Luckily in my day job as a digital manager, I’ve been able to experiment with different forms of content marketing, and as a big advocate of podcasts, I thought I’d give starting a podcast a try.
Now 5 episodes in, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in various aspects, but also learnt a huge amount… So I thought I’d share my biggest learning’s about how to start a podcast, and hopefully save a lot of time and frustration for others thinking of doing so.
Note these 7 things I’ve learnt are more on the technical side as opposed to the content side. As the podcast is very new, most of my learning has just been in actually recording and getting the thing live, rather than in building an audience and marketing the podcast etc.
1 – It’s vital to do your research to know the technical aspects
This is so key. Before I even sat in front of a microphone, I needed to do my research. What recording equipment would I need? How much would it cost to set up and host the podcast? Would there be an audience? How could I record and what software would I need? What was the process of actually getting a podcast live? How do you get on iTunes? What other platforms should you be on?
Luckily having been a big fan of podcasts (one being Pat Flynn’s), I knew that his tutorial videos would be a good place to start. He has some great free tutorial videos that walk you through pretty much all of the basics you’ll need to know on how to get a podcast set up. Some of the services etc he talks about may not apply to all, but the bulk of the content is still extremely useful.
Also in regards to doing your research, learning how to use recording software such as Audacity, is essential. For years I used to have expensive microphones when I used to record music, and never got close to the right sound quality. A lot of the reason wasn’t the microphone, it was that I didn’t know how to use the recording software and the features it had.
A key one here is noise reduction. This is recording 3-5 seconds of just the room noise before you speak, which allows you to then use this as a sample of unwanted noise, you put this ‘noise profile’ of unwanted noise into Audacity, and then can select the whole track and Audacity removes it. You know that sort of muffled background noise that always seems to be there… No more.
2 – You don’t need an expensive microphone, you just need to know how to use it…
Similar to the above, whenever I’d used microphones in the past, I never got close to the quality that I wanted, or the reviews and price of the microphone suggested I should… I went to stores to ask and ended up buying unnecessary gear. In fact I just needed to know how to use my microphone properly.
This sounds SO obvious probably to many, but for the microphone I’m currently using (which is a Samson Go, Clip On USB Mic). I thought it was just a bit rubbish because it was a relatively cheap, portable starter microphone. However, the simple problem was I had it on the ‘omni’ setting, not the ‘cardioid’ setting. Omni, means it picks up sound from all directions, and cardioid (which I now use) just from one direction. The difference this makes to quality really is incredible as you’re not picking up all the extra unnecessary sounds you don’t want. Also apologies for any people who know about microphones that this seems massively obvious to, I’m a newbie so had no idea…
3 – Make sure you follow some key basics when you’re recording
The first pretty big error I made was also very silly, so experienced sound engineers, prepare to chuckle… I only realised recently after hours of recording past episodes. That I wasn’t actually recording using my proper microphone…
So let me explain. I use my Bose headphones to listen to what I’m recording which I plug into the side of the mic. These have a microphone built in, and what Audacity (my recording software) did, was automatically select and use the microphone on the headphones to record, not the proper microphone plugged into the USB port… Of which I had absolutely no idea, and which took me far too long to realise. Of course when I switched to the actual microphone the quality improved ridiculously.
A couple of other important aspects are firstly, that you keep a consistent distance from the microphone. This means usually 2-3 inches without varying your distance too much. This means your volume and the sound quality will remain more consistent and be better overall.
Also try to record in a room that isn’t too echoey, so ideally one which isn’t too big without lots of mirrors and bare walls etc. If you have a room with lots of material, so curtains or clothes, etc to absorb the noise not reflect it, these are ideal. It’s important to note though, this is more minor and you should experiment in different areas to see if there’s a significant difference in quality.
4 – Audacity is THE free recording software you should use
This might be slightly biased, but I’ve used Audacity (screenshot above) for years as a windows user without garage band, and it hass always served me well. It seems to be THE go to free recording software used by many to record quickly and easily. The interface is very simple, and there are plenty of tutorials out there to show you how to use the many great features such as, noise reduction, EQ, normalisation etc, so it’s an amazing way to learn how to record and edit in a simple fashion.
5 – Libsyn is an excellent & user friendly platform for hosting
So when you start a podcast, you need to create a feed and host your podcast. After watching videos etc on the topic, it seems pretty darn complicated… Luckily however, Libsyn is a service that makes the process so much easier. It’s used by many popular and successful podcasters and once again is so user friendly, and provides different affordable options for hosting your pod depending on what you need and how much you plan to upload each month.
You can also see all of your stats etc, embed episodes on your own website, automatically upload to youtube, etc etc. It’s generally for me sort of like WordPress is to blogging, in that it does lots of the complicated stuff behind the scenes for you and makes life easier.
6 – Recording & editing is a lot more time consuming that you’d think (especially if you’re a perfectionist like me)
Our podcast is in a scientific field, in a very niche area around the pharmaceutical industry. Hence why I haven’t mentioned or promoted it here as it’s pretty unrelated to anything I speak about on my blog. The idea behind creating a podcast, is as a way of repurposing our content, which was originally scientific articles published in a magazine. So that people could listen on the go and have a different way of finding us.
This means recording the articles in an interesting and informative way for people to listen to, then going through and editing them down, which is a lengthy process. I’ll always try and make sure the quality and pronunciation is correct, as well as going through and editing any unwanted background noises, breaths, recording breaks etc. Often each episode will take hours of recording and editing, often for a result of about 20-30 minutes of podcast.
7 – Even if your podcast is niche, people will listen!
So no this isn’t a guarentee, but for us even though our numbers are still low (as expected with being brand new), we are getting people listening to the podcast, which is great. The fact that anyone is finding our articles in such a niche area, and spending time downloading and listening to them, really is rewarding. I can honestly say that the podcast seems to have more downloads than our YouTube videos have views, so that tells you something.
So I hope these tips have proved useful and will save people time in avoiding the (obvious seeming) mistakes I made. I’m not super technical, but I’m also not too shabby with computers and tech. So having made these mistakes myself, this means others probably have or could easily make them too. The whole process really is rewarding and enjoyable however, and I hope to keep you all updated on any future podcasting triumphs and endeavours (including a possible podcast of my own…).
Thanks for taking an interest in my blog, it’s a pleasure to have you! If you’ve enjoyed my blog then you can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, or you can listen to my podcast all about blogging.