How to start a podcast

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to start a podcast. First, I’ll give you some microphone recommendations. Some folks assume you have to spend a lot of money on equipment, but that’s not true. For instance, you can buy a great podcasting mic for $65. Second, I’ll show you what software to use to edit your podcast. Third, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to publish your podcast so listeners can hear it on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. And finally, I’ll show you how to get more listeners for your podcast.

Note: most “how to start a podcast” articles begin by showing you how to find a topic. However, I’m assuming that you already have an idea for a show. If you’re looking for a topic, read this.

What is the best podcast microphone?

Step 1: buy your podcasting gear

Best podcasting microphone

A lot of folks used to recommend the Blue Yeti USB microphone. However, this is a condenser microphone that will pick up a lot of room noises (especially any thumps or bumps you make while recording).

Here are some better microphone options (from least expensive, to most costly):

  • Samson Technologies Q2U ($60 USD) – this dynamic microphone can plug into your computer via USB or you can use an XLR cable.
  • Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB ($65 USD) – another dynamic microphone with USB and XLR inputs.
  • Shure SM7B ($399 USD) – consistently ranked as one of the best podcast microphones by professionals. You’ll also need a USB interface for this mic.
  • Heil PR 40 ($399 USD) – another classic microphone for voiceover work, also highly rated. (An additional USB interface/preamp is also required).

Best podcasting preamps and USB audio interfaces

If you’re using an XLR microphone, you’ll need to connect it to your computer via a USB interface. Most of these have two (or more) inputs, which will allow you to record multiple microphones at the same time. Here’s an example:

  • BEHRINGER UMC202HD ($99 USD) – I’ve been using this little preamp + USB interface for the past year, and really like it. It’s the most affordable USB interface I’ve found and is comparable in quality to the Scarlett (below).
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ($160 USD) – used by thousands of podcasters, the Scarlett is a popular USB interface.
  • DBX 286S Preamplifier ($219 USD) – my friends Sean McCabe and Matt Giovanisci swear by this preamp. Matt says: “I don’t need a lot of soundproofing in my room with the DBX. It has a very effective gate that cuts the room noise out.” Sean recommends setting the DBX input gain at 50–55, and output gain at 0–5db. “To be clear,” he says, “you still need an audio interface with the DBX 286s. It’s a pre-amp, not an interface. You can’t connect it to your computer without something like the Scarlett.”
Matt Giovanisci’s podcasting setup, including the DBX 286s preamp

Step 2: record and edit your podcast

Now that you have your microphone, and you can plug it into your computer, you’ll use audio editing software to record and edit your first episode.

Best podcasting editing software

  • Garageband (Free, Mac) – If you have a Mac, this is the easiest way to start recording and editing your podcast.
  • Audacity (Free, PC) – for PC users, Audacity is a good free choice for recording and editing podcasts.
  • ScreenFlow ($99 USD, Mac) – this is technically video editing software, but I’ve been using it lately for quick podcast editing projects. It works really well for recording audio as well.

Step 3: publish your podcast

Once you’ve created your audio, it’s time to upload it to a hosting provider, and generate your podcast feed.

Best podcast hosting and analytics platform

  • Transistor ($19 / month) – we started Transistor for professionals who are serious about their podcast. We provide a website for your podcast, a place to store your MP3 files, an iTunes-ready RSS feed, and detailed analytics.
  • Anchor (free) – if you’re starting a hobby podcast, Anchor is a nice way to get started.
  • Soundcloud (free) – is another popular place for folks looking for a free hosting solution.

Step 4: distribute your podcast

Your hosting provider should give you a valid RSS feed for your podcast.

Now, you can submit that RSS feed to different podcast players (like Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts) so that listeners can easily find your show, and play your audio.

Podcast distribution works like this:

For more information on how podcast distribution works, read this guide.

Most popular podcast listening apps

Make sure you submit your RSS feed to these podcast players. (I recommend submitting in this order)

  • Apple Podcasts (iTunes) – nearly every podcast directory (Podchaser, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Breaker, Castro, Listen Notes ) uses Apple’s directory as their “master copy.” If your show is on Apple Podcasts, it will automatically show up on most of the other directories.
  • Spotify – Spotify has quickly become a major player in the podcast space. Note: they re-host your audio files and show notes on their server.
  • Google Podcasts – Google now has a built-in podcast player on Android. There’s nowhere to “submit” your show, however. Instead, you’ll need to have a website for your podcast with a <link> element that points to your RSS feed. (Transistor websites do this automatically)
  • Google Play – Google also features podcasts in its music streaming player.
  • Pocket Casts – Pocket Casts is a popular player, now owned by WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life.
  • Stitcher – Stitcher used to be a popular player, but isn’t as important these days. Like Spotify, they re-host your audio (which some folks don’t like).

Like I mentioned, apps like Overcast and Castbox scrape the Apple Podcasts directory, so if you submit first to Apple, you’ll eventually show up there too.

Step 5: promote your podcast

The foundation has been set! You have recording equipment, you’ve uploaded your first episodes, you’ve submitted your feed to various players; now you’ll want listeners.

According to Edison Research (2019), here are the top three ways listeners find podcasts:

  1. Searching the Internet (73%)
  2. Social media posts (67%)
  3. Recommendations from Friends/Family (66%)

To succeed with podcast promotion, you’ll want to target those channels!

Best ways to market your podcast

Marketing a podcast is a big topic, but here are some quick tips:

  • Build anticipation before you launch – one big opportunity many folks miss is building up anticipation before they launch. Create a “coming soon” web page for your show, and get folks to sign up for a waiting list. Send out teasers and samples, and create momentum for your official launch day.
  • Use keywords to your advantage – when folks look for the best podcasts about farming, they search “best farming podcasts.” If your podcast is called “The Farming Podcast,” you’re more likely to get found, as opposed to calling your show: “Steve Smith – the modern agrarian.”
  • Start an email newsletter – one of our customers, Josh, sent an email to his list about his podcast and did 3x the listens in one day. For my show, I use MailChimp to send out an automated email every time we publish a new show (here’s how).
  • Cross-promote on similar podcasts – find influential shows that have a similar audience to you, reach out and ask if they’re interested in some sort of cross-promotion. Sometimes, this means doing an episode exchange (you post one of their sample episodes in your feed, and they do the same for you).
  • Engage in communities where your audience hangs out – don’t spam, but building up a reputation Facebook Groups, on forums, and in comments, threads is a good strategy. Then, when appropriate, link out to specific shows (but only if they’re related to the current topic of conversation!).
  • Create a video teaser – create a video teaser for your latest episode using Headliner, and post it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. (Here’s a good example).
  • Use direct mail – send your fans stickers, postcards, or a letter the old-fashioned way. Trust me, they’ll tell people about it!
  • Go to events – spread the word in-person. Go to tradeshows, conferences, and meetups that relate to your audience. People will ask you, “so, what do you do?” That’s a great time to tell folks about your show.

Create a podcast in 5 easy steps

Making a podcast doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here’s a summary of each of the steps, along with additional resources you might find helpful:

  1. Buy the right microphone
  2. Record and edit your show
  3. Upload your audio (and generate your RSS feed)
  4. Submit to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts
  5. Promote your podcast

If you want to get started with Transistor, you can sign up here.

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