Podcasting for Beginners: How It All Works, Easily Explained!

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What's all this podcasting malarky about? Get the lowdown in this Podcasting for Beginners crash course.

It’s time to break down podcasting for beginners. To strip it back to basic principles. 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 and you haven’t a clue, really, what it is! Well, we’re here to help. This is a 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…

Podcasting 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 on 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.

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.

How Does Listening Work?

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

Do you like the idea of listening to fiction podcasts? Space podcasts? Health podcasts? Mediation podcasts? Video game podcasts? Podcasts for your kids? Or even, trucking podcasts? You’ll find podcasts on every topic imaginable.

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 are 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.

For all the detail on what apps to use on every device, and how to use them, check out our guide on how to listen to a podcast on any device, easily, and for free.

There’s 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
  • Radiolab
  • The Daily
  • 99% Invisible
  • Stuff your Should Know
  • How I Built This

Many of these shows are run by media companies like NPR, or by people who already had an audience before they had a podcast. Here are the best podcasts in the USA right now, in terms of popularity.

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 it’s 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. One of the most important concepts when looking at podcasting for beginners is to realise that some of the most successful shows around have pretty average sized audiences. But, those audiences are hyper-engaged. They absolutely LOVE the host, and the content they create.

That’s the difference – 10,000 rabid fans are worth more than 100,000 casual listeners any day of the week.

Can ANYONE Create a Podcast?

Pretty much! There are a few things you need to create your own show. 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.

podcasting for beginners

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

Podcasting for Beginners: Is It Expensive?

This is one of the biggest intimidating factors in podcasting for beginners. Is it going to cost a lot? But, the happy answer is that 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.

Check out How Much Does Podcasting Cost? and our guide to the Best Budget Mics to help you get a better idea of the money side of things.

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.

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, as well as use a Podcast Host Planner notebook to increase your efficiency. Check out our main guide on how much time it takes to run a podcast for the full lowdown here.

Podcasting for Beginners: What’s the Simplest Way to Start?

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

Firstly, you need the means to record your podcast. For beginners, a common way to do this is to buy a quality but affordable USB mic.

You can record and edit your podcast using software called Audacity. Audacity is free, though the trade-off is that it can appear complex to the beginner, and could take a bit of time to learn.

An alternative is to use Alitu, which is designed to make podcast recording and editing as simple as humanly possible. With Alitu, you have the added bonus of easily being able to record remote calls with guests anywhere in the world, too!

Finally, you need somewhere to upload your podcast, in order for the world to hear it. These services are known as “podcast hosting providers”, or simply “podcast hosts”.

The best place to get going 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. Then, our free Podcast Planner tool will get you set up with your own personalised program, too.

Personalised Podcast Planner

I hope this guide to podcasting for beginners cleared up a bunch of the confusion, and perhaps even encouraged you to listen to a few. If you do, you’re about to start a journey into some of the best, more engaging content on the planet. Have fun!