This How to Guide will help you:
Listening to a Podcast
Before you create your own podcast, you should listen to a number of professional podcasts to hear how it is done. To listen to a podcast:
- Go to a podcasting site (a number are listed at the bottom of this guide).
- Click on the hyperlink for each podcast you want. You can listen right away on your computer (Windows, Mac and Linux support podcasting) or download the podcast to a mobile device.
- You can also subscribe to one or more RSS feeds. Your podcasting software will check the RSS feeds regularly and automatically pull content that matches your playlist.
- Check out our list of Podcasts about Podcasting at the bottom of this guide.
Collecting your Equipment
In order to create a professional sounding podcast, you will need the following pieces of equipment:
- Microphone - ideally a separate podcasting mic, not the mic on your computer or mobile phone.
- Pop filter - this helps to reduce the “popping” effect you get by saying specific sounds.
- Boom arm - allows you to articulate the mic into a comfortable recording position.
- Audio recorder - a computer and some recording software will work just fine
- Audio editing software - to help you record and edit your audio. Two great free options are GarageBand (Mac) or Audacity.
- Online recorder - important if you plan on interviewing guests remotely (online). Two great options are Zencaster and Squadcast.
- Intro and Outro music - the best podcasts have unique intro and outro music that provides a consistent and familiar brand for their listeners. This is something you could create yourself or find online. Visit our Audio Assets section to learn about free audio resources.
- Podcast host - a podcast host acts as the hub for your show, where you will upload all future episodes and add or change details of your show. You can upload a thumbnail for your show, add a description and add tags to help new listeners find you.
All of these items are available to the NAU and CCC community in the Cline Library's three Production Studios.
Planning your Podcast
Planning is the initial, often overlooked, stage of making a great podcast. You'll want to spend a good amount of time thinking about 1) why you want to make your podcast and, 2) who you are making the podcast for. 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. Both of these questions are important to keep in mind throughout the entire podcasting process so that you can stay motivated, even when you're finding it difficult to get a show out.
Choosing a Topic and Format
When selecting the topic of your podcast, you want a topic that is focused and targeted. Try to narrow it down to something you can speak about for many episodes (100+) but that isn’t so broad that you won’t appeal to your potential audience. For example, instead of having an “outdoor” podcast, talk about hiking – or even more specific, like hiking in the Flagstaff area. You can always expand your topic later as you get more popular.
Once you have a topic in mind, start to think about what podcast format would best fit that topic. You can create your own unique structure or use one of the five most popular podcast formats:
- Monologue podcasts - one host who speaks about their expertise or experience.
- Co-hosted podcasts - two or more hosts having a conversation about their expertise or experiences.
- Interview based podcasts - a host interviews and guides a conversation around a guests’ expertise.
- Panel podcasts - a host moderates a discussion between a group of guests around a single topic.
- Story-telling podcasts - either fiction or non-fiction, a host narrates a story typically including sound effects, audio sourced from real-life, and multiple voice actors.
There are pros and cons to each format so think about the best way to educate your future audience about your topic. Many popular podcasts mix together a few styles over different episodes or through recurring segments. After building your confidence, you can adjust the format as the podcast progresses and experiment with new angles.
Naming your Podcast
You have a lot of freedom when choosing your podcast's name. But no matter what it should convey who you are and what the show is in about 29 characters or less. Concise names typically pack a stronger punch because they stay extremely relevant to their topic. Here’s some handy tips to keep in mind as you brainstorm:
- Make the name short and sweet, but don’t forget about keywords: Describe your show’s tone, content, and personality. Think about how people search for information related to your topic and include those key phrases.
- Let it roll off the tongue: Don’t forget that you’ll be saying the name aloud just as often as writing it down. Make sure it doesn’t feel like a mouthful and comes out clearly each time.
- Secure similar domain name and social media handles: You’ll want these channels to mirror your podcast name as closely as possible so listeners can easily find you online.
- Don’t get too clever: If you have to explain your name’s meaning to potential listeners, move on. This isn’t the place to drum up your quirkiest pun, keep it simple.
Creating a Show Outline
Once you have a topic, format, and name in mind you can begin to plan the general outline of your podcast. Your outline can follow whatever structure works best for your topic, but breaking the outline into short segments helps keep the attention of your audience and move the podcast along. This outline should remain fairly standard for all of your podcast episodes so that the audience knows what to expect each time. Here is an example outline for a 18-20 minute episode:
- Show intro (30-60 seconds) - who you are, what you’re going to talk about
- Intro music (30-60 seconds) - repeat for each show so listeners identify the jingle with your show
- Topic 1 (3 minutes)
- Topic 2 (3 minutes)
- Interlude (30 seconds) - music or break
- Topic 3 (3 minutes)
- Topic 4 (3 minutes)
- Closing remarks (2 minutes) - thank audience, thank guests, talk about the next show
- Closing music (2 minutes) - suggest same as Intro music jingle
Creating a Script
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. The intimate nature of podcasting is far more suited to being a conversation, as opposed to a lecture. Because of this, try to wean yourself away from a fully scripted show and instead focus on 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.
Also, the way you open and close your episodes is really important too!
Recording your Podcast
Recording a podcast is almost as easy as listening to one. Here's how the process works:
- Plug a microphone into your computer
- Install an audio recorder (free software for audio recorders includes Audacity).
- Create an audio file by making a recording (you can talk, sing or record music) and saving it to your computer.
Editing your Podcast
The editing process is where you splice in your intro and outro, remove gaps of dead air, cut out your mistakes, and eliminate background noises and those impossible-to-ignore pops. Altering audio files can feel daunting for a newcomer so here are a few key tips:
- Make notes while you record: jot down when major mistakes happen as you’re recording. If you take too long to respond to a question or misspeak, take a note a where it occurs so you can easily find it later.
- Use sound markers: an alternative to taking written notes, try sound markers to signify where mistakes are. A loud pen click or clap will send a spike in the audio level, making it easy to spot the areas you want to remove.
- Learn the software’s keyboard shortcuts: keep a list of the common keyboard commands nearby as you start the editing process. Hitting ‘CTRL + Z’ is likely easier than hunting for the ‘undo’ button.
- Come back with fresh ears: after editing for a few hours, try stepping away then coming back with fresh ears. It’s easy to ignore noticeable mistakes the longer you sit with the same episode.
Editing should enhance your show rather than used as a crutch. Investing resources in planning each episode allows you to spend less time editing and more time creating captivating content.
Exporting your Audio File
Audio files, especially podcasts, need to be exported with specific settings to enhance the listening experience. The exporting process will be different in each audio software you may be using, but here are some general things to consider:
- First, you’ll need to choose the right bitrate setting. A bitrate helps control an audio’s sound quality. The higher the bitrate, the higher the quality. However, a higher bitrate creates a larger audio file that takes longer for someone to stream.
- Next you'll need to decide on how loud your podcast will be by setting a LUFS level. LUFS is a measurement of loudness over a period of time and is used to standardize the episode loudness. If someone plays five episodes in a row, they won’t need to touch the volume and they’ll all sound the same.
- Some recommended setting for your audio files include:
- File format: mp3
- Bitrate: 128 kbps
- Mono or Stereo: Mono is sufficient for spoken word recordings but if you use sound effects, stereo settings are a nice touch.
- LUFS: -19 LUFS for mono recordings and -16 LUFS for stereo
Choosing a Hosting Site
On the surface, it may appear all podcast hosting providers are the same. But the better services offer more enhanced features to help you grow, without compromising the basics. When choosing your podcast hosting provider, think about these 5 key functions:
- Storage capabilities - Consider your storage needs in the near and long term. Or what if now or down the road you want to produce multiple podcasts? It’s important to make sure the podcast host is capable of hosting each of your shows on a separate RSS feed and you’re able to manage them within one dashboard.
- Website integrations - Many podcasters choose WordPress to build their podcast website. Make sure the podcast hosting provider has a WordPress plugin that can simplify managing the show. If you plan to host your website using SquareSpace or Wix, more advanced hosting providers will provide domain routing capabilities so new episodes automatically appear on your site.
- Audience Analytics - To grow a podcast’s engagement, you need to understand what’s working and what’s not. Check which insights a provider offers and which ones you may be missing out on.
- Marketing Integrations - From transcription services to audiograms to repurposing episodes into video content, these functions can make your podcast more accessible. Save yourself some time by working with a provider that offers all of these services in one bundle.
Publishing your Podcast
Podcast listening platforms and apps don’t actually store your podcast’s information. Instead, they receive the audio files from a podcast hosting service via an RSS feed. Your podcast’s RSS feed is what will connect you to your audience, so it’s important to choose a podcast hosting service that fits your needs. At the bottom of this page you will find a list of potential podcast hosting services for you to explore.
Once you have selected a host, it’s critical to submit your podcast to as many podcast directories as possible to make it accessible to everyone, no matter which platforms they prefer to use. All you need to do is make an account with each directory and submit your RSS link. The major players are Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, Podcasher, and TuneIn.