One of the biggest things that have changed since finishing my degree a few months ago, is I haven't been recording any podcasts or radio shows. I miss getting behind the mic. It's been brought up to me a few times in the last couple of months that I should start a podcast, but I've been hesitant. Starting a podcast is a HUGE commitment. Not only does can it take a lot of time to plan, organize, record, edit, and upload - but it also takes a lot of time and energy to do those things right. Not to mention it takes perseverance over the long-term to stay dedicated and push out content on a consistent basis. Podfade happens.
Anyways, as I ponder starting a podcast, it made me think of all things that go into it and I thought I'd share some things that I've learned along the way about how to start a podcast.
Many will tell you if you want to start a podcast to just do it. Get something with a microphone and start recording. That is true, you could do that. And arguably the biggest barrier to podcasting is just getting started. However, I don't necessarily recommend going at it without doing a bit of homework and pre-planning first. With over 800,000 podcasts in existence, there is no shortage of competition and you need to be able to differentiate yourself. Outside of compelling and entertaining content, consistently high production quality can set you apart. Here are some tips to get you started.
Find Your Niche
What's your podcast about? Be specific and don't make it about everything. Unless you already have a personal brand with big following (ahem, Joe Rogan), those kinds of general, non-specific podcasts don't do very well. Also, it will be easier to monetize your podcast later on down the road if that's a goal of yours since you'll have a very specific target audience.
Another tip - make it about something you are passionate about. Not something that you are passionate about at this moment in time, but what you have been passionate about for years. Not only will it help keep you from losing interest, but listeners will pick up on your energy and passion for the subject. They'll hear it in your voice.
Microphone. It doesn't take much to get started. I've known people who've recorded with nothing more their smartphone. If you go that route, you generally get better audio using an external microphone even if it's attached to your earbuds. If you want to spend a little money there are some great USB mic options out there that you can plug into your PC or Mac like the ATR-2100USB. This one, in particular, is great because it has both a USB and XLR output which is handy if you ever decide in the future to use an interface to record more than one mic at a time, preventing you from having to buy another microphone. There are a lot of other great options out there but just don't find the cheapest thing on Amazon or Wish, because believe me, you'll get what you pay for. As a student, I made this mistake and ended up having to return a really cheap mic and ended getting what was recommended to me from the beginning.
Headphones. While not required, it's highly recommended to monitor your audio while recording. This way you'll be able to make sure that not only is your microphone gain set correctly but if there's any background noise you need to get rid of AND it will serve as a good reminder to keep your face in front of the mic when talking. With that out of the way, what kind of headphones should you get? When you get started, almost anything will get you by but try to stay away from headphones that have a lot of bass or are wireless (Bluetooth has a slight delay and detail is lost, so wired connections are recommended). It's also better if they have more flat sound as it will allow you to pick up audio problems in your recording a bit easier. Many professional sound folks in the music industry highly recommend these Sony MDR7506. They are very reasonably priced, but I found them heavy and incredibly uncomfortable. I've tried a few others out there but eventually ended up with some Audio-Technica ATH-M50x's. While pricier, they are nice and light, have a great clear and flat sound and come with varying lengths of interchangeable cables. I'm sure they're cheaper headphones would be great as well.
Not everyone has access to a studio or the ability or funds convert space into one. One thing is for sure though - audio that's free of background noise and echo is far easier to edit and sounds much better in general. If you are a one-person show, a coat closet works nicely as the clothing helps dampen and isolate sound. This good especially if you live in the city or live in a noisy area as those sounds can very easily bleed over into your podcast. Or you can even toss a blanket over yourself while recording. If either of those two options isn't in the cards for you, there are few other things you can do to improve your space without having to spend any money.
Floors. There's nothing worse than recording in a space with hardwood, concrete, or tile floors. Even if you have to get an area rug or put out some blankets on the floor while recording, something is better than nothing. Or just use a room with wall-to-wall carpeting.
Walls. Put stuff on your walls. Just like the floors, bare walls reflect noise just as easy so a bare room is not recommended. If you are having issues with sound reflection, you can also pin up blankets on your walls as well. Something I've done. I was able to find some free office cubicle walls on Facebook Marketplace that have done wonders for my recording space. You can also put up sound panels, but that can get pricey and will be ineffective if now placed in the right spots.
Windows. Cover your windows and other flat surfaces. Blinds do an okay job of breaking up sound, but drapes work a lot better.
Appliances. Don't forget to turn off space heaters, fans, dishwashers, washing machines, etc. You'll be surprised how much sound a microphone can pick up.
This might sound crazy (although no crazier than recording in a coat closet) but another option for recording space is your car. Most cars have sound dampening and insulation built into them to reduce road noise so they are a well-suited place to record. It's even better if it's further isolated by being parked in a garage.
The bottom line is, the more you can do to improve the quality of the initial recording the better off you'll be and more professional you'll sound.
Software & Apps
Once you have the gear and location figured out, we now have to put the two together. This will largely depend on how you plan to record it. If you are going to do everything on your phone, there are all-in-one solutions like Anchor.fm. If you are going to be using an external microphone and your PC or Mac, then you'll need some software. Some free options include Audacity (PC/Mac) and Garage Band (iPad, iOS, Mac).
If you're willing to plop down some cash here are some pro-level options:
Adobe Audition - my personal favorite.
While not quite as user-friendly, these music-centric production programs would work too.
Logic Pro (Mac Only)
Start Creating Content
You have the basics covered and now you're ready to start recording. As far as the format, where you source your content, the length, editing, etc. - there is way more information and options than I can possibly go into on one blog post.
After you get done recording you'll have to host and syndicate your podcast so people can find it. I'll write more about that later. If you have any podcasting questions, feel free to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know what you're interested in learning about and I'll add it to the blog.