As I am now moving on from my role as the producer of The Givey Community, I’d like to leave behind a parting gift for Givey and anyone else considering starting a podcast. With an MA in Radio and three years of podcast producing, here are the things I’ve learnt along the way in a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Choose a Topic and Niche
The first step in starting a podcast is to decide what you want to talk about. Once you’ve done that, answer these questions to individualise your podcast:
- What is my area of expertise and what sets my podcast apart from others in the same niche?
- Who is my target audience and what are their interests and needs?
- What is my main intention for this podcast and how do I make sure to uphold this intention?
- What format do I want it to take?:
A conversational format
A documentary format, where each episode can standalone
Or a standalone series that dives deep into a topic
Will you have different series exploring different topics?
Then you are going to have to think of a name for your podcast
- Does the name accurately reflect the content and tone of the podcast?
- Is the name unique and memorable, or is it similar to other podcasts in your niche?
- Is the name easy to spell and say out loud?
- How does the name sound when pronounced and does it sound good when spoken?
- Is the domain name available for the podcast website?
- Are social media handles for the name available on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram?
- Does the name have a positive connotation, and does it evoke the emotions you want to convey to your audience?
- Is the name trademarked or in use by another company or individual?
- Can the name be easily trademarked for your podcast?
- Is the name flexible and able to evolve with the growth and changes in the podcast?
Step 2: Equipment, Space and Software
To get started, you’ll need a space to record in, a good quality microphone, headphones, and audio editing software.
Choose a quiet space, a high-quality microphone and try not to rely on an internet connection. In the words of my old Radio Production tutor, “shit in, shit out”. Meaning if you’re having to clean up excessively poor audio, it will likely take a significant amount of time. It may also result in you and your guests sounding robotic or even worse than the original recording. A light background buzz can be rectified however, with a noise reduction tool. Even a low train rumble with a hi-pass filter, to a certain extent. I have found Adobe Audition to be the best for cleaning up sound (more on that later).
On making a good home recording environment
Find a room with soft furnishings, a carpet and close your curtains. This way your voice will not bounce on the surfaces in the room and create an echo. Instead, it’ll be absorbed by the soft materials. Also, consider if the room is next to a noisy road or to a quieter residential area. Do you have a comfortable place to sit while you’re recording, and a place to put your laptop and equipment you can easily access?
I use the Zoom H6 for my field recordings and the Rode NT1A for remote interviews and voiceovers. You will need an interface to use the Rode NT1A, I use Scarlett 2i2.
However, if you’re on a budget there are USB microphones:
- Blue Snowball: a spherical USB microphone available in multiple colours with three polar patterns (cardioid, omni, and cardioid with -10dB pad) and an on/off switch, popular and reasonably priced for podcasting, and home studio use.
- Blue Yeti: a versatile microphone with multiple polar patterns and the ability to adjust gain, mute, and headphone volume.
- Shure MV7: a dynamic USB/XLR microphone with both manual and automatic gain control, a built-in headphone output, and a retro-style design.
- Samson G-Track Pro: a condenser microphone with built-in audio interface and mixer, allowing for zero-latency headphone monitoring and multiple input options.
- Audio-Technica AT2020USB+: a classic studio condenser microphone with a USB output for easy recording and streaming.
- Rode NT-USB Mini: a compact, cardioid condenser microphone with a built-in headphone output and adjustable tripod stand.
- Built-in microphones: A cost-effective solution for recording audio, built-in microphones can often be found in laptops and phones. Test the device you have to determine ease of use and sound quality. Depending on the device, you may be able to use a built-in app for recording.
What are polar patterns?
Polar patterns refer to the directional sensitivity of a microphone. In other words, they describe how well a microphone picks up sound from different directions. There are several common polar patterns, including:
- Cardioid: The most directional pattern, it picks up sound primarily from the front of the microphone while rejecting sound from the sides and rear.
- Omnidirectional: Picks up sound equally from all directions.
- Bidirectional (or figure-eight): Picks up sound from the front and rear of the microphone, while rejecting sound from the sides.
- Stereo: A combination of two cardioid or omnidirectional patterns to pick up sound from two distinct directions.
Different polar patterns are useful for different recording scenarios. Cardioid for podcasting or voice-over recording, omnidirectional for room ambiance recording, and bidirectional for interviews.
What is the difference between a dynamic and condenser mic?
Recording a remote interview for your podcast
While recording over Zoom may be convenient, it may not produce the best sound quality. For me I don’t like the sound of a Zoom recording for a podcast interview. To me it sounds low quality and lazy. You need to consider your audience, will they care about the audio quality? Sometimes I can’t listen to a podcast just because of the bad quality audio. This may just be because it’s my job to look out for that, but you don’t want to put off your audience before they can give you a chance.
How to make a Zoom recording sound semi-professional
If I have to record an interview remotely, these are the steps I take:
- Ask the guest if they have a microphone
- If yes, ask them if they would be comfortable recording their voice with it onto their laptop
- If no, ask them if they have a smartphone
- If yes, ask them to send you a test of their phone recording in the room they are going to record in
- You may have to ask them to change rooms, close their curtains or sit on their bed, I once had to ask a guest to record in their wardrobe
- Assuming the phone and the recording environment sounds the best it can be –
- Each person can record their side of the conversation on their preferred device
- Have your guest join the call with their headphones in, while you do the same
- This will prevent both recordings from picking up the audio from the Zoom call
- After the interview, the guest can send their recording to you for editing
This eliminates the sound of potential connection interruptions, which nearly always comes up on Zoom recordings, and the sound of the Zoom filters on the audio, which often makes voices sound flat and artificial.
If your guest is not able to do this, I always record the Zoom calls as back up anyway. I like to record them on separate tracks so that you still have separate recordings of your voices. That way you can edit the two voices separately according to their difference in volume and quality.
Choosing editing software for your podcast
You can start with the classic audacity which is free and is great for beginners. However, I soon moved on from editing on Audacity as it is very clunky and can make the editing process longer than it needs to be.
I mainly use Adobe Audition for its ease of use and its wide range of tools for editing, mixing, mastering, and restoring audio. It is widely used in the audio production industry and has a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to use even for beginners. However, it is more expensive compared to other options and requires a monthly subscription.
I also use REAPER, which is free to use, you just have to click “still evaluating” when it asks you if you want to buy. However, it doesn’t have the same level of user-friendliness as Adobe Audition. I’m still getting used to it but, I have found that you can manipulate it more to your needs with its scripting capabilities. It also supports a wide range of plug-ins, so it’s like a vessel to design your own personal editing workspace. To use it you’d probably have to already be a bit of an audio nerd or have a passion for learning about these things.
These are some videos that have really helped me:
Both Adobe Audition and REAPER are great options for editing podcast recordings. It ultimately comes down to personal preference and how much control you want over the editing process. If you are willing to invest time into learning a more technical software, REAPER may be an option for you. If you prefer a more user-friendly option with a wide range of features, Adobe Audition may be the better choice.
Step 3: Hosting and Distribution
You’ll need to host it on a platform that will distribute your podcast to popular listening platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. Popular hosting platforms include Podbean, Buzzsprout and Anchor. You can also use Soundcloud and Mixcloud which are free, to a certain extent, but I believe your podcast will only be available on their sites. For The Givey Community I chose Podbean as it fits industry standards and most of the podcasts I follow use it.
However, I would highly recommend doing your own research on choosing a hosting platform as it depends on your individual needs.
When choosing a platform host ask these questions:
- How much right will I have over my content if I use this host? Anchor is advertised as free, but consider why and how is it free?
- What are your hosting and storage needs? Consider the amount of monthly or yearly downloads, the size of your files and how much storage you need.
- What are the monetization options available? Can you make money from your podcast through the platform and what kind of support and resources does it provide for monetization?
- What are the analytics and reporting options? You need to understand how many listeners are tuning into your podcast, where they are coming from, and how they are engaging with your content.
- What are the publishing and distribution options? You need to know how your podcast will be accessible to your listeners and if the platform integrates with other platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.
- What are the customer support and user-friendly options? How easy is it to use the platform and what kind of support is available when you need it?
- What is the pricing structure and is it affordable for your budget? Consider both the initial and ongoing costs of using the platform.
- What are the terms and conditions of the platform? You need to make sure you understand the terms of the agreement and if there are any restrictions or limitations.
- Is there a chance of the site shutting down? This happened with Sounder which I used to use and it was a pain moving all the episodes onto another platform.
Step 4: Promote Your Podcast
Promoting your podcast is crucial for building an audience. Create a social media account for your podcast and make it a space to further the discussion from the podcast. It should be a space where followers can get extra entertainment, information, and content. A dedicated and satisfied audience will be your biggest publicity. I have found word of mouth has been the way most people find their favourite podcast.
As you edit each episode, be sure to extract snappy and intriguing soundbites that you can save in a folder for future use. These soundbites can be used to promote the initial release of your podcast and can also serve as social media content to reach new audiences and keep the discussion going long after its release. Remember, people often revisit past podcast episodes, so use this to your advantage by ensuring your episodes are engaging and relevant long after they’ve been released. Canva is a great tool to use for creating promotional videos to share on social media.
You can also reach out to your personal network and online communities related to your niche to spread the word about your podcast. You can also collaborate with other podcasters or guest on their shows to reach a wider audience.
Step 5: Consistency and Interaction
Consistency is key to building a following for your podcast. Set a schedule for recording and publishing episodes and stick to it. Encourage listener feedback through social media, email, or a WhatsApp account to build a community and keep your audience engaged. You can even include listeners’ voice notes and comments in your podcast.
To make consistency easier, have at least 5-10 episodes ready to go out before you have released the first episode to the public. This way you have an ample amount of time to be making new episodes as the others are being published.
Step 6: Monetize Your Podcast
The bigger following you have the more likely those sponsorship deals are going to land. You’ll need good stats on the number of downloads and listens you have which most podcast hosting platforms have. There are also other options, such as funding programs for podcasters. Also, consider pitching your idea to an audio production company and see if they would be willing to fund it.
Some host platforms offer putting ads on your podcasts you could earn some cash from. Podbean and Buzzsprout have marketplaces where you can communicate with potential sponsors.
Starting a podcast can be an amazing and fulfilling experience, but it does require careful planning, effort, and commitment. This guide is a starting point that provides a comprehensive overview of what you need to know to get started. However, it is important to keep in mind that these suggestions are based on one person’s experience and opinions and should not be the only source of information. So use this as a guide to also help you navigate your own research to make informed decisions that are best for your own podcast goals.
Written by Ruby Illing.
Now that you have learned more about starting your own podcast, check out some of our related blog posts to read more about podcasting:
Welcome to The Givey Community Podcast | Givey Blog
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