Starting a podcast is a fun and accessible way of starting conversation about things that are important to you. Platforms, like iTunes and Soundcloud allow the sharing of your podcast and even Spotify has moved into the podcast space allowing more popular podcasts to be shared on the platform along with your favorite music. Starting a podcast for free is rewarding process that can build community outside of your local community and help find people to talk to you about your special idea.
In order to make a podcast you need at least couple of things. An idea or vision, something you could talk a lot about. A computer running Windows, macOS, or Linux, which one doesn’t matter much. A mic, can be a USB mic, or one of those mics that plug into that pink port the back of pre-built desktops. Internet connection to upload and share with the world. Editing software, like Audacity, which I recommend, but there many other options. There many ways to go about starting, so try exploring other routes to fit your situation. I will talk about extras at the end, but before all of that, the guide will be the basics of starting an audio only podcast.
Idea & Vision
Your podcast can be about anything and everything, however, if you are prioritizing long-term, you should choose a idea that you feel strongly about and think others might too. Additionally, finding a comfortable niche, can help long term success as well. If you find yourself, wanting to talk about many different things, break them up, and make smaller different podcasts and figure out priority. Some people do research into the topic and others just record on a day and share on a day, determine what’s right for you!
Define a schedule and length. Do you want to do the podcast daily, weekly, or monthly? How much energy do you think you can put into doing your idea regularly? How long do you want your podcast? 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour? Most regular podcasts are weekly and about an hour, but it is totally up to you and what you want and potentially later, what your audience wants. Do know it is totally okay to change these things later as well.
Name your podcast based on your idea and try to make sure it’s clear enough to be searched via Google or podcast aggregators. Example: a weekly podcast about candy history could be: The History of Candy. Typically, something weird will be easier to search. After you have your name, get the social media parked. Grab a Twitter, Facebook Page, Soundcloud, and whatever else you feel like putting your podcast. You can engage with your audience on social media and centralize content around the conversation on these platforms.
Once you have your idea, social media, schedule sorted out you can move onward to get started recording. One tip before recording is to see how your favorite podcasts are started and formatted and emulate until you find your own groove.
There are many software solutions to podcasting (Ableton, Garageband, etc.), but the one I will focus on mainly is Audacity. Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform (Windows, macOS, and Linux), software for multi-track recording and editing. I picked Audacity because it’s tailored to use for just doing podcasting on most computers. After downloading, you can plug in your mic and open up Audacity. Now, your mic is necessary for recording yourself talk about your subject matter. There are many mics you can use, my personal preference for a first mic is Blue Snowball, a plug-and-play (no messy drivers needed) USB all purpose mic. However, you can use whatever you like or have. I won’t be talking about every feature in Audacity, but I will talk about enough to get you started and you have questions about anything, feel free to contact me.
- Audacity’s player controls. From left to right: Pause, Play, Stop, Skip to Start (of track), Skip to End (of track), Record. Holding Shift, turns Play into Loop Play and Record into Append Record.
- Audacity’s monitoring tool to visualizing mic input levels.
- One track in Audacity.
Before you hit the red circle (record) you can check levels in the monitoring utility built-into Audacity. To the left of the mic icon is the currently used microphone in Audacity. Most USB mics have a name, but some just are displayed as “Internal Audio” or something related. Click on the, “Click to Start Monitoring” dialog to see how loud the mic is picking up. If you are in the green you are great, try to remember and maintain that level when recording. When you record, Audacity draws a waveform of your audio going into the mic, if the waveform peak passes the top of the track you should try to talk a little quieter or lower.
When you hit the record button you can talking; the pause button halts recording and can be appended to later. Helpful feature when long podcasts require breaks from you. When you press the pause button again it will pick up where you left it. Hitting stop halts recording and resets the cursor all the way into the beginning of the track. Hitting play allows you to hear what you recorded. Once you have finished recording you can hit stop and start editing the podcast.
Most editing is pretty minimal and Audacity has more than plenty of tools to help get your sound the way you want. The most common edits are cuts, reverb, and fading. Also, podcasts try not to be too loud or soft, locked at constant level via gain adjustment. Note: most Audacity edits are destructive so if you make an edit and do undo it, it will be on the track permanently and you will have to restart.
Sometimes you want to delete a part of the track because it’s not vital to the main themes or maybe an unwanted sound was caught by the mic while recording.
In order to cut you just need to make sure Selection Tool is selected and you click and drag over the area you want gone and hit your delete button. Audacity ripple deletes, so after you delete and pushes the two halves together.
Just having a little reverb on the main track that allows the sound to not be so rigid. Reverb gives the track space and sounds like the track is being recorded in open space instead of just the mic.
In order to use reverb, double click your track, go to Effect > Reverb > OK. Feel free to play with settings to hear what you like.
Doing a fade in Audacity allows for transitions between sounds or loud noises to not be so jarring. Fade ins temporary takes the sound level from where they are to zero. Fade outs do the opposite, slowing lowering the volume to zero.
In order to use fade in or fade outs respectively, highlight over the desired selection and go to Effect > Fade In or Fade Out. It instantly fades.
Publishing is a matter of exporting the track after you are satisfied with your recording and editing, then sharing online. Most online soundhosts (Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Mixcloud), take .wav, a popular lossless file type, but if you don’t have space for that or also want to utilize ID3s (information tagged into the music file), .mp3s are another popular solution. However, because of patents Audacity’s MP3 export feature has to downloaded externally and installed manually (instructions in link).
Before distributing, most publishers ask for a cover photo (recommended size: 2000 x 2000px, pixel and recommended filetype: .jpg) and information, like a description and the name of the podcast. This will be displayed alongside your podcast on most places you upload it. When you upload your it’s good to include concise information with your computer: name, descriptions. Additionally, to make your podcast more accessible to folx, check this guide. The more precise and lengthy your info is, the better chances your audience has to finding it (SEO, or search engine optimization is a whole thing, which I might explain in another post, but it comes down to putting in everything you need in the blog post). After publishing an episode share it on your social media, personal and your podcast accounts. Tell your friends and family too. People respond well to engagement, so also ask about quality and length, and don’t be afraid to change things up completely (including the name and artwork, however it might be a little time to rename everything).
A lot of aggregators use iTunes as a means to gather what’s out there and the process for getting a podcast on iTunes is a few steps, but requires you to host your podcasts somewhere. For ease, I recommend Soundcloud. After uploading your podcast into Soundcloud, go to the content part of your settings. Copy the RSS URL and go to iTunes podcast portal. Add the URL to your account by clicking the plus sign. It usually takes about 24 hours to publish on iTunes and ready to be subscribed to.
That’s the basics of starting a podcast. Start your conversation today! Additionally, there are many more things to explore including: audioform shareable videos, live streaming, video podcasting, automated marketing, and more. The world of podcasting is waiting for you. If you have any questions at all comment below.
You can also subscribe to my weekly blog podcast, if you would like:
Audioform Shareable Videos
When sharing on social media, people won’t click on a static video that just has audio unless they are prompted to or the video is dynamic. What is recommended is to create a video that has a short highlight of the podcast with a waveform on top of a background to prompt people to click to listen and then listen to your podcast.
If you are trying to get into video podcast, you’ll need a camcorder or DSLR and video editing software. Camcorder’s typically record until your storage runs out or battery dies and DSLR typically don’t record for longer than about 30 minutes a session. As of writing this there I don’t know of any free multi platform video editing software (macOS has iMovie). My personal recommendation is Adobe Premiere to edit videos. Also, when you record video and audio be sure to make sync points, usually loud sound or cue to use while editing to sync them together. After editing together, most video editors allow you to export as audio only as well as video with audio. In addition to uploading to Soundcloud, you can upload your video to Youtube and link people to the video.
When you have a lot of social media, you might want to consider automated marketing, like IFTTT, which automates actions like posting on Reddit and Facebook when something is triggered, like uploading on Youtube.
Recording + Editing Software:
Video Editing Software:
Distribution + Publishing Sites:
updated April 23, 2018
+edited featured image