How to produce your first podcast

In 2003 Matt Schichter recorded live his hour long radio show, The BackStage Pass, and then transcoded it to 16kbit/s audio for dial-up online streaming. And the first podcast was online! Today there are more than 800,000 active podcasts online, as the podcasting market has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to the introduction of new technologies (smartphones, new media platforms) and the lowering cost of  broadband data, in combination with increased broadband capabilities. The year on year growth of the podcast market is remarkable. Edison Research estimated that 32% of the people in the US listened to a podcast each month in 2019, up from 11% a decade ago. Companies like Spotify have placed a big bet on the continuous rise of podcasting, spending millions of dollars acquiring podcasting companies and developing original content.

Podcasting is a great way to reach your audience and, unlike YouTube, you don’t have to think twice about your look. With numerous tools and tutorials available you can produce and market your own podcast from your own little studio, aka your bedroom. But where to start when you don’t know where to start? Let’s dive in!

Planning your show

  • Podcast topic and name: First things first you need to decide your podcast topic. Maybe you are a person of many interests and find it hard to narrow down, but having a niche will make it easier for you to stand out in an ocean of episodes online and grow your audience. You can always tweak your focus and expand your conversation to other related topics as your podcast grows. This is why you want the name you will pick for your topic to be slightly broader so it can represent your topic as it evolves. You can take a look at podcasts charts for inspiration. When finding your show’s name make sure you also check out username availability on social media platforms and domain name. Even if you don’t launch social media or a dedicated website early on, you may want to RSVP them for potential use down the line.
  • Podcast format: Another thing to consider is your podcast format. Are you having a co-host? Are you having interviews? Interview podcasts are very popular and are a great way to grow your network, but it also takes extra planning around setting up the interviews and recording them. Are you doing a mix of interviews and solo? What would be the frequency? When it comes to the duration of each episode it takes some trial and error in the beginning to figure out what works best for you and your audience. There are many arguments about the ideal duration (read more here), but it is one of these questions that only experience will provide the right answer. The best way to get started though could be a shorter duration to make the production process less painful, making it easier to stick to your programming.
  • Podcast cover and music:  Once  you have a clear idea about your podcast identity it’s time to design a great podcast cover. The cover will be showing in various players and you can also use the design to create social media avatars. An easy and accessible way to go about this is design one on Canva. Canva offers numerous free & paid templates you can easily edit on the platform and personalise for your use. Here’s Canva guide on designing an awesome album cover and Podcast Buddy guide on how to create killer podcast art for free. If you prefer having a professional work on it you can try 99designs, Upwork, or Shopify Experts. Apart from your cover, what can also make your podcast stand out is the intro and outro. Podcasts usually start and wrap up with music intro and a greeting, and outro music and a goodbye message. You can order a professional quality voiceover and intro from a service like Musicradiocreate, or pre-record your own using royalty-free music and sound effects or music created by AI.

Producing your show

  • Getting the right equipment: There’s no hiding: producing a high quality podcast takes high quality equipment. However the hardest part of doing anything is getting started doing it, so when you kick off your podcast don’t worry so much about investing in equipment and getting the perfect sound. Worry more about getting the content and the format of your show right. Many podcasting platforms like Anchor and Spreaker offer in-app recording so you can easily record using your phone, and then edit, publish and distribute. Lowering the degree of difficulty will make it that more likely that you will stick with your new project and invest extra time in developing your show rather than learning about the technical aspect of producing a podcast. Once you feel confident in what you are doing, you can start gradually investing in equipment to upgrade your audio quality. Here’s a great list of recommended equipment for a beginner in podcasting by Podcast Insights.
  • Studio Time: You don’t need to book a studio for your first recordings, the comfort of your own home or office can work if you choose the space you record carefully. When you record to reduce the echo and capture a better quality sound on your recording avoid big empty spaces with big windows. Instead choose small spaces with lots of furniture, carpets and curtains. Many people recommend recording in your closet and if you feel comfortable is well worth the effort.
  • Recording Calls: Many of the interviews recorded for podcasts weren’t recorded face to face but over a call – isn’t technology great? There are many solutions to record a call, paid and free. The most popular way perhaps is recording a Skype call. Here’s how you can record your call directly on Skype, and a more extensive step by step guide. As podcasts popularity grows more and more tools for podcast hosts become available like SquadCast that promises higher quality recording for remote interviews.
  • Hosting & Distribution: As mentioned earlier, many applications offer end to end solutions, from recording to hosting and distribution, but many times – especially if there is more than one person talking on your show, you may find it easier to record & edit prior to uploading the audio to your hosting account. Here’s a step by step guide on how to record and edit a podcast on Audacity, a free software developed by volunteers and widely popular across the podcasting community and a list of 31 of the best podcast hosting sites — top six have free offers). In order to submit your product to various directories and listening platforms you will need to submit your RSS feed link and then any new episodes will be distributed automatically. This infographic may make this process easier to understand. If this sounds a bit too techie to you don’t worry, first of all many podcast hosting solutions can automatically distribute your podcast and if not here’s a no fuss, step by step guide on how to do it yourself. It’s easier than it sounds!

Promoting your show

  • Commitment:  The number one thing you need to grow your audience is committing to publishing your podcast on a regular basis. In the early days of producing a podcast make sure you track how much time it takes you to plan an episode, record, edit & publish so you won’t overestimate how much time and how often you can dedicate to your new project. Another pro tip is to record a few episodes in advance so you can stay on top of your programming even if you catch a cold or take a short break. Putting out episodes on a regular basis will build a tradition with your audience, create expectations and build excitement!
  • How long does it take to build an audience? Building an audience is much like building a community, it takes authenticity and time! This can be frustrating at times but it will also provide you with the luxury to make mistakes and learn on the go, without the pressure of a huge spotlight. Just to manage expectations here’s how long it takes to build a following. Apart from collaborations with other podcasters and interviews with influencers, you can research communities relevant to your core topic and become an active member. Providing value and sharing knowledge within these communities will enable you to establish yourself as an influencer on the topic and draw attention to your podcast soon enough!

Further Reading:

Skillshare Class by Anchor on how to make a podcast: plan, record, and launch with success

The dos and don’ts of podcast cover art by Anchor

Podcasting for beginners: the complete guide to getting started with podcasts by Buffer

The step-by-step guide: how to start a podcast by Buzzsprout

How to grow your podcast audience by Anchor

Podcast promotion: 13 marketing tactics to get more podcast listeners by Podcast Insights

Podcast discoverability: how do listeners *actually* find their favourite shows? by The Podcast Host