How to Start a Podcast And Build A Growing Audience

August 26, 2021
Authored by:
Richard Lau
Featuring:

Content marketing has evolved to assimilate a wide variety of media and formats. While blogs and videos are still the top contenders, podcasts are slowly but surely catching up. 

A relatively new kid on the block, the podcast has grown to earn a following of loyal and discerning listeners. Here are some recent statistics that make a strong case for it.

  • There are around 2 million podcasts in the world compared to 600 million blogs, which means lesser competition for the content creator.
  • A majority of podcast listeners fall in the age group of 18 to 34 years.
  • Over 80% of people will listen to an entire episode, which shows that podcast listeners are attentive.

Add to this the fact that podcasts can be heard anywhere, anytime, while doing anything, and the case becomes stronger. As you’ll discover, you neither need a big recording studio budget nor advanced editing skills to create a good-quality podcast. 

If we’ve convinced you to explore the world of podcasts, here are 5 simple steps to get you started.

1. Pick a theme

All your podcast episodes as well as finer details like tone, language, and accompanying audio elements must tie in with a theme. Your podcast won’t work if you just go on air and talk about random things or whatever’s trending that day.

To choose the right theme, you must take into account:

Your own interest

Is this a theme that you’re passionate about? Is it something you can talk about episode after episode, without getting bored? If your interest wears off after a few episodes, it’s bound to reflect in your script and will affect your ratings.

Your level of expertise

How well you know the theme of your podcast is extremely crucial. People want credible information from credible sources, so you must have the experience, knowledge, and facts to back up whatever you say in your podcast. 

This does not mean it needs to be profession-related. It could even be about an activity that you’re passionate about and have been pursuing for several years such as wildlife photography, exploring bars and restaurants, surfing, or mountain climbing. 

Scope

Think ahead and plan an outline for the first 15 episodes to see if the topic gives you enough to talk about. You don’t want to have a promising start, only to realize that there’s not much you can say beyond the fifth episode.

Audience interest

Your theme has to be something that people want to learn about. If you’re starting a podcast for your business, revisit the consumer personas you’ve created to see what topics interest them. 

For instance, as a women’s office-wear brand, your audience may want to learn about the success stories of women in business. 

Searching for podcasts within your intended theme and seeing their ratings and subscribers will also give you a fair idea of the theme’s popularity.

2. Select your listing information

The content you add to your podcast’s listing information will play a major role in its rankings. It’s the first thing people will see when they come across your podcast on aggregator platforms such as Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts

Your listing must include:

Podcast name

The name has to be catchy enough to entice people to learn more about your podcast. While it is not necessary, it helps if the name is also related to the podcast’s theme. 

It will be easier for you to attract listeners if they can tell what your podcast will be about from its name.

Description

This one-two-line description is where you can explain what your podcast is about. You can boost your listing’s SEO by including the most relevant search keywords. Most people will stumble upon your podcast based on what they’re searching for, and you need to ensure that your listing shows up when they do. 

For example:

Name: The Beefy Vegan

Description: A vegan’s guide to eating healthy and having a great body

Cover art

Do yourself a favor and invest in some stunning cover art for your podcast. Visuals always play an important role in making a good first impression. 

The high-quality cover art shows that you’re a professional who deserves to be taken seriously, whereas shoddy visuals imply laziness. 

If you are not a designer, you can visit platforms like Fiverr and Upwork to find professionals who can help you design the perfect cover. 

3. Plan your format

This doesn’t need to be set in stone, but having a format helps you plan episodes more efficiently and also gives listeners an idea of what to expect. Before you start the production process, you need to think about:

Duration

Podcast episodes can range from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Either end of the spectrum is fine as long as you have meaningful and engaging content for that time period. 

If you’re just starting out, though, it may help to create episodes that are 30-45 minutes long. That way, you’re providing enough content to your listeners while you evaluate whether it’s working. 

Style

You can choose to go solo, have a co-host or do an interview-style podcast. Each of these choices has its own advantages. 

Being a solo host gives you complete creative freedom and all the fame is yours alone. But doing everything yourself can be time-consuming. Having a co-host means diluting some of that control, but you can ease each others’ workload by sharing responsibilities. 

Interviewing special guests helps you tap into a different audience base, adds variety to your content, and can lead to better promotion, especially if you can provide guests with content to share on their social media pages.

Structure

Think about how every episode will sound. To start with, you can experiment with a few different structures and see which one works best for you. 

Here are a few elements your episode could include:

  • Intro music
  • Episode introduction
  • Main content
  • Ad
  • Main content continues
  • Wrap up
  • Call to action: review, subscribe, comment, or ask a question
  • A brief on the next episode
  • Outro music

4. Get the technicalities right

As with any content, the production quality of your podcast is of utmost importance. No matter how great your script is, it just wouldn’t land with the listeners if the audio quality is poor. 

This does not mean that you need to book a recording studio. Fortunately, there is enough affordable and easy-to-use equipment available in the market for you to record a professional-quality podcast at home.

Now we will look at the technicalities of producing a podcast. Here are a few things you absolutely need to get right.

Microphone

Do not make the mistake of using your phone’s or computer’s microphone to record. They are just not strong enough to yield the audio quality that a podcast demands. 

An easy fix, if you cannot afford high-end XLR microphones, is to use good-quality USB ones that work just as well. More on this below.

Recording room

With a few easy steps, you can transform a room in your house into a makeshift recording studio. The room you select should be the quietest one in the house. If possible, pick a room that isn’t street-facing. 

If you’re deciding between different rooms, record a few lines in each and see which one has the least disturbance. Use a small room with fewer hard surfaces (you can cover the floors and walls or use soft furniture to absorb sound) to reduce echo. 

Recording and editing software

This is where things start to get a bit tricky. For someone with no experience in editing, audio software can be intimidating. However, there’s software for every budget and skill level. 

For instance, there’s Alitu, probably the easiest podcast recording tool that takes care of all the technical stuff for you. Its subscription fee is around $28 per month. 

For more advanced editing, you can try Adobe Audition (approximately $20 per month), or free software like Garage Band (iOS only) and Audacity. These may be complicated at first, but with a little help from YouTube tutorials, you can master them in no time. 

5. Finalize hosting and submission

Podcast channels like Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud are not where you upload your podcasts. They are merely platforms from where people can access your episodes. 

You need a hosting platform where you can upload all your audio files. These files are going to be big and uploading them on your existing website will most likely not work. 

Podcast hosting platforms

There are several hosting platforms developed for the sole purpose of podcasts that offer large server space and an RSS feed that you can submit to directories. 

Here are a few hosting platforms that you can consider:

  • Buzzsprout: $0-24 per month for up to 12 hours a month and unlimited space
  • Libsyn: $5-40 per month for up to 800 MB storage
  • Podbean: $0-99 per month with storage ranging from 5 hours to unlimited

All of these hosting platforms will create your RSS feed once you have uploaded at least one episode. This feed will have your episodes, titles, descriptions, artwork, file location, and other data. 

Once you have submitted your podcast to any directory, it will automatically pick up this feed whenever you upload a new episode.

Domain name

Most hosts will provide a free domain name for your podcast, but if you really want to build your reputation as a seasonal and professional podcaster, you need to get a custom domain name. 

Try to incorporate your podcast name into the domain name to build your brand. For this reason, it is advised that you check domain name availability when you’re deciding on your podcast’s name. 

You can also use specific domain extensions that are relevant to your theme to build a more meaningful domain name. 

For instance, you have a podcast on aviation technology called ‘Jon The Aviator’. You can create a branded domain name like www.jontheaviator.tech or www.jontheaviator.space

Podcast directories

Apple Podcasts is the Google of podcast directories. Showing up on Apple’s top podcasts is the biggest stamp of approval you can get. 

Having said that, there are other directories worth exploring too, such as Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. You can study the audience, top podcasts and reach to see which directory works best for you.

Best Microphone in 2020 for a Podcast Guest

If you have been invited to be a podcast guest, one of the first questions will be what microphone you have available to you. The sound of your voice and the quality of your audio recording directly affect the podcast audience's ability to hear your message. Not paying attention to the sound different microphones have on your voice recording can have a devastating effect on the final podcast quality. Today we will cover:

  • Dynamic Mic vs Condenser Mic
  • Blue Yeti vs ATR2100x
  • Dynamic Mic vs Audio Panels
  • An Even Cheaper Option

Here is a video where  you can hear the difference between a dynamic microphone and a condenser microphone:

What's the Best Microphone for a Podcast Guest?

As you can see in the video there is a tremendous difference between microphones and choosing the right microphone as a podcast guest is essential and simple. Over the past few months, I have been a podcast guest talking about our logo maker on more than a dozen podcasts. Each podcast is recorded on the platform preferred by each podcast host. Whether this is Zoom, Skype or a web-based recording service, your computer's microphone is of paramount importance.

It is better to buy an external microphone rather than use the microphone built into your webcam or laptop. This makes sense seeing as those are tiny microphones that give a tinny sound to your voice. I didn't understand when I purchased my first external mic because there are two utterly different microphone styles: condenser microphones and dynamic microphones.

The clear choice for a podcast is the dynamic microphone. Don't regret your purchase.

Don't Buy the Blue Yeti as Your First Microphone

I had seen and heard of the Blue Yeti microphone, and it seemed to be well-reviewed. The Blue Yeti is a condenser microphone, very popular and looks great. The build quality is fantastic.

I bought one along with a boom arm and started my podcast guest journey using PodcastGuests.com and Matchmaker.fm to find podcasts to appear on. Andrew Alleman from PodcastGuests runs a directory of podcasts and was recently interviewed on our Logo.com blog.

Don't Build Your Own Audio Treatment Panels

At this point, I should talk about my home office, where I record my side of the podcast sessions. Since my days are spent focused on our logo design tool, my home office is functional, not an audio recording studio.

It's not fancy, and you can always use these 50 free zoom virtual backgrounds to hide any mess or spruce up your home office. There are no audio panels on the wall, no baffling or other audio treatment effects in the room.

Just a standard four-wall room with a thin door, windows and a rug on the floor. This does present a problem. I have had Podcast hosts tell me that the room sound is a bit on the echo-y side.

And being that I do not live alone, noises in the house outside of my closed office door drift into the room and are recorded as background noise.

Dynamic Microphones Replace Sound Absorbing Panels

I spent a few hours on YouTube watching videos about building audio panels to absorb echo and background noise. I looked at the various options of purchasing some for a lot of money and making my acoustic panels.

I didn't do either option at the end of the day. I decided to see if a change in the microphone I am using could avoid all of that work and expense.  

After joining with InterviewValet.com to get even more places to be a podcast guest on, I learned that there are two types of microphones: condenser microphones and dynamic microphones.

A condenser microphone is always actively listening and is very good at picking up all of the sounds occurring in or near the microphone. This is great for an ASMR video recording but not so great if you want the sole sound to be recorded to be your voice.

On the other hand, a dynamic microphone is one that you typically see a singer or speaker using when they are on the stage of a noisy room. The microphone picks up their voice and is not passing through the sounds from the rest of the room. A dynamic microphone does this by having a smaller or tighter "ear," which means that you have to have the microphone much closer to your mouth than when using a condenser microphone.

Mic Placement in Relation to Your Mouth

If you've ever looked at a recording of a radio show host speaking into their microphone, you'll see just how close they are to the microphones' head.

Or when you watch a singer on stage, you can see how closely they are holding the microphone to their mouth. It's usually just a few inches. When you are on a video conferencing call with your coworkers, you don't necessarily want to have a microphone in your face.

That's where a condenser microphone is instrumental. The mic can sit off the side or out of the web camera shot and still pick up your voice nicely. It's also picking up any background noise, though.

Switch Out Your Condenser Microphone for a Dynamic Microphone

But when you want to make sure that your voice's sound is the top priority, it is worth switching out your condenser microphone for a dynamic microphone.

As a podcast guest, you don't choose whether the podcast host will also video record your podcast session. They often do this if they are also publishing the podcast session to their YouTube channel.

If you are using a dynamic microphone, the microphone will be extremely close to your mouth and appear in the video recording. Trust me; It's worth the compromise.

As we are a podcast guest, we are looking at this with a budget in mind. Surprisingly, dynamic microphones are not much more expensive than condenser microphones. In fact, some are cheaper.

Pricing in USD in Sept 2020. Go for the $99 Mic!

One of the most popular, if not the most popular, condenser microphones, is the Blue Yeti. One of the most popular dynamic microphones is the Audio-Technica ATR-2100x.

Both are available on Amazon. At this point, we could jump into talking about hertz recording levels and other gibberish that quite frankly is unnecessary for a podcast guest to learn about. Does it matter what numbers mean when we just want to listen to the differences? We will know it when we hear it.


Comparing the Blue Yeti vs ATR2100x

Both the Blue Yeti and the Audio-Technica ATR-2100x connect to your computer via USB. You can have both microphones connected to your computer at the same time.

Then you can go into the audio/video settings of Zoom or Skype and use the pulldown menu to select which microphone you want the program to be recording from.

Thus you can use the condenser microphone during a regular video conference call and then quickly switch to a dynamic microphone when recording as a podcast guest.

A straight forward test quickly and dramatically shows the difference between these two microphones.

As a podcast guest, the clear choice for your microphone is the Audio-Technica ATR-2100x. It does an incredible job of cutting out the echo from a standard non-treated room. And it does very well in ignoring background noises.

Think about it this way: you're putting time into preparing to be a podcast guest, time and money into finding a podcast to be a guest on, so you need to ensure that the final product is easy to listen to and that your voice is accurately recorded with a deep rich sound.

An Even Cheaper Dynamic Mic Option: Samson Q2U

If you are a podcast host, you could justify spending even more money on more expensive dynamic microphones. As a podcast guest, an entry-level dynamic microphone is more than sufficient.

While the cheapest dynamic microphone that is still popular appears to be the Samsung Q2U, I went with the Audio-Technica ATR-2100x after watching hours of YouTube product reviews and seeing that this was a recommendation by professional Podcasters as an entry-level dynamic microphone for people starting their podcasts.

If it is good enough for a budding podcast host, it's going to be good enough for you as a podcast guest. But the proof is in the pudding. Really what you want to hear is a side-by-side test of the Blue Yeti condenser microphone versus the Audio-Technica ATR-2100x dynamic microphone. 


The Test & Optimal Distance

To record my voice on these two microphones connected to the same computer, I simply opened up Zoom, created a new call, clicked on record and spoke into the microphone. I switched back-and-forth between the two microphones and then ended the call.

Zoom will automatically save the recording to your local computer hard drive. Listening back to the differences in my voice being recorded by the Blue Yeti and the Audio-Technica ATR-2100x clearly shows that the Blue Yeti condenser microphone is picking up the room's echo as well as more of the background noises.

The Audio-Technica ATR-2100x, on the other hand, has a deep rich recording of my voice, especially when my mouth is close to the microphone. I think 2 to 3 inches from your mouth is the optimal distance when using the Audio-Technica ATR-2100x dynamic microphone as a podcast guest.

A dynamic mic will try to ignore the background noise, and that's what you need in a live, home-office environment. The ATR2100x is the winner over the Yeti Blue for podcast guests.

The Clear Winner: ATR2100x

So there you have it. From my personal experience as a podcast guest, the microphone to buy is the Audio-Technica ATR-2100x microphone, which connects to your computer with a USB cable. Save yourself the hours of research that I have personally done on your behalf and grab one from Amazon.

While you are there, you will want to consider also getting a boom arm. But at the very least, you can now choose the correct microphone to use as a podcast guest.

Expert Tips On How To Grow Your Podcast Audience

We spoke with Andrew Allemann from PodcastGuests.com and discuss the process behind the microphone, and what it's like to be backstage in the podcast industry.

Tell us about yourself and what your company does, & how long you've been working on it.

I'm an online media entrepreneur and have started several businesses around delivering niche content and services over the internet. PodcastGuests.com was founded in 2016 as a way to help podcasters find interesting guests to interview on their podcasts. It's a simple idea, but the network effect of having over 20,000 users makes it powerful for both podcasters and experts who want to be booked as guests on shows. Podcasting has exploded in recent years, and PodcastGuests.com has ridden this wave upward.

Andrew Allemann - Founder of PodcastGuests.com

What inspired you to start your own company - tell us the story?

One of my online publications is Domain Name Wire, a trade publication for the domain name industry. I also publish an accompanying podcast. I ran into a problem after about a year of interviewing people for my podcast: I needed to find more guests! I searched for a service that would help me find guests for my podcast. There are some agencies out that there charge hundreds or thousands of dollars to help podcasters find guests. I couldn't find anything free and simple. So I decided to build it.

How did you decide on your company name and logo?

As a domain name person, I'm a big believer in picking a name that instantly tells people what it does. You expect to find logos at Logo.com. Where would you expect to find podcast guests? Yep, PodcastGuests.com. Someone already owned the domain name so I bought it from them. For the logo, I wanted something simple that would look good in monochrome or full color.

How long did it take from having the idea to your first customers?

Just a few weeks. I created a minimum viable product to get it running and see if the idea had legs. Most of my users don't pay anything, but I'd consider them customers in a way.

Who were your first customers?

I started by emailing podcasters to see if they wanted an easier way to find guests. I told them I was starting a service and it was free to join. I leaned on some of the podcasters I knew to seed this.

What's been a good way of growing your customer base and sales? Can you share a few success stories with us?

I've done a few things. The most valuable way to grow the business is to turn customers into evangelists. You do that by exceeding their expectations. I've had some users who were so blown away that they told friends and posted in private social media groups. Organic growth has really taken off. I also have an affiliate program that pays people to refer new users and I run ads on social media platforms.

What did you wish you knew before you started your company? What advice do you have for first-time entrepreneurs?

My service started out very simple. My initial idea to make money was to sell advertising. But, over time, my customers told me what they wanted and were willing to pay for. Free users told me they wanted to get booked on more podcasts and urged me to create a way for them to create profiles. That was the idea behind the directory that now has hundreds of people.

What are trends in your industry that you are excited about?

In a word: GROWTH! Podcasting is having its moment as people realize how spoken-word content can be a powerful way to grow their audience.

What are you looking forward to in the next week/month/quarter or year and what are your aspirations for your company?

Right now I'm dealing with a huge influx of new users because of the pandemic. People are using their lockdown time to start podcasts. Others realize they need a new way to get in front of people because they can't go to tradeshows and conferences to find new clients.

Any particular books or podcasts you can recommend?

Of course. The Domain Name Wire Podcast :)

What’s been your biggest challenge in life thus far and how did you overcome it?

Overcoming anxiety and imposter syndrome. You never really overcome this, but you can train yourself to thrive with it.

Start And Build Your Podcast Today!

Now that you have your plan in place and your setup ready, the only thing left to do is get over your apprehensions and record your first episode. 

You need to take time to write a great script and get used to all the equipment you’re planning to use. 

It is a good idea to do a couple of test recordings to see how your voice sounds. Most importantly, be confident. You got this!

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