From a recent newsletter I published:
Last week, I did a small bit of venting about what I believe podcasts—true podcasts—to be. I’m not typically one to get quite so dogmatic about much, but I suppose I feel really passionate about what does or does not constitute a podcast.
I stand by everything I said and will take it all to my grave!
While I may have some firm feelings about podcasts, I also believe they’re something anyone can do. Yes, anyone. And why not? All a podcast needs to be is someone recording themselves talking into a microphone and then uploading that audio to a podcast host somewhere online. There’s no great magic to it. We’re not trying to replicate Avengers: Endgame in audio form here. Although, if you think you can do that, then I can’t wait to hear what you cook up.
Your podcast idea
I do think it helps to have some idea of what you want to present to the world. Having a unique point of view can always help make something more captivating. Throwing in a decent amount of your particular energy while recording is a great cherry on top of your podcasting sundae.
While you can certainly publish a podcast consisting entirely of you reading from the stack of take-out menus sitting next to your phone, that doesn’t mean anyone’s going to want to listen to it. Having some sort of story to tell or a fun viewpoint on a topic is what will help bring in the listeners.
Put some effort into thinking of something that other people want to listen to. Are you crazy passionate about gardening? Talk about the best ways to cultivate various plants in different climates. Love movies? Do a movie trivia podcast with a friend or two (and see about getting your listeners involved). Find yourself traveling all over the world for work? Make it a point to find the best ramen place in every city you visit and give your reviews.
There are loads of ideas out there.
Your microphone is the most important tool
Could you get away with recording a podcast using your computer’s microphone or the inline mic on your earbuds? Sure. Is it going to sound good? Definitely not. I’m not suggesting you go out and spend several hundreds of dollars on the fanciest microphone you can find. There are no shortage of expensive options (like this one or this one), but you don’t really need any of those if you’re not recording professionally.
You can get some amazing audio with a simple and inexpensive USB microphone. Some people may insist that those sorts of microphones are going to get you bad audio. I disagree. You may not be able to get professional grade, studio quality sound from a USB mic, but you can get good results nonetheless.
One of the most recommended microphones that many people (including me) start off with is the Blue Yeti condenser microphone. Another inexpensive USB microphone that I strongly recommend is the Audio-Technica 2100x-USB dynamic microphone. Either one will get you good audio, although I’m a big fan of the Audio-Technica’s sound.
The key to using these sorts of microphones—seriously, this is the most important thing—is that you MUST get your mouth very close to the microphone. If you want to get good sound from these mics, then this is non-negotiable. Get a stack of books tall enough to put the microphone right in line with your mouth. Do whatever you have to do to get it up there. Anyone you see speaking at a microphone sitting on a desk a foot or two away from them is doing it wrong. Full stop.
I would also strongly recommend getting some sort of pop filter (or at the very least, a windscreen) to attach to the microphone. Since you’re going to need to speak close to the microphone, you’re going to end up popping some serious P’s. Those doesn’t make for a pleasant listening experience.
Your recording program
Since we’re using a USB microphone, all we need to capture our audio is something you probably already have: a computer. Again, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to be able to capture good audio here. You don’t need something expensive like Logic or Pro Tools to make your recording work.
If you’re on a Mac, then you’ve likely already got a great and free program installed: GarageBand. If you’re working on a Windows machine, then consider using something like Audacity. That one’s never been the prettiest looking program, but it gets the job done.
Plug in your microphone, make sure the program recognizes the mic as the input, and hit that record button!
Hosting your masterwork
What good is a podcast if nobody can listen to it? I guess you could copy those audio files to a flash drive and start handing those out to everyone you see, but it’s 2020! We don’t need to do anything so barbaric.
A podcast host is a place online for your finished podcasts to live and be accessed by podcast directories and players. When you stream or download a podcast episode, the podcast player uses the file stored on your podcast host’s servers. We need to use podcast hosts because our home computers aren’t really equipped to do the hosting for us.
One of the biggest hosts out there is Libsyn. They’ve been in the game for a long time and are very reliable. My podcast, More Movies Please!, is hosted on their servers and I’m very happy with them. Their plans start at $5 a month.
Another option is Simplecast. They offer great hosting, amazing analytics, and a very modern web experience. I’m planning on testing them out for any future podcasts I record. Their plans start at $15 a month.
That’s really all you need
Once you cover those basics, it’s all about recording your shows regularly and getting the word out about them. Take advantage of the social media following you may already have to get those first listeners and recommendations in. If you’d rather do it the old fashioned way, then start talking to people about your new hobby. You’re already doing a lot of talking for the podcast, so what’s a little more?
Good luck and have fun!