Podcasting 101: How to Start a Podcast from Scratch [2019]

My journey into podcasting

It took me 25 years to realize that I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in an empty room, talking to myself.

No, I’m not insane. I’m the next closest thing: an avid podcaster.

I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to find the right medium for capturing my voice and telling the stories I actually care about telling.

I know that you might be thinking podcasts are sort of boring. You are dead wrong.

I want to prove to you that audio is king.

I will discuss the art of podcasting in 3 detailed sections:

  1. I will show you exactly how to get a podcast up-and-running in about 20 minutes.
  2. I will tell you what it takes to build a great podcast, produce amazing content, and acquire loyal listeners.
  3. Finally, I will help you know what goes into creating a sustainable podcast tribe that will thrive for years to come.

Audio is the king of content

Right about now, I’ve deeply offended half of you and your families by suggesting that audio trumps video.

Let me explain why I’m right.

Facebook statistics show that video posts have increased by some 94% over the course of several years.

Twitter reports that 82% of its users watch video content on the platform.

YouTube is the second-largest website on the entire internet. You read that correctly. It is currently larger than Facebook.

Finally, video on social media generates roughly 1200% more shares and likes than plain text or image posts.

It kind of sounds like I’m digging my own grave here, but stick with me.

Let me share some brief statistics on podcasting before you think audio should play second fiddle to video.

50% of households in the United States (roughly 60 million homes) are podcast fans.

Demographics of podcasts include 54% Male, 46% Female. This is far better than YouTube’s uneven split of 62% Male, 38% Female.

80% of podcast listeners make it through at least 75% of each episode. In terms of listening time, podcasts perform incredibly.

Podcasts allow you to participate in ANY situation, especially on your commute to work. Videos can’t do that (at least you shouldn’t let them). In fact, 22% of all podcasts are listened to in the car.

Finally, video relies heavily on audio to enhance the quality of the end product.

In contrast, how much does audio need video in order to be great? Not at all.

Now let’s help you go from idea to podcasting in 20 minutes. If you follow this recipe exactly, you will start seeing steady growth in no time.

How to start a podcast in about 20 minutes

Step 1: Identify what makes your heart sing

Most people would phrase this as “What are you passionate about?”, but I believe that passion is not strong enough. We are talking about identifying the one thing that you absolutely cannot live without discussing on a regular basis.

What makes your heart sing? What makes you feel so pumped up every time you have the opportunity to chat about it that you cannot contain yourself?

Start out general at first. It could be sports, knitting, amateur dog shows, web development, candles, kangaroos, books, or even hipster mustaches.

Whatever it is, make sure it is deeply rooted in the very fibers of your soul. The key to starting on the path to producing great content is having a well-oiled fire burning at any given moment for your topic.

No matter how small the search volumes may appear for your topic, stick to a subject that defines you.

I am warning you: DO NOT PODCAST ABOUT SOMETHING JUST FOR LISTENS, LIKES, SHARES, OR GLORY.

Do it purely for love of the topic.

Step 2: Convert the passion into a great podcast idea

Now that you have the general topic you truly care about, it is time to refine it.

The most successful podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and businesses do not try to tackle too many topics or demographics at once.

Instead, find the niche or targeted topic that you love and run with it. If search volume for that topic’s keywords appear a little low, don’t worry. Google isn’t the best gauge of what people are interested in. It is the best gauge of what businesses are interested in.

Instead, use tools like Reddit, Instagram, and Facebook to connect with real people that have real interests.

These platforms aren’t gamed as much as Google. The content comes from real people, not businesses or robots.

Research your topic in-depth on these secondary search engines and identify the things people just like you are talking about.

You will be surprised just how many amazing ideas you find in a simple Reddit thread about your podcast idea.

Now it is time to extremely narrow down your audience. Take the general topic you ideated, and trim it down to fit a very specific group of people.

Here is an example if you were trying to start a sports podcast.

“Sports” is obviously a terrible podcast topic. If you try to speak on this general idea and market it, the end product will be devoid of any value and no one will find it interesting.

Instead, consider a niche aspect of sports that you truly connect with.

Maybe you grew up in Minnesota and have always adored hockey. Run with it.

But even with “hockey” being significantly more targeted than “sports”, it is still far too broad.

If we keep trimming down the audience, we may get with something like “street hockey”.

If we take it one step further, the end product could be “Stories and Tips about Street Hockey”.

If you love street hockey more than just about anything else, you will have no problem creating content for that topic each and every day.

Again, never force yourself to podcast about a topic just because you see an opportunity or the search volume is grandiose.

Do it all out of love for your topic. It should make your heart sing every time you record.

Step 3: Find the right platform for podcast hosting

Moving on to a more technical side of the process, it is now time to take your amazing idea online.

For your information, some of the popular and trusted podcast hosting platforms online are:

There are dozens of viable options for podcast hosting out there, but there is one that stands out as a clear winner in my eyes.

LibSyn is the go-to for almost every podcaster to date, but that may change soon

Anchor is an online platform and iOS app that let’s you make your idea transform into a real show in mere moments.

I personally host all of my podcasts on Anchor because it is so easy.

And just in case you were wondering, the answer is NO. I don’t have any relationship with Anchor nor am I promoting for money. I just really love the app, and it has made a huge difference in my podcasting.

I will not be outlining the specific process of setting up your Anchor dashboard, but here is an article on Medium that does just that.

Step 4: Craft the perfect logo and cover art

You are probably not a prolific designer. If you are, please skip to Step 5.

You want your cover art and logo to stand out.

Here are some great examples:

Don’t use a white background. Don’t make it so simple that people brush right over your design when they see it in a queue.

Instead, use contrast to your favor and create simple, yet beautiful graphics that communicate the purpose of your podcast through imagery.

If you need help designing, just try out Canva. It’s the go-to for non-designers that want to create beautiful graphics.

Step 5: Get the podcasting equipment you need

This is honestly not as important as you would think. The key to a great podcast lies in the laying of a great foundation (see Steps 1–3).

All you need is a computer and a microphone.

I personally use a Blue Yeti Snowball, which is a cardioid condenser microphone. It is not the fanciest mic on the market, nor is it expensive in the slightest. It gets the job done and produces great audio quality for my shows.

Do not stress over the equipment. Do not worry about production value. Get a solid microphone that doesn’t set you back too much and get to work.

The absolute most important thing you can do to build and grow your podcast is simply to release quality content on a regular basis. That’s it.

Step 6: Record your first episode

It is really important (especially for the first few episodes) to meticulously script out your words.

You will not be comfortable speaking to yourself like a crazy person until you’ve had a few runs at it.

Gather your thoughts and write them down throughout your research for each episode. Having a script allows you to be more confident and stay on topic, which is key to engaging your audience.

When you have a proper script in place, launch your recording software and let it fly.

The key ingredient to feeling great about a recording and having it resonate with your listeners is this: just be yourself at all times.

Remember, you are talking about something you love. Be that person who loves this topic more than anything while you are recording.

How to produce amazing content and acquire loyal listeners

Step 1: Never deviate from what you know and love

We have been through this 37 times already, but let me hit this home once again.

You need to pick a topic that is specific and that jolts you with energy. Never stray from that energy.

If you want to talk about something else that has nothing to do with your target audience and your passion, that’s great. Post about that on social media or start another podcast entirely on the side.

Devote your entire soul to the podcast and your audience will thank you. They will show their deep gratitude by subscribing to your show and sharing it with their likeminded friends.

Step 2: Perform keyword research every time

This hearkens back to the commentary about using Reddit and other social platforms to find out what real people are talking about.

I also want to add a plug for researching your keywords on Wikipedia. No other site ranks for as many terms as Wikipedia, and no other site has more information about every keyword in human history.

Take advantage of these resources. When brainstorming new episode ideas, get your general ideas on paper and then hit the research trail hard.

This will pay dividends in time, as your organic reach will skyrocket and you won’t have to spend any money on Facebook ads.

Step 3: Ask for support from your tribe

You already have more fans than you think.

How many Facebook friends do you have? What about followers on Twitter and Instagram? And don’t forget about LinkedIn.

These connections add up quickly.

They aren’t just your friends and people you’ve met. They are current loyal fans of your brand that are likely willing to support your thoughts and dreams.

So if you already have a small fan club, why wouldn’t you use that to promote your ideas?

Hit the social media trail and post links to your new episodes. Share photos of yourself recording in studio. Humanize your podcasting journey and get your loyal friends interested.

Step 4: Improve your podcasting technique over time

You will not be perfect the first time you hit “record”.

In fact, you will probably suck really bad.

That’s all part of the process. Do not expect perfection the first, second, or hundredth time around.

Instead, commit yourself to being 1% better from episode-to-episode.

Work on eliminating your verbal ticks, inconsistencies, and poor tone.

Improve your pauses, confidence, and calls-to-action.

You will eventually get to a point where you can give lectures on public speaking and podcasting, but for now just be happy with perpetual progress.

Step 5: Provide value or record nothing

This may be the most important step of this entire list.

If you are recording for the sole sake of recording, it is time to reconsider if your topic truly makes your heart sing.

Every single episode should provide some kind of obvious value. Examples of what is valuable in podcasting include:

  • Entertainment
  • Information
  • Tips and Advice
  • Meaningful Discussion

If your episode won’t deliver on one of these values, I urge you not to record in the first place. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your listeners’ time.

Additional Tips for Podcast Success

Stick to a strict schedule

There are no best practices in the podcasting arena for when you have to publish episodes.

I put out a podcast that airs every day, but I can only do this because:

  1. I am insane (about podcasting)
  2. The episodes are usually less than 5 minutes long
  3. Did I mention I am insane?

For most, once per week is great. It all depends on what you are comfortable with.

The most important thing is that you set a schedule that is consistent for you and for listeners. Don’t break their trust.

When you make a promise that you will release every week, release every week. Period.

Build your social media presence

Do I need to beat this horse to death YET AGAIN?

People, get on your social media accounts and connect with real humans.

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