How to Launch a Podcast
February 18, 2020
How to Launch a Podcast
“Hey, let’s start a podcast!” is this generation’s version of “We should start a band,” and it’s easy to see why. Unlike getting a TV show on air or a book on the shelves, podcasts offer an extremely low barrier to entry. If you have something to say or an opinion to share, a podcast is the way to do it. Whether you want to discuss your passion with the world or you’re hoping to build up your resumé before applying to school, you’re here because you want to know how to launch a podcast.
Over the past three years, I’ve launched three different podcasts, including InGenius Prep’s own Inside the Admissions Office: Advice from Former Admissions Officers. So, I’ve spent a lot of time researching how to start podcasts and how to ensure they succeed. In this blog, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to launch a podcast, and walk you through how to pick a theme, the recording equipment you’ll need, the best editing software, and finally ways to determine the right podcast provider.
Before you dive into learning how to launch a podcast, you should have an idea of what you want your podcast to cover. Obviously, this can change over time (even after you publish your first episodes), but initiating this process will be easier if you have a general idea of what topic you’ll be exploring.
Your podcast should obviously center on something that you’re interested in and that you have some expertise on discussing. No one wants to listen to a podcast that’s inaccurate or uninformed. Podcasts can and do cover a wide variety of topics, so dream big! Do you hope to become an engineer? Make a podcast that explores the history of the most feats of engineering. Do you love fashion? Interview those around you about their style and how they express themselves through their clothing. Are you passionate about your identity as an Asian-American woman? Create a podcast where you discuss your experience growing up with this perspective! Any passion can be turned into a podcast as long as it’s important to you.
Though you might want to start recording as soon as you come up with your topic, I would recommend conducting more research first. There are thousands of podcasts out there, so chances are, someone is talking about the same idea as you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t focus on a subject that a lot of other people podcast about, but you’ll want to put your own unique spin on it if you want listeners (and if you’re researching how to start a podcast, I’m assuming you want listeners). Find podcasts that cover the topic you’re interested in and check out a few episodes. Take notes on what these podcasts do and then brainstorm ways that you can make your own podcast different and more personal to you.
Thinking About Style
You may also want to think about the style or “vibe” of your podcast. Do you want it to be informational and factual? Do you want to conduct interviews? Will your content be more casual and conversation-focused?
The tone can, of course, change episode-to-episode, but it’s likely that you’ll lean more towards one approach overall. Keep in mind prep time and logistics when making this decision. InGenius Prep’s podcast is informational and revolves around interviews with admissions experts, which means I have to spend a decent amount of time on research and coordinating interview schedules before I can record. My other podcast, however, is more conversational and takes less preparation. If you’re a student or a busy professional with a full-time job, you’ll have to think about how much time you’re willing to invest in this project, which might affect the style of your podcast.
The Recording Equipment
A podcast is obviously an audio medium, which means your sound quality is extremely important. No matter how interesting your content is, if your listeners have to strain to hear you or are distracted by background noises, they’ll probably stop tuning in. One of the most common questions I get when talking about how to launch a podcast is regarding what recording equipment is required.
When I started my first podcast, my co-host and I simply used our MacBooks to record ourselves. While this didn’t provide us with incredible audio quality, it did see us through until we had enough money to invest in proper microphones. If you aren’t ready to spend money on your podcast, using your computer or phone isn’t a terrible option, especially if you’re able to edit the audio to improve the quality.
But if you’re comfortable spending a bit of money, I would recommend looking into the following list of popular podcasting microphones. These vary widely in price range, and each has its own pros and cons, so I would suggest that you do your research and decide which microphone best fits your podcasting needs:
- Samsung Q2U - $49
- Blue Snowball - $49 (This is the mic I use!)
- Rode PodMic - $99
- Blue Yeti - $150
- Rode Procaster - $229
- Heil PR30 - $259
- Heil PR40 - $329
- Shure SM7B - $399
When analyzing these microphones, I suggest looking at a few different features. First, pay attention to whether the microphone uses an XLR or a USB connection. If you plan to record and edit from your laptop, you’ll probably want a USB connection. XLRs are typically used in recording studios or when a podcaster has a mixer. Next, look to see if the microphone is dynamic or condensed. Condensers are very sensitive and work best in studios where there is less background noise. If you’re just going to be recording from your bedroom or office, you’ll want a dynamic mic that’s a bit more forgiving in terms of ambient noise.
Lastly, look at the polar pattern of the microphone. The polar pattern is the microphone’s pickup pattern or directionality. Omnidirectional mics pick up sound from all around the microphone while cardioid mics only pick up sound that is directly in front of or on top of the mic. If you’re hosting this podcast solo, a cardioid mic is best. But if you’ll be co-hosting or having guests on, you’ll either need to share an omnidirectional mic or get two separate microphones.
The Editing Software
The second step to creating a podcast is editing. Audio editing can be a frustrating skill to learn, but it’s necessary when figuring out how to launch a podcast. The good news is that there are a ton of YouTube videos and tutorials out there that can help you become an expert on this.
Just like audio equipment, editing software comes in a range of prices and abilities. I’m self-taught, so I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’ll detail the software I’ve used below and list some others that I would recommend researching!
- GarageBand: GarageBand is the starter software that many amateur podcasters use. It’s free and conveniently comes pre-downloaded on Apple computers. This is the software I use to edit InGenius Prep’s podcast! The basic operations are quite simple to learn, and you can use the music features to add effects or a theme song to your podcast.
- Audacity: This is probably the most popular editing software since it’s free and available to both Mac and PC users. Like GarageBand, Audacity includes all of the basic operations that you would need to edit a podcast but won’t give you many advanced options. Audacity is also an open-source software, which means it can look quite confusing until you get the hang of it.
- Adobe Audition: This is the program that my co-host uses to edit our personal podcast and it has worked great for us. At $20/month, Audition is a great option for those able to spend a bit of money and want a higher quality program. Unlike GarageBand or Audacity, Audition comes with more sophisticated features, such as adjusting audio levels and removing background noise, which will greatly improve your sound quality.
The Podcast Provider
So, you have your idea and maybe you’ve recorded an edited an episode or two. Now what? How do you get your work on podcast apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify? The answer to this question is the illusive RSS feed. While RSS feeds can be difficult to wrap your head around, they’re essential to understanding how to launch a podcast.
There’s a lot of technical jargon involved with RSS feeds, but all you really need to know is that your RSS feed is what takes your podcast data from you and delivers it to podcast apps or directories. While you can create an RSS feed by making your own blog or website, I find it easiest and most beneficial to use a podcast provider.
During my time as a podcaster, I have used four different providers, which I will outline below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these providers are some of the most popular and affordable.
- Anchor: This provider is completely free, so it’s a great option if you’re still not sure how to launch a podcast or if you aren’t ready to spend money. Because it’s free, however, it still has some drawbacks. Anchor does show you some analytics, such as the general geographical location of your listeners or your total plays, but they aren’t as nuanced as some other providers. But importantly, Anchor will get you on all major podcast directories and apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher Radio.
- Soundcloud: Most people think of Soundcloud as a platform for musicians or rappers, but it can be used for podcasts as well. When I started my first podcast, I used Soundcloud for the first year or so. Though a base Soundcloud account is free, if you want to upload more than 3 hours of content, you’ll have to sign up for a Pro Unlimited account (which is $12/month). Soundcloud’s analytics are generally more sophisticated than Anchor’s, but they still leave something to be desired. The main reason I stopped using Soundcloud, however, is that it will not allow your podcast to be distributed to Spotify. While this may seem like a small detail, it greatly affected our listenership. A lot of podcast listeners use Spotify and when we finally made it onto Spotify, our downloads greatly increased.
- Buzzsprout: Buzzsprout is my personal favorite podcast provider, as I find it to be the most intuitive and user-friendly. You can try Buzzsprout for free, but you will only be able to upload 2 hours of content and your episodes will disappear after 90 days. Each of their paid plans will keep your episodes uploaded indefinitely but differ in the number of hours of content you can upload. Essentially, the more hours of content you plan to post per month, the more you’ll have to pay. Buzzsprout costs $12/month for 3 hours of content, $18/month for 6 hours, and $24/month for 12 hours. But whichever plan you choose, you’ll have access to Buzzsprout’s analytics, which will show you data such as your total downloads, the devices your listeners use, geographic data, downloads over time, etc. Buzzsprout will also put you on every podcast app and directory, including Spotify.
- PodBean: This is another excellent option for podcasters. You can start on Podbean for free but will only be able to upload up to 5 hours of content. All paid plans allow you to upload unlimited hours and differ in more high-level ways that relate to marketing and branding. If you’re just starting out, I would highly recommend starting on the basic plan and upgrading from there as needed. Upgrades can be found at various level: Unlimited for $9 a month, Unlimited Plus (optimum for video podcasts) for $29 a month, and Business (best for company podcasts) for $99 a month. This provider has the most sophisticated analytics of those included in this blog, as it includes everything that Buzzsprout does plus individual graphs for each episode so you can track growth in a more detailed way. And again, Podbean will also put you on every podcast app and directory.
It might seem like you’ve got a lot of decisions to make when thinking about how to launch a podcast, but there’s no need to make them all at once! If you aren’t ready for a huge commitment and just want to experiment, use the free resources I’ve mentioned above, upload an episode or two, and see how it feels. After some time (or if you want to make a splash right away), spend a bit of money to raise your quality. It will most likely take some time for you to get a dedicated listener base, but keep at it. I can confidently say that all of your work will be worth it in the end when you can use your podcast as a resumé builder, a fulfilling hobby, or a platform to share an issue that matters to you.