UPDATE: Beginning January 2018, Dave has been employed by Blubrry and has included an affiliate link to their services.
In the past, International Podcast Day episodes were a list of my favorite podcasts. This year I wanted to take a different approach and talk about what podcasting is and how you can start your own.
What Is A Podcast?
Let’s start with the literal definition of “podcast”. According to Google, a podcast is:
“a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.”
That’s a pretty good overview. There are more technical details, such as RSS feeds, that I’m going to skip over for time’s sake.
Blubrry, one of the “big two” in podcast media hosting points out a big qualifier:
“In order to make posted audio and video files a true podcast, the proper technology needs to be in place to allow automated content downloading and syndication.”
Enough of the technical stuff, right? Let’s get into making your podcast because it does take a little bit of work.
How To Start
There are three important components when it comes to starting your podcast:
Knowing what you’re going to talk about is 90% of your show. When I started Geek This, I knew it would be my opinion on comics and movies. That was the bare-bones outline. If I would have done it right, I would have asked myself, “How will I stand out while talking about my topic?” That’s what you should do, too.
The next step, after figuring out what you want to talk about is figuring out who you want to talk to. This is something that I skimmed over. It was too easy for me to say, “geeks and nerds and people that like this kind of stuff.” If I’m completely honest with myself, that was a cop-out.
You should look at demographics when you’re determining your audience. What age groups do you want to talk to? For me, that’s difficult because I know a lot of the ages of people that have interacted with the show over the years. Right now, at this point, I would say my age range would be between males, aged 15 to 45. I get this number because I have people in mind that are roughly around these ages. Also, I’m not excluding women, but I have a good feeling that the majority of my audience is male. If you’re a woman listening to this episode, leave a comment in the shownotes or on Facebook. I’d love to know for sure!
Now, you’ve figured out what you’re talking about and who you’re talking to. It’s time to nail down a schedule. The most successful podcasts have a regular schedule. When I started this show in 2012, I didn’t have a definite course of action here. I tried to record episodes when I knew no one would be home and the house would be quiet. The fact that I’m impatient, I would upload the episode right after editing. Look through the episode archives and you’ll see that inconsistency was the name of the game for a long time.
When I brought the show back from the brink of death, I had a plan in place. New episodes would release every other Wednesday.
Why did I choose this schedule? First, Wednesday is “New Comic Book Day”. It’s when new comics hit store shelves. It fits with the kind of content I create. this enables my audience to listen to Geek This while getting their new comics.
A schedule is more important than you realize. It creates a dependability factor. One of the shows that I keep bragging about is Lore. Aaron Mahnke, who created the show, releases new episodes every other Monday. That podcast has become something I look forward to. I even have my podcast player set up so it downloads the newest episode of Lore as soon as it’s available.
Another part of this that isn’t talked about too much is scheduling a time to prepare for your next episode. Think about it. Unless your show is 100% ad-lib, you need to put some time into figuring out what you’ll be discussing. This means writing your show notes or an outline before hitting record. It helps you flesh out your topic and determine your direction.
Going back to the way I do things, I started with a simple outline. This was helpful when I had my co-hosts on episodes. It helped us from going off the rails. Now that the show is more or less solo, I write a blog post that doubles for my show notes and an outline.
You may have been waiting for the “Equipment” part of this episode. It seems that’s what most people get excited for. I see threads in online podcasting groups that start with, “I’m getting ready to start my podcast, what gear do I need?” A lot of folks asking professional podcasters what gear they use.
My opinion on this is simple and complicated all at once: it doesn’t matter what the equipment is, it’s how you’re using it. More than anything, it’s technique.
When I started this show, which was my first podcast ever, I had a cheap stick microphone. No mixer, no fancy microphone. I plugged that mic into its jack, opened my recording software and made my episodes. Do they sound great? No, but I’ve heard worse. Learn good techniques before recording your first episode. That’s going to save you time and money.
Do you want to know what I’m working with? Well, I’m using an off-brand dynamic microphone. According to the band around it, it is a 2000’s Audio ADM101. I found this on Amazon for a few bucks back in 2013 or 2014. It’s been my microphone in almost every episode of the podcast since then. What’s funny is that I only spent $20 on it then. Now it’s almost $40. It sounds great, so I keep using it.
I have a pop filter on my mic, too, to dampen the sound of plosives (the sound you hear when someone uses a “p” or “b” and it pops). The mic sits in a very cheap adjustable-arm, clamp-on desk stand. I paid around $6 for it.
I have that mic plugged into an Alesis MultiMix 4 USB mixer. That plugs right into my computer so I can record once it’s turned on. Again, I didn’t pay a lot for this, $50 at the time? Right now it’s selling for $90 on Amazon. I actually saw one for $300, too. (Talk about a steal on my end!)
This is what I’ve acquired over the years. I didn’t get all this equipment before starting my show. There are some cases where I ditch this setup and use my iPad and an app called BossJock Studio. If you’re interested in that, let me know and I can talk about that in a future episode.
It’s not about what you’re using, it’s about how you’re using it. At least, that’s my take.
When it comes time to record your episode, you’ll need some way to, well, record it. Professionals like to use digital recorders. The Zoom brand (H4N, H5, etc) are popular, but they’ll set you back upwards of $100 if you go that route. As I said, I use my mixer via USB into my computer. It’s a simpler setup for me.
Since I don’t use a digital recorder, I’m recording live into my digital audio workspace, also known as a DAW. When I started, I used Audacity. It’s a free, open-source program that works for Windows or Mac. It is a great, inexpensive way to start recording your show. Beginning with the last episode, I started using Adobe Audition. This is more of an experimental thing. I will say that it’s easier to work with for me, but it isn’t the the friendliest if you’re looking for a low-cost solution.
You can get Audition a la carte from Adobe for $20/month. You can also get all the Creative Cloud apps for $60/month. You should save your money when starting out and stick with Audacity. Unless you already have access to some other software, that is.
Both Audacity and Audition are multitrack software. This means you can layer the sounds inside your recording. You can add intro music, sound effects, or even another vocal track with ease. You can also edit your episode within these DAWs. This isn’t an episode where I’ll walk you through how to use Audacity or Audition, so do a simple YouTube search.
Once you’ve recorded, edited and exported your show to MP3, you’ve got to host it somewhere. I recommend that you use a media host. Libsyn and Blubrry are the “Big Two” in this space. I know I’ve been keeping a “low-cost” mindset in this episode, but this is a part you don’t want to skimp on. A hosting company ensures that your files are safe. You also won’t crash your shared website server if your show gets popular overnight. I have used Libsyn since relaunching GEEK THIS, but I’m thinking about trying Blubrry as a test.
Libsyn starts at $5/month for 50mb of storage. This will get you a couple of episodes each month, as long as they aren’t over a half hour long. If you want stats added to this basic package, you’ll have to add on $2. I do not have an affiliate for Libsyn right now, but I’m hoping to have one soon. If I do, I’ll be sure to add it to the show notes for this episode at geekthispodcast.com/71.
Blubrry starts at $12/month for 100mb of storage. They even say on their site that this is good for a weekly 20-minute podcast. Their pro stats will tack on another $5 per month. If you want to try Blubrry out, you can use my promo code “geekthis” and get a free month of hosting with them. Again, I’ll leave that in the show notes.
You might ask me who I prefer? The honest answer is that I don’t know yet. I’ll be trying Blubrry soon and then I’ll write up a blog article comparing the two.
I want to issue you a word of caution. The more you dig in and research podcasting, you’ll see a lot of services that offer free hosting. I love free. I do. What I love more than free is ownership.
If you use a service like Soundcloud or Buzzsprout you need to understand that you don’t own your show. This is a complicated thing to explain to podcasting newbies, but it’s important. Spend the money to have Libsyn or Blubrry host your files. They’re honest companies built by podcasters for podcasters.
Another important part of distributing your show is having a website. This is your base of operations. When you publish a new episode, this is where people can find links that you mentioned. Having a website isn’t a necessity, but it’s nice if you want to have a home base with all your information. I pay for web hosting and a domain through a company called 1&1. They’ve been with the podcast since day one. Other hosting companies exist. Go with what suits your needs and wallet.
Blubrry offers a service called “PowerPress Sites”. If you use them for your media hosting, you can use this service for free, or you can pay for more features. Pretty cool!
Finally, after all that, you need to submit your podcast. Getting your podcast into Apple Podcasts is important. Why? Almost every podcast player on any device will pull from Apple’s information.
They rolled out a feature called Podcasts Connect that makes submitting a breeze. It will walk you through everything and email you a confirmation if you’re added to their catalog. After submitting to Apple Podcasts, you should get into other services as well. You can find a ton of them at PodcastPlaces.com.
I know this was a longer episode and I’m glad you stuck with it. I only touched on the information that will get you started if you can believe it! There are a lot of resources out there for starting your own podcast.
My personal recommendations for podcast guidance are:
They’re different styles, so check both of them out and see which one works for you.
In the end, the biggest – and hardest – part of starting a podcast is simply hitting record. I hope this episode gets your curiosity going. If it does and you decide to start your own show, please share it with me!
The Podcast Planner is another “podcast about podcasting” out there that I recommend. The perk with this show is that it revolves around an actual product. An even perkier perk is they offer a free “Podcast Compass” to help you start from square one. This is not an affiliate link. It is simple a tool that could help you tremendously when it comes to starting your podcast. Click here to sign up and download the Podcast Compass. You don’t have to buy the Podcast Planner to get the Compass. Scroll to the bottom of the screen, sign up for the newsletter and you’re all set.