In the past 2 weeks I’ve had about five or six friends and colleagues asking me what it takes to start your own podcast. I’m not sure if it’s the weather, the stars alignment or pure coincidence but I’ve never had that many people from different backgrounds asking me the same exact question. Although I don’t have a podcast –at this point- our team at MGR Consulting Group has set up a few of them for other clients in the past. There are plenty of good sources on the Internet from famous bloggers about this exact topic and I can’t explain it much better than other people already have, but here’s a quick top ten check list that at least, will give everyone an idea of what is involved in the process. So here it goes…
- Have a blog. Yes, I know, this is about podcasting, but if you want to become a successful podcaster, my first recommendation is that you create your own blog first. Having a blog and writing articles on your blog on a regular basis takes a lot of commitment and discipline. Believe me, if you don’t have the discipline to write about a different topic each week, or each month, you will not have the discipline to talk about it and create a podcast either. Plus, once you start your podcast, you will also need a blogging platform such as WordPress to post and publish your episodes, so you might as well start with an authority blog, establish your brand, and evolve into a podcast when you feel you’re ready.
- Come up with your Podcast Title. Now that you’re convinced that you want to start your own podcast, you will need to need a title for your program. Normally, you will want your title to also include the word “podcast” at the end so that your podcast is easily found in your category. If you want to build your brand around your own name, the podcast title could be “John Smith’s Podcast.” If you want to brand your podcast around your company or your blog title, etc., then you can title it “The Company Name Podcast with John Smith” or something similar. Either way, keep in mind that iTunes is a search engine too, therefore, use words, titles and descriptions that will make it easier for people to find your podcast in the future.
- Artwork. In order to publish your podcast on iTunes, you are going to need some artwork. Everyone is familiar with the album covers and the artwork that comes along with any song, movie, podcast, etc. on iTunes, so I won’t spend much time defining it. What you need to know is that the Artwork needs to be professionally designed. Although you only see a tiny thumbnail image on your iPod or iPhone, you will actually need a design that is 1400 x 1400 pixels. That’s larger than most desktops and laptops monitors displays! Hire a professional designer to create the artwork for you. This is your first and only visual impression so make sure that it is good! It needs to be designed so that it is also legible when it is displayed as small as the actual thumbnail that you see on your mobile device. Your designer will be able to test your artwork in different sizes for you.
- Equipment. Nothing is more annoying for me than a podcast with sound levels all over the place. Perhaps it is because my background is in television production, but seriously, how hard is it to make sure that your sound is clear and consistent throughout the podcast? Don’t use your iPhone to record your podcasts! You will need to invest in a good microphone, a pop filter, recording software, editing software, and of course a desktop computer or a laptop if you don’t already have one. All of this doesn’t necessarily need to be very expensive. You can find very decent mics for under $100 on Amazon.com, some recording software like Audacity is actually free. I don’t want to expand too much in this article on equipment and software options but if you need recommendations in this area, feel free to send me a message. The point is that you will need to have your own quality control system to make sure that your podcasts sound professional so you don’t irate your audience.
- Intro and Outro. Every podcast should have an Intro and an Outro. Both of these elements are also a one-time investment for you. You just need to write a (short) intro and have a professional narrator read it for you, add music or sound effects in the background and you’re good to go. Keep it short and sweet. People don’t mind your intro but they don’t want to listen to a 30 second jingle with some lengthy introduction before your podcast really starts. The outro is even shorter with a “good bye” and a “join us next time” type message. You can also add a call to action to the outro if you want to direct your listeners to your Blog (see point number 1) for more information, a transcript of your podcast or for any other purpose. A word of caution about the music for your intro and outro. Do not use copyrighted music. There are plenty of sources for royalty free music that you can use so you don’t get in trouble for using music without permission.
- Editing Your Podcast. This is a very straight forward process. If you don’t have any prior editing experience it may take you a bit more time until you get some practice. But in the end, all you’re doing is putting together all of your pieces in a linear way. Your editing software will come with tutorials about how to tackle the editing, but basically, you will add your Intro/podcast/outro to your timeline so that you assemble your first podcast. If you happened to have a guest/interview setup for your podcast, you may have two separate audio tracks, but the actual editing process is very similar all the time. Be sure to organize your files so that you can always have the same paths for those elements that you will use on a regular basis such as your show intro, show outro, any sound effects that you may use, etc. Check your audio levels, be sure they don’t peak into the red zone of your meter and you will be fine. You will also need to create a standard to when you save each of your episodes so that your file naming system is consistent. For example, “podcastname001.mp3” where “podcastname” is your podcast name or acronym, “001” is the episode number, and “.mp3” is just the actual format used to save your audio file.
- Podcast Sever. Contrary to public belief, iTunes does NOT host your podcasts or anybody’s podcasts. iTunes acts as a list server that simply takes your “feed” that you publish (more on publishing later) and makes it available to iTunes visitors. So you must setup a Media Server to host your podcasts. Absolutely, do NOT use the same server as your regular website or blog to host your podcast. Podcast files require a large amount of bandwidth and hosting them on the same server as your website or blog will cause your server to run very slow or even crash. I recommend BlueHost (Affiliate) for both your blog server and your podcast server but you can select any other host if they offer similar packages. Again, the key element for your podcast is bandwidth.
- Tagging Your MP3 File. To recap, at this point you have your podcast title in place, your blog to post your episodes, the artwork designed, your recording equipment in place, and now you’ve even recorded your first podcast and saved it under a file name structure that you will use in the future for other podcasts too. Now you will need to Export and Tag your mp3 file. Tagging your .mp3 file means adding the proper information about your particular podcast (Title, description, author, artwork, etc.) before it is published on iTunes. Explaining this process will require a bit more time and visual aids beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll be glad to answer any questions for you if you need more assistance in this area.
- Publishing Your Podcast. Since this is your first podcast, you will need to set up your feed before you can publish your podcast. This is probably the most technical part of the entire process. The good news is that once you do it the first time, you will not need to do it again. First you need to set up your Feed so that Directories will know that you’re submitting a podcast along with all other information about it. For this process, you can use a WordPress Plug in (PodPress, PowerPress or others) to make your life much easier. Again the details about how to add the information to the WordPress plug in and the various settings are beyond the scope of this article but it’s not too complicated since it is just a matter of checking the appropriate boxes and filling out your podcast information and feed settings. After all that is done, you will proceed to publish your podcast. This is the part where you will add your media URL (link) to your Blog post. Remember point #7 above about using a separate server for your podcast media. You may also want to add a few notes to your actual post in addition to the podcast file, such as some comments for your readers, credits, etc. But after you link your podcast mp3 file and add your notes, you simply “Publish” it like you would do with any other Blog post and you’re done.
- Submitting it to iTunes. Wow, almost there! So at this point, you already have your podcast published and anybody coming to your website or blog can listen to it, download it, etc. The reason why you want to submit it to iTunes is so that you reach a much larger audience than just those visiting your website. Some people recommend that you wait until you have a few podcasts posted on your blog before you submit them to iTunes. The reason for that is so that when your podcast is listed, it doesn’t appear with a single episode, but rather, you have a few episodes to show under your podcast name, giving you a bit more authority. But again, this is up to you. In order to submit your feed to iTunes you will need to have an account with them. Most of you may already have one if you download music or movies, etc. from iTunes. If you don’t have one, know that there’s no fee associated with it, so you can go ahead and set one up any time. This article on Apple’s website describes the submission process in detail. Now is when all the previous steps will really pay off since you already have all the information about your podcast in place, the artwork, description, categories, feed set up, etc. The submission process to iTunes is actually a breeze but after you submit it, it will be placed in a queue for review by the iTunes staff. If you want to submit it to other directories such as Stitcher or Blackberry, you will need to follow similar processes as with iTunes.
That’s it! Now you’re ready to tackle your own podcast and have a more clear idea (I hope) of what lays ahead of you. In reality, once you set up the first one and go through the entire process, subsequent podcasts are a lot simpler since you will not need to go through the entire process each time.
Don’t feel like doing it yourself? No worries. If you need assistance setting up your first podcast or simply want to delegate that task to a more experienced person to do it for you, know that our team at MGR Consulting Group will be able to assist you and have it all done for you. From setting up your Blog/Website, your servers, hosting, and all the way until your first podcast is on iTunes. After that, it will be just fun for you. We even create a “cheat sheet” for you so you can just follow it step by step for each subsequent podcast.
I hope this information is useful for all of you interested in this topic. If you have any questions or comments, please drop me a line under the “Comments” box below. I reply to all comments personally.
Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)