How to start recording your own podcast show.
Podcasting is a relatively new medium. It’s also a vast one. It’s everything from NPR and the BBC uploading their radio shows to iTunes to a single independent creator telling a story one episode at a time. Podcasting is news, comedy, true crime, and every other conceivable audio genre. Somewhat ironically, it’s also a medium that’s outlasted its namesake: iPods are a rarity now, but podcasts are everywhere.
While digital talk shows date back to the 1990s, and audio storytelling dates back much further than that, podcasting didn’t truly take hold until around 2004. Podcasting relies on fairly basic technology. To start your own podcast, all you need is a microphone and an RSS feed (a type of web feed that allows applications like podcatchers to easily access updates on your website). This basic technology can get your show on all of the major syndication networks, right alongside popular podcasts like The Daily, Serial, TED Radio Hour, or Radiolab.
Podcasting may be easy to learn, but it’s hard to master. It’s a crowded medium, and standing out amid all the other offerings on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and other networks takes effort and a commitment to professionalism.
Understanding the basics of podcast formats.
You need to have a plan for your podcast. No one is going to make good content just by opening their mouth. If it’s a single voice podcast with a narrator, stick to a script. If you’re doing a conversational group show, make sure every cohost knows their role.
Understand what your show is about and know your voice. Good podcasts connect because they’re focused on a topic and because their hosts are able to deliver a voice and perspective that is unique. “To get the maximum amount of potential listeners and subscribers, there should be a very specific voice and sound quality that you’re after, and you must know what you’re going to talk about,” says Jamie Jeffers of The British History Podcast. Research, preparation, and having a script will all serve you well.
If you want to find an audience with your podcast, your first episode is your best chance. “If you mess up within the first couple of minutes of your launch episode, people will move on to another show and then they’re not coming back,” says Jeffers. Podcatchers and syndication networks like Apple Podcasts often promote new shows that are getting a lot of downloads, so those first few episodes can matter a lot. Practice recording before you actually publish. Achieve the voice and audio quality you want, and make a few practice or dummy episodes you never intend to publish before you actually put something on SoundCloud or Google Play.
Beyond the audio quality and content, eye-catching cover art and comprehensive summaries of episodes known as show notes listed on podcasting platforms are important — and not just to give podcast listeners a better idea of what your show is like. Show notes are essential to improve your Google search results.
“Eye-catching cover art and comprehensive...show notes listed on podcasting platforms are important."
Tools and tips of the podcasting trade.
Microphones are your most important podcasting tools. There’s no upper limit to microphone quality or expense — you can spend thousands of dollars on a mic, preamp, and wires. But for most beginner podcasters, a USB mic will do the job. Many go for under $200.
How you sit, stand, and speak into the mic can affect audio quality. It’s important to maintain a consistent distance from the microphone. It’s natural for most people to move their head or shift from side to side while talking, but fight that impulse when speaking into a mic. Stay still, maintain distance, and don’t make editing harder by moving.
“For most beginner podcasters, a USB mic will do the job. Many go for under $200.”
Be sure to use a pop filter on your mic. Without one, hard sounds like plosives (B or P sounds) or sibiliants (S sounds) can pop or hiss unpleasantly in your audience’s ear. Pop filters also mitigate the inevitable sound of your exhalation.