Thanks to the success of shows like Serial, TED Radio Hour, and The Nerdist, podcasts have become more popular than ever. Here’s how to create, record, and publish your own basic podcast—and get people to listen.
Before You Start, Be Ready to Commit
Before you rush into things, it’s important to keep in mind that podcasts take a lot of effort to get going. They’re not just recordings of people talking (not the good ones, anyway). Pat Flynn, host of the Smart Passive Income podcast, recommends you treat podcasting the same way you would any other big project:
Podcasting is extremely fun and exciting, but there is one thing you must do before you start podcasting: Commit. You must internally commit to podcasting, as you must do with anything that is potentially beneficial but takes some time and effort to do.
It’s easy to assume that podcasts are easy to produce because they’re audio only, but don’t be fooled. They can take up a lot of time to put together, especially at first. Also, podcasts do best when they’re released consistently. If you’re interested in developing any kind of listener base, you have to be ready to release episodes on a regular basis. All in all, podcasting can be fun work, but it’s still work and should be treated as such.
You also shouldn’t expect to get rich from podcasting either. It’s certainly possible to generate income from podcasting, but that usually requires advertisements and sponsorships—both of which you’ll get after you’ve built up a listenership big enough to make it worthwhile to advertisers. If you’re not interested in starting a podcast for the fun of it or to have your voice heard, you might not get much out of it unless you already have an audience.
What You’ll Need
You can’t start a podcast without equipment, and good equipment will go a long way. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Microphone(s): Any microphone will work for recording your podcast, but listeners can usually tell the difference between low and high quality microphones. If you’re not sure what to look for, our list of the five best desktop microphones is a great place to start (I use four analog Audio-Technica AT2020s for my own podcast). As you shop around, you’ll also need to decide whether you want to use a USB or analog (XLR) microphone. USB mics convert analog sound into digital so you can plug a USB mic directly into any computer and start recording without much hassle, but you could potentially get lower audio quality compared to analog. Considering you don’t need any extra tools or devices to record with a USB mic, they can be a little cheaper in the long run. Analog microphones use XLR connectors, which means you need another device to get your audio onto your computer, but you can get higher audio quality and can use them with other sound equipment (if you had a PA system or wanted to play live music, for example). Of course, if you have a gaming headset or other basic microphone around, you can easily use that too.
- Portable XLR Recorder (optional): If you plan on using analog microphones for your podcast, you’ll need something that captures your analog audio and converts it to digital. Portable XLR recorders can capture multiple microphone channels and allow you to do basic sound level adjusting and muting on the fly. Audio files automatically get organized and stored on a memory card that you can insert into a card reader or slot in your computer. These are amazing tools, but they can be expensive. You can find them for anywhere between $100 and $500, depending on how many channels and options you need (I use a $400 Zoom H6 Handy Recorder with four available analog channels).
- Audio Interface (optional): If you want to record directly to your computer with your analog microphones, you’ll need an audio interface. These devices allow you to plug in one or more analog microphones and will convert the analog audio to digital. Most audio interfaces will connect to your computer via USB or Firewire. Audio interfaces can cost as little as $30 and go as high as $300, depending on what you need. (You can see why a USB microphone is a cheaper option.)
- A Computer: Any Windows computer or Mac should work fine to record, edit, and upload your podcast. Thankfully, editing audio doesn’t take a ton of computing power. Additionally, depending on how you choose to record—directly to the computer or onto a dedicated recording device—your computer will also need the right ports. USB microphones, for example, will obviously need an open USB port. If you’re using analog microphones with a portable XLR recorder or audio interface device, you’ll need either a 3.5 mm audio-in jack, a USB port, or in some cases, a Firewire port. So before you spend any money on equipment, make sure you have a computer that can support it.
- Audio Editing Software: For the actual recording and editing, you’ll need a Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW), there are a lot of good options out there, but the licenses for some of them can cost a pretty penny, though. Licenses for professional level DAWs like Reason or Pro Tools can cost anywhere between $300 and $900. Because of that, most people will recommend free open source programs like Audacity when you’re just getting started, and that’s what we’ll use an example throughout this how-to guide.
- Pop Filters (optional): The clearer your audio can sound, the better. Pop filters, while not required, are fairly cheap and can keep your plosives from making a nasty sound on your recording. If you don’t want to buy any, though, you can make some of your own.
You might be thinking that all this equipment is pretty expensive, and you’re not wrong. However keep in mind that decent audio equipment will last forever if you take care of it. It may be expensive to get started, but after the initial purchase, you’re set.