Who doesn’t? In the last five years or so, the barrier to entry into the wide world of podcasting has only gotten smaller. What once required expensive equipment, pricey software, and loads of technical know-how can now he done with one’s smartphone. Anyone can start a podcast—which is both bad and good. According to the Exploding Topics website, there are 3.02 million podcasts as of January 2023. That’s a lot of competition! If you want to stand out from the crowd, here are ten tips that can help you do that.
1. Choose a good topic.
While there’s over three million podcasts, the good news is they don’t all talk about the same things. There are podcasts about everything from politics to cooking to movies to comics and everything in between. There are even audio dramas in the style of old radio plays. (I should know because I’m in a few). All of that to say, the first thing you need to do is choose a great topic for your podcast. It should be something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. It could also be timely. Is there a new TV series premiering this fall that looks interesting to you? Start an aftershow podcast for it. Even if your topic already has podcasts dedicated to it, you can still bring a unique perspective. When I started The Monster Island Film Vault, it wasn’t the only giant monster movie show out there, but what made it unique was my academic research and the audio drama segments. But you could also try something different and personal, like reading letters written between two brothers during World War II (Letters From War). Whatever it is, that needs to be the foundation of your podcast.
2. Get good mics and gear.
Some would argue that you don’t need professional-quality sound to have a good podcast. I’m inclined to agree—to a point. Good content should be your number one priority, which can compensate for sound quality issues. But I would still tell you to invest in some decent gear, especially a microphone. It’s here where podcasting has gotten more accessible. The prices for mics and other gear like soundboards have dropped substantially in the last few years. You can now get a good beginner mic, like the Rode PodMic (of which I have two as backups), for only $100. Besides that, I recommend getting a mic stand, headphones, and a pop filter, all of which have affordable options for beginners. If you want to step up your podcasting game, you can get a soundboard, like the Rodecaster Pro, which I use. It has twomodels that, while more expensive, can be purchased on payment plans from some retailers.
3. Get a good co-host.
There are good solo podcasts out there, but it takes exceptional charisma and subject matter—usually both—to make them good. That’s why I would stress getting yourself at least one excellent co-host. Conversations are more interesting to listen to than lectures, which is what a co-host helps create. If not a regular co-host, bring on guests who offer different perspectives on your topic. A co-host or guest could be a friend or interesting stranger. The dynamic you want will depend on your subject matter and goals. In the kaiju podcasting sphere, there are several shows like Monsters vs. Men that have the expert and newbie dynamic. Whatever it is, make sure the personalities mesh well to create an entertaining and/or informative rapport.
4. Subscribe to a good podcast hosting site.
In order for your podcast to get out to podcatchers (podcast streaming apps), you need a host website. This is the “home” of your podcast. It could be an official website (like I did with MIFV) or it could be a website like PodBean, RedCircle, or Libsyn. In some cases, using both is best. You can have a host site house all of your audio and then have it funneled to your website. Regardless, it gives listeners a central hub to find your show to see show notes, blogs, and other content. A website with a unique domain name will also add legitimacy and professionalism to your show. Shop around and find a hosting service that fits your budget.
5. Subscribe to a good recording service.
If you must record remotely with your co-host or a guest, there are several options that will help make that easier. While video call and livestream services like Skype and Streamyard aren’t bad choices, there are others out there designed specifically for podcasting. Some start out free (Zencastr) while others require a monthly fee (RivdersideFM). The downside to free services is they don’t typically offer as many perks, like in-browser editing, and usually have inferior audio quality (MP3’s instead of WAV files). However, paid services will still put a cap on the amount of audio you can record and store on their servers. Personally, I use Zencastr but also record on my soundboard, which records in WAV. That way I have a backup in case one or the other fails in some way (which is also a smart thing to do).
6. Practice talking.
It goes without saying—no pun intended—that podcasting will require that you talk a lot. For some of us, that comes naturally. For others, it may require that we step outside of our comfort zone. It may not exactly be “public speaking,” but it can still be nerve-wracking. So, I would recommend you find ways to practice. That could be scripting what you say and reading it, or it may be as simple as speaking in front of a few friends. You could also take a class or two on public speaking or acting to improve your oratory skills. Even if you’re already a natural speaker, these would be good for you. That way you will be pleasant to listen to because, obviously, podcasts live or die on the hosts’ ability to speak.
7. Set a release schedule.
Do you want your show to be daily, weekly, or monthly? That’ll depend on how much time and energy you want to dedicate to production. Regardless, your listeners will usually accept whatever that schedule will be. It’ll give them something to look forward to when they know the release date for the next episode is coming. It’ll also give you a deadline to meet and keep you on task. Let me tell you: deadlines are great motivators because, as my writing professor always said, “Deadline is a literal not figurative term: you cross this line, you’re dead!” That sounds a bit extreme, but you get what I mean.
Charisma, topics, and speech skills are key ingredients to a great podcast, but they mean almost nothing if your editing is bad. Long silences are almost always death in a podcast. An overabundance of time-buying words like “uh” and “um” will drive listeners crazy. The same goes for off-topic tangents. A lack of editing can make otherwise good podcasters sound terrible, but good editing can make even bad speakers sound great. It’s by far my least-favorite part of podcasting, but it’s also where much of the magic happens. That’s why you owe it to yourself to do it. There are some great audio editing programs out there—like Audacity, which is free—as well as editing tools offered by recording services, as I mentioned above. Suck it up and edit!
9. Get on social media.
Whether you like social media or not (I know a few podcasters who never had it before they started podcasting), it’s where many people spend their time communicating and socializing. If you want to promote your podcast and interact with listeners, then you’ll need to join at least a few of them. Research which ones you think you could use best and join them. Are you good with concise blogging? Jump on Twitter. Do you have great pictures and videos to go with your podcast? Try Instagram. Do you want to have debates and discourse over new episodes or related subjects? Join Facebook and start a page and group for your show. You’ll make a lot of friends and meet some great colleagues by doing so—just make sure you liberally use the “block” button to avoid the madness.
10. Network with other podcasters.
Speaking of meeting colleagues, you should always network with your fellow podcasters. This could lead to things like guest spots on other shows, contact with incredible guests for your show, and a support network when you feel a bit burnt out. I’ve met people through networking who have helped me edit episodes, created sound effects for me, or done some acting on the show. It’s also a great way to cross-promote and introduce yourself to a different audience. There’s usually a lot of overlap if you run in the same circles with other podcasters. Don’t see them as competition necessarily.
Podcasting is a medium that is full of possibilities and is easier than ever to get into. If you have a great idea for a show, chase that dream and get it out there. I’ve heard from many listeners who told me that they felt validated by what I said on my shows or that listening helped them get through some tough times. In other words, you can use this to be a blessing to them and yourself.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started!