Seeing as there are only a certain number of hours in the day and, some estimates suggest, 180,000 podcasts in the world and our show could do without even more competition here’s something that’s probably not in my interest to tell you: it’s really easy to start your own podcast.
There are some incredibly technically fantastic podcasts out there these days, which could take weeks and months of editing to perfect (think This American Life and their off-shoots, Serial and S-Town), those recorded in front of large live audiences (like the excellent Guilty Feminist) but also some more lo-fi products which have become international smash hits because of their strong content (My Favourite Murder record at home and often make jokes about the low-tech nature of their living room set-ups, punch microphones when getting excited about a particularly grisly murder and are regularly interrupted by Georgia’s cat, Elvis).
It’s fair to say our podcast falls in the latter (in the lo-fi aspect, not the international smash hit bit), so this is not an article that is going to give you a blow-by-blow account of the finer aspects of editing software. However, somehow, we have managed to amass a loyal and reasonable following beyond just our mums tuning in and were even in the iTunes top 40 comedy charts at one point, so here are my top tips on how to start a podcast if you’re considering it. (My bank details are at the bottom so you can pay me back when you become hugely successful).
Come up with a strong idea
Everyone and their dog has a podcast these days (in fact, Adam Buxton’s dog Rosie is a main character on his wonderful show). Asking ‘Have you listened to my podcast?’ is the new ‘Do you follow me on Twitter?’ It’s so important to come up with a strong idea that will stand out from the crowd.
There are around 680,083,864 podcasts currently discussing their take on the latest Marvel movie… Ok, that’s an estimate, but you take my point. You might be the best, funniest, cleverest, loudest, sassiest, hell the fastest talker on the subject of Marvel movies – but you are going to be a brand new, tiny fish in a pond so overrun it’s makes Westfield on a Saturday look like a ghost town. So try and come up with a unique idea – and do your research to check it’s as ‘unique’ as you think it is.
We started IRL UK Podcast around two years ago after chatting in the pub about some of the most ridiculous real-life stories we’d read in mags like Take A Break, Love It and Chat over the years. Who can resist the headline, ‘My Vagina Grew Teeth’? We were making ourselves laugh so much, that we decided we should turn our conversation into a podcast. When we sobered up, we were genuinely shocked when we saw that no-one out there was doing a podcast on the subject and so started to think about the idea seriously.
But, sense test your idea with friends and family – you might find there’s no podcasts out there about ginger cats with names beginning with Y, but it’s worth asking people if they think it’s because that podcast would be incredibly boring and no-one would tune in.
Try and do a podcast on something you’re interested in, and can be authoritative about – don’t start ‘Ginger Toms with a Y Pod’ if you’re a dog lover, for instance.
Also make sure your podcast has longevity – there might only be a couple of cats named Yorick/Yvonne/Yvette/Yrsa and some of them might not even be ginger.
Red-headed cats aside, give yourself a fighting chance of getting something off the ground by picking a topic you (and ideally only you) could literally discuss for hours. Because that’s going to be something you’re going to have to actually do. It’s the whole point.
Be prepared for commitment
That hallowed night in Wetherspoons when the idea for our podcast was born, there were six people around the table – the show ended up consisting of only two of us. Turning up every week (sometimes more) to record your show can be hard work and it’s also difficult to negotiate fitting it into your diary. We went through a period of recording the show at 8am to fit it around our working day and once we recorded three shows in a week because my co-host Anna was going on holiday to Australia and we didn’t want to have a gap in recording.
Consistency is key, so you need to be prepared for that. Most people will subscribe to your podcast, but lots will also download occasionally when they remember, so knowing that they can always pick up a new episode on Friday morning, say, is going to help them come back.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Pick your name
The name of your podcast is so important – it should be catchy, snappy, tell the listener what the podcast is all about and stand out from the crowd. Make it specific. Make it searchable. Changing the name of a podcast once it’s out there is not something that is really possible for many reasons.
Again, do your research – make sure you don’t record eight episodes only to realise there is already a podcast out there with the same title as you. We had to add a ‘UK’ to our title as Catfish’s Nev Schulman already had a pod called ‘IRL with Nev Schulman’. To this day I wonder if anyone ever tweets him by accident when trying to reach us, saying, ‘You guys are going to love this story’ with a link to a tale about a mass outbreak of diarrhoea in a strip club. (That actually happened by the way)
And make sure you can get decent usernames on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, hell every kind social media you can find. And grab those names quickly. This will be important later.
Use the internet and podcasting community
This is not me ducking out of my responsibilities, but after this point, a lot of the technical details and specific answers you need are out there online from people far more knowledgeable than me. Even two years ago, starting a podcast wasn’t as common as it is now and we learned everything we know by googling it. You will not believe the instructional details that are out there. So, not to be all ‘just google it’ but, just google it.
No question is too stupid for the internet. From ‘How do I get my podcast on iTunes?’ to ‘What is that weird little red line that keeps popping up when I press this button on Audacity and what do I do to stop that happening?’ to ‘What’s the best microphone for a podcast about ginger cats?’ it’s all out there. And so simply put. If reading is too hard for you, there are even these super-slow YouTube videos out there that show you how to do stuff step by step, and that you can watch, pause, flick screens and follow to. The. Click.
The podcast community is a wonderfully inclusive place and every time I’ve asked a question of it (there are Facebook groups, noticeboards and forums galore) I’ve received a helpful answer, so get involved too.
Design your logo
Just google it… no, I’m kidding, sorry.
But do take a look at your phone and open up your podcast provider. See how tiny the little thumbnails are in the charts and search sections? You need to make sure that when your logo is finished, it’ll look great and readable and stand out in that size and context. Lots of podcasts have success with using pictures of the presenters on the logo (think Answer Me This!, Guys We Fucked, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review), so that’s something to consider.
And, this one is on the internet, but to get it on iTunes (and, you’re going to need it on iTunes), it should be at least 1400 x1400 px.
Record it! Then listen…
Now it’s time to record your podcast – if you have access to a studio somehow, then use it. The more professional something sounds, the better. Next option down is to buy microphones – these vary in price and effectiveness and there are 354,073 articles recommending which ones best suit your needs. But my advice is to not spend loads thinking it guarantees success – content is far more important in my opinion. The chances are though, everything you need to produce a podcast is available on the device you’re looking at now. You can download free and cheap versions of programmes like Adobe Audition, Audible, Quicktime, the list goes on, and use your phone or laptop microphones to record your content. It won’t sound as good as if you were in a studio of course, but why not give it a go?
When recording, do be prepared – think about what you’re going to talk about and it’ll save you some editing. Don’t be shy, but also, be yourself. Don’t read from scripts (unless you’re doing a scripted fiction show, obviously), just try and be natural. If your podcast is conversational, don’t talk to a co-host like there’s no-one there, because the likelihood is you’ll descend into boring territory. My advice would be to talk as if you’re in a pub with your friend and there’s a really hot guy on the next table and you’re doing that thing where you’re trying to be your best and most hilarious self to impress them. You totally know what I mean.
Also, don’t include music or clips that are copyrighted unless you want to end up with the risk of a hefty bill. There are lots of jingle providers out there that can help with a theme tune and there are banks of non-copyrighted songs and sound effects available too.
And then, the horrible bit. Once you’ve had a go at recording your podcast, have a listen to it and be honest with yourself. Is it interesting? Is it funny? Is it too long? Is it too short? Do you say ‘Ummmm’ constantly? Ummmmm, yeah you probably do.
Do edit it – be brutal with yourself and try and get the episode as tight as possible. Most podcasts vary between 20 and 40 minutes and are successful at that length (of course there are notable exceptions). What time period are you asking someone to give to you? One bus journey might be ok a week – but if someone has to get a bus, then have a three-hour Sunday stroll just to get through one of your weekly episiodes, the likelihood is they just won’t bother.
And don’t be scared of editing – this is when those videos online become useful. Have a read and pick the best editing software for you and just play around with it. Most of the controls are instinctive and make sense. Honestly, once you’ve got the hang of it, it can be harder filtering a brunch picture to perfection in Instagram
Repeat… several times
Don’t launch a podcast until you have a few episodes backdated to launch with. Whether it’s so you can backdate some and get ahead of yourself and therefore relieve some of the pressure, or just so you can upload eight in one go so a listener has a few to explore and get used to when you launch – do create several episodes that you’re happy with before publishing them online.
Publish them online… everywhere you can
Essentially, the bones of it is, you need to put your podcast somewhere that you can host it – then create an RSS feed that allows it to be pushed onto a load of providers where people can download and listen to it. Options include SoundCloud, Podbean, Libsyn – and loads more.
That’s the very simple version. You also need to include metadata that makes you searchable, for instance. You need to click a load of buttons about whether you have copyrighted material in there. You need to find a platform that allows you to host the amount of MBs that more than a handful of podcasts will take up.
But, it isn’t hard and there are umpteen guides to help you do this. Apple is particularly helpful with pages like this that answer all of your questions.
Submitting your podcast and getting it published on iTunes can take anything from a couple of days to weeks – and sometimes they just pop up without even notifying you. And being on the platform is obviously important. But it’s also important to make sure you’re on loads of other podcast providers – Stitcher, Spotify, Podbay, Podbean, Acast, there are so many. Some you need to manually get in contact with and some will pull your feed from elsewhere – take time to give your podcast the widest audience possible.
Sell, sell, sell
If a podcast lands online and no-one endlessly and shamelessly pushes it on every social platform possible, does it even exist?
Bother every single person you know to listen to your podcast in every single way you can – then get them to do the same with their network. And then theirs. And theirs. Tweet people who you find on the internet looking for recommendations. Follow people you want to follow you back. Get involved in the podcast community. Start conversations. You need to try really hard to get a podcast beyond an audience of people you know, so use every ounce of social nous you have to spread the word.
And if all else fails, write a piece on Grazia UK on how to start a podcast, drop the title of your podcast endlessly into the piece and insist that a link is included at the end.