So You Want to Start a Podcast...

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Podcasts are the best, though you probably already know this. No matter how niche your interests are, there’s a podcast for you. Hockey history nerd who wants to learn about players and coaches from the 1920s? Feel like there’s stuff out there you should know but don’t? Check and check.

And, if you’re interested in becoming a broadcaster, the great wide world of podcasts has you covered! The ones I listen to the most about hosting?

  • The Turnaround: Host Jesse Thorn interviews the best living interviewers out there about their careers and how to interview. Past guests include Larry King and Katie Couric.
  • SI Media Podcast: On the sports side, I never miss an episode of this Richard Deitsch-hosted series where he talks to a member of the sports media every week and often has media roundtables talking about the week’s biggest stories. Solid, fundamental listening.

That’s just a sampling—there are tons out there, whatever your interests are. And if you’ve been curious about starting your own podcast, I’m here to help.

First, let’s talk hardware.
One of the biggest complaints I see about a podcast is audio quality. These days, there is such a variety of options that listeners often tune out if the audio is bad, even if your content isn’t. Don’t give someone a reason to skip your podcast—if they don’t like the topic, that’s one thing, but to omit your offering just because your audio quality isn’t up to snuff would be a drag!
If you can find studio space, whether it’s a local radio station during off hours or something like that, definitely do it.

If that’s not an option, you can still get great quality pretty easily at home. One setup I use is my PC laptop with the free program Audacity to record (Macs already have a sound recorder that will also do the trick). For mics, either a Yeti (among the best quality) or a Snowball (quality per dollar right at the top) microphone does the trick. For a lower price point, a headset like this one also works. For remote guests, I use Almoto Skype Audio recorder and so long as they are in an area with good wifi, the recording sounds crisp.

How long should your podcast be?
The sweet spot most people recommend is one hour but there really is no hard and fast rule. When you’re recording, think about if you were listening to this episode for the first time, whether you would stay with it. If you’re doing an interview and you go long, you can always edit after the fact. Better to have too much content at the editing table than too little.

READ: How to Start Your Own Podcast

What about posting it?
Apple Podcasts definitely the first place to check out. Here is a step-by-step guide. Before you do this, I also suggest having thought of and produced the following:

  • Your podcast description: the elevator pitch)
  • The episodic naming convention: How will you title each episode? Will it be EP 1: (guest name) or 1: (guest name) or just (guest name) or maybe ONE: (guest name)? Definitely look at other podcasts for inspiration.
  • Graphics: Do you have a logo or a feature graphic for your podcast? Does it look good in a small format? Remember, most people won’t be able to see the graphic enlarged so it has to look good when people are scrolling through the pods on their phones.
  • Description format: Where will you put a link to your website? Social media? Will you use time codes for when certain segments begin? How long will your typical description be?

Don’t be afraid to ask for ratings, reviews, and subscriptions in your podcasts. Some of your listeners may be tuning in for the first time. If they are leaving a rating and a comment, that helps others find the podcasts as well by helping push your podcast up the charts in your category.

Definitely push your podcast links on social media and make sure your guests do the same. There are plenty of other platforms to also share your podcast—like Google Play and Stitcher—so definitely search them out.

Another big thing to consider is what day(s) you will be posting your podcast online. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to make sure you post on the same day, even at the same hour if you can. Sure, tech glitches happen, but if you post every week on the same day around the same time, your audience will look forward to your podcast that time each week, just like their favorite TV show. This is also another big complaint and why listeners tune out, the infrequency of the podcast.

Don’t worry about sponsorships at the start: listener numbers typically have to reach a certain level before you can start thinking about how to monetize. Usually, by the time you reach that level, you might have already been contacted by an agent, a brand or someone like that directly to talk about this. The benchmark I’ve always heard is about 10,000 listeners per episode as a good base to start reaching out to brands. When you do, listen to other podcasts to see which companies are already giving money to this medium. That way, you know they are already sold on the podcast space as a good way to advertise.

Above all, have fun! That’s why you’re doing the podcast in the first place. Make sure it’s enjoyable, and you look forward to it. If you don’t, why are you doing it?

If you have any more questions or comments, find me on Twitter @ArdaOcalTV. As for my podcasts, I host a weekly podcast for ESPN called Five Rounds about the world of UFC/MMA and The A-Pod for MSG Networks: fun chats, fun topics, fun people!

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Arda Ocal
Arda Ocal is an award-winning broadcaster based in the New York City area. He currently works as a host on MSG Networks and ESPN.
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