How To Start A Podcast: An In-Depth Guide From Planning to Launch Day

Ever thought about starting a podcast? Been a little freaked out about the logistics of doing it?

I was, too. But, then I tackled it and I’m super glad I did. I launched The Blog Program and, while I’m only 3 episodes in (as of this writing), it is going pretty dang well so far.

So, while I’m still learning as I go with this new medium, I have successfully LAUNCHED the podcast. So, I thought I would tell you how to do the same.

Ever thought about starting a podcast? Been a little freaked out about the logistics of doing it?

I was, too. But, then I tackled it and I’m super glad I did. I launched The Blog Program and, while I’m only 3 episodes in (as of this writing), it is going pretty dang well so far.

So, while I’m still learning as I go with this new medium, I have successfully LAUNCHED the podcast. So, I thought I would tell you how to do the same.

First Off… Why Podcast?

The idea of starting a podcast is one I had been flirting with for awhile. I delayed it because of a stupid idea I had…

How could I just TALK for 30-40 minutes?

I’m not the kind of guy who likes to “shoot the shit” for awhile. I tend to have a big idea, blurt it out in a succinct way, then move on. 🙂 But, then it occurred to me…

If I can do an hour-long webinar, I should be able to do a podcast EASILY. And I’ve done webinars. Many of them, in fact. And if you’ve ever been with me on a webinar, you may know that length isn’t really a problem. 😉 If anything, I often end up going a bit too long.

So, that thought was tossed out the window. And this came right at the time that I had my buddy, Pat Flynn, speaking on my track (monetization) at Blogworld in Los Angeles. And one of the things Pat talked about was the huge amount of people who have found his blog via the podcast. I thought, WOW!

I also thought about it from a marketing perspective. There is a lot of NOISE in the marketplace these days – especially in the blogging niche. We’re all just riddled with ADD, so getting an audience to pay attention is a toughie.

Well, think about it… When you’re listing to a podcast, many times you’re on headphones. Those speakers are straight up against your ear. And the speaker’s voice is going right into your ear canal. That is a high level of bonding for the duration of that podcast. As long as what you’re saying is helpful and valuable, the amount of relationship that can be fostered via the medium of podcasting is MUCH higher than what you can do with a written blog post.

From a marketing perspective, podcasting is right up there with video in terms of relationship power. Sure, podcasting is missing the visual component. However, I believe it makes up for it in terms of FOCUS. Many people listen to podcasts AWAY from their computer – on an iPhone, iPod or some other player. Just the fact that you’re AWAY from the computer means that the focus level is higher. We’re not competing with email, Facebook and the like.

Lastly, you’re piggy-backing on a worldwide distribution platform promoted by the world’s most valuable company – Apple.

‘Nuf said. 😉

Planning The Show

Before you ever start recording, you want to plan things out. You want to get some of these details right from the get-go.

  • The Show Title. You want something which is brandable as well as keyword-rich. Remember, iTunes is a big search engine. When people are searching for podcasts on a topic of interest, what will they type to find your podcast?
  • The Show Description. You need a keyword-rich description of your podcast. A well-written paragraph which fully describes the subject matter of your show.
  • First Few Episodes. A lot of podcasts launch then quickly die after one or two episodes. Don’t be one of those people. Sit down and plan out at least the first 3 episodes of your podcast. I’ll be talking more about this later, but you’re simply creating an outline here.
  • Podcast logo. Again, brandable. And, on the technical side, you want it to be 600×600 in size. A lot of guides say 300×300 and that might still work, but recent research I’ve done is starting to show 600×600 spec… probably because of retina displays on the iPad.

In my case, I called my show “The Blog Program”. It is short and brandable… plus it has the word “blog” in it. The actual title was inspired by another friend of mine, Clay Collins, who has his video podcast called The Marketing Show.

For me, the other side of the “program” idea was that it could lead into a chronological training sequence if I wanted to.

Podcasting Equipment

In the end, a podcast is nothing more than an MP3 file. So, it isn’t all that complicated.

One can get started with a basic microphone. I don’t recommend you use the built-in mic on your computer because it will sound distant and… crappy. In the least, use a decent headset mic or something like the Blue Snowball or Blue Yeti. All of these are simply USB microphones and these work just fine.

If you want to take it up to the next level, you’ll end up getting a mixer and a better mic. Using a mixer allows you to do some audio processing that makes the speech sound better. It also allows you to mix in other sources. For example, you could have a second microphone routed into the audio stream for a co-host. With the proper equipment, you could even bring in phone callers and have the phone audio routed into the mixer.

I ended up using the following equipment:

  • Heil P40 microphone. A dynamic microphone which is considered by many to be the gold standard for talk. A seriously good microphone.
  • Heil PL-2T mic stand. This is attached to my desk and allows me to float the mic around effortlessly.
  • Behringer Xenyx 1002 Mixer. Pretty affordable and more than enough for my needs.
  • Pop Filter. Regardless of the mic you use, you’ll want a pop filter. It is simply a fabric cover over the microphone to prevent “pop” noises when you say “p” words, etc. Just makes things sound a lot better.

From the mixer, the audio is routed directly into the computer using the “line in” port on the iMac. Some people say it is better to route the audio into a stand-alone audio recorder. But, I’m about having a simple workflow. The audio sounds fine going right into the computer, so that’s what I do.

I then record right into Garageband and edit therein.

Do you need the exact same equipment I use? Absolutely not. In fact, I would recommend that you DO NOT delay launching your podcast because you think you need expensive stuff to get going. A decent quality USB mic… piped into Audacity (a free, open source audio editor) will work just fine. You can upgrade your stuff later on.

Hosting The Podcast

You’ll be hosting it via your blog. I recommend the PowerPress plug-in for Wordpress. As for where to host your podcast files, I use and recommend LibSyn. With LibSyn, don’t worry about getting one of their smartphone packages. All you need is one of the basic hosting accounts. I personally have the $15/month plan.

On Wordpress, you’ll want to have a separate category for your podcast. In my case, I also created a custom category template so that I could make the “landing page” for the podcast look different by incorporating my podcast logo, etc.

As you set up PowerPress,  it will give you an RSS feed for your podcast. However, I recommend that you set that up to run through Feedburner. Make sure that you enable the special podcast-specific settings on your Feedburner feed. Using Feedburner will ensure that your feed is properly formed.

So, my workflow for posting the podcast is:

  1. Record, edit, export to MP3.
  2. Open the MP3 in ID3 Editor so as to include the podcast logo IN the actual MP3 file. This way, when the episode shows up on a device like the iPhone, it will show my logo on the screen while the episode is playing.
  3. Upload the resulting MP3 to Libsyn. I upload it only for a direct download, so I don’t use any of Libsyn’s built-in publishing features.
  4. Create a new post in Wordpress. Show notes and all that jazz go in this post. Then, in the PowerPress settings for the post, that’s where I enter the info on the MP3 file itself (hosted by Libsyn). Ensure the post is categorized properly.

The podcast episode is published just like any other blog post. All the syndication (like iTunes) is auto-updated via the podcast RSS feed.

For More Information: Check out this really in-depth tutorial from Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answerman. He has an in-depth video tutorial covering all the technical aspects of podcasting you’d ever want to know.

Outlining The Episode(s)

Don’t start recording an episode without an outline. It is far too easy to get completely off topic or wander aimlessly if you don’t have an outline to go by.

In my case, I outline each episode in Evernote. The outline covers each segment of the show, as well as the actual content I intend to discuss.

One thing to consider is having a structure to each episode. One way I do this is by having clearly delineated segments. These segments may include:

  1. Initial show ID. This comes before any music and is done to identify the episode and show. Not much more than that.
  2. Introduction. Any announcements, “thank you’s”, plans, etc. Remember, your podcast audience is a community of people, so involve them. Make it into a 2-way conversation as much as you can. The introduction is a great change to build that personal touch.
  3. Feature Segment. This is the main content of the episode. One piece of advice is to have the content be something that can be easily followed. In written blogging, list posts continually work for a number of reasons. The same mentality can be used in podcasting. Lists are easy to follow because they are sequential. Plus, the person knows that a certain number of things is coming up, so that anticipation can get them to continue listening to the end of your podcast.
  4. Wrap Up. Don’t just brain-dump on them then turn off the mic. You need a pattern interrupt at the end in order to put an end to the show and make it clear it is now OVER. This is a good time to tell them where show notes will be (on your blog), ask them to leave a review or post a comment, etc. Using a plug-in like Pretty Link will allow you to make URLs on your blog which are easier to say on a podcast.

So, outline your episode with this in mind. And keep in mind your target length (in minutes) of your episode. In my case, I shoot for 30-40 minutes. Some people say to shoot for 20-30 minutes. There is no gold standard here. It is up to you. But, do take into your account your audience and your subject material.

Topic Selection

This is very important, so listen up…

A podcast is a DIFFERENT medium than your blog. And, there’s a good chance that you’ll have a different audience, too. So, there is nothing wrong with covering content that you’ve already talked about on your blog before.

With that in mind, what are some of the more popular blog posts on your blog? Which ones are bringing in search traffic? Because THERE’S where you can start getting ideas for your first podcast episodes!

Secondly, ALWAYS think about attractiveness of each episode. You want each podcast you record to have a powerful headline (aka episode title) in order to draw them in and make them want to listen.

Then, once they’ve begun listening, you want to KEEP them listening. So, the topics need to be engaging. Spike their curiosity. Make it clear how it translates to THEM. And, as mentioned previously, using the “list post” format in a podcast works, too.

When I launched my podcast, I made a point to come out with popular topics, with attractive headlines. I will continue to do this, but it is especially important for your launch so as to get the audience engaged.

Podcast Launch

You’ll first launch it on your blog only. Then, once you verify everything is working (including RSS feeds), submit to iTunes. Perhaps I was overly cautious, but the last thing I wanted was for there to be mistakes after I submitted to iTunes.

But, here’s the thing…

Once it is published in iTunes (and you get notification from Apple that it is published), you want to trigger a rush of downloads and reviews/ratings on the podcast as quickly as you can. Why? Because this will get you into the “New and Noteworthy” section of iTunes – at least for your category.

This was my goal when I launched… and I pulled it off even better than I had hoped.

Now, if you have an audience and a list already, this is your best resource. When I verified I was in iTunes, I emailed my entire list and told them about it. And I straight up ASKED them to rate/review the podcast in iTunes. Not everybody uses iTunes. Some couldn’t figure out how to post a review. But irregardless, enough people rated it to propel the show into “New and Noteworthy”.

Now, what if I didn’t have the audience already?

Here’s what you could do…

Do a timed content launch, utilizing your own blog and guest posts. Perhaps even some videos.

If you’re tight enough with related blogs, see about authoring some great guest posts and then ask them to time the release of those posts so that it coincides with the launch of your podcast. In the call to action at the end of the guest post, point them into your podcast. You might even keep things simple by creating a special landing page for your podcast (OptimizePress is good for this). You might not know what your iTunes link is yet for your podcast, so point these guest post readers into a landing page which YOU control, then redirect them into the podcast, get them onto your list – whatever.

If you could do a timed release of great content on tightly related blogs around the launch of your podcast, you could still trigger it into “New and Noteworthy” even if your own audience isn’t large yet.

You want to look at the launch of your podcast as you would any product launch. You’ll need to pre-plan the marketing campaign before you release the first episode. Build buzz for it. Built desire-based tension.

Then, you trigger it when the time is right. And, since there is no money changing hands here, your “conversion rate” should be pretty good. 😉

Wrap It Up

So, hopefully that was helpful. And if I can help you with any questions, feel free to post a comment below. I’m not a podcast expert, but I’ve learned enough. 🙂 Plus, when you combine a knowledge of marketing and human psychology into how you pull off the launch of your podcast, I know you can amplify you results.

I’m still in the early days of my own podcast. But, I’m super glad I launched it. The launch went well. And now, I’m in the post-launch phase of simply growing the audience and making it rock.

On that note, it seems like an offly good place to pimp my show. 😉

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  1. Hi David. Thanks for this step by step guide. Wondering what settings you are using on the Xenyx mixer to achieve that great sound (EQ/FX/FAN)? And is there anything special you to do the audio once in Garageband?

  2. Hey David

    Theres more info in this post than some products that I have bought !!

    A very cool step by step approach to recording and posting podcasts for maximum effect.

    I will be following these steps and will let you know how I get on 🙂

    cheers Carl

  3. Great information. You really helped to motovate me to start a podcast. I like your idea of having episodes ahead of time because my fear is that I will run out of things to say.


  4. I was pestering Jaime Tardy about all these technical questions about starting a podcast until she was finally, “why don’t you just go over to David Risley’s blog…he’s put a whole post together on it.”

    So I did. 

    Fantastic post. Probably saved me at least a dozen hours and a lot of frustration. I’ll check out Cliff’s post as well.

    I just signed up for the podcast, and I’ll be signing up for your blog, next.

    Great work!

  5. Great post, and I’m loving the podcast. You mentioned Libsyn, if you use sopfree as a promo code you get a free month of hosting. I’m so glad you were new and notable with one episode. There was a myth that you needed at least three episodes and you crushed that fact. Another tip on the name of the podcast is don’t get “cute.” My podcast was originally called the Morning announcements (to go with the School of Podcasting). The problem is this is many times the first things people see, and if they don’t know you – they don’t know you’re being cute. In my case “the Morning Announcements” makes me think its something about School (not podcasting). Another great tips is get to the point. You do a good job of this. So many people make their episodes about them (and their kids, etc). This is good info for people to get to know you AFTER you’ve provided the “meat” of your episode. Think about the news “Our top story tonight is…” So always start with your best stuff. The episode is ALWAYS about them – how it will help make them laugh, cry, think, groan, educate, or entertain them. I’ve never had someone say, “You get to the point too quick.”

  6. David, thanks much.  This is one of my goals for 2012.  And having it all laid out (the art and science of podcasting) in one fine post is going to help me learn to do as I get this going.  Thanks for the incredible value!

  7. David, this is an incredible post.  I am speechless which is rare for this normally verbose gal indeed.   Posts like this are why they invented the “bookmark” button.  Thanks. 

  8. I’ve been trying to submit my podcast into iTunes as well, but I haven’t heard back from Apple yet.  Apparently, you’re suppose to get a confirmation email when you submit, but I never received that.  I really hope my podcast gets accepted because I have a lot of valuable interviews to share.  The one we did a while back is on there too!

    1. Did you verify everything was working properly (in terms of the RSS feed) before submitting it?

      And, how long has it been? I heard back from Apple within 24 hours when I submitted mine.

      1. Yes, I did verify everything.  The RSS feed was working perfectly.  I did contact Apple so hopefully they respond to me and let me know what the issue is.  This has happened before when I’ve tried in the past.  It’s very frustrating because I’ve never heard anyone else having problems.

          1. Thanks for the heads up!  I actually finally was accepted into iTunes not too long ago.  I actually had to recreate the feed and once I submitted it, everything worked smoothly.  I appreciate the help. 

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