Whether you’re still toying with the idea of starting a podcast or a seasoned podcasting pro, there’s always more to learn about the medium. From episode planning to post-production, the process of bringing a podcast into the world is much more involved than you might think, so it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your knowledge and ensure you’re taking full advantage of all the tools, tips and tricks at your disposal.
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will help you cover all your bases when it comes to podcasting, and set you up for success if you’re still in the early planning stages.
Consider this your initiation into the weird and wonderful world of podcasting, and don’t forget to have fun along the way. Below you’ll find information on some of the fundamental pillars of podcasting and how you can position yourself as a pro in this ever-changing landscape:
Before we really get into it, let’s start with the lingo. To help you avoid sounding like a beginner in the recording studio, here’s some podcast terminology to add to your vocabulary:
Podcast vs. Podcast Episode
It may sound simple, but the distinction between these two terms is often glossed over. When referring to a “podcast,” this generally means the entire show and all episodes within the overarching umbrella. However, a “podcast episode” refers to a particular edition of the show, like an episode of a TV show.
Podcast Description vs. Episode Description
Similar to the above example, a “podcast description” refers to the description of the entire show, so the broad themes, topics and subject matter discussed in each episode. The “episode description,” however, outlines the themes and ideas discussed in one particular episode of the show.
Podcast Show Notes
Not to be confused with the episode description, show notes are a much more extensive and comprehensive description of an episode. Unlike an episode description, which is typically just a simple paragraph or two outlining the content of the episode, show notes may be broken out into different categories including links, references, information about the guest, and any calls-to-action for your listeners like information on where they can find your podcast on social media. While show notes aren’t a strict requirement for every podcast, it’s a great idea to include them with each episode because they help give your show a more professional feel, provide your audience with more content to consume, and increase your show’s awareness through SEO.
Podcast Listening Platforms
Listeners can tune into their favorite podcasts using almost any device and a variety of platforms. Mobile devices including iPhones and Androids are generally the easiest way to listen, but you can also listen on the computer and even in the car, provided there’s a bluetooth connection handy. As of 2021, Spotify is the most used app when it comes to online audio with Pandora as the second. Here are a few of our favorite podcast listening apps and why we love them:
- Pocket Casts. This podcasting app allows listeners to build a queue of episodes to listen to next, and filters so you can sort your favourite shows by time of day or situation. With curated recommendations and customizable options, Pocket Casts will turn you into a podcast connoisseur in no time.
- Castbox. This app features over 95 million volumes of audio content you can listen to using Android, Apple iPhone, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Carplay and Android Auto. With Castbox, you can also go live using Livecast, which allows podcasters to connect with their listeners in real time and grow their following.
- Spotify. You can also listen to podcasts using Spotify, which comes in handy if you like to keep all your music and pods in one place. Spotify is a great option for personalized recommendations and easy access to your favourite shows.
- Google Podcasts. With Google Podcasts, you’ll have access to all your favourite shows on an easy-to-use and intuitive interface. The app has some handy options like skipping ahead 30 seconds in an episode, a sleep timer, as well as a “history” section which shows you which episodes you’ve already listened to.
- Apple Podcasts. As the OG listening platform, Apple Podcasts is perfect for a no-frills podcast experience. The app comes pre-downloaded with your iPhone, so if you’re looking to cut down on the number of apps and platforms you’re using, Apple Podcasts is a great option.
A podcast subscriber is exactly what it sounds like—someone who has hit the “subscribe” button on a show, similar to how you might subscribe to a TV channel or magazine. Once you subscribe to a show, you’ll receive the latest episodes as soon as they’re released right on the app.
While Apple Podcasts uses the term “subscribers,” some listening platforms take a slightly different approach. For example, Spotify classifies podcast listeners into two categories: unique listeners and “followers,” who are users that have hit the “follow” button on a podcast to receive regular updates, similar to a subscriber.
As you might intuit, more subscribers or followers = more exposure for your podcast and therefore, a larger audience base to listen to your key messages, purchase your products or simply become part of your community. Unlike social media apps where you can easily see how many followers other users have, you won’t be able to see this number on other podcasts. However, you can use analytics tools to check out your own stats like:
- Transistor. With Transistor, you can check in on how many subscribers you have, listener trends and average downloads per episode.
- Apple Podcasts Connect. Using this tool, you can gain valuable insights into your podcast, monitor analytics and manage your shows.
- Charitable. This handy tool helps you grow your network while providing valuable insights to advertisers.
- Rephonic. With Rephonic, you can see how many listeners a podcast is getting per episode to take the guesswork out of podcast pitching.
Many podcasters will accompany each new episode with video footage of the conversation, which they can use to upload to video platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. There are a few different formats you can use to add video footage to your podcast plan including:
- A full-length video of the entire podcast episode, talk-show style. Example: Rich Roll’s YouTube channel.
- A teaser video or a short snippet of impactful moments during the episode. These could range anywhere from 20 seconds to five minutes, to be posted on Instagram, YouTube or LinkedIn.
- Audiograms, which convert snippets of your podcast episode into engaging, social-friendly soundbytes to entice listeners.
Again, video is not a requirement for podcasting, but if you have the proper equipment or even a team to help out with the recording, it can be a great way to engage listeners visually and continue building your brand. If you’re interested in adding video to your podcasting toolbox, here are some tools and platforms to get you started:
- A camcorder. You can use your phone or computer to film a virtual chat or a solocast, but if you’d like to film an in-person conversation with a guest, talk-show style, you may want to make use of a video camera and a tripod. The Panasonic HC-V770 Full HD Camcorder is a great place to start for recording podcasts.
- Three-in-one camera, mic and speaker. The Meeting Owl Pro is a handy tool for any podcasters looking to film and record an episode at the same time. It also integrates seamlessly into conferencing platforms to make your and your guests’ lives easier.
- Zencastr. This easy-to-use tool is another convenient way to record your podcasts on video. Zencastr can record 1080p HD video with up to four guests.
We have been asked time and time again, how long should my podcast episode be? And to give you a more unsatisfying answer… It depends! Some podcasts fit well in the 60-90 minutes time frame while others are performing exceptionally well at the 10 minute mark.
When podcasters are first starting out, it can be tough to determine how long each episode should be. Although you wouldn’t want your episodes to be so short that your listeners don’t have time to connect with your content, and you also wouldn’t want to risk losing their attention span with too long of an episode, length isn’t as important as you might think.
The great thing about podcasting is that it’s a fairly flexible medium, and there are no hard-and-fast rules in terms of format. You have the space and the freedom to experiment with multiple different formats, styles and lengths, so try recording episodes in the range of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes and then upwards of an hour. Analyze your backend information to see which episodes resonate the most with your listeners, then continue refining from there.
Podcasting Production Stages
Although it may seem daunting at first, we promise that recording a podcast gets easier over time once you create a routine for your show and get the hang of it. Essentially, recording a podcast involves three main stages:
This stage involves everything from making sure you have the proper equipment to writing your episode script. It also involves nailing down your podcast’s goals, themes and key messaging, sourcing new guests, and research. The planning stage is a crucial element of the podcasting process, so use it to your full advantage to set yourself up for success.
Here’s a general pre-production checklist you can use to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you hit the ground running:
- Choose a goal for your podcast. Whether it’s converting listeners to customers or raising public awareness about your brand, getting clear on the overarching objective behind your podcast is an important first step on your journey. Set aside some time to choose a few tangible goals or metrics you’d like to reach by a certain date so you’ll be able to measure your success once you get started.
- Refine your topic. Before you start planning your episodes, you’ll want to make sure you have a strong sense of the subject matter you’d like to cover. Try to choose a few anchor topics that are specific but not too niche to help guide your episode planning and hone in on the focus of your podcast.
- Build your brand. The pre-production phase is a great time to create brand collateral for your podcast which could include cover art, a logo or icon, professional photo shoots and of course, a name for the show. When choosing a name for your podcast, be sure to check out other podcasts to make sure your idea hasn’t been used before, and that it’s reflective of your overall tone and subject matter.
- Check your equipment. While you don’t necessarily have to purchase a full-fledged recording studio to start a podcast, you’ll want to take stock of the equipment you have on hand to make sure you have the basics. A microphone, laptop and editing software are three essentials that will help you get you started.
- Research, write, repeat. Episode planning is really the fun part of podcast pre-production because it gives you the chance to dive deep into a topic and draft a unique story flow based on your findings. Whether you’re planning a solocast or a guest interview, doing as much research as you can beforehand is a great way to make sure you’re knowledgeable about the subject matter.
The actual act of recording your podcast episodes will probably take you the least amount of time of all the stages. While every stage of podcasting can be enjoyable, recording is arguably the most fun part of the process because you finally get to dive deep into your topic, connect with your guest(s) and let your sparkling personality shine. Here are some tips for the recording stage of the production journey:
- Use a microphone and headphones to ensure crystal clear sound quality.
- If you’re going to be speaking with a guest, make sure your internet connection is lightning fast to avoid any annoying breaks or pauses in the conversation.
- Avoid too many “uh’s,” “um’s” and “ah’s” to keep your listeners’ attention and sound professional.
When it comes to your conversation with the guest, the topic of interruption can be a little controversial. Our opinion? If your guest is beginning to go on a tangent and you can feel the conversation veering way off into a direction that you don’t want to go, it’s okay to politely find a break in their speech to steer the discussion back to where you want it to go. But with that being said, don’t be rude. No listener wants to hear you fully interrupt a guest mid-sentence and you also don’t want to offend the guest. Have a glass of water close by to clear away any frogs that seem intent on hanging out in your throat during the recording session.
If recording is the party, post-production is the after party. This is where you get to put your editing skills and creativity to good use and really polish the episode to make it shine. Here are some tips for making the most of the post-production phase:
- Make use of shortcut keys for actions like cutting, rippling, highlighting and deleting to speed up the editing process.
- Check out different plugins and presets you can use to apply effects or clean up your audio quickly.
- Take advantage of all the handy sound editing platforms out there like Descript.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with new editing tricks, sound effects and music.
- The post-production stage is also a great opportunity to edit out any mistakes or disruptions during the episode and cut down on annoying background noise.
How to Upload a Podcast
Once you’re happy with the finished product, it’s finally time to share it with the world (deep breaths are key!). You’ve already figured out how to plan, record and edit an episode, so this part of the process will be a breeze.
Here’s what you need to do to upload your podcast episode:
- Choose a hosting platform. Some examples of podcast hosting platforms include Buzzsprout and PodBean.
- Upload your audio files (and show notes / description) to the platform.
- Submit your RSS feed URL and other requirements like artwork, title, category, description, language, etc. to Apple Podcasts and other apps like Spotify and Google Play Music.
- Once you’ve submitted, wait for your submission to be approved. You’ll only need to do this process once because Apple Podcasts will automatically update with new episodes from your hosting platform once you’ve provided the RSS information.
Now that your episode is available to the world, you’ll want to spread the word and create some buzz around the show—that’s right, it’s time to drill down on podcast marketing. This is also a crucial stage of the process because without using tactics like social media, email marketing, blogs and advertising to get the word out, no one will know your podcast exists anyway (unless you’re some A-List celebrity) so all your hard work will be for naught.
Again, don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with new platforms, ideas and tactics, and be sure to remain consistent with your messaging so listeners know what to expect. There are several promotional platforms podcasters can use to boost their marketing plans including:
- Podcast Addict. Offered on Google Play, this app allows you to purchase ad slots in a specific podcast category, or on the homepage for $1,000 to $2,000 USD.
- Megaphone. As a podcast marketplace, Megaphone allows podcasters to purchase ad space within podcast episodes and target specific audience demographics for a more tailored campaign experience.
- Acast. Also a marketplace similar to Megaphone, Acast provides users access to over 300 million listeners per month and 25,000 shows.
Here are some final tips and tricks to keep in mind when marketing your podcast:
- Stay authentic. Your audience will be able to tell if you’re trying to be someone you’re not, so the most important thing to remember when finding your authentic voice is to stay true to you and focus on what really lights you up. Following your unique passions will never lead you astray, and people will be drawn to your refreshing sincerity and honesty.
- Learn from the pros. When it comes to marketing, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to other like-minded pros in your industry to network, chat and pick their brain for a few minutes to get their advice. If you have the budget, you could also hire a freelancer or an agency to help with your marketing plans and increase your growth more rapidly.
- Be nimble. It’s no secret that the online landscape is changing a mile a minute, so it’s always important to stay flexible and challenge yourself to try new things as they emerge. Keep your finger on the pulse of the podcasting and tech worlds in addition to the specific industry or niche you’re operating in.