2. Audioblocks
  3. Music Radio Creative
  4. MelodyLoops

Audio quality is a must. People listen in their car, using Airpods or headphones, on Alexa, and on the speaker built into their phones. How does your podcast sound on those different types of speakers? Some polishing and equalization with a tool like Audacity (free) or Adobe Pro Tools (pay) can make a huge difference.

Arnie, host of Now Playing - The Movie Review Podcast
Improving your audio

There are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your audio, including playing with compression and EQ settings. Here is a great video that will help you choose the right settings.

Levelling your episode audio
Auphonic. How To Start A Podcast.

Once you’ve finished editing your episode we recommend you run it through a program like Auphonic, which will automatically balance the levels and loudness of the various audio elements in the episode (speakers, music, etc.) for a more consistent and quality sound.

How do you edit your show’s ID3 tags?

ID3 tags provide the critical metadata information about your episodes — such as episode title, host, year, and genre — to be displayed by the media players they’ll be syndicated to.

You’ll have seen ID3 tags in the wild. When you play a podcast (or anything, for that matter) In iTunes, you’ll see them in action in the media player up top:

ID3 tags aren’t automatically appended to your podcast episodes. Once you finish recording and editing each episode, and before you upload it to your hosting provider to be syndicated to the podcast directories, you will need to manually set the ID3 tags.

You can use Auphonic, mentioned above, to set the ID3 tags for each episode, or you can use a standalone ID3 tag program like MP3tag to do it.

Graphic design

To give your show the best chance to succeed, it needs to be presented well.

You can design the artwork yourself if you use an online graphic design tool like Canva. But if you don’t have design skills yourself, you can outsource the design to a skilled practitioner. You can find these on Upwork and Fiverr or you can use a service like 99designs.

99designs. How To Start A Podcast.

You’ll need graphic design resources for the following aspects of your show and promotion:

  1. Branding (logo, etc.);
  2. Cover artwork; and,
  3. Social media graphics
Designing your brand

Your show needs brand power if it’s to succeed straight out of the gate.

Building brand power starts with some key decision making about the visual elements of the brand. Visual branding is made up primarily of three things:

  1. Color combination;
  2. Font combination; and,
  3. Imagery

Here is a fantastic Canva tutorial that will guide you through the process of building a brand kit.

Once your brand kit is set you can design a logo that complies with your style (which you can do in Canva or via 99designs or Upwork / Fiverr ).

You’ll want to apply your brand consistently across every marketing or promotional asset you release to the public, from your social media posts to your show artwork to your email signature.

Designing your podcast cover artwork

You’ll then need a visually appealing cover artwork. People choose podcasts like they choose books: with a snap judgment about the impact the cover makes on their brain.

With hundreds of thousands of shows in the Apple podcast library, the only chance you have of standing out is to create a distinctive podcast artwork.

Apple Podcasts. How To Start A Podcast.

Your artwork cover design should be less than 500kb in size, between 1400x1400 and 2048x2048 pixels in height/width, and either in a JPG or PNG format.

The artwork should include the name of your show. It can depict your logo or can be more abstract, and if you’re central to the show’s branding, you can make it a headshot of yourself.

To go deeper, read Buzzprout’s guide to designing eye-catching cover artwork.

I hear a lot of people debating what equipment they should buy when they start their podcast. Don’t worry about that yet. Your initial resources should be about your brand, your audience, and your engagement. When your show starts to perform and you hit a rhythm, then you can worry about fancy equipment. As long as your audio is crisp, it’s your brand and your storytelling that will sell the show.

Josh Hallmark, host of True Crime Bullsh**: The Story of Israel Keyes
Chapter six

Distribution

HOW TO START A PODCAST

When you have your first episode complete, it's time to set up your show and upload the first episode to your hosting provider, to be syndicated to the podcast directories, like Apple and Spotify.

In this section, we'll help you get your podcast out to all the important directories.

Although it's quite an unromantic piece of advice, the clearest road to podcasting success is diligence. Choose a schedule that suits the kind of output you'd like to produce and stick to it. Some shows will be better than others, and though you'll never have a "perfect" podcast, every time you finish one, you'll have learned what worked and what didn't. Afterwards, you'll prep and then record another one. In the words of Robert Fripp: "Persist— then keep going."

George Hrab, host of Geologic Podcast
How do people listen to podcasts?

In the early days of podcasting, listeners could only access a podcast directly via its RSS feed. Then Apple bundled up all the RSS feeds and made all the podcasts on the web available via one single mobile 'podcatcher' application, the Apple Podcasts app.

Source: iDownloadBlog. How To Start A Podcast.

These days, there are dozens of podcatcher apps on the market (you can see our list of the 20 best podcatcher apps here). Apple Podcasts is still leading for the share of audience (with a little over 50% of listeners using the app to find their podcasts), but Spotify is quickly catching them.

To which podcatchers should you distribute?

To give your show a good chance of being found, you want to distribute it to as many of the leading podcatchers as you can. In order of importance, those podcatchers are as follows:

  1. Apple Podcasts (App Store)
  2. Spotify (App Store | Google Play Store)
  3. Google Podcasts (Google Play Store)
  4. Stitcher (App Store | Google Play Store)
  5. Overcast (App Store)
  6. Pocket Casts (App Store | Google Play Store)
  7. SoundCloud (App Store | Google Play Store)

Set aside a specific time or day to prepare and or record your podcast, and try to release on the same day each week. This allows your listeners to get accustomed to your release schedule and form habits around listening. Sometimes life gets in the way, but with good forward planning, this is possible.

Martin Bailey, host of The Martin Bailey Photography Podcast
How do you distribute your show?

Most of the hosting services we mentioned above will allow you to submit your show to all of the major podcatcher apps from within your account. Here are the instructions for some of them:

  1. Anchor
  2. Blubrry
  3. Buzzsprout

Other than submitting via the podcatcher apps, you can submit directly via these instructions:

  1. Instructions to submit to Apple.
  2. Instructions to submit to Spotify.
  3. Instructions to submit to Google Podcasts.
  4. Instructions to submit to Stitcher.
  5. Instructions to submit to Overcast.
  6. Instructions to submit to Pocket Casts.
  7. Instructions to submit to SoundCloud.
What do you need to submit your show for distribution?

Before you submit your show for distribution you’ll need all of the following (all of which you should have if you’ve followed the steps in all the sections, above):

  1. Show title
  2. Publisher name (either your name or your organization’s name)
  3. Show subtitle
  4. Show description
  5. Show artwork
  6. RSS feed URL (which you’ll get when you upload your show to your hosting provider)

To help get over the hump of "giving up" too soon, I find that banking 6 - 8 episodes before starting any release gives you the ability to launch with more confidence. You already have a collection of episodes and you can set up regular releases and perhaps even stay ahead of the need for making new content. Getting bad reviews can kill your motivations - but if you have more ready to go you can get over that "start-up" hump and defy your doubts and the inertia they threaten.

Blake Smith, host of MonsterTalk
Chapter seven

Audience Growth

HOW TO START A PODCAST

In this chapter, we'll discuss the basics to help your show find an audience.

But take the suggestions with a word of warning: your show only stands a chance of finding an audience if it’s compelling. If it isn't, go back to chapter four and keep working on it.

People don't listen to good podcasts. They turn good podcasts off and go listen to great podcasts. If you have a good podcast you will lose listeners. People don't recommend good podcasts either. They recommend podcasts they love. If you make something great, your current audience will appreciate it and become your marketing team. They'll spread the word for you. It is so critical that your show must be great in order for it to grow, literally nothing else matters until it's great.

Jack Rhysider, host of Darknet Diaries

There’s a saying in startup land: focus on making good dog food before you bring the dogs to the bowl. The same theory applies to podcasting. Don’t bother spending the time executing all the ways you can bring listeners to your show until you’ve perfected the show itself.

How To Start A Podcast.

This isn’t just general advice. It’s actually the best advice you’ll get to actually grow your show.

You can blast Facebook and Twitter, write blog posts, and runs ads, but the cost of doing that (in time and money) and the results you’ll achieve won’t compare at all to the results you’ll achieve if you create a show so compelling that your audience literally multiplies after every episode.

My advice is to be realistic about your timeframe and understand that it takes a LOT more than recording equipment to make a podcast. Make sure you have rapport with your hosts. Make sure that you are editing out anything that doesn't sound interesting. Make sure you know how much time you need to post on social, update your websites, interact with your readership. It is a *commitment* and without that commitment no podcast can survive, so don't go into it lightly!

Melissa Anelli, host of PotterCast: Harry Potter podcasting since 2005

Good podcasters make episodes so good that when 10 listeners hear it, they each tell one more person about it, and the audience doubles.

The bottomline is, any time you have to dedicate to your podcast in its early days should be spent on making it the tastiest dog food it can possibly be. Then, once you know you have a product that will turn one dog into two on its own, it’s time to focus on this section of the guide.

Podcasts grow through word of mouth so one of the most important things podcasters can do is respond to emails from listeners. Make it a part of your routine and your listeners will be thrilled you replied, and will tell others.

David Stein, host of Money For the Rest of Us
Subscribers are gold

Listeners can do two things with your podcast: listen to an episode and move on, dissatisfied with their experience; or, listen to an episode, enjoy it, and subscribe to your show.

You want the latter to happen. People who listen to your show but don’t subscribe — even if they enjoyed what they heard — are not nearly as valuable as those who listen and subscribe.

How To Start A Podcast.

Subscribers of your show will have new episodes fed automatically to their podcatcher app, prompting them to listen to each new instalment you release. And it’s these repeat listeners that really drive the growth of your show, because they’re the most likely to refer others to listen.

When you’ve published your first few episodes, make sure you share your show link with as many people, and across as many platforms as possible, and encourage listeners to subscribe.

When considering launching a podcast, know that it involves far more work than simply switching on a tape-recorder and capturing a conversation. You must consider the hours that will be spent on editing, mixing, distributing, garnering advertising support (if you need it) and creating the spots, etc.

Frances Anderton, host of Design and Architecture
Charming Apple

For the past decade and a half, Apple has been the most important mechanism for discovery in podcasting and, while its influence has lessened over the past few years, it remains one of the most dominant organic ways to get your show into the ears of new listeners.

There are four components to the Apple podcast discovery engine you should be aware of:

  1. Ratings
  2. Reviews
  3. Category Rankings
  4. New & Noteworthy
Ratings

Listeners can give shows a rating out of five stars, five being the best and one being the worst:

Apple Podcasts. How To Start A Podcast.

All the ratings are aggregated by Apple and appear with the listing for the podcast:

Apple Podcasts. How To Start A Podcast.

It’s important to ask for ratings from your listeners, not just because it helps your show be found by Apple’s discovery algorithms, but it also gives you a sense for how your show is performing. Most hosts ask their listeners to rate their show at the beginning and/or end of each episode.

Reviews

On top of a rating, listeners can also write a review for a podcast:

Apple Podcasts. How To Start A Podcast.

Which are also aggregated by Apple and accompany the listing for the podcast:

Apple Podcasts. How To Start A Podcast.

Again, there’s value in asking for reviews from your listeners, for the boost your show will get in Apple’s algorithms, but also for qualitative feedback on the positives and negatives of your work.

Category Rankings

The Apple podcast directory is broken down into categories (history, comedy, etc.) and for each category Apple ranks the top 200 podcasts.

Apple Podcasts. How To Start A Podcast.

To decide which podcasts make the 200 for each category, Apple takes into account things like downloads, subscribers, and ratings. Here is a great article that goes into more detail about it.

New & Noteworthy

On top of its category rankings, Apple also publishes an ever-updating list of newly minted and popular shows and episodes on its New & Noteworthy list:

Apple Podcasts. How To Start A Podcast.

Unfortunately, the algorithm driving a show’s selection in the New & Noteworthy list remains largely a mystery, but, again, it’s a combination of things like downloads, subscribers, and ratings. Here is another great article that goes into more detail about what might be required.

One of the best pieces of advice for maintaining momentum once you start a new podcast is to prepare a lot of material before you even release your first episode. It’s a good idea for new podcasts to try and maintain a consistent release schedule, but it’s easy for life to get in the way and cause delays. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have the time to create new material, it is very beneficial to already have some material in the can which you can release to your audience.

Robin Warder, host of The Trail Went Cold
Launch with three episodes

There’s a lot of advice floating around, and we agree with it, that you should launch your show with at least three episodes. This is great for a few reasons.

Firstly, it gives you some real production momentum before you launch, which can motivate you to continue producing post-launch.

Secondly, it gives your show’s catalogue more depth, so new listeners can sink their teeth into what you’re doing more than they could with just one episode.

Finally, having multiple episodes gives your show more content to be listened to, which means more downloads, which gives it a better chance of making Apple’s New & Noteworthy list.

Prominent guests & show cross-promotion

A well-worn but still effective method for quickly finding an audience for your show is to tap directly into the audience of another person, organization, or podcast.

If you started a sports podcast where you interviewed world famous athletes, you’d have no problem growing your show, because you’d have access to their combined audiences.

If you started a business podcast where you interviewed Google employees about productivity and work/life balance, you’d tap into its followers and have no problem growing your show.

If you started an internet marketing podcast where you interviewed other hosts of internet marketing shows, you’d tap into their audience and have no problem growing your show.

While the above examples are relatively unachievable for most people — of course, if you had the rolodex to launch a podcast on the back of interviews with Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods you’d quickly have an audience of a few million people, and wouldn’t give two shites about this guide — it’s the underlying theory of the growth strategy that should resonate with you.

Even if you’re not friends with the CEO of Google or the QB of the Patriots, you can still build a decent audience for a show that leverages the audiences of other people and organisations.

Having guests on is a great way to expand your audience. And the flipside of that, being on other shows is a great way to get exposed to people's audiences and expand your message more broadly.

Matt Bodnar, host of The Science of Success
SEO 101

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. The goal behind SEO is to help the big search engines (like Google, Youtube , and the podcatcher apps) find your content (blog posts, podcast episodes, etc.) and rank it at the top of their results when people make a relevant search.

How To Start A Podcast.

SEO can be quite a complicated topic to unpack, particularly if you're new to it, but, to help, here is the world’s best introductory guide to SEO. If you read it, and understand it, you’ll be in a better position than most podcasters to find an audience for your show via the search engines.

Creating show notes for each episode

While we don’t anticipate many listeners read through them, writing detailed show notes for all of your episodes may give your show a better chance of being found in the search engines of the podcatcher apps and in Google if you also publish them on your website.

Should you transcribe your show?

Transcribing each of your episodes and publishing them on your website might give your show a better chance of being found in the search results of Google. A word of warning, though: you might have to employ some editorial handiwork to convert the transcripts into coherent articles.

From our experimentation with transcription services (both manual and automated), we’ve found Scribie's manual service to be by far the best. It’s expensive ($0.80/minute), but well worth it.

Podcasting is hard, time consuming and stressful. But, for me, the rewards have outweighed the negatives.

Sheila Wysocki, host of Without Warning Podcast
Where should you share your episodes?

Podcasters take on many roles, one of them being promoter. Unless they’re already subscribed, your target audience is unlikely to magically find your episodes after you release them. You therefore need to drastically improve the chances of them being found by promoting them.

At the very least, beyond your own website you should share each new episode on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube (by repurposing the audio into video form).

When you share the episode, ensure the post is eye-catching and accompanied by a tagline and description that includes a compelling hook, which draws in those who see it.

You’ll also need to design each post for the relevant platform. Canva is great for this. It lets you design one post for Twitter and then resize it into the dimensions for Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Embedding your show on your website

While it’s not critical to the success of your show, you may want to think about getting a website for your show, if for nothing else than to have another touchpoint for listeners to find you.

These days, there are literally tons of options available to you to get a free or relatively inexpensive website set up on the internet very quickly (like Bluehost, Wordpress, Squarespace, Wix). And if you need some guidance on attracting and growing visitors to the site, check out this podcast on digital marketing by Kevin Urrutia.

Podcasts need a direction, a mission statement that then gets fulfilled week in and week out by the content that the podcast provides. A new, and unknown person cannot just turn on the microphones, invite other unknown people over and start talking and expect to gain listeners. You won’t interview better than Marc Maron or Pete Holmes and you won’t get bigger guests than people like that. So my advice to people starting out with a podcast, is to find something that you are really interested in, and then see if you can have a unique take on that subject matter. Find a subject that can go in many different directions so that your episodes can be varied. Then see if you can plug your take and your podcast into a jet stream of public interest so that people who may not know who you are, could be turned on to what you are doing.

Randy Sklar, host of Dumb People Town

Come join us

There you have it, our tips to help you unscramble the puzzle of how to start a podcast.

We hope it helps, and we’d love to hear from you if it did (or if it didn’t). To say hi, you can reach us at [email protected].

But, more than that, we’d love to meet you in the WhatPods community and network. If you haven’t set up a podcaster’s account yet, please do so here.

Otherwise, good luck!