Last November I launched a podcast. And I love it. Podcasting is a blast and I love working on it more than I thought I would. That said, the learning curve for starting a podcast is STEEP. Once you’ve got it up and running, though, it pretty much runs itself (well, okay, not totally, but close). But to get to that point there are a lot of steps. As I went through the process I found there wasn’t one source that told me every step, although this post from Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income was definitely the most helpful and a lifesaver. Even with Pat’s great tutorials, I still found I had many questions.
Today I am speaking at the Mom 2.0 Summit about podcasting and thought this would be a good time to write down exactly how to build a podcast step by step, how I personally did it from the ground up. There are as many ways to set up a podcast as there are stars in the sky (okay, maybe not that many, but close). So, you know, this is definitely not the only way, but I still think it will be helpful!
Disclaimer: I am not an audio person and fairly clueless on professional recording. My musician friend Miles answered many questions along the way, and everything else I just figured out by googling my questions. I mention this because a) if you are an audio person, feel free to correct everything, and b) even I can do this, which means you can, too!
What You Need to Start
Remember that steep learning curve I mentioned? We’re about to head on up, so brace yourselves.
There is a lot you need to get started.
#1: LOVE YOUR TOPIC.
This might be the most important thing. While podcasting has been around a while, it’s still in the early adopter stage and there is potential for a lot of growth. Which means potential for earning money. However, you should assume you won’t be making any money in the beginning (or maybe ever, honestly). Is it still worth your time now that you know that? Are you still excited to get going? Great, let’s go!
You need equipment. I’ll explain each of the elements and then also link to a kit that puts it all together for you.
Microphone. Yep, you need a mic. A good one. Search the Internet for good suggestions (this article looks very helpful). Here are a few tips and options.
- You can simply get a good USB microphone that plugs directly into your computer, but it’s more limiting and the sound quality isn’t as good. But it is simple and perfectly acceptable.
- There are USB/XLR combo mics out there. That’s a great option as having a good quality USB mic can be handy for other purposes. However, for recording your voice for your main track, it’s good to use a balanced XLR connection. The XLR mic will plug into a digital recorder, then you will transfer the audio file to your computer. I have two of the Audio Technica ATR 2100-USB mics that are a USB-XLR combo for using on the road.
- I also have a Rode NTG2 Condenser Shotgun Mic, as recommend by Alex Blumberg to my friend who was thinking of starting a podcast. I think Alex recommends this mic because it is good when you are not recording in a studio – it’s a directional mic, so it blocks out other noises, which is mice when trying to capture someone talking. That said, if I were to go back I would probably get something else as my main recording mic (like the Audio Technica), although I love Alex Blumberg a lot and would probably just do whatever he said again anyway. 😉
- If you use an XLR mic, make sure you have a cable (something like this) if your mic doesn’t come with one.
- A windscreen of some kind is also a good idea, to serve as a pop filter so your “p’s” don’t sound funny, etc. (it makes a difference, get it!). I like this kind, but feel free to research!
- If your mic doesn’t come with a stand, be sure to get one of those, too!
Digital Recorder. If you end up using a USB microphone AND you don’t plan on interviewing anyone else AND you never plan to record offsite, then you do not need a digital recorder. HOWEVER. You probably need a digital recorder. Basically you plug your good-quality mic into a digital recorder then transfer the file to your computer for editing.
- Good recorders: Zoom H4N Digital Multitrack Recorder (this is the one I have), TASCAM DR-40 4-Track Portable Digital Recorder (this is the one my brother has). If you are just recording yourself, record in Mono Mix mode so that your voice is on both tracks (instead of just left or right).
- Note: If you are interviewing someone, you want that person’s voice on a separate track. If you are doing the interview in person, the simplest thing is to have you both on separate mics plugged into your recorder. If you are doing the interview over your computer, get a 3.5 mm AV cord (like this), plug that into your computer, then attach an adapter that transforms one of the 3.5 mm ends into a 1/4″ plug (like this), and plug that into your recorder. Make sure Mono Mix is turned OFF so that the tracks record separately (in the menu on your recorder).
Headphones. Any headphones will do, but better quality is, well, better. I use these Sony headphones.
THEY SELL KITS! My friend Nancy Davis Kho is getting her podcast up and running right now and discovered they sell kits that include all the equipment you need. I am 100% behind something like this because HELLO, EASY. This kit from Audio Technica looks like a really great option. I haven’t used it myself, but looks good to me and I believe it’s the one Nancy is getting. Thanks, Nancy!
- Mixing software: You need a program where you can mix and edit your episode. I’m using GarageBand and it works great. The key to a good quality podcast is to get a good recording from the start – it’s pretty much impossible to make a bad recording sound good after the fact. The mixing software is there to allow you to put all the tracks together, adjust volumes and do some simple sound editing, like adding compression (which is a very good thing to do for spoken word). A I mentioned, I’m using GarageBand on my Mac computer. Logic Pro is Apple’s step up, professional software. Adobe Audition is a very good program and akin to GarageBand. Avid Pro Tools is like the cream of the crop for mixing software and probably way more than any of us need or could figure out. Note: There are tons of great YouTube tutorials out there explaining how to use these various programs.
- If you are recording interviews over a computer, Skype and Zencastr both work great. Plug your computer into the internet using a hardwire instead of using Wifi for improved connectivity.
You will need to pay a company to host your podcast.
- Libsyn has been around forever and is great. Blubrry is also great and what I use. Soundcloud is another popular option (and they have more robust stats). If you need to pay extra money for stats, do it. Also, you will probably only need the smallest package for hosting if you’re posting once or twice a week, about 2 hours total each week.
- Blubrry developed a WordPress plugin for publishing your podcast called PowerPress that is completely awesome and I use it and it’s the BEST the end. Follow Blubrry’s instructions for installing the plugin. PowerPress will become a menu option on the left sidebar when you are logged into WordPress. This is where you’ll add your hosting info, RSS feed, explicit language tag, etc. (PS: Your podcast has to be either “clean” or “explicit” for ALL episodes. So if you have one explicit episode, you will need to mark you entire podcast as explicit. Don’t mess around – iTunes will remove your podcast from the directory for violating this. And, no, there is no list of naughty words you have to avoid. Use your good judgement.)
Recording and Editing
Oh my goodness, I could write a book about recording and editing. But I’m not an expert so I’m not going to. I’ll just share a few tips and then tell you to do what I did…go search the web for more and better tips!
- If you don’t have a sound studio (you probably won’t!), record in a quiet space. Seriously, a closet is awesome. If you’re in a normal room, make sure doors and windows are closed. My brother has done a lot of work with podcasts and recommended sitting under a sleeping bag tent to replicate a sound room. It works beautifully. Yes, it’s hot, but your sound will be so much better.
- When recording, give yourself small pauses between thoughts and sentences, and if you mess up, don’t start a new recording. Just take a short break of quiet then start the thought over and edit that section later.
- When editing the episode, there will be a volume bar that shows green/yellow/red. You want to target most sound to be in the high green/yellow range.
- Add compression – don’t overdo it, but do it. You’ll have to dig into whatever software you choose to find that setting/dial/knob.
- Intro and outro music is good!
Here are the list of steps I follow each time I create an episode:
1. Record the Episode. If you are using a digital recorder and it’s just your voice, record with Mono Mix ON. If you are interviewing someone, record with Mono Mix OFF. Don’t forget to record an intro and outro for each episode.
2. If you have multiple tracks, here is how I create mono tracks (so all voices go through both ears, instead of just Left and Right). Open the interview track in GarageBand. Pan the track all the way to the left (there should be a little L-R knob for the track, -64 is the numeric value for Left). “Share – Song to iTunes” and select “Uncompressed” in the drop down menu. Do the same thing for the right (63). Go to iTunes, find those files, right click and choose “Create AIFF Version.” Drag the new AIFF versions BACK into GarageBand into your main file for the episode. You now have two separate tracks for each voice that will play in both ears.
3. Mix the Episode. Edit in the intros, music, etc. Adjust volumes, add compression. “Share – Export Song to Disc.” Choose “Medium (128 kBips/s)” as the quality. This will be high enough quality for sound, but allow the files to be reasonable in size so people can download to their devices.
4. Find the MP3 file on your computer you just created. You now need to tag the file with metadata, which is IMPORTANT. Drag the MP3 into iTunes. Right click the song and select “Get Info.” On the “Details” tab, input the following info (note: I have a Word file where I just copy and paste this each week to fill in the updated information for each episode, then copy and paste over to iTunes, which makes it fast and easy):
Name: Create a consistent name for all of your episodes. I do TWFD 000 Interview with TK + TK (TK is a placefiller, 000 is normally the actual episode number)
Artist: Host Name (I do Jane Maynard: Food Writer and Blogger)
Album Artist: Host Name
Compose: Host Name
Album: Show Name (This Week for Dinner Podcast)
Grouping: Show Name
Comments: A 150-character description about episode. Think SEO-style. When you publish each episode in WordPress later, there is a “Summary” section that is the same as this comment you wrote, BUT it can be longer, so I always write two versions – the short version and a more detailed version. The “Summary” is what will actually show in the podcast app, not this “Comment”
Track Number: Whatever episode number you are on
Artwork Tab: 3000 px X 3000 px jpg of your show logo.
Options Tab: I always click “Remember Playback Position”
Artwork Tab: You need to upload the artwork (usually your podcast logo) that will appear next to your podcast when people are listening to it in their podcast app. iTunes wants the artwork to be 3000 px x 3000 px, so just go with that for the size.
5. Your file is ready to publish! For me I now create a new blog post in WordPress, write a post like usual, which includes the show notes and artwork for the episode as well as SEO. When you scroll to the bottom you will find the PowerPress box for uploading the show. Click the “Link to Media Hosted by Blubrry” (or whatever host you are using) button, upload your MP3 file. Once it is uploaded, for the iTunes Subtitle, put the Title of that episode (which was “Name” for the metadata tagging in iTunes). Put a description of the episode in the “iTunes Summary” box (this can be the Comment from the metadata tagging or something longer). iTunes Author is your name you used in the metadata tagging.
7. Hit Publish! Your episode is now live on your blog and will appear shortly in the podcast directors.
6. After you publish your first episode, you will be able to get your RSS feed from your host. Here is an article from Blubrry explaining that process. The RSS feed is what you will submit to all of the podcast directories. Once your feed is set up, you can validate it at Validator.org to make sure everything is all good before you do the submitting.
Submitting Your Podcast to Podcast Directories
Here are the various podcasting platforms I submitted to. You’ll need that magical RSS feed URL for submission, and you do this after you publish your first episode.
- iTunes. Click here to read how to submit to iTunes.
- Google Play. Click here to submit to Google.
- Blubrry Directory (if you use Blubrry): Click here to submit to Blubrry.
- Stitcher: Click here to submit to Stitcher.
- Pocket Casts: Click her to submit to Pocket Casts.
Yep, a big fat pain. But once you get through all of that, it does get easier. I promise! Today I will be speaking with the wonderful Meagan Francis, who is running several podcasts. She has written several great articles about setting up podcasts.
My Friend Meagan Francis’ Awesome Resources:
- Podcasting 101: How to Get Your First Show Off the Ground, Even if You’re a Total Beginner
- Are Podcast the New Blogs?
- Starting a Podcast Network with Meagan Francis
- How to Listen to Podcasts
- Upcoming All-In-One Blubrry Service for New Podcasts