Podcasts are one of the most popular forms of media in our current age, garnering over 464.7 million listeners across the globe. According to Buzzsprout, over 90 million Americans listen to podcasts each week, including them as part of their regular content consumption along with mainstays such as music, television, and film. You may want to start a podcast to promote a brand or product, help educate people on a topic you’re passionate about, or to get more connected with your local community; however, it can be hard to know where to start, especially with so many resources out there. That’s why we’ve created this simple, but complete guide breaking down everything you need to start a podcast, from start to finish.
We’ll go over the equipment and software you’ll need to create your first episode, plus some tools to distribute and promote your new show to the masses.
To start producing your podcast, you will need some basic recording equipment – a microphone, headphones, and depending on what microphone you decide to choose, an interface.
First, you’ll need to decide which type of microphone you want to use. There are two main types of podcast microphones: USB or XLR.
USB microphones connect directly to your computer via USB, converting the audio signal to digital with an onboard processor. XLR microphones require an external interface that converts their audio signal into digital. The upside of a USB microphone is instant connectivity; a USB mic requires no additional equipment to record your podcast draft. The downside is that they don’t offer an analog audio signal, meaning they’re not compatible with external interfaces. If you decide later on down the road that you want to move to XLR mics, you’ll need to replace your USB microphone with an XLR one.
If you’re planning on being a solo podcaster, a USB mic is the simplest choice. If you’re planning on having multiple hosts or guests, I’d suggest getting an interface with multiple inputs to accommodate the amount of XLR mics that you will need.
Some popular USB microphones include the Blue Yeti, HyperX Quadcast USB, and RØDE NT-USB. Some popular XLR mics for podcasts include the Shure SM7B, RØDE PodMic, or the Blue Spark. If you choose to use XLR mics, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or Motu M2 interfaces are both popular and easy-to-use options for recording two microphones. If you’re needing more than two microphone inputs, the Audient iD44 offers four XLR inputs in a compact footprint. You’ll also need an XLR cable and mic stand for each microphone, so don’t forget to add those to your cart.
You’ll also need headphones to listen to your recording, but any wired pairs that you already own should work just fine. If you’re interested in purchasing headphones moreso geared toward podcast recording, check out this article by our friends at MusicRadar where they explore the best options for 2023.
If you’re on a tight budget or just want to test the podcasting waters, you can use the built-in microphone on your computer or phone to get started. Spotify for Podcasters (formerly known as Anchor) is an app that you can use to record and upload a podcast right from your smartphone with just a few presses. It might not sound as professional as an external microphone, but you can always upgrade your equipment in the future, and sometimes, it’s better to just get started with what you have.
Now that you’ve got recording equipment covered, you’ll need to use a digital audio workstation (DAW) to capture your podcast. A DAW is an electronic device or application software used for recording, editing and producing audio files – think classic software like Garageband, Audacity, and so on. Both are simple to use, free to download, and excellent starting options for beginner podcast editors. You can download GarageBand on the Mac App Store and Audacity online here.
If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, Audition is a powerful audio recording and editing program that you can add to your subscription, and it works with Windows and Mac. Audition offers a free trial, so you can see how you like it before committing to paying.
Reaper is another popular choice, offering a 60-day free trial and a $60, one-time license fee. These free/affordable options are more than powerful enough to do basic podcast recording and editing – you don’t need to dump hundreds of dollars into a DAW like Pro Tools or Ableton to make a great podcast!
Once you’ve selected a DAW, take the time to read the included literature to get familiar with the recording and editing features. If you’re more of a visual learner, there are free tutorials for almost every DAW on YouTube, and most DAWs have their own YouTube channels with basic lessons you can watch.
If you are planning on recording interviews remotely, Zoom is an easy tool to get started. You can host a virtual meeting, and Zoom will let you capture the meeting audio, allowing you to splice your guest’s audio in with yours after the interview. Just make sure that you’ve turned on the “Record a separate audio file for each participant.” option.
If you’re looking for a high-quality option with more features, check out Riverside. They allow you to capture high-quality video and audio, create automatic transcriptions, and so much more.
Once you’ve recorded your episode, you can use the tools in your DAW to edit out any long pauses or mistakes and add in some intro music, sound effects, and the like. You can find tons of royalty-free music available on sites like Soundstripe or Audio Jungle to use in your podcast
When writing episodes, I like to keep it very simple. Dynalist is a basic list-writing app that I use to keep episode ideas organized. It has collapsable, nested bullet points, allowing you to expand on ideas without the pages getting cluttered.
If you’re collaborating on your podcast with co-hosts or an editor, Notetracks makes it easy to share files, give feedback, and suggest edits. Users can take liner notes for their music in the form of text, symbols, or drawings across an audio timeline. The notes are displayed and synced along an audio waveform that makes it different from any other note-taking and podcast collaboration apps, being the first of its kind. You can try Notetracks free for 7 days here.
Once you’ve finished recording and editing your podcast episodes, you can export them from your DAW as an MP3 file. Now that you’ve got an MP3 of your podcast draft, it’s time for distribution!
Hosting and distribution are incredibly important factors of podcast production, being the platforms that will allow your podcast to be heard, given feedback on, and shared by an audience. One option for podcast hosting is using a blog page on your existing website. If you already have a Squarespace or WordPress site, you can follow their guides here and here to upload and distribute your podcast.
This is a great way to utilize a service that you may already be paying for, thus saving you extra money at the beginning of your podcasting journey. If you don’t have a website, or want something tailor-made for podcasting, there are lots of distributors you can use to get your podcast on streaming services.
As previously mentioned, Spotify for Podcasters is the easiest hosting service to use, and it’s totally free for everyone. Plus, they have a built-in ad system to help you monetize your show quickly, allowing for your podcast to start earning as soon as it gets off the ground.
Buzzsprout also offers a free option, allowing for up to two hours of podcasting upload per month, advanced statistics, and unlimited team members. However, if you’re looking for a bit more in terms of features, their paid plans include their Magic Mastering service, unlimited hours, and indefinite episode hosting. Additionally, Audioboom offers paid plans for new podcasts, plus a Podcast Pro program to help popular shows monetize their episodes.
Further, you might want to consider transcription your podcast episodes, as it’s a great way to maximize accessibility and thus reach a wider audience. Lots of podcasts now offer transcribed versions on their websites, allowing those with hearing impairments (or those who just prefer reading) to enjoy the episodes. It also allows you to maximize SEO, letting search engines know what your podcast and website are all about! Riverside has built-in transcription options, but there are also separate transcription services (automated and human) that you can use, such as Castos or Rev.
Regardless of which hosting service you choose, you’ll need to include podcast artwork, an episode title, and show notes. The artwork should be a square image between 1400x1400px and 3000x3000px in size. The episode title is important because this is one way that potential listeners will come across your episodes. Make sure to include relevant search terms in your episode titles. You can use the show notes to describe your episode, link to external resources and transcripts, and/or link to your own website. Once you’ve uploaded your first episode, it should take some time for it to sync with all of the streaming services. Double-check to make sure that everything looks and sounds right, and then it’s time to start promoting your first episode!
Now that you’ve got your first episode uploaded and synced to streaming services, it’s time to start promoting your new pod! One easy step is to add links to your podcast anywhere that it may be relevant. If you use something like LinkTree in your Instagram bio, add a link to your podcast. Add a “listen to our podcast!” button to your website, and if you write blog posts, consider linking to a relevant episode in your posts.
Another step you can take is to create clips from your episodes to post on your social networks. Grab some highlights from your episodes and create short clips that you can share to Reels, TikTok, and your social feeds! Here’s an example from “And the Writer Is…”
Another way to grow your podcast is to offer yourself up as a guest to other podcasts with similar audiences. Now that you’re able to record your own audio, you can guest on podcasts that have topics you’re knowledgeable about. To get started, search your podcast app for terms related to your industry or hobby, and find some relevant podcasts. Write down the names/websites, and then draft up an email introducing yourself and offering an interview. You may find that it’s helpful to offer to have them as a guest on your podcast as well. Start by focusing on podcasts that already have guests on somewhat often, since you know they’re open to doing interviews. If you are selected as a guest, it’s good practice to promote the episode you’re featured on once it’s posted!
…you can focus on growing your audience, writing and producing amazing episodes, and landing great interviews with influential people in your niche! From equipment to distribution, our guide has prepared you to get started in the wonderful world of podcasting – so what are you waiting for?
Check out Notetracks today to make collaborating with your podcast team easier and quicker than ever.
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