How to start a podcast in 2023

A step-by-step guide

To record a podcast, you'll need a microphone, PC or tablet, and audio editing software. Plug your microphone into your computer (or tablet) and record your episode. Once you're done editing it, you'll export the MP3 and upload it to a podcast hosting provider (like Transistor.fm). Your podcast host will help you distribute your podcast to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other listening apps.

Here's a step-by-step guide for creating a podcast in 2023:

  1. Choose a topic for your podcast – what will your show be about?

  2. Pick your podcast format – will you do interviews, solo monologues, co-host discussions, or narrative fiction?

  3. Podcast recording equipment – get a great podcasting mic starting at $60.

  4. Choose your audio editing software – use audio editing software to record and edit your episodes.

  5. Publish your podcast – upload your audio to your podcast hosting provider.

  6. Submit to Apple Podcasts and Spotify – submit your podcast's RSS feed URL to appear in their directory.

  7. Promote your podcast – to get more listeners, use search engines, social media, and word of mouth.

  8. Earn money from your podcast – monetize your show through ads, sponsorships, memberships.

We also have a section for frequently asked questions at the bottom.


How to come up with good podcast topic ideas

The key to starting a successful podcast is to choose a topic that meets these criteria:

  • A subject that listeners are actively searching for. For example: "Fiction podcasts about the zombie apocalypse."

  • A topic that you're genuinely interested in and curious about: this way, you'll be more motivated to research and prepare for each episode. You'll also enjoy podcasting more.

Depending on your interests and goals, you can create a podcast on almost any topic. For example, if you have a hobby that you're passionate about, such as long-distance running or reviewing romance novels, you could create a podcast that focuses on that topic. This can be a great way to share your knowledge and experiences with others and engage with a community of like-minded individuals.

Alternatively, you could base your podcast on a business topic related to your career. For example, if you work in marketing, you might create a podcast focusing on helping small businesses succeed. Or, if you're a public speaker who frequently speaks at tech conferences, you might create a podcast about public speaking and how to succeed in the tech industry.

Another option is to think about terms that people might be searching for when they're looking for a podcast to listen to. You can use a tool like AnswerThePublic to find podcast topics people are searching for.

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Here are some podcast topic ideas I found:

  • "Best podcast for camping"

  • "Best podcast for anxiety"

  • "Best podcast for expecting fathers"

  • "Best podcast for new college students"

  • "Best podcast for future lawyers"

By targeting the topics people are already searching for, you'll increase the likelihood of creating a podcast people want to listen to.

As a new podcaster, you have an incredible opportunity to make your content more interesting, compelling, surprising, and engaging than the competition.

On Transistor, we have a backstage pass to see which podcast topics perform well. Here are a few niches we've seen grow fast:

  • Spanish language podcasts: any genre (crime, tech, news) that you see doing well on the English charts could/should have a Spanish equivalent. Lots of opportunities here.

  • Podcasts for software developers: likely because of our background in tech, we have a lot of these shows on our platform. They almost always perform better than the average.

  • Shows by regional female influencers are doing well. We're seeing women who have built a social following in Indonesia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, and Japan launch podcasts and quickly climb the charts.

  • "Public challenge" podcasts: one of my favorite case studies is Aisha Zaza's "Mindset Mile" podcast. She challenged her listeners to "walk or run a mile daily for 30 days."


Pick a format for your podcast

Deciding on a format will help you plan the structure and flow of your episodes. Some of the most common podcast formats are:

  1. Solo shows: These podcasts are hosted by a single person and usually involve the host sharing their thoughts, experiences, or expertise on a particular topic. Example: Bootstrapped Digest by Ashley Baxter.

  2. Interview shows: These are podcasts that feature interviews with guests who are experts or have interesting stories to share. Example: Ditching Hourly by Jonathan Stark.

  3. Narrative shows: These are podcasts that tell a story, often using a combination of narration, interviews, and sound effects. These are often fiction, but can also be documentary-style.

  4. Panel shows: These podcasts feature a group discussing a particular topic or current events.

  5. News and current events shows: These podcasts cover news and current events, often focusing on a specific topic or angle.

  6. Comedy shows: Comedy podcasts like WTF by Marc Maron, Joe Rogan, and Conan O'Brien attract massive audiences. Comedy podcasts can feature stand-up, sketches, and interviews with comedians.

  7. True crime shows: These are podcasts that explore real-life crimes and mysteries, often with a focus on true crime stories.

It's worth noting that these are just a few examples, and there are many other types of podcasts out there. The best format for your podcast will depend on your goals, interests, and audience.


What equipment do you need for a podcast?

To start podcasting, you'll only need a USB microphone, a pop filter, headphones, and a computer (or tablet).

More advanced users may want to buy an XLR microphone, audio interface, mixer, and microphone stand.

Podcast equipment bundles

Podcast bundle for beginners

Podcast bundle for beginners - Samson Q2U

Samson Q2U

Dynamic USB microphone

Microphone
Podcast bundle for beginners - Neewer Pop Filter

Neewer Pop Filter

Windscreen for your microphone

Pop Filter
Podcast bundle for beginners - GarageBand

GarageBand

Recording software for Mac or iPad

Digital Audio Workstation
Podcast bundle for beginners - Audacity

Audacity

Recording software for PC

Digital Audio Workstation

Podcast bundle for prosumers

Podcast bundle for prosumers - Shure MV7

Shure MV7

Dynamic mic with both USB and XLR

Microphone
Podcast bundle for prosumers - Blue Compass Boom Arm

Blue Compass Boom Arm

Dynamic USB microphone

Microphone Boom Arm
Podcast bundle for prosumers - GarageBand

GarageBand

Recording software for Mac or iPad

Digital Audio Workstation
Podcast bundle for prosumers - Audacity

Audacity

Recording software for PC

Digital Audio Workstation

Podcast bundle for professionals

Podcast bundle for professionals - Shure SM7B

Shure SM7B

XLR cardioid dynamic microphone

Microphone
Podcast bundle for professionals - Blue Compass Boom Arm

Blue Compass Boom Arm

Dynamic USB microphone

Microphone Boom Arm
Podcast bundle for professionals - Scarlett 18i8

Scarlett 18i8

USB interface for your mic

Audio Interface
Podcast bundle for professionals - DBX 286s

DBX 286s

Voice processing and noise removal

Preamplifier
Podcast bundle for professionals - Adobe Audition

Adobe Audition

Recording software for PC or Mac

Digital Audio Workstation
$20.99/mo
Podcast bundle for professionals - Logic Pro

Logic Pro

Recording software for Mac

Digital Audio Workstation
$200

Best podcasting microphones

Many folks use the Blue Yeti USB microphone, but we don't recommend it. This condenser microphone picks 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 ATR2005-USB ($79 USD) – another dynamic microphone with USB and XLR inputs. A great option if the Samson Q2U is sold out.

  • Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB ($99 USD) – this is the newer version of the much-loved ATR2100 mic. It has both USB and XLR inputs.

  • Shure MV7 ($249 USD) – inspired by their SM7B, Shure created the MV7 specifically for podcasters. It's a pro-level dynamic mic, but (unlike the SM7B) has both USB and XLR outputs.

  • 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.

  • 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."


How to record and edit your podcast

Now that your microphone is plugged into your computer, you'll use audio editing software to record and edit your podcast episodes.

How to record a podcast with remote guests

For recording remote guests, Skype has a built-in call recording feature (as does Zoom).

There are also some great web-based recording tools that automatically records both sides of the conversation:

Best podcasting editing software

  • Descript (Web) – a unique way to record and edit your podcast. Descript automatically transcribes your spoken word and allows you to edit audio by editing the text transcription.

  • 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. Emily Prokop has a good video tutorial on using Audacity.

  • 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.

  • Alitu (Web) – with Alitu, you upload all of the clips for your episode and it cleans them up, adds intro music, and exports a finished audio file.


How to publish your podcast to the podcast apps

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

  • A webserver to host MP3 files,

  • A way to create new episodes, add show notes,

  • A way to publish new episodes and update the podcast's RSS feed,

  • And a way to generate a valid RSS feed.

This is where a podcast hosting company comes in.

Best podcast hosting and analytics platform

You will need a place to host your podcast. Some popular hosting platforms include Transistor, SoundCloud, and Anchor. You'll upload your episode MP3 files to your hosting provider, they'll generate an RSS feed for you and help you submit your podcast to the various listening apps (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, etc.). Additionally, they'll provide you with download stats for each episode you publish.

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How to get your podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google

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 listeners can easily find your show and play your audio.

Podcast distribution works like this:

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

Most popular podcast-listening apps

According to our data, these are the most popular podcast-listening apps; you'll want to submit your RSS feed to each:

  • Apple Podcasts (iTunes) – nearly every podcast directory (Podchaser, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Breaker, Castro, Listen Notes ) uses Apple’s directory as its “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)

  • Pocket Casts – Pocket Casts is a popular player, now owned by WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life.

Apps like Overcast and Castbox scrape the Apple Podcasts directory, so if you submit first to Apple, you'll eventually show up there too. You'll also want to submit your podcast to the Podcast Index (Transistor does this for you).

How to promote your podcast

Once you've submitted your podcast to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc., it's time to promote it.

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.


How to monetize your podcast

There are several ways you can earn money from a podcast, including:

  1. Listener supported: Platforms like Patreon allow your listeners to support you monthly. Their website describes it best: "Fans pay you a subscription amount of their choice in exchange for exclusive content."

  2. Podcast ads: One of the most common ways to monetize a podcast is through advertising. You can sell ad spots in your episodes to companies who are interested in reaching your listeners. Currently, podcast ads sell for around $20 per 1000 downloads. Therefore, if your podcast averages 20,000 downloads per episode, you could charge $400 for a 60-second preroll or midroll ad."

  3. Membership: Some podcasts will create a membership site for devoted listeners. You can use tools like PodiaMemberful, or PodFan. These sites allow you to charge a monthly or yearly subscription.

  4. Premium content: You can offer additional content, such as bonus episodes or exclusive access to your show, to listeners willing to pay a fee. Some podcasters will create a separate private podcast feed for this.

  5. Merchandise: Selling merchandise, such as t-shirts or stickers, can be a good way to generate additional income from your podcast.

  6. Consulting or coaching: If your podcast covers a topic that you are an expert in, you may be able to offer consulting or coaching services to your listeners.

It's worth noting that earning money from a podcast can be challenging, and it may take some time before you can generate significant income from your show.


Frequently Asked Questions

Every podcast needs:

  • A web server to host MP3 files,

  • A way to create new episodes, and add show notes,

  • A way to publish new episodes, and update the podcast's RSS feed,

  • And a way to generate a valid RSS feed.

Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts are podcast players but they're not hosting platforms. When you click "download" or "subscribe" in these apps, the request gets sent to whichever host your favorite podcast is using (like Transistor.fm). The podcast player will then download the MP3 file from that server.

If you're just starting out, you can experiment by hosting your podcast for free on Anchor or Soundcloud. You could even record your podcast using your built-in mic on your phone, tablet, or computer (although that's not recommended if you're seriously trying to build an audience).

If you'd like to up your game, you can buy a good quality microphone for as little as $60, and create as many podcasts as you'd like on Transistor, starting at $19 / month.

It's incredible that anyone can essentially run their own talk radio station, and reach thousands of listeners, all for under $20 a month!

The Build your SaaS podcast, which has a tech audience, earns roughly:

  • $300/month on Patreon

  • $600/month from podcast sponsors

  • Total monthly revenue: $900 / month

Keep in mind, it can take years to build an audience big enough for monetization.

At Transistor, many of our users earn revenue for their podcasts by:

  • Getting listeners to support them on Patreon – Patreon is a 3rd-party platform that allows your listeners to support you monthly. Their website describes it best: "Fans pay you a subscription amount of their choice in exchange for exclusive content." (Example)

  • Creating a membership site – using tools like Podia, Memberful, or PodFan, you can create a private membership site for your listeners, and charge them a subscription.

  • Getting advertisers – some of our users also allow companies to sponsor their podcast.

At a minimum, all you need to start podcasting is:

  1. USB microphone (we recommend the ATR2100 or the Samson Q2U).

  2. A pop filter.

  3. A computer, phone, or tablet (so you can plug in your microphone and record your audio).