You’ve likely been living under a rock if you’ve yet to notice that podcasts are the new BIG THING for content creators the world-over. Every influencer, luminary and thought-leader has one, and no matter your area of interest you’ll find a wealth of freely-available, easily-accessible information and entertainment that can be downloaded or streamed and listened to on-demand.
Whether you favour the works and wisdom of the great and the good, or are searching in the niches and the dark-corners for new content from the as-yet unknown, there’s plenty to choose from.
As a consumer, it’s a rich picking ground.
For the content creator, it seems to be generally accepted that now is the time to be launching a podcast of your own. Facebook pages for businesses and individuals looking to carve out their niche and broaden awareness, seem to have had their day, or at least do little to differentiate one from the next. The same goes for Twitter and Instagram profiles (or so it seems to me). Many still use YouTube on a near daily basis as consumers, but few who’ve tried, would dispute that gaining a following on there is incredibly hard for those looking to break-in.
Podcasts though, seem to be the go-to space for those looking to create meaningful and valuable content that will meet with a receptive and engaged audience. You know when luminaries such as Tim Ferriss are describing podcasts as the social platform that people can’t afford to ignore, and the likes of Seth Godin are creating online courses guiding in the creation of podcasts, that the time really is NOW, to get involved.
The purpose of this article isn’t to address the creation of the aforementioned ‘meaningful and valuable content’. There are many who are way better equipped to talk to that topic. Instead, I want to share my own experience of the relative ease with which a podcast can be progressed from idea to reality in less than a day; at least that was my own experience.
I will outline the steps that I took and the things I learned in the process of creating and launching my own Podcast (entitled Kintsugi Life; available at all good Podcast outlets should you wish to listen!).
Think of this as a ‘How to’ guide for taking your idea and getting it published on the world’s major podcast platforms in less than 24-hours.
There is no real barrier to you getting a podcast launched and out there, QUICKLY and FOR FREE (or with genuinely minimal-expenditure). All that it requires is an idea and a bit of time.
1) The idea
I stated earlier that this piece won’t tackle the specifics of coming up with an idea for your podcast, but rather will describe the logistics of getting it published and out into the world. That said, here are a few things I’ve learned about content, both as a creator and as a consumer.
Like anything that people listen to (or read, or watch), the content that people consume is personal to their tastes and interests. Tim Ferriss has an enormous following of people who are hungry for anything and everything that he broadcasts or publishes. The cache of the guests that he interviews has grown in magnitude as he’s become more popular and as a result the appeal for those who listen (myself included) has grown. That’s not to say that any of us, myself included, doesn’t have the ability to grow on a similar scale, but it’d be pretty foolhardy to take Tim on at his own game or set out with the sole aim of being the next Tim Ferriss show.
The simple guide, it seems to me, is for you to create content that:
A) Genuinely interests you
B) You have some real interest, skill and experience in
C) Is sufficiently marketable that there will be at least one other person out there who is likely to be interested in what you have to say (which probably applies to every topic out there)
There’s little point in trying to artificially bend yourself to create something that you think will have mass-market appeal. You’ll be trying to please all the people all the time and will be likely to be lost in the masses of content that already exists out there. You’ll also probably lose the passion for the ongoing process of creation of content on the subject because you lack genuine interest in it. Fundamentally the congruence will be missing and you will struggle to gain traction amongst your listeners.
Choose a subject that you are passionate about (or at least interested in) and let your interest drive the creative process rather than a skewed desire to be something that you’re not, purely driven by the pursuit of listener numbers.
The length of the podcast episodes and the format of them (short form — under 30 minutes or long form — 1 to 2 hours) is entirely up to you, as is whether the content will be you talking on your own, or interviews with others. In either case, the subject matter is what really matters, rather than the specifics of how it’s presented at this point.
2) The technology
Personal experience has shown that when starting a new venture, it’s all too tempting to immediately focus on what technical kit is required to begin. Software subscriptions, items of hardware and training courses are all sought out, and the cost of launching steadily mounts up. I suspect that for many this is either a means of procrastinating over whether to get started, as they consider the expense. For others, they kid themselves that progress equates to investment in the technology and the training, and they are happy to use these investments as means of delaying doing-the-doing. Many never even get around to recording an episode or taking action!
Other podcast courses that I’ve seen will recommend a kit-list of audio recorders, microphones, pop-guards, power supplies and cables to connect it all together. While you may want to invest in these in the longer term, and I’m sure they have their benefits, I contend that there is no immediate need for this.
The good news for creating your podcast is that there is literally ZERO investment required to get your first episodes recorded, launched and polished to a reasonable standard. Assuming you have a smartphone, or even a laptop with a serviceable microphone, together with an internet connection (and let’s face it, you DO if you’re reading this) then you can get started now.
My personal formula and kit-list is as follows:
- An iPhone 7 (I’m sure other smartphones work just as well) for recording the audio content (TIP: Make sure you record in airplane mode so you don’t get disturbed while in full flow by a cold-call!)
- A Macbook on which to edit the episode (I prefer not to use my phone more than necessary) — other laptops/computers will work just as well
- A free account on Anchor.fm (more on this shortly)
- An internet connection to bring it all together (did I really need to mention that!).
An optional number 5) is a cheap lapel microphone(also known as a lavalier microphone). This offers a means of getting a slightly better quality recording, but isn’t essential. I’ve bought a couple of fairly generic ones from Amazon like this one. Undoubtedly they’re not the best quality, but my total investment in creating a podcast is represented by the cost of a microphone for around $20. It sounds fine, provided I’m recording in quiet room (or sometimes in my car which is like a reasonably sound-proof recording studio when parked somewhere quiet!).
Anchor.fm is the app to which I credit the creation of my podcast. I don’t own shares in it, but I’d like to. I think it is a FANTASTIC product and can’t praise it highly enough. I encountered it via a Gary Vaynerchuk video in which he described it with characteristically concise and emphatic praise.
Anchor.fm really is ALL you need to create and publish your podcast. There is a misconception that if you create your podcast on Anchor.fm, that this becomes the only place where your content can be accessed. This is WRONG. With the selection of a few simple configuration options, my podcast gets pushed out to all the major podcast platforms (iTunes, Spotify, Google and so-on) and they are seemingly always looking for new places to push content out to.
Other features I love about anchor.fm include that:
- Content can be recorded directly into the app
- You can add backing tracks to audio, to create generic intro and outro segments from their own library of tunes
- You can edit and structure your content and episodes in the app. Their website also syncs with the app instantaneously
- You can use your own music as backing tracks to spoken content, and for end credits
- It assists in pushing content out to other podcast platforms and libraries
- It helps with templates for cover art and textual content (descriptions, episode numbering and so-on) required to get your podcast live
All this comes for free (at present) and the only concession seems to be an overlay of the Anchor logo as a watermark on the cover image, and a small commercial at the end of the podcast denoting that the episode was recorded on Anchor.fm. Well worth it for the convenience!
In short, I’m a fan of Anchor.fm and between this and the minor investment in a microphone (should you wish), itmakes it possible to get a podcast live, quickly for virtually NO EXPENDITURE.
3) The process
I want to describe the high-level process through which I record and publish my podcast. It’s not a step-by-step guide, but rather a description of the high-level activities. I provide this so you can see how easily it is to take a podcast from idea to published content.
The idea — Most of my episodes have originated as blog posts written here on Medium. The podcast episodes typically follow a format whereby I explore a particular idea and offer a number of actionable steps that can be taken to apply the lessons from within it. I feel it’s the best way to maximise on the investment of time in writing a blog, to re-use this to inform the content of a podcast. I will usually make one to two pages of notes on the core themes that I want to cover in my podcast, and this forms my preparation, giving me a crib-sheet to refer to.
Recording — I like to re-purpose and re-use content as much as possible, so my personal preference is to record the content as a video using my phone (in airplane mode, remember!) which I can then publish to YouTube and to my Facebook page. I make a point of trying to summarise the action points at the end of the episode and I always make a shameless appeal for reviews, likes and shares. I don’t know if this helps or not!
Processing — I will record the video into my phone, and then transfer the video file onto my laptop. I use a software tool called Camtasia to export the audio off the video file into a separate .wav file. Camtasia is not free (I’d already purchased it for another purpose), but the same thing can be done on a Mac using QuickTime which is free, and I’d assume there are corresponding free applications on a PC too.
Editing — I create a new episode of the podcast on Anchor.fm and upload my .wav file into the audio library in anchor.fm. I’ve also recorded a generic intro and a generic outro in anchor.fm which can be added to my episode (I use the same one for every episode and have created this using some of generic music within the site. This introduces my podcast, and me to the listener. The outro also gives my contact information for anyone who wants to get in touch with questions or comments.
Publishing — Once I’m happy with the content file, I listen through to it once for quality checking. I add the description, title (including episode number) and other information as directed by anchor.fm. Once I click on the ‘Publish’ button, my podcast is available on anchor.fm and will usually also appear on other major podcast platforms within a couple of hours.
Publicity — I have made a regular practice of publicising my podcast on all my other social channels (Facebook, Twitter and so-on), by adding a link to iTunes and a description of the episode when it’s released.
4) The result
Having followed the above process (which I’d estimate takes between 1 and 2 hours, end-to-end for a podcast episode of up to 30 minutes in length), the end-result is that I have a new podcast episode live, on all the major podcast platforms. I then have the facility to undertake whatever publicity and marketing activities I feel would be appropriate.
What I would like to share is the (relative) success and growth that I’ve seen in the listener figures relating to my content. This indicates the popularity of the platform relative to others.
If I compare the figures between my YouTube channel and my Podcast, a simple statistic is that it took around 6 months for me to get twice as many listens to my podcast episodes as views for all the videos I’ve published to YouTube in the last 3 years. That in itself is a pretty good, if non-scientific indication of the popularity of podcasts these days compared to videos on YouTube.
Another useful piece of insight enabled by anchor.fm is the relative popularity of various podcast platforms and where people seem to go to listen. Here’s the split (by percentage) for my podcast:
- iOS — 19%
- Spotify — 11%
- Overcast — 3%
- iTunes (desktop) — 1%
- Pocketcast — 1%
- Android — 1%
- Anchor.fm — 1%
- Other (Google, Stitcher, Breaker, RadioPublic, Castbox) — 63%
I appreciate that the grouping of ‘Other’ in the above stats isn’t all that helpful, but what I think it emphasises is the importance of getting your content on all the available platforms simultaneously, which is all enabled by anchor.fm without any additional effort by me!
5) The future, monetisation and maintaining momentum
Hopefully by now you understand just how easy (and cheap) it is to get a podcast recorded, live and out in the world. There really is no logistical (or financial) barrier to you getting your content published, within hours. The only barrier is in overcoming your own inertia or resistance towards getting on, recording your content and pushing it out there for all to listen-to.
Generally accepted wisdom regarding podcasting seems to be that it’s wise to build up a backlog of a few episodes to gradually release, before you start publishing these to the world. I assume this is to give you a head-start when it comes to putting episodes out on a regular basis, which is the goal.
My personal aim is to publish an episode once every 2 weeks at a minimum, and I have found that this is easily attainable given how long it takes to put an episode together. My other observation is that Episode 1 of my podcast has had, by-far the most listens than the others (about twice the average). I think this is indicative of the consumption habits of listeners and it’s likely I guess that most would expect the first episode to be indicative of the themes and style of the content for the podcast as a whole. As such, I think there’s a real case for getting a quality first episode out there as soon as possible, gaining some subscribers and benefitting from the building of anticipation amongst the user community.
I hope that by maintaining momentum and honing my craft that my content will gain traction and my podcast listening figures will increase. The place of my podcast at present is to build my footprint across the internet and as another part of the overall service I provide to my niche. Over time, I hope it will become one of the main channels for engagement with my niche, and that my content may broaden to encompass interviews with appropriate guests whose experience can add interest and credibility to my content and message.
Inevitably, the entrepreneurial instinct for monetisation kicks in for many, and as yet I’ve no clear insight to share with you on that front. Many will talk of the opportunities for monetising podcasts, predominantly through advertising and promotion of products, and I believe that anchor.fm have a means of submitting your podcast for appropriately selected adverts to be added into your content. I’ve yet to explore that. I’ve also encountered other podcasts that include their Patreon link to the intro or outro to invite donations; as yet I’ve not done this myself and can’t seem to get past the feeling that I’d be begging for contributions if I did so. Maybe that’s more of a commentary about how I feel regarding my content and its worth as of now. Either way, if only through broadening your reach and footprint in the world, podcasting certainly offers enormous potential for generation of income, if only indirectly as a marketing tool.
In his promotional material for the Podcast Fellowship, Seth Godin is quite unequivocal in his description of podcasting as a means of being able to create content that is closely linked to your passions rather than for making money. I think that in itself is both true and an incredibly valuable facet to the platform.
It’s about ease of creation and broadcast of content, first and foremost.
My goal in sharing this piece has been to help people to understand that there really is no real barrier to creating and launching a new podcast. The process is intuitive, slick and easy to follow; I didn’t receive any formal training and I’ve managed to get the hang of it easily, and I’m no genius!
My simple call-to-action is to that if you have any aspirations towards creating a podcast, then there really is no better time to do this than right now. Get signed up on anchor.fm, grab your phone and get recording!
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