One of the most prominent aspects of our digital age is the democratization of entertainment production. Sure, we still love high production TV shows and movies, but we are just as fond of YouTube channels, Twitch streams, and the humble podcast. Accessible technology means that audiences have a wider range of options to choose from and that creators can take control of their projects.
For almost any niche topic you can think of, at least one podcast delves into it. This is a great medium for creativity, too. You have the potential to build worlds, educate people, and explore big ideas through an intimate form. Perhaps the best news is that while the big, popular podcasts may have impressive studio setups, you can make a high-quality show with a relatively low budget.
So, let’s explore how you can go about starting your own podcast. What tools and strategies do you need to introduce the world to your personal take on your niche?
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Format and Platform
Once you’ve decided the topic that you want your podcast to address, it’s time to map out what form it will take. Could you start rambling into a microphone and gain a following? There are certainly examples that seem that way. However, successful examples of this are certainly in the minority. As soon as possible, it would be best if you planned the shape of your podcast.
Choosing a format for your show doesn’t mean to say that it will become formulaic. Think of it more as a framework that you build your discussions around. It gives you and your audience a sense that it has been made with some form of control and professionalism. Start by getting a good sense of what your podcast is about and what makes your voice unique. From there, set a few sensible format boundaries — narrated fiction should remain on-script, interviews with more than one host should have clearly defined roles for each and avoid a chaotic free-for-all. Format clarification is also good for the audience. It makes them comfortable with a structure that they’re familiar with, so they can enjoy the personal take you bring to your content.
However, to ensure that your audience can enjoy your wares, you actually need to reach them first. Many first-time podcasters think that they can simply record their show and upload it to Spotify or Apple Podcasts. But these are just apps through which audiences listen to your show on. You also need to find a hosting platform to store your podcast so that you can then distribute it. Your choices here will usually revolve around what type of features you want and the budget you have to play with. There are free hosts, such as SoundCloud and Podcasts.com, however, they tend to have limited features. If you’re willing to pay a subscription fee, you can get access to additional features and more online storage space.
Tech and Tools
You will need a certain amount of equipment to start your podcast. Otherwise, you’re just shouting at strangers in the street, and not everybody responds well to that. The quality will depend on your budget, but most items can be obtained relatively inexpensively if you don’t already have them. You’ll need:
A Computer or Smart Device
You don’t necessarily need a laptop or desktop computer, as many microphones and editing apps are compatible with smartphones and tablets. However, you should consider what is easiest to use. Editing a two-hour podcast on a smartphone is achievable, but your eyes are unlikely to thank you.
There are usually two types of microphone to consider: a condenser microphone, and a dynamic microphone. Most beginner podcasters opt for a condenser, because these simply plug into your device’s USB port, and allow you to record from there. The Blue Yeti is one of the most popular on the market for affordability and relatively high-quality indoor recordings.
Dynamic microphones on the other hand usually capture higher quality raw sound than condensers, and their resistance to high volume distortion makes them perfect if you’re recording your podcast outdoors or at a live event. Some of the newer dynamic microphones on the market, like the Shure MV7, have USB compatibility. However, there are some that you’ll have to run through a USB mixing desk first.
Much as we all like a good outtake, it’s not advisable to post your podcast with the full raw audio. There are a lot of inexpensive options on the market that have been designed for user-friendliness. Audacity is a popular free, open-source editing app that allows you to create multiple tracks, apply effects, and mix your raw audio into an MP3 file to be uploaded.
Website and Social Media
Promoting your podcast is essential to building an audience, so you need a web presence beyond your streaming app. Set up social media accounts under the title of your podcast. Your website doesn’t have to be complicated — some information about what the podcast is, who makes it, and where they can hear it is fine, to begin with. However, you should be treating your podcast as a brand, and create visual assets that help to make your show recognizable. If you’re not confident in creating a logo yourself, it can be worth it to take a short online graphic design course to take you through the basics. This also provides you with the skills you need to update your look periodically as your following grows.
Before you set up your equipment and hit record, it’s important to also consider your surroundings. As much as you may enjoy city life, nobody wants to hear the bustling traffic in the background of your show. Therefore you need to pay a little attention to your studio space.
If you have the resources available, it can be worth considering remodeling a spare room or the basement in your house. If there is serious structural work to be done to make the space fit for purpose, it’s usually worth consulting a contractor. However, if it’s just some superficial adjustments, you may save time and money doing it yourself. In most cases, you will simply need to make some space, perhaps set up a desk for your recording and editing equipment, and some chairs for your guests.
It can also be helpful to set up some soundproofing if you have a lot of external noise. Additional insulation and double-glazed windows can help here. You’ll also want to make sure that you don’t have a lot of echo from the walls — adding acoustic foam tiles to the walls, or at least surrounding the recording area with these, can help. However, it’s just as important to note that you can achieve good results by just recording in a closet, with a few coats hung up to dampen the echo. Sometimes you have to work with what you have.
Starting a new podcast can be an exciting proposition, but it also takes a bit of consideration and equipment. Establish the format and platform of your show, gather the technology and tools that can best serve your approach, and make some space in which the audio magic occurs. However, don’t forget that podcasting is a creative pursuit, and doesn’t have to be expensive to do well.