How to Start a Podcast: 4 Producers Reveal What They Wish They Knew
Video might have killed the radio star, but podcasting is booming more than ever. Just in the United States, podcasts are reeling in over 62 million weekly listeners, which is more than triple the amount in 2013. It’s no wonder why creators everywhere are learning how to start a podcast and captivate people around the world.
The 21st century rise in podcasting may have been unexpected, but it’s proving that audio content can still play a huge role in pop culture. From the smash hits Serial and This American Life to the many popular series produced by NPR, people are tuning in and talking about all kinds of podcasts. This makes this type of media prime for getting your voice heard and your content monetized.
Ready to start your own podcast? Here’s what you need to do.
Develop Your Podcast Concept
Every podcast starts with an idea. If you want to avoid messy, inconsistent episodes—and trust us, you do—you need to have a clear concept guiding you in the right direction before you start recording. It all starts with selecting your central topic.
Choose a topic
The first question you need to ask yourself is, “What do I want to talk about?”
Start by selecting an overarching topic that you’re knowledgeable about and interested in—something as simple as “business” or “gaming” will do. Of course, don’t just pick a topic because it’s trendy. As a podcaster, you can expect to talk about anything and everything related to your topic of choice for hours when you get started with your audio recording.
If you’re struggling to find a starting point, take a look at these Spotify categories for inspiration.
Once you have your overarching topic, you need to find your niche. For example, if you’re set on creating a true crime podcast, think about how your storytelling will differ from the thousands that are out there. Will you do some brand new investigations like Sarah Koenig on Serial, or will you inject humor into your words like the hosts of My Favorite Murder?
Defining your audience in this stage can be extremely helpful for picking your niche. No podcast is built to please every person on the internet, so make sure you know who is meant to listen to your podcast and what they’re interested in, too. When you select your niche, your potential audience should still be sizable, but shouldn’t be so vague that they can’t be easily targeted once you start marketing.
Select a format
Your podcast format can also help you dive into your niche. Different audiences are interested in different recording styles. In addition, your own personality may be better suited for a scripted format versus classic talk show-style interviews. Consider whether you want to invite guests, have a co-host, or always record solo.
When thinking about your podcast format, also take note of how long you want your podcast to be. Podcasts have been getting shorter over time—most are only about 30 minutes now. However, podcasts still give you the freedom to pass the 40-minute mark if you have great content to fit in, since quality drives high listener completion rates.
You should also consider what your intros and outros may sound like and what free music or sound effects you’ll need to source to make your podcast more cohesive. Your upload frequency may also impact your final format.
Brainstorm some episodes
Once you have your podcast and format locked down, brainstorm at least 10 (preferably more) episodes that you want to record. If you’re already struggling to get to 10, your niche is likely too narrow and may need some tweaking.
Pick a podcast name
With your concept put together, the last step is picking a name for your new podcast. This name should be catchy, short, and instantly give your audience an idea of what you’re all about. Try to insert a target keyword in your podcast name to make it easy for avid podcast listeners to find you with a single search.
This is also a great time to use Adobe Spark to create your podcast cover art, which is the eye-catching square image that’s displayed on hosting sites.
Gather the Right Tools
Before you dive into recording your podcast, you’re going to need the equipment and software to do so. While you don’t necessarily need top-of-the-line pro tools to create a successful podcast, you do need to be able to capture great sound quality, since your audio is the star of the show.
A great mic is key to professional audio quality. The last thing you want to do is capture echoes and background noise, which is often what happens when you simply use your computer, iPhone, or Android mics.
If you’re a beginner with a low budget, a high-quality USB microphone is perfectly fine. However, if you’re going to be recording a podcast with more than one person or you’re willing to invest, XLR mics are definitely the way to go.
Many podcasters also invest in pop filters, too. When using a great mic, which filters out outside sounds, any popping or hissing noises (even when you’re just enunciating the letter “s”) can sound far more aggressive than usual. A pop filter helps soften those noises, so your listeners’ ears don’t pay the price. Headphones are also great to have, as you’ll immediately hear how you’re speaking and be able to self-adjust your own tone as you’re recording.
The final piece of equipment you’ll minimally need to start a podcast is a computer. Macs and PCs are both perfectly fine, as audio recording software usually works with a variety of operating systems.
Your podcast equipment should all be set up in a quiet room (soundproof if possible). Alternatively, some producers will rent out a recording studio—some coworking spaces offer affordable ones—to ensure they have a distraction-free space and get access to higher quality equipment.
Best Podcast Recording Software
There are many audio recording software options around and the best options will typically double as your audio editing software.
Adobe Audition is the industry standard for anyone who wants to edit like a pro. Beyond the basic multitrack recording and editing features, Adobe Audition can help you clean up your sound files when they don’t come out as expected and export into a wide variety of audio file formats. This is the tool you want if you want a comprehensive digital audio workstation that can help you achieve just about any podcast format you want.
Adobe Audition is already included if you have a Creative Cloud subscription.
Of course, if you don’t need pro-level editing tools right off the bat, you can start off with a free audio recording tool that does the basics.
Audacity is a popular free software for many first-time podcasters, as it has a slightly lower learning curve, but still supports multiple audio tracks and can be exported with great sound quality. This open-source audio editor is fit for Windows, MacOS, and even Linux.
GarageBand is another free sound recorder and editor specifically for Apple users. GarageBand is usually pre-installed onto Macs, but you can also download the iPhone and iPad app for some limited features when you’re on the go.
Planning to invite out-of-state guests? Make sure you have Skype or Zoom in addition to your podcast software, so you can record calls from anywhere.
Podcast Hosting Services
When your podcast is recorded, edited, and exported, you just need to upload it to a hosting platform. SoundCloud, Libsyn, and Buzzsprout are popular podcast hosting platforms that are free or affordable. Make sure to check the file format required by each of these platforms, so you export your file correctly.
4 Podcast Marketing Tips from Producers
So you have everything you need for your podcast production and post-production needs. What happens after your first episode is uploaded?
Even celebrity podcasters aren’t making it to the top of Apple Podcast charts without marketing their work. If you want to be more than your grandma’s favorite podcast, you need to implement effective strategies to expand your reach and draw new listeners in.
We’ve collected four podcast marketing tips to help you get the downloads you want every time you upload a new episode.
1. Use visuals
Your podcast may be audio-only content, but when you’re sharing it with the world, you need something that catches people’s eyes.
“Make sure you accompany your podcast episodes with visual aids on social media to spark interest towards your podcast,” said Tshegofatso (Blessing) Mashiloane, who runs a religion-focused podcast called Lads After God. “That’s where an app like Adobe Spark comes in handy.”
Mashiloane not only creates branded images to share on his social media pages, but he also creates videos with pulsing waveforms when sharing podcast clips, giving users a reason to stop their scroll. This is a great way to encourage viewers to listen to teasers—the best bits of your podcast—that lead them to click on your podcast link.
The visuals you create for social media can even be repurposed when you’re blogging or sending out email newsletters.
Give Adobe Spark a try—free for 60 days—to create the social posts that help you get more engagement on your podcast promotions.
2. Use the right hashtags
So what about the people who aren’t following you? According to Veronica Davis of Pod Sound School, the answer is in hashtag research. She says finding relevant hashtags is key, especially on Instagram, where thousands of people are following hashtags, in addition to people.
“As I’m finding the hashtags, I add them to an Excel spreadsheet, along with a category, popularity number, and score it,” Davis said in her tutorial. Davis is then easily able to copy and paste hashtags from the right categories with varying levels of popularity each time she posts or schedules a post.
There’s a lot of logic behind this approach. Categorized hashtag clusters can speed up your sharing process and ensure you’re reaching the right people with the right content. Beyond that, when you create categories for yourself, you’re ensuring your posts stick to a consistent message, so your general feed is more cohesive, whether your audience finds you on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
Popularity also matters. You don’t want to just stick popular hashtags like #podcast under your social posts, or else you’ll quickly be drowned out by other users. Using a mix of large and niche hashtags can boost meaningful engagement for your brand.
3. Invest in ads
If you want to accelerate your podcast growth in a short period of time, going beyond organic growth and investing in ads is definitely a great move.
“Facebook and Instagram ads have been great in drawing in listeners,” said Israel Olvera, who co-hosts an inspirational podcast called Two Brothers Talking. “They allow me to target areas or cities, age groups and interests to make the money spent worthwhile.”
As Olvera mentioned, one of the most beneficial characteristics of ads is the fact that they allow you to create highly targeted posts, so you know you’re not just talking to the air. Most social media advertising options also let you set your own budget. This way, you don’t overspend and you can readjust your targeting before you’re hundreds of dollars out.
Have a podcast website of your own? You can also invest in pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google to rank higher on the search engine for the keywords that matter most.
4. Engage with your audience
Your audience members should feel like VIPs when they follow your podcast. According to Jonathan Torrey, who runs How We Got Here – Career Stories, “If you engage with your audience, they’ll engage with you back.”
Torrey grew his podcast beyond 1,000 downloads in part by responding to every comment or message that came through.
After all, your listeners don’t want to feel like they’re talking to a brick wall. They want to know that their favorite podcasters care about their thoughts and are just as human as them.
Each time you engage with your audience on external platforms, you’re effectively re-engaging them into your actual podcast.
Once you implement these tips, make sure you let us know how well they work by tagging us @adobespark!