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Podcasting for Beginners | Get the Lowdown

Maybe your favourite celebrity has just launched a new podcast, and you're not entirely sure what that means. Or perhaps your best friend runs one and keeps pestering you to listen to it.

Podcasting might even be the central topic of your discussion at work these days, and you're feeling a bit left out.

Whatever the reason podcasting has suddenly appeared on your radar, here's a quick crash course to help you grasp the basics.

You might even like the sound of them enough that you end up making your own – more on that later.

At the very least though, you'll be able to humour your friends…

Podcasts for Beginners

A podcast is essentially a talk radio series, but on demand. This means that listeners don't need to turn up and tune in live, but can listen any time (and pretty much anywhere) they like.

Podcasts tend to be focused around a theme or topic. Often, the most successful podcasts are the ones that really niche down and get in-depth into a specific subject.

These shows could never exist on traditional radio because they'd ultimately be judged on listener numbers, rather than audience interest and engagement.

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Podcasters also have the freedom to create long episodes without time constraints placed on them by other shows.

Podcast listeners are able to decide exactly what they'd like to listen to, whereas radio listeners have a lot less control as their options are broader and less targeted.

Podcasts have been described as “narrowcasting”, which stands apart from the “BROAD-casting” of traditional media.

A podcaster's aim is to find the right listeners, not the most listeners.

For a more detailed breakdown of what podcasts are, and how they work, check out our listening guide.

How do I Listen?

Finding shows on exactly the type of content you'd like to listen to is one of the biggest appeals of podcasting. There's over half a million podcasts out there to choose from – and they're all free.

The audio aspect is another big strength too. This means that listeners can consume their favourite shows whilst doing other tasks–tasks like walking the dog, doing the garden, or driving to work.

So with podcasts, you don't have to worry about the visuals, but there's just as much variety in the types of shows you can listen to. Audio-only is in no way limiting to the medium.

Nowadays, the majority of podcast listening takes place via smartphones. There's a plethora of different apps you can use to listen with. These apps let you subscribe to your favourite shows too, so new episodes are delivered to your phone automatically.

You can also listen to podcasts on your computer, or pretty much any device with an internet connection.

Check out our guide on how to listen to a podcast for a deeper dive on this subject.

What are the most popular shows?

There are a core of numerically popular podcasts that you'll always see “featured” on the front page of listening apps. Shows such as Serial, This American Life, The Joe Rogan Experience, WTF with Marc Maron, and Radiolab.

Many of these shows are run by media companies like NPR, or by people who already had an audience before they had a podcast.

But there are a few “indie” shows that buck that trend, and have become huge despite starting from zero.

The wider a show's target audience is, the less its able to really niche down on a subject. So a lot of the most numerically popular podcasts have more in common with well-made radio shows than they do with the rest of the medium.

These shows are still great products. But they arguably don't give an overall view of how podcasting looks and sounds as a whole.

There's a lot of superbly made independent podcasts out there that don't have big audiences when you compare them to traditionally popular shows. But this tends to be because their topic is focused on a much smaller target audience.

Unlike traditional media though, podcasting isn't all about hard numbers.

podcasting for beginnersCan anyone create a podcast?

Pretty much. There's a few things you need to create one, but for the majority of people, they are easily obtainable.

If you have an internet connection – which you clearly do, given that you're reading this – then you're halfway there.

We'll talk more about how to start in a moment, but the bottom line is that there's no gatekeepers in podcasting. Nobody can prevent you from making your own show.

Is it expensive?

You can spend as little or as much as you like on podcasting.

It's possible to run a podcast for free, though the tools you'll have at your disposal will place some limitations on your show.

You definitely don't need to spend a lot to make a great podcast though. The most important thing is your content, and that isn't something you actually buy with money.

But you can spend a little cash on some tools to make that content sound more professional, and to make sure it's delivered to your audience in a reliable manner.

For more on this, check out how much does podcasting cost?

Does it take a lot of time?

Again, there are many variables here. It depends on what kind of podcast you're running, the amount of work involved in creating each episode, and how frequently you're releasing them.

For more on this, check out how much time does it take to run a podcast?

There's no getting around the fact that you'll need to dedicate some time to your podcast. Especially if you want it to be successful. There are certainly ways to make your podcasting process as efficient as possible, though.

For example, if you have little time, but a bit of money to spend on your show, then you outsource the more laborious tasks, such as editing. You can also batch produce your episodes to cut down on set-up and tidy-up times.

What's the simplest way to start?

If you have an idea for your own podcast series, then you can dive on right in and start making it.

Firstly, you need a means to record your podcast. For beginners, a common way to do this is to use your phone, or buy a USB microphone.

Once you've recorded your first episode, you might consider editing it to add a bit of polish. This is an optional step however, and doesn't need to hold you up from getting started.

Then, you need somewhere to upload to in order for the world to hear it.

The best place to get going though, is our step by step guide on how to start a podcast. That'll lead you through everything, from planning your content, to publishing your first episode.

You'll find everything you need over there to create your very own series!


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Written by:

Matthew McLean

Matthew is an audio drama writer and producer who enjoys talking about podcasts. He makes the tea at The Podcast Host, and is a loyal servant of adopted house rabbits.

November 9th 2018