It seems everyone has lately been jumping onto the podcasting bandwagon. When you look at the 2021 statistics, you’ll understand why. Podcast awareness and listening have been experiencing explosive growth in the United States in the past couple of years.
So far, more than 75% of the US population are familiar with the term “podcasting.” More impressive is that 51% of Americans listened to podcasts in 2021. If there was ever a great time to start a podcast, it’s now.
But with any worthwhile venture, you need first to develop a strategy for success. The same applies to podcasting. This step-by-step guide will answer all your queries on How to Produce a Podcast.
From planning your episodes, selecting the right equipment, recording, editing, promoting your podcast, and everything in between.
Plan Your Podcast
Define Your Why
The starting point of podcast production is answering some fundamental questions, such as why you want to start a podcast. This means having a real, honest conversation about your goals and motivation for podcasting.
Nobody but you needs to understand or approve of your Why. As long as you are truly passionate about the subject matter, you are more likely to work hard and stay committed to the process.
Most successful podcasters are where they are today because they have a genuine passion for what they talk about in their show. For them, it’s not about money or fame. The zeal for their craft is what captivates the audience and ultimately “sells” their shows.
Define Your Audience
Another attribute for success in podcasting is developing a connection with your target audience. But for this to happen, you must first know who your target audience is. There is no podcast that is made with everyone in mind.
This step will involve creating a podcast avatar–and in-depth but fictitious representation of your ideal listener. I go more in-depth and share a practical example on this topic in another post: 5 Tried and True Ways to Grow Your Podcast.
For now, what you need to remember is that once you key down on your target audience, the rest of the process will be more straightforward.
Create an Episode Format and Structure
Can your listeners describe what your podcast is about to their friends using only a few words? Your podcast approach must be simple to understand and easy to describe. To achieve this, you’ll need a podcast format—the delivery method for your show’s content.
Some popular podcast formats include:
- The interview format which features a new guest every episode.
- The solo/monologue that features only one person.
- Co-hosting which involves two people having a conversation
- The panel/roundtable format with a single host and a group of guests.
- Non-fictional storytelling format which delves into past or current events.
You can experiment with a few different methods over your first 15-25 episodes. The goal is to see which ones fit your personality and resonate with your listeners.
If you want to deliver a high-quality audio experience to your audience, every podcast episode you produce needs to have a consistent structure. Most shows follow a three-act structure that includes an intro, middle section, final closing words with a call to action.
This ensures a smooth flow that’s pleasant to listen to and offers an enriching experience to your audience.
You’ll also need to determine how long your episodes will be. This is largely influenced by your target audience and the format you’ve chosen.
For example, certain audiences might prefer 1 hour-long episode to shorter 15 minutes episodes and vice versa. On the other hand, interviews covering many topics tend to be longer than solo episodes with one theme.
That said, there’s one rule of thumb you need to adhere to–all your episodes should generally be the same length. This will ensure you remain predictable to your audience, and they know what to expect from you. This is why many podcasters prefer splitting the longer episode into parts that fit their average episode length.
Get The Right Podcast Gear
Have you found yourself asking, “Which type of microphone do I need?” “Are these headphones good enough?” You are not alone! If you aren’t well-versed with audio equipment, getting the right gear for your podcast production can quickly get confusing.
To help you along, here’s a list of essential podcast recording equipment you’ll need to get started, plus other accessories you can add to make the experience better.
This is the backbone of your podcast production. You can’t just use any microphone for podcasting, especially not the built-in mic on your computer, camera, or phone. From poor audio quality to the inability to filter out background noise, doing so is a recipe for disaster.
For podcast mics, you have two options: USB vs. XLR Microphone. USB microphone has a standard USB A-type connection, while XLR Mics have a three-pin connection known as XLR3.
A USB microphone is more than adequate if you are recording alone on your computer (solo podcast format). If you have multiple co-hosts or plan to do in-person guest interviews, go for XLR.
In this case, you’ll also need an audio interface that serves as the bridge that converts the mic’s audio signals into digital so you can “send” them to your computer for editing.
Laptop / Computer
While recording a podcast is generally not as demanding as professional music production, you still need a reasonably powerful computer. For good performance and speed, you will need an i7 or at least an i5 processor and a minimum of 8 GB of RAM. Whether to get Mac or a PC, it’s really a matter of preference. You can also get an external portable hard drive to store the heavy audio files and freeup space in your computer.
While not technically gear, recording software is another essential of podcast production. The software will capture and save your recording as an audio file, which you can then edit on your computer. Podcast recording software is designed to ensure you get the best audio possible. Most even have editing capabilities, acting as an all-in-one tool.
No Essential But Recommended
While it may be weird to hear your own voice at first, headphones allow you to monitor your audio quality and check for any ambient noise and uneven mic sound levels, saving you from unnecessary retakes.
Mics are super-sensitive to surface vibrations such as typing on your keyboard, which can translate into short, abrupt noises in your recordings. This is why you might need a shock mount that will absorb those vibrations and prevent them from reaching your microphone.
Mic Pop Filter
A pop filter is a screen or foam filter that helps reduce popping noises created by breath when a person says a plosive such as “p,” “t,” or “b.” By dispersing the air coming from your mouth in different directions, it keeps the harsh vocal pops from dampening the listening experience for your audience.
The Actual Production
Record the Audio
Consistency is so essential if you want to succeed in podcasting. That’s why even before you hit record, you need to have a game plan for your podcasting content schedule.
A rule of thumb is to plan out your next 10 episodes in advance. This often starts with an extensive list of generalized ideas or topics, or areas of interest you would like to cover. As you do your research, you filter it down to specific themes for each episode you want to record.
One strategy that works for a lot of podcasters is the concept of batching. This means creating multiple episodes in one session rather than individual episodes in numerous sessions. This can help combat the overwhelm and procrastination plaguing so many podcasters.
Even if you are disciplined, remember life happens. It’s always good to have a few episodes in the bank to buffer you when unexpected interruptions in your schedule show up.
Here are a few guidelines to help produce high-quality audio like a pro. This will help minimize the number of retakes as well as the amount of time you take editing the audio afterwards.
- Keep your mouth the same distance from the mic while recording. This will keep your voice volume levels consistent.
- Record a 24-bit / 48 kHz WAV or AIFF audio file. M4A, AAC, or MP3 audio formats restrict the high-frequency range, which helps voices sound and feel natural.
- A script gives you the advantage of having all your ideas laid out in a format that’s easy to see. Use it to do a dry run before you start recording. For interview and co-host podcast formats, where a script is impractical, have a solid structure with pre-planned intros, questions, transitions, and closing statements.
- Minimize any extra movement. Simple movements like turning show scripts or rubbing your face as you talk can distort the recording.
Edit the Audio
This is the most technical step in the podcast production process and often the most daunting for beginners. There are three main steps to editing audio for a podcast:
- Stitching-add, remove and re-order the episode content. For example, add pre-recorded podcast intros and outros.
- Mixing-manipulate the different layers to make sure what needs to be heard is heard (host’s voice), and all competing sounds are minimized. For example, edit out involuntary sounds like coughs and sneezes.
- Mastering– use different software features to smoothen and optimize the podcast for an overall polished sound.
Every editing software has different capabilities for each step and its own learning curve. But with the right attitude and some time investment, you should be able to get a good handle on it.
If you don’t have the time to do this yourself, you can hire a freelancer and podcast agencies who’ll take care of it for you.
Publish And Distribute the Podcast Episode
Once you’ve finished editing, your podcast is ready to be released to the world! It’s a fairly common misconception that Spotify and other podcast directories host your podcast audio file.
On the contrary, you’ll need to publish your first episode on a podcast hosting company. I highly recommend Buzzsprout podcast hosting after trying different companies over the years. Here’s a simple guide for uploading an episode on Buzzsprout.
Then you’ll need a podcast RSS feed to submit your podcast to Apple Podcast and other podcast directories. You’ll get your RSS feed from your podcast hosting company.
Buzzsprout has really simplified the process of submitting your podcast feed to different directories.
Please have in mind it can take up to a couple of weeks for some directories to approve your podcast.
But once that’s done, all the information you add to your hosting platform is automatically updated on the directories by your RSS feed. Anytime you upload new episodes, change descriptions, or update titles, the information gets updated without you having to do it manually.
Publish Your Next Podcast Episode Like a Pro
How do you keep track of what has been completed and what tasks are pending before/after an episode is released?
One of the greatest challenges most podcasters face is how to stay on top of all the moving parts involved in podcast production. In fact, very few consistently release episodes without fail!
Without the right help, most have very little chance for success in podcasting. But that does have to be the case for you.