Spoiler alert: It’s not much
What is this?
My podcast is currently getting around 75,000 downloads per month with an additional 250,000+ views on YouTube. I should hit that magical 1,000,000 download number in another month or so, the show already has nearly 3 million views via YouTube, and I finally cracked the Spotify top 50 charts for history. I’m not saying any of that to brag — my numbers certainly are not earth-shattering and I’m not exactly drowning in sponsors. Still, though, I thought maybe I was onto something. Maybe I could teach other people how to launch and grow their podcasts. Maybe I could make a course!
Eh, fuck that. The truth is I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I know what kinda sorta works in my niche but more than likely I wouldn’t be able to provide you with any sort of special insight or guidance that you can’t already find for free online.
Also, I didn’t want to be just another dipshit guru trying to sell people on my expertise.
So here it is — no click funnel, no gimmicks. I’m not selling anything or asking for anything in return (although if you wanted to buy me a coffee I wouldn’t say no).
Without further ado, this is everything I know about creating podcasts. It’s not perfect and you should question everything and ultimately just pick and choose what works for you. I’m in no way an expert and I’ve basically just stumbled/lucked my way into getting higher-than-average downloads.
Temper your expectations
While it may be extremely easy to create a podcast, it’s very difficult to create a good podcast. Matter of fact, podcasting is such hard work that the majority of new podcasts don’t make it past their first six or seven episodes.
It’s not easy and it’s not always rewarding.
Considering the amount of work, sweat, and tears you’ll put into your show, it can be very demoralizing when nobody listens to it. And I hate to break it to you, but statistically, there’s a very good chance that’s exactly what will happen.
Buzzsprout, one of the top podcast hosting sites, makes the claim — per their analytics — that 75% of podcasts are getting just 107 or fewer downloads per episode. If that’s not discouraging enough then consider this next stat. Once again, per Buzzsprout, 50% of podcasts are only getting 28 downloads or less, per episode. 28!
I don’t know about you, but I would find it very difficult to stay motivated if only 28 people were listening to my show, especially considering that at least a few of them are friends and family members who simply do so out of love and obligation.
Podcasting is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Matter of fact, not only do most podcasters earn zero income from their shows, but they stay in the red. They pay for all their equipment and hosting fees out of pocket and never receive a return on that investment.
I listed my download numbers earlier but even with 75,000 monthly downloads and hundreds of thousands of views per month on YouTube, I still don’t have sponsors knocking on my door. You wanna take a guess as to how many legitimate advertisers I’ve had approach me? A grand total of one. And once I shared my listener demographics, along with my rate, they decided to pass.
I do earn money from my podcast, mostly from YouTube ads. I get some additional ad revenue through Advertisecast and, of course, listener support via Patreon and BuyMeACoffee. And it’s still not even close to being what’s considered a living wage.
I say all of that to say this: Just because you start a podcast doesn’t mean you’re going to be reading those Better Help or Hello Tushy commercials anytime soon. Don’t expect any free swag from Meundies, either.
You need to consistently get over 5,000 downloads per episode before the advertisers even know you exist. And, to get over 5,000 downloads per episode you need to be better than over 99% of all the other podcasts.
Starting to get the picture?
It’s also important to remember that the internet — the medium in which your podcast will live — is a hellscape of cynicism and negativity. You put your all into your show, serve it up for free for the world to enjoy, only to have someone take a big steaming shit all over it. You will get poor reviews. You will have trolls. You will be ridiculed. And you may even pick up a stalker or two. This is just part of the game. If you don’t have a thick skin, then you may want to rethink putting yourself out there like this.
You can take solace in the fact that the haters are to be pitied more than anything else. For someone you don’t know to attack your work is more of a reflection on their own inner struggles, their lack of fulfillment and purpose in life, than it is on your podcast.
My apologies if I seem pessimistic, I just feel like I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t warn you. I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy; I’m just keeping it as real as possible before you invest any more time or money.
On the plus side of things, creating a podcast can also be extremely rewarding and addictive! I can say with absolute certainty that I am a changed man and a better person after immersing myself in the world of podcasting. You may not become rich (you almost certainly will not), and you may not crack any of the charts, but you’ll have fun, meet some really awesome people, and you’ll start to see doors open.
Podcasts aren’t YouTube. Podcasts aren’t Spotify
Technically a podcast is an audio file, usually an MP3, distributed via an RSS feed — also known as Really Simple Syndication.
Important to note that RSS is not limited to just audio. There are RSS readers that work in the same way as podcast apps, only for news articles and blogs. RSS delivery is just a convenient way to access the latest updates from your preferred whatever — be they podcasts, websites, or blogs.
We will go more in-depth on this later but contrary to popular belief, you do not upload your podcast to Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Once you create your show, all of your files will be stored on a host site of your choosing. This host site is where your podcast lives. The artwork, the audio files, everything. That host then will use all of your files to create an RSS feed.
Spotify, Apple, IHeart, Amazon, Spreaker — all of the places you want your podcast to be are essentially RSS readers. They’ll access the feed from the host site, read all of those files, and voila! Just like that, your voice will be available to the masses.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be on camera or create videos to be a podcaster. You don’t have to conduct interviews. You can create the show you want; however you want it to be, and if it’s audio and distributed via an RSS feed, it’s a podcast.
There is a lot more involved in the debate about the true definition of podcasting but, to quote James Cridland from Podnews, a podcast — in its most simple form — is on-demand audio. Like the radio, just on demand. And I think that’s a good explanation.
Coming up with an idea aka you’re not Joe Rogan
I’ll say this in the nicest way possible: Nobody — and I do mean nobody — wants to listen to you and your bros giggle about “anything and everything.”
When Rogan started his show he had the benefit of decades worth of experience professionally entertaining people, both as a comedian and as the star of two hit tv shows. Just because you can make your co-workers laugh doesn’t mean you can do what Joe — or insert your favorite celebrity podcast host — does. You also don’t have the benefit of a built-in audience.
So as tempting as it may be to start a podcast discussing whatever happens to be on your mind at any given moment, it’s likely not going to gain any traction.
In other words, if you’re interesting in building an audience it’s important to choose a niche. If you’re a hobby podcaster and you couldn’t give two shits about anyone not named mom every listening to your show, then disregard.
The discoverability problem
There are ongoing arguments as to whether or not podcasting has a discoverability problem. I happen to believe it does but wherever you stand on that particular debate there’s no denying that with millions of podcasts to choose from, it’s very easy to get lost in the noise. Especially if you try to create the afore mentioned show discussing “anything and everything.”
If you niche down, however, you’ve got a fighting chance.
Riches are in the niches (lol not really but it rhymes)
A niche is a narrowly defined topic that a specific group of people find interesting.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time, right? The same rule applies to podcasting. If your show is meant to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one.
Pick a topic — one topic — that you’re SUPER PASSIONATE about. If at all possible, pick another topic WITHIN that topic. Can you read, speak, and write about this topic for hours upon hours? That’s your niche.
If you’re having trouble, just sit down and make a list of all the shit your significant other is tired of hearing you ramble on about.
That’s what I did. I literally came home from work and made a list. 9 out of the 10 things I wrote down were Old West history related and voilà — I now host a history podcast about gunfighers and outlaws.
As far as the money goes (LOL!), I’m told that super-niche audiences are easier to monetize but I have no personal experience with that so take it with a huge grain of salt. We’ve all heard stories about some random dude starting a show about port-o-potties and then getting a huge brand deal, thus allowing him to podcast full-time. How common is this? I have no idea.
Just don’t niche down too much. If you start a show that only caters to left-handed people with astigmatism who also suffer from tourettes and who don’t know how to write in cursive…well, you might not find much of an audience.
What’s your why?
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to “define your why” and then create a listener avatar. Yeah — I’m already bored just typing that last sentence.
I’m not a businessman and I’m not a natural salesman. I can’t help you here but I have a sneaking suspicion that by using just a little common sense you’ll come out A-ok.
Naming your Podcast
Resist the temptation to be too clever when it comes to naming your show. Instead, choose a name that clearly defines what your podcast is about.
One way you can do this is by considering the words or phrases that someone might use to search for a similar podcast. If your show is about growing apples then “How to Grow Apples” is way better than “The Granny Smith Experience”.
Is “How to Grow Apples” as fun or creative? No, it’s not. But nobody is going to google “the granny smith podcast.” They will, however, use search phrases like “how to grow apples” or “podcasts about growing apples.”
Keeping it simple does not mean you should abandon originality
If you come up with the perfect podcast name only to discover that there’s another show with the same title, find something else. Yes, even if the other podcast sucks, and even if they haven’t released an episode in years. After all, you wouldn’t want someone mistaking their subpar content for yours, right?
Use podcastindex.org to determine if the name you chose has already been taken. I would also recommend searching Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube, along with a good ole fashioned Google search just to be on the safe side. Take it from me, re-branding is a bitch.
This next part is just a personal preference, but I’d also make sure there’s available .com. I know other domains are popular these days, like .tv or .net, but there’s still something about .com that projects professionalism. I’m 40 (ancient) so hopefully this advice isn’t just my inner boomer talking.
You can use Namecheap or GoDaddy to check on available domains. This advice goes for social media as well. Are there handles available on Instagram or Twitter? Or are they already taken by people who you don’t want your podcast or brand associated with?
By the way, I checked and not only is there not a podcast already called “How to Grow Apples” but howtogrowapples.com is available for just $12.87 a year! @howtogrowapples is also available on Twitter. Just saying.
And yes, you will need a website. Don’t stress out over it right now as it’s a very simple process, but maybe consider that .com when choosing the name of your podcast.
Consider the big picture
Avoid using the word podcast in your show’s name unless your niche is podcasting. No other mediums (movies, tv shows, books, etc) do this, other than maybe Dave Mathews Band but we ain’t Dave Mathews. You may want to branch out in the future and podcasting could be your gateway to other ventures like writing a book or selling merchandise. Create a name that’s all-encompassing and not just restricted to audio downloads.
And if you’re really stuck, you can always try a podcast name generator like Getwelder or even ChatGPT to get your creative juices flowing. Obviously, you’ll still have to double-check that these are available.
Choose a format
What sort of podcast do you want to create? Will you have a cohost or ride solo? Will you be interviewing people or telling stories? Monologue or narrative?
I can only speak to what I know — solo monologue storytelling-type podcasts. Then again, I am an introvert and prefer keeping things as simple as possible. The more people involved — the more moving parts — the harder and more complicated the process will be. Just something to keep in mind. I absolutely LOVE solo podcasting, though, so please don’t feel like you MUST have a cohost in order to get started.
Serial or Episodic?
For 99% of you, the answer is episodic. The only time you want to go with the serial format is if you’re releasing true seasons, with each season having a different theme, or if your show must be listened to in chronological order.
Script or no script?
Many of the gurus will caution against scripting your show, arguing that this will cause you to sound like you’re just reading words from a book rather than speaking naturally.
This is a valid concern. However, you can teach yourself to read in a conversational tone. My show is 100% scripted and I’ve found that if I practice reading aloud each day and write in the same style that I speak in, it’s not too hard to pull off.
If you have a natural gift of gab you may not need a script at all, in which case I’d recommend simply making a list of bullet points for each episode. Or if you’re really talented, you can just wing it! Me, personally, I need a script or I’ll forget my own name.
You don’t need any fancy software or subscription services to write a script. Microsoft Word or Google Docs will more than suffice.
How often will you be releasing a new episode?
It’s your show, so you can release it however and whenever you want. Most podcasts are either weekly, fortnightly — uppity way of saying they release a new episode every other week — or daily. There are podcasts that release just once a month, and there are podcasts like Hardcore History that only release a couple of times a year, but most fall within either daily, weekly, or biweekly.
My advice to you, as a beginner podcaster, is to plan on releasing a new episode every other week.
This way you don’t get too overwhelmed. If you find that publishing a new episode once a week would be a breeze and you’re sure you can stay on schedule, that’s fine. But take it slow at first. I promise, podcasting is harder than it sounds.
I’m going to go out on a limb and just say that a daily podcast is out of the question for most people, at least at this juncture. It’s just too much of a time commitment.
How long should your episodes be?
I don’t know who said it first (the great Dave Jackson, perhaps?) but a podcast episode should be however long it takes for you to say what you need to say and not a minute longer.
You do NOT have to have a hard limit. If one episode is 30 minutes, the next 45 minutes, that’s fine. This ain’t network tv. You’ll eventually find your own rhythm as you start releasing episodes. I’ve discovered that I can generally say what I need to say within 30–45 minutes. For you, it may be 10 minutes or it may be an hour and a half. Whatever works.
There are some who claim the ideal length of a podcast episode should be equal to or less than the average work commute — 28 minutes. I kinda feel like this is a boomer throwback to terrestrial radio, though.
We are no longer tethered by our proximity to a physical radio and people don’t just listen to podcasts when driving to and from work. Earbuds and smartphones allow us to listen on the go — whether we’re at the gym, walking the dog, doing dishes, mowing the yards, or slogging through a long shift at the factory. I have survived many a boring graveyard shift operating a machine or driving a forklift while listening to long-form podcasts.
TLDR: Make your podcast however long or short you want to make it.
What’s the best day of the week to release your podcast?
There’s no magic answer here. It seems like the podcasts that I personally subscribe to prefer releasing new episodes on Mondays or Wednesdays. If there’s a science behind that, I’m not aware of it.
The only suggestion I’d make — and it’s a soft suggestion — is to not release on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays. I have a gut feeling that even heavy podcast consumers are busy doing other things on the weekend and that by releasing Monday through Thursday you’ll lessen your chances of falling by the wayside.
However, I have no idea if there’s any hard data to back this up so if you want to publish episodes on Saturday afternoons be my guest.
As far as time of the day goes, I suppose that ensuring your new episodes are available first thing in the morning — when people are curating their playlists — might give you a slight edge but I don’t know.
Content is King
I believe that your release schedule and episode length aren’t all that meaningful. Content is still king and if your show is good, people will listen. However, there’s that discoverability problem. By choosing the correct format and release schedule, you’ll somewhat help make your show more discoverable.
Tools of the Trade
Alright, time for the fun stuff.
Technically you can create a podcast using nothing but your smartphone but I would strongly advise you not to do so. The truth is, you’re going to need to spend a little money. The good news? It does NOT have to cost an arm and a leg.
Allow me to save you a lot of time: Just ignore the rest of this section and purchase a Samson Q2U. You can find them on Amazon for between $60 and $70 and it’s a perfectly fine microphone for podcasting.
Could you get an even cheaper microphone or even use the gaming headset you already have? Sure! Or you could do like I did when I first started and just use the stock voice recorder on your cell phone. However, your quality will suffer if you do so.
It’s my opinion that you’re doing yourself and your listeners a disservice if you don’t put in the minimum amount of effort needed to create a somewhat polished and semi-professional podcast.
If you’re just messing around and you don’t care about growing an audience — if this is just purely a creative outlet or just a way for you to vent — that’s fine. In that case, use whatever you want.
Also, if there are extreme extenuating circumstances and you truly can’t afford to invest as little as $70 — I get it. Far be it for me to be a gatekeeper. If you’ve got something to say then say it, even if that means just using your smartphone.
However, I do think it would be advantageous to save up what you can — little by little — and do this the right way. It really doesn’t take much to ensure that your audio is listenable but, at the very minimum, you’re going to need a microphone and access to a laptop.
As I previously stated, my advice is to shell out $70 for a Samson Q2U.
This is the microphone I used when I first started and it’s both XLR and USB compatible, so if you choose to upgrade to an interface in the future, you can do so.
Many gurus will tell you to avoid condenser mics, including the oh-so-popular Blue Yeti. The reasoning behind this — as far as I understand it — is that condenser microphones are super sensitive and therefore you’ll sound like you’re recording in a wind tunnel unless your recording space is properly treated.
I’ve never used a condenser mic, so I can’t say. The Samson Q2U is a dynamic mic, as is the microphone I currently use — the Electro-Voice RE320. That said, I have heard podcasts recorded on Blue Yetis that sound perfectly fine.
When it comes to super-expensive microphones, most of the big-name podcasters seem to use either an EV RE20 or the Shure SM7B (aka the Joe Rogan mic). Just keep in mind that 1) you don’t need anything that fancy and 2) you’ll also need an interface of some sort with these more expensive mics — you can’t just plug them into your laptop via USB.
What’s an interface?
An interface is sort of like a bridge between your microphone and whatever software you’re going to use to record and edit. The easiest way I know to explain it is that it’s a device you plug your microphone into that turns the audio signals from your mic into the proper type of digital signals they need to be in order to be processed by a computer or laptop.
They come with built-in pre-amps and headphone jacks and allow you to monitor your gain. Some of them even allow you to record straight onto the interface with an SD card.
Do you need an interface? Eh, not really. Not as a beginner podcaster. You can still get pretty decent audio from a USB Mic plugged straight into your computer.
However, if your microphone is not USB compatible — like the aforementioned RE320 or the Joe Rogan mic, you will absolutely need an interface as there’s no other way to connect with an XLR cable.
I personally use the Zoom Podtrak P4 and those retail for around $150. You can connect up to 4 separate microphones and 4 separate headphones and you can even synch your phone via Bluetooth.
Another great option (so I’m told) is the Focusrite Scarlett. You can pick up the solo for just $120 or the Scarlett 2i2 for $160. Both of these will work just fine, especially if you’re a solo podcaster. If you need to connect more than two mics, however, you’ll need to upgrade to a Podtrak P4 like what I use or a Scarlett with more inputs. Full disclosure: I’ve never so much as touched a Focusrite interface but people whose opinions I trust swear by them.
In summary: At the very minimum you need a microphone and a laptop. You do not need an interface or a fancy mic when you’re first getting your feet wet. Just pick up that Samson Q2U and start recording. Later on down the road, if you think you’ll want to continue podcasting, then you can think about investing in more equipment.
Bonus tip: If you’d like to try out a few of these microphones just to hear how they’ll sound with your voice, you may be able to borrow them. This depends on where you live but I know many Guitar Centers rent out equipment. Bonus tip number 2) If you don’t mind dealing with Amazon, you can often find package deals with 2 or more of these pieces of equipment being sold together. Like a Samson Q2U with a boom arm stand and an interface. Buying them all together like this could save you a couple of bucks.
Laptop or desktop or neither?
This next part sorta goes without saying, but you’re going to need a laptop to properly edit your podcast. As I previously mentioned there are options available allowing you to do everything just on your smartphone, but it’s far from optimal.
You don’t need a Mac and you don’t need some high-powered gaming computer. I’m not a very tech-savvy guy, and I personally don’t understand all the lingo, but my suggestion is something with some storage, I would say a minimum of 8 GB of Ram. You also don’t want it to be slow as molasses. As is the case with a microphone, you don’t have to break the bank here, but you should also avoid going to Walmart and buying a cheap Chromebook. That’s what I did when I first started, and it didn’t even last a year.
You’ll see other podcasters with crazy setups — multiple large monitors, expensive speakers, Herman Miller chairs, a strategically placed copy of James Clear’s Atomic Habits — you don’t need all that. Just a decent laptop with the screen that came with it.
Go ahead and pick you up a pair of headphones, I guess.
This will be will allow you to hear what you’re recording, as you’re recording, and that there’s nothing worse than spending an hour or two on the mic only to find out that your audio is unusable. If you monitor with headphones as you record, you’ll pick up on any issues immediately.
Full disclosure: I do not record with headphones on 99.9% of the time. Naughty Josh, I know. I do keep an eye on my levels and so far, I haven’t had any issues. Hopefully, this doesn’t come around to bite me in the ass. If you’re going to be doing interviews or there’s someone else other than you talking, this is not an option — you will need to wear headphones.
I do, however, use headphones to edit and mix. About a year ago I picked up the Sony MDR 7506 monitoring headphones and wow — this was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Are they a necessity? No. Do they make editing easier? Yes.
Back your shit up
I strongly suggest you pick up an external hard drive of some sort. You’re going to want to back up all your files, trust me on this. I don’t really have a recommendation here — I use WD Elements and so far so good. It has an enormous storage capacity that I doubt I’ll ever fill up.
You’re not going to want to be holding your microphone as you record, despite what you’ve seen your favorite YouTuber do. You need some sort of stand; this is a necessity.
More than likely, if you buy a brand-new Samson Q2U it’s going to come with a cheap tripod stand you can place on your desk. My advice would be to also purchase a cheap boom arm. They attach to your desk, they’re mobile, and you can pick them up for as little as $15. Will it eventually break? Yes. Will it be squeaky? Also yes. The more you spend, the better the quality will be.
I’d also recommend you pick up what’s called a pop filter. This helps protect against plosives, those popping P sounds your mouth makes that you don’t really notice while you’re recording. They’re annoying and pop filters somewhat help mitigate them. They’re not perfect at all — you do need to learn proper mic technique — but they help somewhat. You can get a cheap nylon pop filter from Amazon for around $10. They also make more expensive metal mesh pop filters that I’m told work even better. I’ll let you know when I actually buy one.
FYI, these pop filters are not to be confused with foam wind guards — those little snowball things that fit over the end of your mic. As the name suggests, those are for wind protection. I’m not sure if there’s any benefit to using those when recording inside a treated environment.
Be mindful of your recording space
In my opinion, this is much more important than the gear you choose.
If you had a thousand-dollar budget for this entire podcasting venture, I’d recommend spending at least half of it on sound treatment alone. And when I say sound treatment, I’m talking more about sound-dampening or sound absorption than I am about soundproofing.
Although it’s easy to get the jargon all mixed up, soundproofing is more of a way to stop outside noises from bleeding into your microphone. Maybe the neighbor is blowing leaves off the driveway, maybe there’s construction outside, maybe a nearby train, or maybe you live near an airport.
Outside of spending a fortune, there’s not much you can do about all of that exterior noise. If you’re recording and someone starts mowing the lawn, you’re just going to have to stop and wait for them to finish. Personally, I try to record either when I’m home alone or late at night after my daughter is asleep. I also turn off the central ac while I record. There’s no tv playing in the next room, no dishwasher running, nothing. Quiet as a mouse fart.
Sound dampening, or sound treatment, is an entirely different matter. You can control that quite a bit and, not only will it help a tiny bit as far as those outside noises go, but it will immensely improve your audio.
You ever walk into a new home or just some big empty building with no furniture and notice the echo? Once we toss in a couple of couches, maybe a lazy boy, a rug, some throw pillows, or the usual household-type stuff, it’s no longer an issue, right? At least not to our human ears.
Your microphone, however, is VERY sensitive to echoes and reverb. And, in my experience, the more expensive the mic the more reverb you’ll pick up.
Real quick, I have to say this on the off chance there’s a true-blue audio engineer reading — I’m probably using the wrong jargon here. I’m pretty sure there’s a difference, definition-wise, between echo and reverb, but I think everyone knows what I’m talking about. We hear it on podcasts and YouTube videos all the time. Whatever that THING is — that hollow sound — that’s what I’m talking about. Sounds like they’re recording in a cathedral. The reason is, they have either no sound treatment, the sound treatment their using is ineffective, or their microphone is on the other side of the room.
You need to add something in your recording space that will absorb some of that sound and stop it from ricocheting all over the place. If not then your almost certainly going to end up with hollow, empty-sounding audio.
Coming out of the closet
A temporary solution, the go-to online advice for beginners, is to just record in your bedroom closet. All those clothes hanging up around you in that tiny space will — in theory — help absorb some of that sound bouncing off the walls and reduce reverb. I’m not sure how true this is, though. I think the main benefit here is that you’re just getting less of an echo than you would in a big open space.
If you want to record in your spare bedroom or your home office, that’s perfectly fine. But you’re going to need something to diffuse all that reverb. I’ve seen this accomplished in many ways — from those cheap foam squares, people buy on Amazon to spending thousands of dollars on sound treatment panels and bass traps.
I decided to DIY it and make my own acoustic panels consisting of 2x4s, Rockwool insulation, and old bed sheets. The room I record in is 10' x 10' and I currently have 6 of these large panels hanging on the walls. I also supplement them with several pillows (and sometimes couch cushins).
AND I STILL GET REVERB IF I’M NOT CAREFUL!
This is why mic technique is so important. I don’t understand the technical jargon — I think it’s called proximity effect or some such shit — but I do know that the farther away your mouth is from the microphone, the more susceptible you’ll be to echo or reverb.
Get up close to that bad boy, just make sure you turn your gain down so as to avoid peaking (I’ll explain peaking in a bit).
Keep in mind that nothing will replace a professionally built and treated recording studio. That takes money and a whole lot more know-how than I have. There’s a reason legitimate professional recording studios exist. There’s a reason you can go out and spend $10,000 to $20,000 on a small recording booth for your home. There’s art to it and acoustical engineering is a real science. Feel free to dive as deep into this as you want, look into bass traps for the corners, acoustic panels hanging from the ceiling, and go wild. Just know that for podcasting it is not all that necessary.
We’re not doing voice-over for the latest Pixar film. We’re simply attempting to record a somewhat professional-sounding podcast. You don’t have to be perfect for podcasting but you also don’t want to sound like you’re conducting a Zoom call in a cave.
TLDR: Treat your room with something that will dampen those sound waves bouncing off the walls (build a pillow fort, drape a blanket over your head, build acoustic panels) but also make sure your microphone is close to your mouth when you record.
A little bit of mic technique and a little bit of sound treatment will pay off in spades and prove much more valuable than any microphone you buy. You can purchase the Joe Rogan mice or a $3,000 Neuman and if you’re recording in an open, untreated space your podcast will still sound like garbage.
Alright, now that we’ve got all that sorted out we’re going to have to download some software, most especially a Digital Audio Workstation, commonly referred to as a DAW. This DAW is what you’ll use to edit and mix your podcast.
You have a lot of choices here: Audacity, Garage Band if you have a Mac, Logic Pro, Adobe Audition, Reaper, Studio One, Hindenburg, Pro Tools, etc. There are others I’m forgetting about. I think Logic and Pro Tools are what I see a lot of the “professionals” using.
I’ve only personally used three DAWS — Reaper, Hindenberg, and Audacity. And it is my opinion that you — as a beginner podcaster — should stick with Audacity.
It’s not the perfect or most robust DAW but unless you’re creating an audio experience with a ton of music and sound ambiance, Audacity will do everything you need and more. It’s extremely easy to learn, very intuitive, and if you ever run into any issues there are a ton of tutorials on YouTube. Also, it’s 100% free!
Keep in mind that nobody will ever know what DAW you use unless you tell them. There’s not a single person alive who can listen to a podcast and ascertain whether or not you used Audacity or Pro Tools.
You’re probably going to want a jingle of some sort for your podcast. An intro song or ditty to start the show or to help transition from one segment to another.
This is completely up to you. There’s no rule that says podcasts need music. Matter of fact, I can think of several top podcasts that have no music whatsoever, just spoken word.
Then again, there are plenty of shows who prefer a nice sound bed throughout the entire episode. Again, this is your choice. I personally do think that a nice short intro song, along with an outro, will serve you well.
Just please do not use copyrighted material! A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t own it, you shouldn’t use it.
I’m not just being a goody-two-shoes here and trying to tell you how to live your life. There’s a very real chance your podcast will be taken down if you do this as there are literally bots that scrape RSS feeds looking for copyrighted material.
And no, you cannot use copyrighted songs as long as the clip is less than 30 seconds. This is an urban myth. You can’t use copyrighted material at all, even just for 10 seconds. If you hear a podcast doing so 1) they just haven’t gotten busted yet 2) they paid good money to use the copyrighted material or 3) they might host with Spotify which, I believe, allows shows to use copyrighted music. The catch here is that those podcasts are only available on Spotify and — even worse — I THINK that unless the person listening has a paid membership to Spotify they can’t hear the entire song.
Also note that “Fair Use” is a legal defense, not a rule. In other words, you don’t get to claim Fair Use until you’re in court which doesn’t really sound like a good time to me.
The safest bet is to commission your own music. Either perform and record it yourself or pay someone to do it. You then own it, it’s yours, and you can do whatever you want with it. That’s a lot of work, though. We’re trying to start a podcast, not conduct a musical.
The easiest option is to use a service like AudioJungle.net. I think I spent $22 on the song I use for both my intro and outro. There are other options on other sites, even free options, you’ll just have to look around and find what works for you. Some of the free options do require that you credit your source, so keep that in mind.
At the bare minimum, you must have some type of cover art for your show. This is the tiny square image that shows up in all the podcasting apps. This is a necessity and there’s no getting around it.
There are a few different options here. You could commission someone on Fiverr or Upwork to do this for you, you can do it yourself using Canva, or you can really shell out some money and have a professional design your branding. I’ve spoken to people who have spent thousands of dollars on their cover art. Is it worth it? Maybe. I think the vast majority of us can’t afford that option so it’s either DIY or Fiverr!
I’ve done both. My first logo was DIY, the 2nd and 3rd were done by freelancers via Fiverr, and my current cover art I personally created using Canva.
Canva is AMAZING! It’s one of the few services that I shell out money for and it’s well worth it but you can just use the free version to make decent cover art.
Keep it simple, though. You want your artwork to compel listeners to click on your show. It should be uncluttered, eye-catching, and convey the general theme or niche of your podcast. Scroll through Apple or Spotify and get a good idea of what type of artwork popular shows are avoiding. Avoid using cartoonish emojis, pictures of microphones (we know it’s a podcast), or hard-to-read fonts.
As far as the technical stuff goes, Apple is pretty finicky with their artwork requirements. The good news is that if you follow their rules, you’ll be good to go on all the other apps as well.
Recording and Editing
Alright, finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Time to record your first piece of audio. And, since your podcast needs a trailer, we’ll start there.
So, why a trailer?
According to Podnews, only 14% of podcasts have a trailer. This means there’s an opportunity. Remember rule number 1 in podcast discoverability, give yourself whatever sort of edge you can in order to stand out among the crowd!
The most important reason to have a trailer, however, is so that you don’t disappoint Arielle Nissenblatt. I’m only partially kidding, but you should definitely follow her on Twitter for excellent podcasting advice.
The for-real reason you need a trailer, though — the reason I think it’s most important — is to prepare for your show’s launch.
I know I touched on this earlier but you do not upload your podcast directly to Spotify or Apple. You show lives on your host site, which creates an RSS feed, and that feed is read and interpreted by the various aggregators or podcast apps. Before your show is listed, however, it must undergo a submission process. And this submission process could take a couple of weeks, especially with Apple. They need to review and approve everything and make sure you’re following all the rules.
Often times new podcasters will launch their podcast and then get confused as to why it’s not appearing everywhere. Well, that’s because they didn’t upload a trailer a few weeks ahead of time.
Now this approval process is a one-time deal and after that you’re golden. Your podcast trailer will essentially work as a placeholder or episode zero. Once you launch your actual podcast, your first episodes, you can always go ahead and delete the trailer. Or, maybe 6 months down the line, you decide to create another one. That’s fine too. Your trailer isn’t something you’ll be stuck with for eternity and you can change as often as you like.
So what should your trailer contain? Think of it as an introduction or a teaser to your show. At a minimum, a trailer should include the name of your show and a brief description. I wouldn’t overthink it, though.
Once you develop your voice and your show takes on a life of its own, you can always record a better trailer. For now, just keep it short and simple, introduce your show, tell the audience what it’s about, and you’re good.
Ok, by now you should be ready to record. You’ve created a unique name for your podcast, created your cover art, purchased a Samson Q2U microphone, downloaded Audacity, and written a short script for your trailer.
Just a few considerations.
First off you need to hydrate. If you record with a dry mouth, you’re going to get what’s called mouth clicks. You won’t hear it while you’re recording but when you go to edit, it’ll be clear as day — literally sounds like someone’s clicking a mouse directly into the microphone. Sometimes you can remove them in post, sometimes you can’t.
My advice is you begin hydrating a couple of hours before you record. Bringing a bottle of water with you is great, but you really need to give that H20 time to fully distribute.
Green Apples also work in a pinch, the more sour the better. The acidity just does something with your saliva helping to reduce clicks, but this effect wears off pretty fast.
Also, it’s a good idea to warm up your vocals. I found out recently that I’m medically tongue tied so this is very important for me. I flub words all the time and have to repeat sentences and phrases. But I’ve found if I warm up first it’s not as bad. I do tongue stretches, I do mouth stretches, and then I repeat a few tongue twisters. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peckers. Sometimes I’ll even drive around the block a few times belting out Johnny Cash or Dropkick Murphys songs as loud as possible. Anything to get the vocals warmed up and my mouth and tongue working in unison.
Just one more thing before we record. Let’s discuss mic technique more in-depth.
Earlier I mentioned plosives, those harsh P sounds. You can somewhat avoid these by not speaking directly into your microphone. You can help avoid these by not speaking directly into your microphone.
BUT JOSH, YOU SAID I NEED TO RECORD CLOSE TO THE MIC!!!
Yeah, yeah, I know. You should still record with your mouth close to the mic but when I say you shouldn’t speak directly into it I mean that you should try recording with the mic “off-axis” at a 30 or 45-degree angle to the side, instead of straight in front. I’ve also heard this described as speaking “past the mic”. I do this and it does seem to help lessen those harsh plosives.
This should go without saying, but no eating or drinking while you’re recording. If you need to take a drink of water that’s fine, you can edit it out in post, just finish what you’re saying — pause — take a drink — and resume. There’s no reason you should keep noises like eating or drinking in your finished podcast episode, though. Nobody wants to hear that. Likewise with chewing gum or any other weird mouth noises. There are people out there with misophonia and they’ll shut off your podcast in a heartbeat.
I’ve encountered a few people who are very adamant about not editing their podcasts whatsoever. They think that it’s being fake, or “not keeping it real” or punk rock, or whatever the fuck. So if there are mistakes or re-takes or dead air — they just leave it all in there.
Ok, cool. Good for them. I personally think this is annoying as fuck to the listener. Let’s say you’ve got an hour of audio, but you could easily cut out 8 minutes of dead air, without disrupting the pacing. Why wouldn’t you do that? Why waste my time, as a listener? A little basic editing goes a long way to creating an enjoyable listening experience, it doesn’t mean anyone’s trying to censor you.
If you get very animated while you talk, you’re going to need to be careful about bumping the microphone, the mic stand, and your desk. Even just a tiny bump can be noticeable. You’ll see a lot of people using shock mounts for their mics for this very reason and that’s always a good practice if you can afford to pick one up.
Now, that’s all I’ve got on mic technique, I just have one big disclaimer before we go any further.
I’ve already said this but I’m going to say it again. I’m not an audio engineer. Matter of fact, this is my weakest skill set when it comes to podcasting. I SUCK at mixing and to this day I still struggle with producing my final product. Sometimes I even sit and fantasize about the day I’ll be able to justify hiring an editor.
The good news is I’m a little psychotic and most of my audio problems are imaginary. Rest assured you do not need to be an audio engineer to create a decent-sounding podcast. As much as I cringe at the sound of my own show, I’ve never — not even when I was recording on my cell phone — had a listener reach out and complain about the audio quality.
Do I understand everything I’m doing? Absolutely fucking not. Do I do things that are wrong or unnecessary? I’m 100% positive I do.
Hire an editor if you can afford it but if not, don’t worry — there are a few simple effects and techniques that will greatly improve your audio.
I won’t bore you with all the technicalities (mostly because I don’t understand them) but I’ve found that it’s easier to fix audio that’s too quiet than it is to fix a track that you recorded too loud. The reason is something called clipping and this occurs when your gain or recording volume is too high.
Keep an eye on the decibel meter in whatever DAW you’re using. You want those decibels to be between like -12 and -18 when you’re talking. No louder than -6 or you’re getting dangerously close to clipping. Also, watch your waveform. Are there flat spots at the top or bottom? That’s clipping — it’ll sound distorted — and as far as I know, there’s no way to fix this in post. You need to decrease your gain and start over.
YouTube is your best friend when it comes to podcasting. Watch tutorials on how to use whatever DAW you’ve chosen. Make a few test runs. Play around with the different effects.
Should your podcast be mono or stereo?
Unless you’re creating an immersive audio experience with a ton of music and sound effects, I’d urge you to choose mono. With what I’m doing as a solo podcaster or storyteller, there’s really no reason to use stereo. Even if you have a co-host and even if you do plan on conducting interviews, mono is more than likely your best choice. However, if you still want to record and export in stereo, that’s absolutely fine.
Ok, now you’re ready. Hit record, speak into your microphone at a slight angle, and adjust your gain properly. When you’re done talking, hit stop. Congrats, you just recorded your first trailer.
Mixing your audio
The main thing here is to keep your audio as natural sounding as possible. Don’t take my advice step-by-step, as I have no idea what I’m doing, but the following is my usual process:
The first thing I do once I’m done recording is to apply noise reduction. This will eliminate any soft hums or very light background noises that may have been picked up while recording. It won’t remove your neighbor’s chainsaw, but it might be of assistance if you left your air conditioner on.
I’ll then apply a compressor. This is the stock compressor in Audacity that I tweaked according to a YouTube video I watched. I doubt it’s perfect but it’s what I use. When I apply this compressor, the waveform will get bigger. I keep an eye on this and, if I think it’s too loud, I’ll decrease it.
I’ll then use an EQ. In Audacity this is called Filter Curve but I use a free plugin from Melda. All I’m doing with this EQ is trying to take some of the “muddiness” out of my voice. Watch videos on YouTube about “high pass” filters.
If you have a lot of sibilance in your voice, which I do, you should maybe look into using a de-esser. This will reduce some of those ear-piercing harsh “es” sounds. I use a free plugin from Techivation for this.
Full disclosure: I recently splurged and bought Izotope RX 10 Standard when it was on sale. I’m still experimenting but mostly all I’m using is their mouth de-clicker and the repair assistant. I’m not sure about the repair angle but the mouth de-clicker works like a champ!
The final piece of the puzzle is Loudness Normalization.
Simply put, this is where you ensure that your final product isn’t too quiet or too loud. You want it juuuuust right and, just right for a podcast is somewhere between -16 and -19 LUFS.
LUFS stands for Loudness Units Relative to Full Scale. What’s that mean? I got no idea. The best way I know to explain it — the way it makes sense in my own brain — is that LUFS is what’s used to measure perceived loudness.
Some people say that -16 is perfect. Others claim that if your exporting or rendering in Mono then it should be -19. Even the various podcast apps can’t agree. Apple asks for -16 and Spotify wants -14.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it’s not louder than -14 and not quieter than -23, you’re probably good to go. You can download a free loudness meter plugin like the one I use from YouLean to monitor this or you can use Auphonic and let them do it for you.
Other options to help make your audio sound better include Descript Studio and Adobe Voice Enhance. They’ll automatically analyze your voice and add in their own EQ and compression magic. Just be aware that they’re not perfect and you should definitely give your audio a listen before your hit publish. With the advances in AI, there will soon be no need for audio editors but we’re not quite there just yet.
By the way, Descript is also pretty good when it comes to transcripts. They also have a really cool feature that allows you to physically delete a word from the transcript, and by doing so that word will be deleted from your audio. Depending on your style, this could save a lot of time in the editing process but once again — it’s not perfect. Use at your own risk and always keep a backup of your original audio.
Now that you’ve got the basics of recording down, and hopefully recorded a trailer, it’s time to figure out how to get your work out to the masses. In order to do so, you’re going to have to choose a hosting site.
Remember, you don’t upload your podcast onto Apple or Spotify. That’s what the host is for. Whatever hosting site you choose will become your podcast's home base. This is where you’re going to upload all of your audio files, your logo, your podcast description, your episode artwork if you have any, your show notes, your trailer, everything. All these files are stored on the host site.
They’ll then create an RSS feed for your podcast and then send these files out to all the places. Apple, Spotify, Google, Audible, Castbox, Podcast Addict, iHeart, Amazon Music, and so on and so forth.
When you first register with your podcast host and submit the logo, which you’ve hopefully already created, along with a podcast description or summary, and that trailer you just recorded, they’re then going to do a one-time submission to the various sites.
For example, your host will give your RSS Feed link to Apple and they — in turn — will review your podcast, just making sure everything is tip-top McGoo. After this, your show will then be added to the Apple directory. It’s a pretty quick process for most sites but Apple may take 2 or 3 weeks. Plan your launch accordingly.
Pro-tip: I’m pretty sure Apple closes down shop completely for a couple of weeks during the Christmas holidays. Either plan your launch early or wait until a week or so into January.
There’s no rule that you need to start uploading episodes x amount of days after you post your trailer. You can upload that trailer, go through the approval process, and then take your sweet time preparing the rest of your launch. No rush whatsoever. And, if I haven’t mentioned it already, you’ll only need to go through that submittal process one time.
After that’s done, and you do start uploading episodes, all of the directories will periodically stop by your host site and pull anything new you’ve submitted. It’s quick. Usually, when I upload a new episode it’s on Spotify within a few minutes.
Now there may be certain directories you need to opt into yourself if your host doesn’t offer it. I would strongly suggest you try to make your show available everywhere, though.
You’ll also need to go to Apple Podcast Connect and Spotify for Podcasters and claim your podcast in order to receive their valuable analytics.
Make sure there’s a 301 Redirect!
The essential function of any podcast host is just to create that RSS feed and distribute it to all of the places but they also need to be able to offer what’s called a 301 redirect. Simply put, if don’t like the host you chose, and you want to move to another one, you’ll be able to do so mostly hassle-free with a 301 redirect. I host my podcast on Libsyn but let’s pretend I wanted to switch to Buzzsprout. I would initiate a 301 redirect that would transfer all my files from Libsyn to the new hosting site — Buzzsprout. Because these are both reputable podcast hosting sights, the process will be seamless, nothing will be lost, and my audience will be none the wiser.
If a host does not offer 301 redirects run away as fast as you can.
Other than these basic functions, all of the hosting sites have their various pros and cons, pricing and storage fees, and integrations. For instance, my Libsyn offers free access to Canva and, I believe, Auphonic. They’ll also upload your podcast to YouTube.
Buzzsprout offers something similar to the Descript Studio Sound to all of their customers called Magic Mastering which will automatically EQ your podcast. If I’m not mistaken, they also offer up free transcriptions through Descript.
Check out a few different hosting platforms, review their storage and pricing plans, look at the perks, and decide what’s best for you. I’ve only personally used two — Anchor and Libsyn. I’ve heard a lot of very good things about Captivate and Buzzsprout, but you’ve also got Blubrry and Transistor and Omny and Art19. There’s a ton of ’em. Ask around, shop around, and make a decision. They’ll run you anywhere from $5 or 7 bucks a month all the way up to $20.
About Anchor (now known as Spotify for Podcasters). This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think it’s an ok option if you can’t afford to pay for “real hosting”. Anchor is free. I used them when I first started in 2019 and I had zero issues. When it came time for me to switch to Libsyn the redirect went seamlessly.
That said, just a word of caution. If I’m not mistaken, Anchor (Spotify for Podcasters) will control your RSS feed and you won’t be able to access your Apple analytics. Also, if you want to use Spotify’s library of music just know that your show will only be allowed to be played on Spotify. Your feed won’t be distributed to all of the other places (Apple, iHeart, etc). It’s free so that’s always a plus but remember — oftentimes you get what you pay for.
Just a few tips on actually setting up your podcast on your host site. It’s a pretty straightforward process but there are a few things that could cause confusion:
Third-Party consent: This is essentially asking if you have permission to use anything in your podcast that you don’t own, like music or sound effects. If you purchased your intro music from a site like Audiojungle, you’re good to go. If you’re not sure, just contact the hosting site and ask.
Episodic or Serial: As I stated earlier, you’re probably going to want to choose episodic. The main difference is how your podcast episodes will show up in the various players. If you choose episodic, the most recent episode will show up at the top. If you choose serial then your very first episode will show up on top and listeners will need to scroll all the way down to hear you’re most recent stuff. A serial podcast needs to be listened to in chronological order whereas with an episodic show, you can start at the most recent or just hop in anywhere.
Explicit: If you use words like hell or damn every now and then, you do not have to mark your show as explicit. Choose explicit if you’re truly explicit. F-bombs, sex stuff, you know — everything that’s fun. If you’re only using Bible curse words, I think you’ll be alright.
Episode Title: This is your opportunity to use a little SEO. Don’t overpack and don’t be too obscure. Some podcasts get very creative with their episode titles and if you’re just scrolling through you have no idea what the episode is about without clicking and checking out the show notes. Avoid using the name of your podcast in the episode titles and keep in mind how much of the title shows in the podcast apps. The first few words should catch a new listener’s attention.
Show Notes or Episode Description: This should be brief summary of the episode, followed by whatever relevant links you’d like to share with your audience. Feel free to add in a ton of relevant keywords. ADD YOUR DAMN EMAIL ADDRESS! Most people do not read show notes. Those of us who do, however, appreciate them.
Episode number: In the past, I numbered my episodes but I no longer do. Does this make a difference? Who knows. Apparently, Apple fucking hates numbers.
What I’m about to say next can be controversial. There’s no universal right or wrong answer here but I would strongly urge you to launch with a minimum of five episodes ready to go. You’ll upload your first three on launch day and keep the other two in reserve.
Not only will this give a new listener something to binge, but it’ll also give you some breathing room. You don’t have to rush out your next episode because you’ve always got a buffer of one or two completed shows ready to release.
Another reason I think it’s a good idea to launch with a minimum of five episodes is that this will help you decide if you really like podcasting or not.
It’s one thing to produce a single episode but by the time you’ve got five under your belt, you’ll have a decent idea of the process and the work that goes into it. Also, before your launch, you can compare your 5th episode to your 1st. Trust me there will be a HUGE difference, both in the quality of audio and the quality of content. At this point, you may choose to go back and re-record your first couple of episodes before your launch.
Hey, if you’ve done all of this, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. You have successfully launched a semi-professional podcast! You’re now one of the annoying few — a podcaster!
Now you need a website.
This isn’t 100% necessary, but come on — you do kinda need a website.
As surprising as it may sound, there will be people only listening to your podcast via the player on your website. Why? I got no clue. But I’m not going to tell them NOT to!
Creating a website for your podcast will also lend an air of professionalism and shows that you’re not simply a hobbyist.
It’s also a way for people to contact you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to contact another podcaster, either for some sort of collaboration or just to reach out and say “Hey, love your show” only to discover they don’t have a website, no email listed — nothing.
Your website will be your home base of operations — your lair. This is where people can contact you, leave reviews for your podcast, buy your merch, read your blog posts, and on and on and on. You can also have affiliate links, collect emails for your newsletter, and even pimp your Patreon!
And finally — and most importantly — your podcast website will aid in discoverability. I personally use Podpage. When I release a new episode via my hosting site, it’ll automatically be added to my website as well. This includes all those SEO and keyword-rich titles and show notes. You can even turn your show notes into blog posts, or just post your full transcripts. Google will pick up on all of this and start showing your website in their search results.
Most hosting sites will offer a free website that’ll work in a pinch. My suggestion would be to at least purchase your own domain name (.com).
As I said, I use Podpage — I think I spend $15 per month — and it is EXTREMELY EASY. This would be your best bet if you’re looking for the least amount of hassle. There’s another service called PodcastPage.io that appears to do the same thing. I’ve never used them, but I know people who do and they love it. Depending on your level of expertise or geekiness you can use Squarespace or WordPress. If you don’t want all that fuss or hassle, though, Podpage is your best bet.
As far as your custom domain name, you can always go to Namecheap or GoDaddy and purchase one, usually for 10 or 15 bucks. And that will be a reoccurring yearly fee, by the way. You can even set it up so that you can receive and send email from your domain name.
If you’re noticing a trend here, it’s very cheap to host a professional-sounding — and looking — podcast.
Let’s say you chose Libsyn as your hosting site and went with their $7 plan, which will be sufficient for most of us. Then you opt for a website with Podpage. That’s another $15 a month. Next, you buy a custom domain for $15 a year which comes out to what? $1.25 a month? For less than $24 per month, you’ve got a fully functioning podcast, a website with a custom domain, and your own custom professional email. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
And I know you’re spending more than $23 a month on Starbucks.
So please, do yourself a favor, future you will thank you. Create a website for your podcast and start building that SEO.
Growing your podcast
Kevin Coster is a goddamn liar — if you build it they will NOT come. You need to personally take steps to grow your podcast and help your audience discover you.
The best thing you can do is use all of the tools at your disposal. Create great content, write keyword-rich titles and show descriptions, and be consistent. Keep creating content and keep publishing on a regular basis.
You should also strive to improve each episode, even if it’s in some small way. Can you do something that’s 1% better than your last episode? Tweak the intro, maybe? A more clear call to action? Complacency kills! Keep improving!
Also, you should regularly submit your show to be featured on Apple and Spotify. Listen to Lauren Passel as she describes the best way to make this happen. And when you’re done listen to her again here! Apply all of her tips and follow Lauren on Twitter for a fuckton more useful advice. If I know that Lauren has made an appearance on a podcast, I will listen to that episode — that’s how valuable I find her guidance. Here’s a link to Lauren’s 100 Podcast Marketing Tips. I’d also advise you to sign up for her newsletter.
You may want to consider advertising. I’d hold off on this at the beginning but at some point, you’ll likely need to spend some money to help people discover your show. I’ve only done a little of this and I had the most luck advertising on Podcast Addict. Your mileage may vary.
Your show should have a presence on social media but keep in mind that you do NOT have to be active on every platform. Also, know that your podcast may not be a good fit on each platform. My advice would be to use whatever social media that your audience is most engaged on. Let’s pretend it’s Instagram. Focus on Instagram completely and don’t worry about Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin. If you try to focus on all of the different platforms you’ll just burn yourself out and waste time that you could be using to create more content.
Avoid circle-jerk situations. I’ve seen a lot of this on Twitter. Indie podcasters with thousands of followers — who also happen to be indie podcasters — and all they do is retweet each other. Is this fun? Sure. But does it grow your audience? Not at all. In my opinion, Twitter is best used for networking and keeping up with industry news as opposed to promoting your show.
Want to know how to use — or how not to use — social media to grow your show? Follow Arielle Nissenblatt. She is one of the nicest people in podcasting and has helped me immensely. And even if you don’t want to follow her, at least read this thread!
Personal experience: I love Twitter but have found very little audience growth via that platform. I’m not a huge fan of Instagram but I’ve found that by posting Reels my downloads have increased. I have 25,000 followers on Tiktok and some of my videos have gotten over half a million views with no discernable uptick in podcast downloads. I don’t use Facebook at all because I hate Facebook. Should I? Probably.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of posting your podcast on Youtube, even if it’s just in the form of audio-only and a static image. I share my thoughts on the topic here and here but long story short, you need to treat YouTube like a different entity. YouTube audiences are different from podcast audiences so you may need to tweak your show to make it YouTube-friendly. Spend time creating quality thumbnails, save the fun banter for the end of your episodes, and take your time crafting keyword-rich video titles.
Books that I’ve found useful: Make Noise by Eric Nuzum, Storyworthy by Mathew Dicks, and everything that Steven Pressfield has ever written, especially The War of Art and Turning Pro.
Podcasts that I find useful in no particular order: Creators on Air by Pasionfroot, Grow My Podcast Show with Deidre Tshien, I Want to Know with Josh Spector, Podcast Bestie with Courtney Kocak, Podcast Accelerator with Mark Asquith, Tube Talk with Vyyyper, and Dave Jackson’s The School of Podcasting.
Learning by example: I’m a big fan of learning from those who have done what I’m attempting to do. Guys like Jack Rhysider from Darknet Diaries and Julian Dorsey are extremely helpful. These guys were not professional entertainers or anything like that and now they’re podcasting as a full-time gig. I study people like them to learn what sets them apart from others.
Words of encouragement
The best thing you can do now is focus on your show’s growth month to month and year to year. A positive gain is a positive gain, right? The growth of my podcast was slow yet steady. It took me three years to reach 300,000 total downloads. Then, in my 4th year, I doubled that number in less than 12 months. Now, not yet five years in, and I’m almost at a million total downloads.
You’ll build up steam if you stay consistent and keep going. It’s all about your content, though. Don’t get slack, don’t just phone it in, and always — no matter what — look for ways to tweak and improve your content.
Ok, with that go forth and get to podcasting! Good luck!
Ok, now go out there and share your story with the world. They’re waiting.