Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Podcast
Feb, 20 2020
When I decided to start a podcast back in the fall of 2017, I really didn’t know what I didn’t know. While podcasts are so commonplace now, they weren’t nearly as popular at that time. I didn’t have friends who were hosts or producers and I wasn’t aware of all the resources available to me. Plus, I had absolutely no audio production or editing experience. Today, regular listenership is up almost 40 percent since 2017, and there are now more than 30 million episodes from more than 2 million shows available for free on major podcast platforms and accessible by any phone or device.
Truth be told, I thought it seemed like a fun project to take on and figured connecting a microphone to my phone or computer (I wasn’t sure which it would be at the time) couldn’t be too hard!
I thought wrong. I didn’t launch my first episode until April of 2018 because I spent a lot of time learning everything there was to know to start, launch and run a podcast. However, this “fun project” quickly turned into a challenge, and I enjoyed figuring things out along the way. That said, there’s a small handful of things that would’ve been helpful for me to know up front — some of which I researched and then did right, and some of which I would’ve done differently. To save you some time and headaches along the way, I’m going to share those with you here.
Five things I wish I knew before starting a podcast:
1. Audio Quality Matters
Five billion YouTube videos get watched every single day, and, well, there are not that many professional videographers. Audiences are willing to settle for less-than-incredible visual quality for good content, but it’s hard on the ears to listen to something that’s not very pleasing. From the very beginning, take steps to make the listener’s experience as enjoyable as possible. For example, recording in a carpeted area surrounded by soft surfaces reduces the echo. Speaking clearly and following a written outline for the episode keeps the show on track and coherent. Investing in a high quality microphone and using a third-party audio processor increases the overall sound quality. All of these tricks make a significant difference for the finished episode and the professionalism of the show.
2. The Community and Resources to Make You Successful Are Out There (for free!)
There are several podcast conferences each year throughout the country where you can go and learn more than you ever thought possible about podcasting. Attending one is a great way to add tools to your toolkit and meet other like-minded people in the podcast space. There are also many free Facebook groups for podcasters (often there is one run by the hosting software you choose — like this one from Buzzsprout), podcast shows dedicated to helping podcasters, and content on YouTube with step-by-step tutorials. Utilizing a support system and having a group of people to ask questions to or bounce ideas off of is incredibly valuable, and makes it all way more fun!
3. Have a Plan for the Episode and an Intention for Your Guest
Depending on the structure of your show (interview, conversational, documentary, etc.), it may vary how much pre-production planning you actually have to do. However, to take the listeners on a coherent journey, reduce the amount of time spent editing and to be confident that you’re touching on the right points and providing exceptional value to your listeners, make sure you approach each episode recording with a thoughtful outline. If you’re speaking with a guest, prepare them accordingly by giving them an overview of the show and letting them know your intention so the conversation stays on track to fulfill that purpose. Doing so makes your listeners feel valued, your guests feel appreciated, and allows you to create higher quality content for sharing.
4. Launch with More Than One Episode
Once you’ve recorded your first episode, it’s tempting to put it out in the world and celebrate — but wait! In terms of downloads and analytics, it’s much better to release at least 3 to 5 at a time so those that find your podcast will download and listen to more than one. This approach also allows you to give a more well-rounded overview of what your show has to offer (as opposed to a single episode), and increases your chances of making particular charts, like New and Noteworthy on iTunes. Once you’ve published, I suggest always having at least a couple episodes ready to go so you’re not scraping together content last minute to get it out on time.
5. It’s a Long Game
It’s actually very common to start a podcast, do a few episodes and then quit. The beginning is fun; telling your friends and family to listen in, putting your message out in the world, seeing the number of downloads go up — it’s exciting! But after a few shows, it’s not unusual for hosts to struggle to find time to dedicate to the craft or keep coming up with things to talk about. If you think that podcasting is going to reap short-term rewards in terms of marketing, financial gain, listenership or popularity, you’re in the wrong game. Similar to any other form of content creation (YouTubing, blogging, social media growth, etc.), the climb is slow and steady and requires a regular, consistent commitment to providing value before there’s a substantial return on investment. Going into this with realistic expectations allows you to focus on other metrics like awesome interviews, having a great time along the way, and the little bites of positive feedback.
I hope my hindsight serves as your foresight, and that this encourages you to consider starting a podcast, or at least supporting your local podcaster by listening, subscribing and sharing the episodes that resonate with you. Content creation, and podcasting specifically, is a labor of love, and listeners like you make all the hours of meticulous audio editing worth it.
And, if you’re on the fence about starting one, stay tuned for my next blog: Reasons You Should (or Shouldn’t!) Start a Podcast.
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