Podcasting 101: A Guide for Getting Launched

Young man interviewing a woman in a radio studio

Have you ever listened to your favorite podcast, finished it, and thought to yourself, “Hmm, perhaps I should start my own podcast”?  If you have, we’re on the same page. Though it may seem quite black and white when it comes to podcasting, however, there is a lot more to it than just pressing play and recording whatever it is you are interested in speaking about.

If you’re not too tech savvy, you may think that hitting record may be about all you can do. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to go more in depth, however, and start that podcast you’ve placed on the back burner, or inspire you to create something completely new.

This summer I had the pleasure of working for the Ryan Seacrest Foundation as a radio production intern. In all honesty, I had no clue what “radio production intern” meant when I applied, but I had always been eager to know what really goes on behind the scenes in radio.

During my internship, I got a crash course in all things radio, television and production which allowed me to host and produce my own weekly radio show. Now you’re probably wondering “what does this have to do with podcasting?” Well, a lot. Radio and podcasting are similar, except one is live, and one is pre-recorded.

The radio internship made me eager to know more about what it really takes to make and host your own podcast. Here are a few best practices and things to think about when you’re considering podcasting:

  1. Start with a list of compelling topics.

You’ll want to figure out what you’re going to talk about before you start getting into the technical aspects.

Your overarching topic should be something you can talk about for many episodes. Once you’ve determined your theme, create a list of individual podcast subjects. Each subject shouldn’t be too broad; the more specific, the better. Getting organized can help prevent the stress of coming up with topics for each episode one at a time. If inspiration fails you, you’ll have a backup/evergreen topic waiting in the wings to be recorded.

Your topics can help you figure out your audience. Start with some basic research on what will appeal to your listeners. Once you begin podcasting, you can adjust and tweak your podcast based off your target audience and what is resonating the most. You can figure this out through reviews and requesting feedback from listeners at the beginning and/or end of each episode. You can also crowd-source topics for future episodes, allowing listeners to have a direct impact on what’s discussed. Set up an email account solely for this purpose and provide it “on the air.”

  1. Select a catchy name for the best chance to top the charts.

Once your podcast theme and topics are picked and your target audience is determined, you’ll want to decide what your podcast name will be. Your name needs to be relevant, yet broader than your topic. Yes, I know that may seem crazy but trust me it works. Some of the top podcasts on Spotify and Apple today have broad names such as “The Daily,” which is produced by the New York Times, and “The Journal” by The Wall Street Journal. There are also more niche podcasts, with appropriately positioned names – “My Favorite Murder” and “Crime Junkie” are two crime-related podcasts that spring to mind. All of these podcasts have remained in the top 20 on the charts. You want your title to draw people who relate or share your specific interest, while the episode names focus on the specific episode’s topic/subject.

  1. Time to get technical.

If you want this podcast to be a success, you need to start thinking about the technical aspects. Back when I interned in radio, there was so much that went into hosting your own radio show and making sure it appealed to your audience. The same goes for podcasting – if what you’re saying sounds good (both in terms of content and production), the higher the chance you have of keeping an audience and drawing in more and more people.

I’m not saying you need to go out and buy hundreds of dollars in equipment (unless you want to) but investing a little in the sound quality of your podcast will go a long way. A quick search can give you a ton of recommendations on what you need for a solid setup. Here’s just one site that outlines the equipment to buy.

  1. Have fun!

Now that you have your topic, your catchy name, and the equipment you are going to use, you can start concentrating on having fun! Think about special guests to invite that would be well suited to discussing your episode subjects and shoot them an email to set up a time to record. Select your intro and exit music that you’ll keep consistent for each episode. Here’s a list of resources for royalty free options. You’ll want to make sure the music you select fits the theme of your podcast; for instance, a crime podcast and business travel podcast should have very different music selections! Once you start recording, remember to have fun – the most successful podcasts are those that give listeners insight into the relationships and rapport the hosts have with their guests and/or each other.

Podcasting can be a lot of work with keeping up with a consistent schedule, generating fresh and relevant content that will resonate with your audience and getting the technical aspects right (especially at the beginning!). It can also, however, be a lot of fun, raise your profile either personally or professionally, and eventually generate revenue from sponsors you approach once you’ve built a loyal and somewhat sizable audience. Good luck with your podcasting journey and drop us a line with a link once you launch – we’d love to hear it!

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