Podcasting has become one of the most entertaining forms of media for both the listener and the podcaster. Whether you’re looking for news commentary, fictional stories, or just entertaining fan talk about your favorite topic, you can find a podcast on just about anything these days. When I first discovered podcasts back in the early 2000’s, I decided to search for a Disney-related podcast. Not knowing whether I would even find anything, I was super excited to learn that there were several podcasts dedicated to Disney to choose from. That number has grown exponentially over the last decade as technology has made it possible for anyone with a computer and a microphone to start up their own shows.
Listening to podcasts left me looking for an outlet to talk about my own obsession with Disney. Being that I am a musician, I had a lot of spare audio equipment lying around the house. I broke out an old mixer board, a mic, mic stand, pop screen, and quickly began doing Google searches on the technical aspects of recording a podcast and getting it on iTunes for people to start listening to. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people ask me for advice on what software and equipment is needed to create and produce a podcast. So, I thought I would share what I have learned about starting a podcast and, guess what – It’s easier than you think!
What you need
I’m going to keep this post, for the most part, restricted to the items that I personally use and can recommend. By no means is this the only way to do a show or even the most highly recommended. It’s just what I have found to be the simplest and least expensive way to get the quality that I want for our show.
The simplest setup is to get a good quality USB microphone, a computer, and an audio recording software. There are many microphones on the market that will be sufficient. I use a great microphone by Blue Microphones called the Yeti. It’s a mid-range priced multi-pattern microphone that is good for podcasting as well as music, vocals, and interviews. It uses a simple USB connection that requires virtually no setup.
I also recommend getting a pop screen filter. It can get pretty annoying listening to someone talk when every “P” sound they speak makes a popping sound in the microphone. So, the pop screen filter basically acts as a shield to filter out the air that is launched from your lips every time you say a word that contains the letter “P” or the letter “B” in it. These are very inexpensive and they just clip onto your microphone stand with the screen piece sitting between your mouth and the top of the microphone. I use one specifically designed for the Blue Yeti microphone, and it runs somewhere around $9 usually.
You’ll also want to grab a pair of headphones. Now, you can go as cheap or as expensive on these as you want. Obviously, higher-end headphones will sound better and will be more comfortable for you to wear, but personally, I just use a pair of headphones that I already had lying around the house. They probably cost about $26 on Amazon, but I’ve even used a cheap $5 pair of earbuds before. In the end, your head phones are going to have little to nothing to do with how your show sounds to your listeners.
There are many different software titles that you can use to record your podcast with. Most of it is software that you will need to purchase, but there is one piece of software out there that is widely used and is totally free. The name of the software is Audacity, and it is available for a free download at http://www.audacityteam.org/download/.
You can also watch this great tutorial to help get you started using the software.
If you’re going to be doing interviews via telephone, you will most likely need a couple of pieces of software. First off, I highly recommend Skype for connecting with the people you’re going to interview. Skype is a voice over IP software that allows you to talk to people using your computer. Now, in order to record these conversations to use them in your show, you will most likely need a piece of third-party software. There are several out there, but I use a piece of free software called MP3 Skype Recorder. It is very simple and easy to use. When you’re done with your call, you’re left with an MP3 file that you can then import into Audacity or whatever audio software you are using to produce your show.
As for your computer, most relatively newer systems will do what you need it to do for podcasting. Some people like using Macs, because they are great with processing multimedia without crashing. However, I use a Hewlett Packard laptop with an Intel i5 Dual Core Processor and 8 GB of RAM. You can probably get by with any Dual Core processor and as little as 4 GB of RAM, but upgrading to 8 GB will give you greater peace of mind that you won’t have to worry about glitches or crashing when mixing down longer podcast episodes of an hour or longer.
So far, we’ve talked about recording and producing the podcast, now you need to know how to distribute it. The first thing you need is a hosting service. There are many different routes you can go, but it is very important to get a hosting company that can handle the traffic that you are expecting and hoping to have downloading your shows. We, at All About the Mouse, use Libsyn to host the audio files you download each week. I have been very impressed with Libsyn, and I can’t recommend them enough. Not only have I not had any issues with our listeners being able to download our shows easily, but they provide great statistical data for you to track how many downloads you are getting per year/month/day etc. You can also see this data broken down by episode to see which episode is your most downloaded episode. We do not benefit financially or have any affiliation with Libsyn other than just using their services to host the audio files of the podcast. They are just a service that we have had a great experience with. There are several price packages you can choose from with Libsyn, but the one we use runs $20 a month. Another popular podcast hosting service is Blubrry. I can’t personally vouch for them, because I’ve never used them, but I know they are pretty popular and a lot of people recommend them as well.
Now, $20 a month is nowhere near the cheapest rate for a hosting company, but we pay a premium to ensure that our listeners can always download our episodes even at peak times. We have quite a bit of traffic on Fridays when the new episodes are released, and we have to make sure our host can handle those downloads. If you are going to have a web site to support your podcast, you will need a hosting company for that as well, because Libsyn does not offer web site hosting. The good news is, you can find a decent web site host for usually less than $5-$10 per month. For the All About the Mouse Central web site, we use Bluehost.
Getting your podcast distributed
Over 80% of our downloads each week come from iTunes via Apple products (iPhone, iMac, MacBook, iPad, etc). Getting your show on iTunes will require you to submit your podcast and the details for approval. Once iTunes has approved it, you’re good to go. You can get the instructions for submitting your podcast to iTunes here. Hosts like Libsyn will make it very easy for all of the other podcast aggregators (i.e. Podcast Addict, Stitcher, Overcast, etc) to pick up your show.
Tips for having a successful show
There are many formulas and formats for a successful podcast. Of course, you need content that people are interested in, and as a host/co-host you should exude an interesting and entertaining personality that people can remain interested in. But in addition to those things, it is important that you have a format that stays consistent. A fellow podcaster gave me this very piece of advice when I was just starting out, and after many years of podcasting, I couldn’t agree more. For instance, our show, for the most part, uses the following loose but structured format:
• Disney news
• Maybe a listener feedback segment such as the All About the Mouseketeer Roll Call
• Main discussion topic
• End the show with some housekeeping and general reminders.
Nothing is ever scripted, aside from reading a few news stories, so we still have room for discussion and banter, while keeping a basic structure that our listeners will recognize from week to week.
It is also important to release your shows on a consistent basis. For instance, if you’re going to have a weekly show, make sure to release something each and every week. You don’t have to have a set day that your shows come out, although I recommend it, but your listeners need to be able to reliably look forward to new content on a regular basis. This might mean having to get creative on weeks where you find yourself stretched for time, but you should always try to have something worth listening to in time for your regular schedule release time. I have heard of listeners giving up on a show if it becomes unclear what the frequency of new content will be. There’s a lot of stuff out there for people to listen to and, as a society, we have gotten spoiled and prefer to have content delivered to us on demand with as little effort on our end as possible. A successful show will do everything it can to satisfy these demands.
Technology has shaped the world we live in to the point where we have more entertainment options than ever before. Not only do we find ourselves with increasing forms of media, but we find ourselves with the ability to produce professional quality entertainment from the comfort of our own homes. Podcasts have become a terrific medium to provide education and entertainment for the listener and for the podcaster. After all, we started doing this little show here at All About the Mouse as a form of personal entertainment for ourselves. I hope this inspires and motivates those who have been on the fence about doing a podcast. As for those of you who had already decided but just needed advice on how to do it, I hope this provided you with the information that you were looking for. Remember, there are a lot of difference methods, equipment, and software that you can use. The items and services I have mentioned here are just the things that I have had great experiences with and can personally recommend. Good luck, and be sure to give AATM a shout-out on your show when you get your podcast launched!