I’m a tech novice. Editing a blog post in WordPress is about the height of my interest and skill level when it comes to digital content. When a friend kept urging me to launch a podcast and see if I liked it, it sounded fun but I was skeptical. It seemed so much harder than blogging. There was no one place that gave a really simple, step-by-step explanation on how to do it. While I don’t pretend to be an expert and my podcast could definitely improve in some areas, with a little help I was able to get it off the ground and regularly produce episodes without much trouble.
I guarantee there are better ways to do every step on this list, but I’m a to-the-point kind of guy, so I basically did all the easiest, most obvious things instead of searching for something better. If you want to get started quickly and easily, these steps will work!
1. Mic and headset (~$88)
You don’t need anything super fancy to sound pretty good. I have old Plantronics headset that has a built-in mic. It was about $29. The built-in mic is actually good enough that it’s not distracting. My first episode was recorded with it. But I decided to spring for a slightly better mic. I went to Amazon and found an Audio Technica mic for $59. I’m very happy with the sound quality I get from the mic, and I use the headset at the same time to eliminate feedback. Both require no software and the computer recognizes them as soon as they’re plugged in. The biggest downside with the mic I chose is that it’s really only good for one person talking directly into it. I tried a few interviews with guests in the same room with me, and it’s hard to get even volume levels with people at difference distances from the mic.
2. Intro/outro music (~$29)
You could go without music or record your own, but I decided to buy a simple intro/outro. I went to PremiumBeats and listened to a few dozen samples before I picked one. I paid $29 for a song, downloaded it, and then was able to cut it into smaller sections and add voice over for an intro. The downside is I suppose someone else could be using the same song for something else, but it seems a pretty low risk.
3. Editing software ($0)
I wanted to go cheap and simple, so I took advice from a friend and downloaded Audacity. It’s pretty plain vanilla, but it does everything I’m interested in doing right now. After downloading I opened it, imported the intro music file, was able to use simple cut and paste tools to trim it down, do fade in/out effects, and then record a voice over to go with the music. My favorite part about Audacity is how easy it is to edit multiple tracks and the simple, visual layout. After editing you simple click “export audio” and it spits out an MP3 after asking you to fill in the “tags”, which includes info like track number, title, date, etc. (which is great because this is what iTunes and other podcast hosting platforms use to pull the info from).
4. Recording software ($0)
If you’re recording a solo podcast, as I occasionally do, Audacity is all you need. It works fine for in-studio guests as well. If you have a guest across the country, however, you’ll need a way to record the call. I downloaded CallGraph for free and it works really well with Skype. Recording begins automatically when Skype sessions start and the file is saved to whatever location you choose when you setup CallGraph (and a copy goes to the cloud temporarily as well). The only occasional issue is when CallGraph fails to sync with Skype, which seems to happen only if I move my laptop from one WiFi network to another without first shutting down and restarting. A simple restart does the trick. Be sure it’s syncing before you begin!
5. Conference call software ($0)
As I mentioned above, I use Skype. The main reason is because I already know how, everyone else has some experience with it, and it works so well with CallGraph. I know people who prefer Zoom (which allows recording without any third party software), or Google Hangouts, but I’ve found Skype to be no worse than the rest and easy for guests to use. When I installed CallGraph I had to follow instructions to go into Skype settings and allow the CallGraph plugin to work with it so it would record. Skype sometimes cuts out if broadband is sketchy, but I have been able to get the guest back and just edit out the bad spot later. The main thing is to remind your guests to find a quiet room and headphones.
6. Hosting (~$120/year)
Once you record your intro and outro, get a guest on Skype, let CallGraph record it, import the file to Audacity, edit it into a wonderful episode, and export the file to your podcast folder, now what? You’ve got the finished product, but how do you post it for others to easily listen and share? I love SoundCloud. It’s really easy to upload files to, and set permissions, release date, add descriptions, and to get a nice link for embedding on a blog and sharing on social. SoundCloud is free until you upload something like 6 hours, but to get unlimited space a pro account is only around $120/year when last I checked. Once you have an account, you just click “upload”, select your file, type in the title, descriptions, etc. and you’ll get a great player that’s easy to listen and share.
7. Sharing ($0)
So here’s where I hit my first major roadblock. Most people listen to podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher or some other distribution platform that lets listeners subscribe. SoundCloud is great for web listening, but it makes it harder for your fans to work your podcast into their daily rotation and get wider reach. You’ll need to get these platforms to include your podcast. The instructions for how to do so on iTunes are long and intimidating, but really you just need an RSS feed for your podcast. Once you have that, you can submit it with a bit of basic info and wait to hear if you’re approved. I do iTunes and Stitcher, because those are the ones I see the most. The struggle I faced was how the heck to get an RSS feed of my podcast? SoundCloud made this easier. The have a (beta) podcasting service. It’s not easy to find, but if you just Google SoundCloud podcasting you’ll get to a page that let’s you apply to be a podcaster. This generates an RSS feed of everything you upload to SoundCloud. You can go into your settings, copy it, and paste it into your application on your platforms of choice. It took a few days but both iTunes and Stitcher approved me and emailed me a link to where my show could be found.
The basic routine
After I got everything setup I got into a pretty simple routine for creating and posting new episodes. I schedule a Skype session with my guest, email them some things we might discuss, and then get underway. When the Skype begins I let them know it’s recording and that I can edit things if need be, and let them know when to expect it to go live. (I like to record with a 3-4 week buffer and release episodes weekly). I do audio only to reduce bandwidth problems and keep it simple. After the call is done, I open up Audacity, import the call recording, cut out the small talk before the interview and (rarely) edit out some other things like a sneeze or a cough. I then import my intro and outro music files, cut and paste them around the track, add fade in and out, and save. I export the file to a folder, add the proper tags, and then open up SoundCloud. I upload, add description, and then I typically set the track as “private” until the day when I will release it. I release every Monday along with a blog post with show notes and links and an embedded audio player from SoundCloud. I never know how my listeners prefer to listen, so I try to give them plenty of easy options.
That’s it! It’s fun, easy, and can be rewarding. Go for it.