Planning & Techniques for Podcasting
Struggling to figure out what kind of podcast you'd like to make, what format to use or how to plan it for success and consistency? We can help, right here!
OUR 'FIRST STOP' ARTICLES ON PLANNING & METHODS
Finding Content Ideas & Getting the Most From Every One | Content Stacking #2
Here, we'll cover how to figure out what to write, and how to get the most from the topic! That means finding the questions people are searching for, and then creating an answer in the best possible way.
This is Chapter 2 of our Content Stacking series. Find the introduction here.
A big concept behind Content Stacking is that the ‘content idea' is far more powerful than we think. For me, it's the hardest part to get right.
It's difficult to find something that'll engage people, to draw them in and to incite action afterwards. And yet, for some reason, the majority of content creators continue to cite time and tech at the top of the ‘barriers' list.
The difficulty isn't unacknowledged, I admit. That's why there are a whole network of “X Ways to Find a Topic for Your Next Blog Post” articles out there. But that doesn't go far enough.
Even after you and I put a high enough priority on finding the right idea, we often put it to waste.
I see so many people posting podcasts, blogs, and videos on great topics, but barely getting 10% of the value they could from that idea.
In this article, I want to talk about why the content idea is the most important part.
I want to cover how to think about that idea, how to sketch it out, and how to make it deliver value in spades, both for you AND your audience. Once you've got that sketch, that plan, the rest is just logistics. At that point, we can squeeze out so much value that the time and the tech just stop mattering.
By the way, we'll look at how to reduce the time a little later, and we've talked before about how to overcome the tech. I'll fully admit, they are legitimate barriers. But, to me, your greatest resources need to go into your idea. That's where the magic really happens.
Breaking Down the Content Idea
Think of the last podcast you recorded. Think about what you covered. My challenge to you is to sit down and write out all of the distinct concepts that you delivered to your audience.
This is where a lot of us go wrong: we try to squeeze in way to much. It's understandable, because one of our biggest fears is not being expert enough, not being entertaining enough, not being informative enough. So, to combat that, we put in more and more to compensate.
Instead, we need to be thinking like a teacher. Even if we're not teaching. And that means breaking it down.
I'll show you an example from one of my own shows: the Mountain Bikes Apart podcast. Sorry, I'm a biking geek, it's the example I always take!
On the show, I recently talked about bike setup – i.e. how to make sure your bike is working perfectly and set up for you personally.
Me and Tom, my co-host, started thinking through a plan, and our initial episode was to simply go through the elements. That means:
- Setting up gears
- Setting your brakes
- Handlebar configuration
- Stem variations
- Setting up your saddle
In my early days of podcasting, I would quite happily write out a plan for one episode that looked just like that previous list.
It's not unreasonable – we could probably rattle through that in way under an hour if we wanted to. But, here's the problem – that isn't serving either you OR your audience.
Why You Should Break it Down: For Teachers
Why? Well, firstly, for those that teach… there's a bunch of learning theory that shows how beneficial it is to break things down into learning outcomes (sorry, I know that term strikes terror into the heart of any college student…). A learning outcome is one really well-defined concept that you want to get across to a learner.
Setting up your bike isn't a learning outcome, for example. It's way too broad. Instead, you'd take one of the concepts. Say, wheel set-up. But, now, when I think about it, wheels are possibly a collection of outcomes too. You've got wheel sizes, tyre options, rims and spokes, hub options, etc. There are lots of little elements in there that could each be a learning outcome.
The idea is that if you want someone to learn your topic, you need to break it down as much as possible, and not give too much at once. You need to talk through that topic, and then give them something to do at the end – a task to put it into action.
The point is that this works really, really effectively when you think small.
Think about breaking your content idea right down into learning outcomes. And then deliver each of those on their own.
By uncomplicating things, by delivering each outcome on its own, you can cover it so much more effectively. You can give a story around it that puts it into context (we'll be covering structure next!), and you can give a task that lets your audience put it into action.
It's those two – the context and the action – that makes people learn, and to succeed with it.
And that success is what cultivates long term subscribers and fanatical fans.
The “Why?” for Entertainers
This works just as well for entertainers. Stop thinking that you have to cram a ton into each episode. Have the confidence to go really deep on a narrow topic.
Storytelling shows benefit from this in a huge way, and the Gimlet media stable are a prime example. Startup (especially the 1st season) succeeds through their masterful storytelling around ONE core concept. They always have one hook, one concept, one standalone IDEA that they want to get across. And the entire episode is devoted to unpacking that idea, entertaining along the way.
Invisibilia is another example, but a little in the opposite direction. Now, I love Invisibilia – it's a seriously top-notch show – but I occasionally feel they try to cover too much. In some episodes, I end the show wondering, “What did they talk about there?” I tend to remember the idea they covered in the latter part of the show, but not those from earlier, and they're sometimes quite different. The producers cram a lot in, and I think it could go from excellent to amazing if they focused down on one big idea each time.
Finding the Right Level of Detail
So, how do we solve this?
My approach is to break it down, break it down, until we have a list of sub-topics that are at right level of detail for the main topic. In my case, I want to cover ‘setting up my bike.' That's an activity someone can do in, say, an hour or two, spending a bit of time on each component.
So, thinking of that level, going all-in on spokes is too much. But, a general one on wheels is too broad. Here, I would end up with sub-topics of wheel size, wheel components and tyres. The wheel size topic covers how you would decide between 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ rims. The components topic covers the choice of rims, spokes and hubs. Lastly, tyres covers tyre type, tread, width, etc.
That's the planning I do for every content idea.
It boils down to a really nicely contained topic, with an obvious takeaway. It's not always an exact science, of course. You can see that from the wheels example above – I could easily argue for other approaches. But, thinking in this way really helps to create episodes that give much more to the listener, and make it way more easy for you to plan out.
Turning Your Content Idea into a Course
If you're following along, you'll end up with a list in front of you, similar to above. You've broken your content idea down into it's main components. Now, what does it look like?
A course, of course!
You're teaching a subject after all. So, it should do really. Or, if not a course, if you're an entertainer, perhaps it looks like the listing for a TV series!
And that's exactly what it is. A series. Or a season, depending on what side of the Atlantic you live on. That's how I think nearly everyone should think about their content. In seasons. If you want an example of this, then take a look at Podcraft, my podcast about podcasting. It's been based on a seasons format since the very beginning, and offers short courses on particular aspects of podcasting, like podcast equipment, or podcast monetisation.
I've written a lot about why seasons are great elsewhere, but just to cover the benefits again. They make planning easier, they give you motivation to record, they create hooks that draw listeners back, time and again, they help you evolve your show, they give you breaks when you need them and they help you to create hugely valuable evergreen resources over time.
The main thing is they help with two of the big barriers I mentioned above.
- They save you time, by cutting down on planning and allowing you to batch-record.
- They save you from coming up with a new content idea every week, because you're devising a whole bunch of them all at once, and in a really easy way.
So, we're saving time and we're pre-planning our content ideas. That's two huge problems out of the way. Or they will be once we add a touch more detail…
From a Plan to a Script
Now that we have a rough plan for our season, I tend to sketch it out a little more. I like to spend another hour or so on this process, putting perhaps 5 or 6 talking points into each sub-topic. I might even go a little further and add some further detail for each sub-topic in the bullet-point list. Here's what the first 2 episodes of that mountain biking series might look like:
- Setting up gears
- Types of shifters
- Front vs rear derailleur
- Chainset & cassette
- Types of shifters
- Setting your brakes
- Traditional Brakes
- Disc Brakes
- Brake Levers
- Tuning Brakes
When I know my subject, that level of detail is enough. I could turn both of those outlines into a 20 minute episode right now, with no prep. Sometimes I'll need a little more research, and it'll include more detail, and that's fine.
Now we have a plan, not just for one episode, but for an entire series or season. My initial plan above included 8 episodes. That means, on a weekly schedule, I've planned two months worth of content. How's that for squeezing the most you can from one simple content idea?!
But, that's not all. Next comes recording. We have a plan, but how do we deliver it so that we get even more from our content idea. Well, that'll have to wait for the next chapter in the series. I hope to see you there!
Before you go, answer in the comments below:
Tell me one of your recent content ideas that you think could be turned into a season.
Written by:June 24th 2016
- Chapter One
- Chapter two
- Chapter three
- Chapter four
- Chapter five
- Chapter six
- Chapter seven
- Chapter eight
- Chapter nine
- Chapter ten
Podcasting in Seasons: Revitalise Your Content & Help Your Listeners
Last year I had the privilege to speak in front of a great crowd at New Media Europe about podcasting in seasons. The reception I received on the topic was amazing and, even now, I'm tagged regularly on social media by people who are putting it into action.
I talked about how the format works, and how it can be used to revitalise your content. The idea that really jived with the audience was how it can be used to make content creation much easier for you, and much more effective for your listener.
I'm a season-format fanatic. I don't do it on every show I produce, but I do do it on most. Want to know why? Let's take a look!
Who Might Try Podcasting in Seasons?
Firstly, seasons-based podcasting is really effective for anyone who does at least a little bit of teaching on their podcast.
I don't mean teaching in any kind of formal sense. I just mean that you talk about your expertise and you help people to learn a little along the way.
Next, it can also work really well for an entertainment-based show. If you do comedy, games, sport, whatever, the benefits for you that I relate below will heavily apply.
The main niche it's not so good for is current affairs & news, for reasons you can probably guess. These types of podcasts rely heavily on last minute planning to ensure that the podcast is up to date with the latest happenings. That means seasons are pretty hard to plan. In saying that, though, you might find some of the benefits still apply.
What's the Approach?
I'm going to use a gardening podcast as an example. Let's say the host, Amanda Rose is a professional gardener, and talks to enthusiastic amateurs on a weekly basis about everything gardening. To podcast in seasons, here's what she'd do:
- Sit down and think of a topic you're often asked about.
Amanda might write down a bunch of topics and eventually come up with: “How do I Growing Great Vegetables at Home?”
- Break the topic down into individual lessons.
Think about discrete elements within that topic. How would you teach it to a complete novice? Amanda comes up with the following: a. The growing calendar, b. preparing the ground, c. root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc), d. leaf vegetables (kale, spinach, etc), e. …and so on.
- Roughly map out each episode with some high-level bullet points.
This gives you an outline for the content of each episode, allowing you to plan the lessons and also acting as a script when it comes to recording time.
And you're done – the season is designed. You'll end up with a plan for the whole season, and rough bullet-point scripts for each individual episode. I can carry out that process in about an hour, or maybe 2 for a longer season.
What if I do Entertainment?
If you do an entertainment show, you might not be asked questions on a regular basis. But, this can still work for you.
A great approach in this case is to ‘theme' a season. If you do comedy, for example, you might do a season called ‘The Poser's Guide to…' like Masters of None used to do a few years back. You pick out a series of topics you want to cover, maybe even ask for listener input on the break, and then plan it out. It creates a narrative that draws people through the series and still gives you the benefit of congruous content, without the teaching.
Or, perhaps you cover computer games. In that case you could do a season called ‘Games from our Childhood'. You can cover a new one each week, teasing them early on to build hype. The key thing is that the episodes are related and easy to plan out as a series.
It doesn't matter what topic you cover. There's nearly always a good way to incorporate seasons in a way that'll help both you and the listeners.
How Long is a Season?
A season should be as long as you need it to be, and no more.
Think about discrete topics, and split it up into the component parts of the main subject.
For example, Amanda wants to talk about root veg on a separate episode to leaf veg, because they're quite different things. But the growing technique for carrots and potatoes aren't quite different enough to differentiate them, so ‘root veg' is a good base lesson.
Benefits For You
Why's this worth it for you, the producer?
1. Weekly recording is much easier
Rather than coming up with a new topic every week, you're following a plan over a number of months. That bullet point outline is available, every week, and makes it so much easier to sit down and record.
2. Motivation is increased
You're no longer just ‘going through the motions' when you record. You know where you're going, you have a purpose, an end in sight, and you feel progress towards that goal: the completion of the season. I always feel far more motivated to record when I'm working my way through a season, as opposed to stand-alone weekly recording.
3. Taking a break
When you're doing seasons, it means one simple thing – you get to take a break! The thing is, weekly podcasting is great in the early days, and is still mostly great in the later days. But, that weekly treadmill of content does begin to grind you down. Introduce a break every few months, though, and it all changes. You get a few weeks in between seasons to recharge and then to get excited about the next.
4. Evolution & Improvement
One of my favourite things about seasons is that it creates these clear ‘review points' throughout your podcast career which encourage you to mix things up and evolve as you go.
At the end of a season, I encourage every podcaster to survey their audience. Ask your listeners what they enjoyed and what they didn't. Ask them what they want to hear on the next season. Ask them about the format, the hosts, the topics. Ask them how you can get better.
That info is invaluable and it'll guide you in how to change things up for the next season. Only by sourcing feedback and using it to evolve can you be sure you're constantly improving.
5. Evergreen Authority Resources
An unexpected benefit of seasons, for me, was the gradual build-up of highly authoritative evergreen resources.
I think I realised this was happening at the end of my 3rd season. I was around 40 episodes in by that point and I suddenly noticed that I had 3 big collections of episodes, covering 3 of the biggest problem areas of podcasting. I started to refer people to the seasons themselves, as if they were a course or an audio-book of their own. At that point I started to release individual seasons on iTunes too, reasoning that it would be good to allow people to consume that entire season as a stand-alone resource.
It certainly worked, and I've developed a few of my seasons out into full courses now. That means adding extra lessons or deep dives, along with video, text and activities. These courses are part of our core offering at the company now, and all evolved from an original podcast season.
Benefits for Your Listener
The best bit is that this isn't just good for you, it really benefits your listeners too.
1. Effective Learning
Remember when you were at school? How did the teacher organise your lessons?
When you learned Maths I bet it didn't look like this:
- Lesson 1. Advanced Integration
- Lesson 2. Adding up
- Lesson 3. Fourier Analysis
- Lesson 4. Two times table
That wouldn't make any sense – the teacher is mixing up really advanced material with total beginner's material, and they're jumping around subjects like crazy.
But, the thing is, that's exactly what a lot of people do on their podcast. They start a new topic every week, and they mix up the levels entirely, episode after episode. It's not an effective way for anyone to learn, or even just to follow along with your story.
2. Navigation & Binge Listening
Leading on from the last point, say someone DID want to learn from you and was interested in a sub-topic that you cover. How would they find all of the info you've released on that topic?
Take Amanda again: if she did a normal podcast, she might talk about vegetables every now and again, but not in a structured fashion. The listener could search through Amanda's back catalogue, searching out all of the vegetable episodes they can find. But it makes work for them. It's not easy, even if you use Categories and Tagging to at least bring together episodes around a theme. It'll lead to an unorganised list of shows, mixing up the levels and the order, and it generally doesn't help them out very much.
A season, though, is something that's purposefully organised, and something listeners can always go back to. You can link to your season on ‘vegetables' at any time, and your listeners can go back and listen through the entire series as if it was an audio book. That's one thing that encourages a binge listen, and that's something which creates fast, fanatical fans.
What About the Bad Side?
Okay, I'll admit it's not all roses. There are a couple of downsides.
The biggest downside for me is the reduction in flexibility. I often have the opportunity to interview someone great for Podcraft, but I'm in the middle of a season which is totally unrelated to their subject. That means either squeezing them in, slightly randomly, or waiting until a new season which may be related.
Using Your Season Breaks
The way I get around this is to do interviews on my season breaks. I'll pick up interviews during a 2 or 3 month season run, and then I might release them during the month or two that I take off. That means I'm actually not taking a full break, which is slightly cheating, I know, but it works for me on occasion.
If it's something I really want to get out there, I'll just take a break from the season for a week and put it out. I use categories within WordPress to manage my episodes, so you can still make it easy for anyone to go back and listen through a season (one category) in sequence, not seeing the ‘in-between' episodes.
Keep Timely or Non-Season Info Until the End
Alternatively, if you just want to put some timely info in there – perhaps news related or personal – or some non-season related material, you can just put it in at the end! That means the main episode is completely evergreen, until you get to the last few minutes. When people go back and listen at a later date, they can always just skip to the next episode once they reach that segment.
This is always the fear in doing seasons. Or rather, it's the fear in taking a break between seasons. Everyone fears they'll lose listeners while they take a month off.
It's true – if you just take a month off, then you will. Although probably far fewer than you expect.
This is really easy to mitigate, though, with this piece of simple advice: communicate!
Communicate With Your Listeners
Tell your listeners what's going on. In the season finale, let them know that this is the last episode for a while. Then tell them exactly when you'll be back. If you're clear on this, and make it obvious what's going on, you'll lose very few people along the way.
Create an End of Season Signpost
Something I often do at the end of a season is to record a short end-of-season signpost, and release that onto my feed. That's the most recent episode and so it's the one that downloads first if someone new subscribes to the show. I explain what's going on in there, and I'll signpost all of the previous seasons, hoping that I encourage them to start listening to the back catalog.
I also make the title of that episode really clear, something like: “End of Season 5! We Return on May 29th”. That means potential new listeners wont be put off by looking at the dates and spotting that nothing's been released for a while.
Conclusion – Test it Out!
I hope that's given you an idea on when you could try out a season approach, and how you might go about it. I know, from my own experience, that there have been a huge number of benefits. Not only the motivation aspect, but the evergreen resources that emerge and which I've gradually turned into courses.
I'd love to hear what you think though. Drop your answers to the following questions in the comments below.
- Do you podcast in seasons? Why?
- What's your favourite seasons based show?
Look forward to hearing from you!
How to Start a Podcast: Every Single Step for 2020
This guide holds your hand through every single step around How to Start a Podcast. Including planning for success, top quality equipment, recording, editing, publishing and growth. Let's begin!Planning Naming Episodes Format Recording Producing Publishing Next…
So you want to know how to start a podcast? Great stuff! Our ‘Why’, here at The Podcast Host is, “To Spread Life-Changing Audio Programmes.” So, we're here to help you along the way.
In this article we’re going to walk you through every stage of launching your show, from planning to publishing. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to make a podcast, and hopefully be motivated to do it as soon as possible!
How to Start a Podcast in 18 Steps
- Why are you Doing a Podcast?
- Who is Your Podcast for?
- Why Should they Listen?
- Naming your Podcast
- How Long Should an Episode be?
- How Often Should I Release an Episode?
- Choosing Good Episode Titles
- Choosing a Podcast Format
- Recording Equipment
- Recording & Editing Software
- Scripting your Show
- How to Talk into a Mic
- Recording Remote Guests or Co-Hosts
- Editing your Podcast
- Music for your Podcast
- Creating Podcast Coverart
- How to Publish your Podcast
- Next Steps After you Launch
Simple as that!
There are 18 steps, broken down into 8 chapters, so read on for the full details. We really hope this guide gives you the skills and the inspiration to get started. And, if it does, get in touch and let us know. We want to hear.Want an email series of this, with added resources, actions & homework?
Ok, enough procrastinating – that's what we're supposed to be avoiding!
Let's find out how to make your podcast.
Written by:March 21st 2019
Planning Your Podcast
So firstly, why do you want to make a podcast? Are you a freelancer? A business? Or a marketing manager? If so, you might have identified podcasting as a great way to build authority, and provide your customers and target audience with valuable and entertaining content.
Or are you looking at podcasting from a hobbyist perspective? This might mean you'll be creating a show in your spare time. And the subject will be something that you're passionate about.
In either case, you can identify your “why” here. That's important to keep in mind, so that you can stay motivated, even when you're finding it difficult to get a show out.
Next, what about your “who”?
So first day, get the big question in: Who are you making this podcast for?
The thing is, unless you know exactly who you’re making your show for, and why you’re doing it, you’ve got no chance of growing an audience.
If you're coming at it from a business point of view, and you're (for example) a personal trainer who wants to make a health and fitness podcast, then your target audience might be people who are interested in healthy eating, weight loss, exercise, or bodybuilding.
If you're creating a hobby show – let's say it's based around your love of zombies and post-apocalyptic fiction – then your target audience would simply be folks with the same passion. They might be fans of TV shows like The Walking Dead, video games like Resident Evil, books like World War Z, and films like Night of the Living Dead.
A lot of smart people talk about creating listener personas or avatars. It's a good idea, sketching out exactly why it is that you'd like to listen to your content. That persona is something to keep in mind every time you plan an episode: “Would John, our listener persona, like this? Is this focused on what he likes, what he's interested in?”
That persona and those questions help you to keep your show focussed and on track, both of which make for more engaging content.
So we know who you want to reach, how do you reach them? You need to give people a reason to listen. This means creating content that they will get something out of when they listen.
Deeper Dive: Defining Your Podcast's Audience
Whether you're providing information that will help someone to lose weight (in the case of our personal trainer), or doing a really entertaining interview with one of your favourite authors (in the case of our zombie podcaster) you're providing value for your listener.
Not only have you given them a reason to listen, you've given them a reason to come back for more. It's important to think about this in the planning stages. Can you write down 10-15 potential episodes that you think your target audience would love to listen to?
Need more help with planning your show to make sure it's got the best chance to take off? We've got a podcast launch course dedicated to designing your show, and then launching it live inside our Podcast Host Academy. This course will walk you through defining your audience, your topic and your format, and then take you through everything else you need to go live, from recording, to equipment, to editing, to publishing. Get started!🎧
Naming Your Podcast
There’s three main camps when it comes to naming your show.
The Clever Name
You might think of a really clever name for your show. But remember that people need to be able to find it when they’re searching for information about your topic. If you have a clever/catchy name for your show, then try to also incorporate a description into the title. There’s no point putting out great content if nobody can find it.
For example, one of our shows is called Path of Most Resistance. It probably falls into the ‘clever name’ category, even though we’re not that clever… So, to give a bit of description, we also use the tagline: The Uncommon Leader’s Guide.
The Descriptive Name
The searchable (but some might say boring) choice is to simply call your show what your target audience are searching for. If our personal trainer called her show The Fitness Podcast then there’s absolutely no doubt as to what the show is about. It’s a good idea, although possibly reduces how memorable it is, just a bit.
Avoid getting too long and wordy if you go down this route. Remember you’ll need to say the podcast name quite a lot when recording your episodes, so make sure it rolls off the tongue.
Using Your Own Name
This is pretty much a no-no unless you’ve already got an audience. If someone started ‘The Mike Smith Show’ and it was about rock climbing, people would just think “who is Mike Smith?” and move on to the next podcast. Again, you can incorporate this into your show’s name along with something descriptive (‘Rock Climbing, with Mike Smith’). But avoid naming the show after you without any other details.
Deeper Dive: What Should I Call My Podcast?✏️
Planning Your Episodes
After establishing what type of content you’d like to be putting out in your podcast, it’s time to think about the episodes themselves. So, when looking at how to start a podcast, what are some of the most common questions about podcast episodes?
Podcast length depends solely on content. Don’t cut down good content or pad out succinct work!
How long does it need to be to get the message out? If you asked most podcast listeners, a “short” episode would probably be anything under 15 minutes. And a “long” episode would probably be anything over an hour.
Many will reference the time of the average commute (said to be around 20 minutes) as a good length to shoot for. But anything from 20 up to 45 minutes seems to be within the “sweet spot” for an episode length.
Don’t worry too much about these figures though, ultimately your episode lengths should be decided by two things.
- Your content
- Your audience
If you have 50 minutes of valuable, relevant content, why chop it down to 20? Or likewise, if you’ve said everything you have to say in 10 minutes, why pad it out to 30? In extreme cases, say you do an interview and it’s a fantastic conversation from start to finish but runs for 2 hours. You can always chop it in half and create two episodes.
Over time, your listeners will tell you if they think your episodes are too short or too long. Try to survey your audience once a year to gather data like this, and you can adjust accordingly.
When you get that data, of course, there’s no need to stick to the same length each time, but it’s good to have an ‘average’ so your listeners know what to expect.
Finally, length can actually be a ‘unique’ factor, like we talked about on Day 3. Short and snappy 4 minute episodes could suit a certain type of listener, or huge 3 hour in-depth interviews might suit another. Think about whether length might be a deliberate unique choice for you.
Deeper Dive: How Long Should My Episodes Be?
This is one of the biggest starter questions. Here’s the answer:
The best schedule is normally the most frequent one that you can stick to, on a regular basis.
So, if you can only manage once a month, that’s fine. If you can manage every 2 weeks, even better. If you can manage weekly, then that’s great.
You can still have a big impact with a fortnightly, or monthly show, but people plan their lives around what day of the week it is. It’s the routine at the forefront of our lives, and tapping into it can be powerful.
That said, sticking to a deadline just for the sake of it is pointless. You’ll have a bigger impact if you put out one excellent episode a month instead of a very average episode every week.
Podcasting In Seasons
Starting a podcast doesn’t have to be like jumping on a treadmill, where you have to get a new episode out every week/fortnight/month. You can take a leaf out of television’s book and podcast in seasons.
When you start a seasonal podcast, each season will usually have a theme. You might create episodes based around that theme or topic for 6-12 episodes, then have a break. After a month or two, you’ll launch a new season (with another theme/topic) and repeat the process.
An example of a seasonal podcast is our very own Podcraft Podcast, where season 1 (updated on season 10) was all about being a beginner podcaster. Next, season 2 was about podcasting equipment, season 3 was about building a podcast website, and so on.
If your content is appropriate for it, you can even turn each season into a course or an ebook further down the line, so there are many benefits to seasonal podcasting. One pitfall however is that you might lose momentum (and the interest of your audience) during your breaks. We’ve found, though, that if you prepare them for it, and explain when you’ll be back, then you combat both issues. You can’t miss your own deadline after all!
Here's a more in-depth look at how to podcast in seasons, if this is something that interests you.
Just like choosing a name for your podcast, choosing good, searchable, descriptive titles for your episodes is important.
The biggest mistake when it comes to naming your episodes is to call them “Episode 1”, “Episode 2”, and so on. Nobody’s going to know what to expect if they listen. The whole point of a podcast is that people listen to it, so give them a reason to click on one of your episodes.
Make it clear to people what they will get from listening to your show. If you look on any podcast directory you will see shows with titles like “How To…”, “Five Tips For…” etc. These are popular because they work. You just need to make sure that you are delivering in the episode what you promised in the title.
The extra benefit of this is that iTunes allows searching by episode name. So you can show up not only for the terms in your podcast title, but for the keywords in your episode names. That gives you a whole extra level of reach if you name them well.
Need more help with titles, lengths and ALL the details? We've done solo, co-host, group, roundtable, drama, blah blah blah… We've also done a lot of seasons, and made it work really well for us. Everything we've learned is packed right into our Podcast Launch course inside the Podcast Host Academy. Take the course and launch with confidence!
Deeper Dive: How Should I Name My Episodes?🎤
The format you choose is really personal, and depends on who’s involved! If it’s just you, you’re not doing a co-hosted show any time soon, for example
The thing is, it’s similar here to your podcast length: while it’s good to have an ‘average’ format, so your listeners know what to expect, you don’t have to stick to it every time.
You might be comfortable with a certain format and settle into a groove, or you might prefer a ‘mixed bag’ approach. It’s totally up to you. So what are the common types of podcast show formats?
The Solo Show
Also known as the monologue.
Benefits: You don’t need to rely on anyone else to record your episodes, and you’re building a reputation as the authority on your subject. The podcast is also exclusively yours, so you can make calls on sponsorship and monetization. And you don’t need to split the profits with anyone.
Challenges: Perhaps the most intimidating style of show for the beginner podcaster. One of the biggest challenges of the solo show is getting over the feeling that you’re ‘talking to yourself’ and realising that you’re actually talking to the listener.
The Co-Hosted Show
Presenting alongside a friend or colleague.
Benefits: A great way around the ‘mic fright’ or recording alone is to chat on the show with someone else. If you find the right co-host you have someone to bounce off, debate, or even mock (don’t be too mean!). Some co-hosted podcasts have great chemistry between the presenters. This can create a great listening experience.
Challenges: Not only do you need to set aside time to record, but that time must also be suitable for your co-host. There’s also the question of ownership: who’s podcast is it, do you split any future income 50/50? And what happens if your co-host loses interest or becomes unavailable in the future?
The Interview Show
‘Borrowing’ the expertise or entertainment value of others.
Benefits: Talking to your heroes. Doing an interview show gives you the opportunity to have a chat with someone you’ve always looked up to. On top of this, your guests will have their own audiences who may listen to the interview and end up subscribing to your show. If done right, you can really grow an audience this way.
Challenges: Interviewing is a skill that you’ll need to hone through practice, so don’t approach the A-listers in your field straight away. You’ll need to constantly find and approach potential guests, schedule interviews, and rely on others to show up (in person or digitally). You also need to rely on technology (like Skype) to work properly throughout each call.
Finally, there are a bunch of other formats that aren't so commonly used, but might well suit you.
For example, you've got:
- Roundtable – One regular host and a number of guests, talking through one specific topic (eg. the Paperclipping Roundtable).
- Documentary – A narrator walks you through a range of interviews, conversations and on-location clips to paint a picture (eg. UK Business Startup)
- Docu-Drama – A mix between drama and documentary. Offering learning and info, but in an entertaining way (eg. Hostile Worlds).
If you need more help, we've got a full guide to formats, including their pros, cons and how to go about it, within the launch course inside the Podcast Host Academy.🎙
Recording Your Podcast
So once you’ve done the groundwork and planned out your show, it’s time to get to work recording your first episode.
The bare minimum you need to record a podcast is a computer with a built in microphone and access to the internet. As a general rule, though, the more limited and lower cost your setup and equipment, the more limited the sound quality of your show will be.
That said, simple USB microphone setups can give great results if you choose the right mic. Plus, you are much better to get started and see whether you enjoy it before forking out big sums of money on audio equipment.
With that in mind, a simple headset mic like the Senheisser PC8 can be a perfect starting point.
There’s a benefit to keeping things simple in that it’s very easy to record. That means you’ll be able to keep the show regular in the early days and really give yourself a chance to build a loyal following.
If you want to take a step up from there, you can look towards a better USB mic. Something like the Samson Q2U is a quality affordable mic to start out with, and comes in at only around 50 USD/GBP.
If you’re planning to do a lot of in-person interviews, the Rode Smartlav+ is a great tool. Two of them, plus the SC6 splitter, makes for a really light, simple interview setup.
From there, you can upgrade to an even better USB mic (like the Rode Procaster), or maybe upgrade your setup with a digital recorder (we use the Zoom H5), or even a mixer (Yamaha MG10). Be wary of complicating things too much, though. More complications means more things that can break.
If you’re looking for more information on equipment, here’s a list to start with:
When you plug your USB microphone into your computer, you will need some software to actually record and edit the audio. The good news is that there's a few options for this, and one of them doesn't cost you anything.
- Audacity: a good quality, free-of-charge audio editing application. For the majority of people, it caters to all your podcasting needs.
- Adobe Audition: my favourite Pro-level production tool – steep learning curve, but great workflow, and feature-rich. It's available through a paid subscription. Compare Adobe Audition VS Audacity.
- Alitu: The Podcast Maker: the easiest possible experience. This is a web app which can automate audio cleanup, adding music and publishing to your host. It also offers great editing and episode building tools.
In The Podcast Host Academy we have a course that teaches you how to use Audacity for cleanup, editing and production. Check out Audacity Podcast Production for full details.
If you go the Alitu route, or just want to see how it works, check out this free course on how to use Alitu.
If you’re a Mac user you will probably have Garageband installed by default on your machine. This is popular audio software with podcasters too, although recent versions have really cut down the features it offers. These days, I’d recommend even Mac users getting hold of Audacity as a free alternative.
Once you’re set up with a microphone and your editing software you are ready to hit ‘Record’ – but what will you say? That’s where scripting comes in.
When we talk about ‘scripting’ it’s easy to imagine an in-depth essay that’ll be read out word-for-word to become your podcast episode. That approach can work, but it’s only for really highly produced, heavily edited shows.
For a start, it takes aaaaages to write, every time, so if you’re working yourself you’ll never manage it every week.
Next, unless you’ve practiced this a lot, like highly produced presenters have, it’s really hard to avoid sounding like you’re reading. And listening to someone reading out a script is really, really boring…
The intimate nature of podcasting is far more suited to being a conversation, as opposed to a sermon. So try to wean yourself off a fully scripted show with bullet points of everything you want to cover. This will become easier over time with practice, until eventually writing a full script will seem unnecessary.
We’ve talked about invisible scripting before, and that’s really what you’re aiming for.
Also, the way you open and close your episodes is really important too!
This is probably the most difficult thing to conquer when learning how to start a podcast. You can make this difficult for yourself by imagining that you are either “talking to yourself” or ‘talking to a microphone”. Instead, focus on talking to a single person. We talked about who your podcast is for earlier on, your listener persona. If you are a business, you may already have this persona or “avatar” sketched out. Remember, an avatar is basically your ideal customer/listener.
When creating that persona, it’s up to you how much detail you put in. Some people go as far as creating jobs, hobbies, likes, dislikes, family, friends, etc. The point here is that holding a conversation with them, rather than yourself or the microphone, will sound much more natural and engaging. This means that everyone who listens feels like you are talking directly to them. And this leads to building and strengthening relationships over time.
If you'd like to learn how to become a better speaker, including everything from finding your voice, to vocal warmups, to mic technique, check out our Voice Training for Podcasters course.
Whether you have a co-host in another country, or regular interviewees from all around the world, it isn’t difficult to record your chat with them.
Another option is Zoom.us, which is a video conferencing tool that's free to use for 2 people, and free for up to 40 minutes for a group of people. Read the pros and cons of Zoom in podcasting here.
Finally, there are a few good double-ender tools out there, which means they record each person live on their own computer. That means the audio isn't compressed to be broadcast online and you don't hear the standard Skype connection glitches. One of the best is Squadcast, and you'll find a few others in our ‘how to record a podcast online' article listed just below.
Deeper Dive: How to Record a Podcast Online🎚
Producing Your Podcast
Next stop, production! This is where you edit out mistakes, stitch together different audio clips, add in music or FX and make sure it’s all sounding great with EQ, levelling, compression and more.
So, you might already be recording with Audacity.
If so, this is also a good platform for production. We’ve got a comprehensive video course inside The Podcast Host Academy designed to turn you from complete beginner to master producer. Check it out to get started.
Get Someone Else to Edit Your Show?
If you're prepared to spend a bit of money to save time though, you can always outsource your editing and hire someone else to do it for you. In fact we sometimes take on interesting production projects too – check out our production page for more on that!
Here are a couple of examples of highly produced shows we've worked on before:
The Simplest Option – Alitu: The Podcast Maker
What if you’ve never used editing software before? Maybe you’re concerned that you don’t have the budget to outsource your production, but also don’t have the time to learn it all.
If that’s the case, you might want to check out Alitu, the ‘podcast making' tool, which practically builds your episode for you.
Alitu is really simple to use, and will take care of the processing, editing, and publishing of your podcast, without the need for any actual editing software. It's also got a library of music and jingles now that by-pass any need to find your own audio branding (see below!).
So whether you’re a complete beginner, or an experienced podcaster looking to drastically cut down on your production time, Alitu: The Podcast Maker could be the answer you’re looking for!
There’s no rule to say your podcast must have music, but many choose to add some at the beginning and end to add that extra layer of professionalism.
Though you might see films or TV shows with 1 minute + of intro music, don’t copy this in your podcast. I’d say that you don’t want to have a piece of music on its own for any longer than 15 seconds.
What Music Can I Use?
There are many websites that have music you can legally use on your podcast. This type of music will usually be referred to as royalty free, stock, or library music. Usually you can pay a one off fee for a song which entitles you to use it on your show, or you can now get subscriptions that give you access to a huge library.
It's possible to find free music if you search for ‘creative commons’ licensed music, but it's often very commonly used and not the best quality.
There are also varying levels of creative commons licenses. Some are very liberal, whilst others ban you from using that music for commercial purposes. Always check the source site and make sure you have permission to use a particular piece of music.
Where Can I Find Podcast Music?
There are a few good places to get podcast music. First, you've got the free option: Incompetech. This works, but since it's one of the only free sources, the music is really common. You'll hear it all over the place, so you definitely wont be unique.
If you can budget even $12 then you can make sure you're a lot more unique. For this we use Audioblocks, which is a monthly subscription service, although you can cancel after the first month and still get 3 tracks on the cheapest level.
For that subscription, you get access to over 100,000 music tracks, loops and sound effects to jazz up your show. Audioblocks let you use their music forever, so jump in for a month, download a range of tracks and try it out. You can always cancel after the first month and continue to use those tracks you downloaded.
If you want to really step things up there’s also Music Radio Creative who will create tailored intros and outros for your show using music and professional voice overs. Or you can ask a musical friend or band to create something for you, or to use one of their existing songs.
Deeper Dive: How to Find Podcast Music.
Just like your episode titles, first impressions are everything. Having attractive cover art that stands out is vital when your show lines up against thousands of others in the iTunes store.
Just like music, creative commons licensing can be found in visual art too. Many podcasters use creative commons/stock images to create cover art on platforms like Canva.
You can also have artwork completely custom designed by us through our own cover art service, or approach an artistic or photography-loving friend to see if they will help you put something together.
Ideally your cover art should be at least 1400 x 1400 pixels, in JPG or PNG form, and under 500kb in size. Stick to these specs and it’ll help you avoid having any issues in directories like iTunes. Your artwork will often be viewed by potential listeners in a much smaller format, so avoid cluttering it full of details that could turn it into a mess. It should be clearly readable when only around 200px wide.
Deeper Dive: Designing Great Podcast Cover Art🎧
Publishing Your Podcast
When it comes to getting your podcast out there for everyone to hear, you’ll need a podcast hosting account, sometimes called a media host. Media or Podcast hosts are services that store your audio and allow your listeners to listen, download, and subscribe to your podcast.
One common misconception when learning how to make a podcast is that you upload your podcast to places like iTunes. This actually isn’t the case. As this was a commonly asked question we talked about media hosts and getting your show into iTunes in detail in our ‘How to Upload a Podcast‘ article.
In short, though, you need to sign up with a media hosting service to host your audio files, and you can either have a website set up on their site to deliver them, or place them on your own existing website.
We use a few different media hosts, and you can read what we think of them all here:
Or, here are what I see as the best 3 hosts on the market right now, and the differences between:
Buzzsprout is the cheapest good option ($12/month)
Captivate is the best for multiple shows ($19/month)
Transistor is the best for private podcast feeds ($19/month)
Submitting to Directories
Once you’ve created your show inside your media host of choice, you can then submit it to various directories, where listeners can discover, subscribe to, and download it.
Any good host – and all three I've listed above – will have a good set of auto-submit or guided-submission tools. So, they make it easy to get your show into Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and other popular spots.
What Website do you Put your Shownotes & Players On?
When you sign up for media hosting, you often get a free website with it too. Buzzsprout, Captivate and Transistor all give you a simple but decent-looking site for your Podcast. If you’re running a a hobby show, this is a good option to keep things nice and easy.
But, if you want more control, more tools, your own branding and to own the space where your podcast lives, then you’ll want to create your own website for it. That means buying web hosting too. I recommend Bluehost as a good value option for this.
If you’ve already got a website for your business or your brand, then you don’t need extra web hosting – you can just set up your podcast on your main website. Check out how to install podcasting tools on your website here.
Alternatively, you can set up a brand new WordPress website as a home for your podcast – it’s surprisingly easy!
HOW TO START A PODCAST: NEXT STEPS
Once your podcast is launched and out in the world, that’s when you’ll move on to thinking about promotion and building your listener-base.
We actually have a course that can guide you on this front too. It’s called 30 Days of Audience Growth, and it gives you one actionable tip a day over the course of a month. This’ll really help you gain the visibility and authority needed to steadily increase the impact your show has within your niche!
If you put the work in, stick at it, and consistently deliver great content for your audience, then you’ll eventually be in a position to think about monetising your podcast too.
In the meantime though, that concludes our crash course on how to start a podcast. I’ve tried to include as many relevant links throughout the article as possible which go more in-depth on each particular topic. However, you can let me know if anything is missing or if you’d like more information by leaving a comment below.
And if you’d like some more help in launching and growing your podcast, then don’t rush off just yet. We have a couple of great options available to you.
The “Get help to learn how to do it yourself” Option
The Podcast Host Academy is our collection of courses and other support to help you get your show out there.
The starting point is our Podcast Launch course, which takes you through every single step of making your show live, right from that initial idea. And you'll find a bunch of other resources in the Academy too, from presentation skills, to equipment guides, to editing courses.
We have a Podcast Healthcheck service coming soon, too, which is where you can get us to review one of your episodes. The end result will be a plan with a list of suggested improvements and next steps, so you can go ahead and make it even better in future.
The “Personal Plan-on-a-Plate” Option
The Podcast Launch Package is the way to work directly with us. Here we’ll spend 4 one hour sessions coaching you through the entire process of designing, planning, and launching your podcast.
On top of that we can also produce your first 4 episodes for you too, if you want that help. This is the ideal option for those who want tailored advice and guidance from idea to launch – as well as a premium level of production from the very first episode!
We’d love to work with you there!
Just in it for the Gear?
Yea, I know how you feel. I just do this for the shiny things. In that case, forget your planning, and jump right to the kit!
NEED HELP WITH…?
Here's a course that might help
The Launch Series: from Zero to Live in Simple Steps
Our 3-part Launch series is designed to hold your hand through the entire podcast launch process, from planning your show to making it live on the web. For a step-by-step, in-detail, no-jargon guide to getting your show out into the world, start here!Check out the Launch Series
Here's a tool that might help:
Alitu: The Podcast Maker
Alitu is a web app that makes podcasting easy. You upload your raw audio, then Alitu polishes it up, adds your music, helps you edit and publishes the final episode.Check out Alitu