With more than 1 million podcast shows now registered on iTunes, the world’s biggest directory — that’s shows, not individual episodes — the growth of podcasting continues to know no bounds. The fact both Google and Amazon are both boosting their podcast offerings also illustrates the format’s increasing popularity.
Even with fewer people commuting to work during COVID-19, overall podcast downloads soared in 2020.
Podcasts were also growing in popularity in Australia before the pandemic, with research revealing that one in four Australians aged 12+ had listened to at least one in the month before they were surveyed.
Annual ad spending in the US now totals more than half a billion dollars, with the highest earning podcast in the world, The Joe Rogan Experience, raking in $US50 million annually.
Since we have prepared for you an entire guide for podcast studios, you can browser through the content quickly by clicking on the various links below:
- What is a podcast?
- How people listen to podcasts
- Why are they such a popular platform?
- Planning and producing a podcast
- Podcast equipment
- Distributing your podcast
What is a podcast?
To put it simply, a podcast is an audio recording — usually an MP3 file — that the creator will generally post online.
They can cover just about every topic you could imagine, and a few you probably couldn’t: from arts, business, comedy and true crime, to politics, sport, history, kids, family and technology.
Topics range from the best wines of South Australia, New York City crime and beaches on the Gold Coast, to the Brownstones of Brooklyn, the politics of Washington and the changing face of agriculture in Victoria.
If you’re interested in a particular topic, you’ll probably find it covered by someone. In fact, there are 19 overall categories in iTunes — 15 of which are broken into sub-categories.
Religion and Spirituality is the most crowded top-level category, followed by Society and Culture, Business, Sports, Comedy, and Music. News, Arts, Education, and TV and Film round out the top ten.
One reason why they’re so popular is that given the right equipment and environment a podcast can be created by anyone. They can be recorded in your kitchen, car, lounge room or homemade studio, as long as you can eliminate any intrusive background noise and your audience can hear you.
At the other end of the spectrum, some podcasts require a more professional feel and top-quality broadcast audio, so using professional recording studios can sometimes be a more preferable option.
How people listen to podcasts
Today the most popular way to listen is through a player, such as Spotify, Pocket Casts, Google Play Music, Amazon Music, Castro, Stitcher and TuneIn, to name just a few.
Podcast players show a listing of episodes, data such as episode name and show notes, artwork, and a link to the show file.
Players let you stream a single episode or subscribe to a whole series and play any of the shows in the feed on a device, such as a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Nearly all players have a few things in common, and should allow you to:
- Subscribe to a show so that new episodes appear in your feed
- Control how much data downloads to your device, either manually or by limiting the number of new episodes that download from each show
- Set a limit on the amount of storage you’re willing to use
- Let you create playlists that refresh as new episodes are released.
The second way to listen is by streaming or downloading the podcast directly from the RSS feed, either in a feed reader like Digg Reader or Feedly, or from the blog post or website where it is hosted or embedded.
Why are they such a popular platform?
Podcasts are increasingly popular because they’re readily available through easy-to-use apps, they’re free, and they’re easy to consume. People can listen in the car, bus, train or on a flight; when they’re at the gym, in the park, or at work.
They’re also popular because they can be listened to on any device — from smartphones and tablets to desktop computers and smart speakers.
Another key element to their success is that they’re available on-demand, unlike traditional radio, so your audience can listen to whatever they want, whenever they want.
For businesses, whether you’re focussed on audience engagement, brand awareness or internal communications, they work because they allow a host, presenter or panel of people to speak directly to an individual, creating a more intimate, engaging experience.
A high quality podcast is a great way to create thought leaders by building the profile of your executives and experts. When you’re producing your own show, you can more easily present your own people as the leader in your area or industry.
They also let you repurpose content you’ve found popular in other channels. Had some great feedback on an eBook you’ve just published? Why not rework it into a 10-part audio series to capture a new audience?
Planning and producing
While podcasting is very affordable, you can still waste money if you don’t do it right, and sometimes those mistakes can be costly.
From planning, to finding the right equipment and location, to recording, editing and distributing your show, here are a few steps, tools and tips to get you on the road to podcast glory.
Production: 6 simple steps to success
The following steps sum up what you need to do when it comes to recording a quality podcast. First, we’ll discuss the basic process, and then we’ll take a look at the technology you’ll need to do it successfully.
- Plan your content
The first thing you’ve got to do is create a list of topics that will engage and captivate audiences. Establish a number of strong topics and areas of interest relating to the theme of the podcast you’re producing. That will not only allow you to plan ahead, but will also create opportunities to promote upcoming episodes.
The length of your podcast should be determined by the quality of the information you’re sharing. If you can tick all your boxes in an hour, then that’s how long it should be.
Generally, podcasts that are broadcast more frequently, for example daily and weekly, tend to run for a shorter time than fortnightly and monthly shows.
You’ll also have to do your own research into the topic, book guests and record interviews if you need to. Then you need to get the right equipment and create a robust recording space — or hire a podcast studio — where you can record quality audio content.
- Capture your voice and record it
Once you’re all set up, you’ll record your podcast sound and save it onto your computer as an MP3 file for editing. Today, podcast recordings are done everywhere from studios to bedrooms.
- Edit your recording into a finished podcast
Editing includes cutting out all the bad bits, smoothing out your voice, and adding in any extras such as pre-recorded interviews or sound, intros and outros, music, advertisements, special effects, jingles and so forth.
- Upload your podcast to a host
After you’ve got your podcast neatly packaged, you should upload it to a podcast host where it will be stored on the web.
- Register your podcast with directories
Once you’ve uploaded your podcast to a host, you have to register it with podcast directories, which is how listeners will find it.
- Marketing and promotion
Podcasts are popular, but there are lots of them out there so you’ll find it pays to market and promote your show across all your channels and with as many like-minded groups and individuals as you can. Here are a few ways you can attract more ears:
- Slice and dice your audio: Create short audio grabs and teasers of some highlights you can play across your social media accounts.
- YouTube: Expand your reach by uploading your podcast to the video-sharing platform. Some shows actually record their studio recording session and show it as a video recording.
- Facebook: You can share your whole podcast, certain sections, or a promo on Facebook.
- Upload your MP3 files to Soundcloud with a free account.
- Blog: Whether it’s your corporate blog or personal LinkedIn account, a blog is a good way to reach an already attentive online audience, especially where similar areas of interest are discussed.
There are a few pieces of equipment you’ll need to create a quality content series:
The first thing you’ll need is a laptop or similar device to record your voice and upload your MP3 files. Remember you’re only dealing with MP3 audio files in most circumstances, so while more RAM will make things faster, the system you’ve already got will probably suffice. Just check the specs on any software or other tools you’re planning to use to make sure it’s compatible with what you’ve got.
If you’re going to skimp on anything when it comes to your podcasting production budget, make sure it’s not your mic.
Good audio quality should be your No.1 priority. Listeners will turn off a podcast in a matter of seconds if they find the audio is not up to scratch — that’s if you actually get it listed by a serious podcast directory in the first place.
The easiest, and cheapest, way to get started is to use a USB mic which will plug directly into the USB slot on your computer for recording. While they’re at the cheaper end of the spectrum, there are a number on the market that will do an excellent job so it will pay to do some research.
If you have multiple people, or you want more flexibility, you’ll need one or more microphones with an XLR output which is a type of electrical connector primarily used in professional audio and video equipment (the connectors are circular and have between three and seven pins).
Some microphones include both XLR and USB outputs.
- Audio interface
If you’re using multiple microphones, or a microphone with an XLR connector, you’ll need an audio interface which is basically the bridge between your microphone and your computer. It converts the analog signal from the microphone into a digital signal that the computer can recognise. Audio interfaces can include a mixing board or consist of just input and output ports.
If you’re wanting to connect up other sources to your recording, for example to play music while you’re talking, instead of editing it in afterwards, you will most likely need a mixer.
Mixers can offer a number of channels — which means you can plug more sources in at the same time. Some — albeit the more expensive ones — will also let you send and receive audio, to and from your computer, at the same time.
If you already own a half-decent pair of headphones or buds they’ll very likely do just fine for podcast recording. The most important thing to look out for is noise bleed, which is when sound escapes out of the sides and is picked up by your microphone.
If you plan on wearing your headphones for extended periods of time, you should also make sure they’re comfortable.
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is a device or software application used for recording, editing and producing a finished product.
They range from simple programs on a computer, some of which are free, to stand alone integrated units like the Rode Rodecaster, to sophisticated, professional production suites which can also be controlled by a producer.
Some of the popular platforms include GarageBand, which comes pre-installed on Macs, and Audacity which is PC-based. Others include Adobe Audition, Logic Pro and Pro Tools.
If you plan on conducting interviews using a tool like Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts, you’ll need to pay for recording software like eCamm Call Recorder (Mac), Pamela (PC), Zencastr (PC/Mac) or Callnote (PC/Mac), which operate on subscription-based services.
Distributing your podcast
Once you’ve created the final product, there are two steps to getting your podcast heard. Firstly, you upload it to a hosting service, and then you register it with the most popular directories.
The directories allow people to find your podcast, and the hosting service delivers the audio to their device.
Podcast hosting services let you share your podcast with multiple directories through RSS feeds, while some also include features that make it easier to add cover art and descriptions, embed or share files on social media and other websites, and optimise your audio file format and size for your audience.
Popular podcast hosting services include Libsyn, Blubrry, Podiant, Spreaker, PodBean, Buzzsprout, Castos and Simplecast.
While some hosting services offer free plans, it’s important to take a closer look at what they include and more importantly, what they don’t. Here are a few things to consider.
- Level of service
Services targeting podcast beginners often include extra features and resources such as tutorials and other educational materials to help you get started. Some services offer live support, while for others you’ll have to wait for an email response.
- Ease of use
The process to upload your podcast should be intuitive and easy to control. If it’s not, look elsewhere.
- Quality of analytics
Detailed, updated analytics about your listeners will help you build your audience. It’s worth comparing what’s on offer.
Some plans are for total audio storage, while others offer monthly limits, so it’s important to think about the length of your podcasts, file size, and how long you’ll want them to stay available.
Registering your podcast
As the biggest and most popular registry in the world, iTunes (now also known as Apple Podcasts) is a must when it comes to getting in front of listeners.
Many listening apps and directories also automatically update from the iTunes API, so it also helps to get your podcast into directories you might not have thought of, such as Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and TuneIn.
When you submit your show to a directory, you’ll have to include album cover art and a description. It will take at least a day or two to get approved, which involves making sure all your tags are accurate and that you’re the actual owner.
Once approved, your podcast will be live and available to anyone who wants to listen to it.
So whether you want to start a podcast in your lounge room, or launch a professionally-produced podcast series as part of your marketing plan, the tools and expertise are available: all you need to do is come up with a great topic.