How To Start A Podcast: Your 2020 Step-By-Step Guide

Last updated on July 21st, 2020

You’re here because you’re ready to learn how to start a podcast. Good choice. Podcasting is an enriching way to express yourself creatively, complement business goals, and create deeper connections with an audience. Castos is committed to educating aspiring hosts on everything there is to know about starting a podcast.

Podcasting has gone from a niche community of listeners to the mainstream in just a few years. As of March 2020, 104 million Americans consume podcasts on a monthly basis.

And the advertising dollars are following our new found obsession with podcasts. According to a study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC, industry ad revenue is projected to surpass $1 billion by 2021.

IAB graph showing US podcast ad revenues from 2015-2021
According to IAB, podcast ad revenue is forecasted to surpass $1B by 2021.
Source: Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Given the eagerness for listeners to tune in and brands willingness to spend their marketing budgets to reach them, the conditions are perfect to make a podcast. And according to Molly Beck from messy.fm, you have three years to get going before the podcasting revolution leaves wannabe hosts behind.

In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to walk through the nitty-gritty details of how to start your own podcast. We’ll explain the process using plain English, give equipment and software recommendations, and make sure you’re ready for launch day and beyond. By the end, you’ll gain the confidence to start your own podcast and share your voice with the world.

How To Start A Podcast In 6 Steps

  1. Planning my podcast: Choose a topic, format, and name
  2. Setting up my podcast: Purchase equipment and software
  3. Recording my first podcast episode: Learn script writing techniques and step-by-step recording tutorial
  4. Editing and producing my first podcast episode: Follow step-by-step editing tutorials and tips
  5. Publish my first podcast episode: Pick a podcast hosting provider and distribute your podcast to listening apps like Spotify
  6. Launching and growing my podcast: Build a launch plan and ongoing podcast marketing strategies

Follow along with this guide using our free Podcast Like A Pro video course. Gain access to 25+ lessons immediately after signing up so you can go at your own pace. We explain the technical aspects in more detail and will help you gain the confidence to publish your first episode. Starting your podcast just got a lot easier.

The Beginner’s Guide On How To Start A Podcast

Making a podcast involves multiple moving parts working in harmony. This guide will highlight each piece, why it’s important in starting your own podcast, and how to confidently make each decision. The six steps above are composed of 3-5 mini tasks to complete each stage. Below is each task or set of tips that will take your podcast from idea to reality.

  1. Why am I making a podcast?
  2. How to choose a podcast topic
  3. Who will listen to my podcast?
  4. How to choose the right podcast format
  5. How to name a podcast
  6. How to write a podcast description
  7. How to choose the right podcast categories
  8. How long should my podcast episodes be?
  9. How frequently should I publish new episodes?
  10. How to name podcast episodes
  11. What’s the best podcast recording equipment?
  12. Which podcast recording and editing software should I use?
  13. How to record remote guests or co-hosts
  14. How to record a podcast episode in 4 steps
  15. Adding podcast music, intros, and outros
  16. Editing tips for new podcasters
  17. How to edit a podcast with Audacity
  18. Exporting my final audio file
  19. How to create engaging podcast covert art
  20. How to choose a podcast hosting platform
  21. Why should I host my podcast with Castos?
  22. How to distribute a podcast to every listening platform
  23. Customizing my podcast’s website
  24. How to launch a podcast
  25. How to market a podcast

Download the How To Start A Podcast Checklist to keep track of your progress. Check off the steps as you complete each stage. While we recommend going in order to stay organized, you can also skip around to fit your podcasting journey.

Step 1. Planning My Podcast

To ensure you start off on the right foot, we’ll start with planning the foundational pieces to every podcast: choosing a topic, format, and name. But first you must answer two important questions that will guide your decisions throughout the entire process.

Why am I making a podcast?

There isn’t one right reason to start a podcast. New hosts are motivated by a variety of factors, but it’s important to figure out your goal upfront.

Podcasts allow people to connect over a niche idea and find others who share the same enthusiasm. And no topic is off limits. From covering the daily lives of San Quentin inmates to exploring the unusual histories of gnomes and straws, these podcasts prove there is an audience out there for just about anything. 

To help answer this important question, here are a few common reasons why others started their own podcasts:

  • Explore a passion in more detail and connect with others with similar interests
  • Repurpose or complement written or video content for a blog or website
  • Promote and generate new leads for a business or side hustle 
  • Share expertise to educate a community or to become an authority in an industry 
  • Support religious, non-profit, or other community activities
  • To simply have fun, trying a new avenue to express yourself creatively

No reason is better than another but they share a common thread. The hunger to create meaningful connections and opportunity to add a new voice to the conversation. This desire to be fulfilled creatively and cultivate long-lasting relations is essential to take your podcast from idea to reality. 

With an answer to “why should I start a podcast?”, next it’s time to think about what you’ll talk about.

How to choose a podcast topic

A podcast’s topic defines the structure, tone, and flow of a show. There’s no “right way” to choose what to talk about but it’s helpful to explore a few options before making your decision.

To get started, consider these factors:

  1. How much do you care about the topic? If it’s not something you can talk about for hours on end, go back to the drawing board.
  2. What’s your differentiator? Refine the topic to nail your unique point of view.
  3. Can it be monetized? Consider how a topic lends itself to revenue in the future.

For example, say the reason you’re starting a podcast is to promote your yoga studio chain. You’re passionate about meditation, its benefits, and spend your free time learning more about the various approaches. Educating potential clients about how to start meditating will generate leads for your yoga studios because you offer in-person classes for beginners. 

Your differentiator is interviewing class participants about how they fostered their meditation practice. You’ll use real voices and first-person accounts to help others realize meditating isn’t as hard as it sounds. There are future monetization opportunities by generating business leads, creating partnerships with wellness retreats, and building relationships with like-minded advertisers.  

As you choose a topic, take a 360 degree view of its potential. Once you know why you’re making a podcast and what you’ll talk about, it’s time to think about who will listen.

Learn more at Podcast Topics: How To Choose the One That’s Right For You

Who will listen to my podcast?

Finding the drive to start a podcast is one piece of the foundation. The second is figuring out who is your future audience. Most podcasters aspire to grow a following with thousands of listeners. Before that growth happens, however, you need to identify who should be part of it. The demographics, interests, and location plus how your future podcast will help them solve a problem. Then think about where people who fit the description already “hang out” online or in their community and how you can engage with them there.

Download the ideal Listener Avatar worksheet to gather your thoughts. Define your listeners’ background, problems, and how your podcast will help them. Then jot down where you can find them.

Let’s take the example podcast above where the host wants to talk about meditation and promote their yoga studio. The ideal listener avatar worksheet could look like this:

Example listener avatar worksheet

There’s no penalty for excluding people here. Only by identifying exactly what the listener will look like will you be able to start growing your audience.

How to choose the right podcast format

You can create your own unique structure or use one of the five most popular podcast formats. There are pros and cons to each style, so think about what’s the best way to educate your future audience about your topic.

The five common podcast formats are:

  • Monologue podcasts: one host who speaks about their expertise or experience
  • Co-hosted podcasts: two or more hosts having a conversation about their expertises or experiences
  • Interview based podcasts: a host interviews and guides a conversation around a guests’s expertise
  • Panel podcasts: a host moderates a discussion between a group of guests around a single topic
  • Story-telling podcasts: either fiction or non-fiction, a host narrates a story typically including sound effects, audio sourced from real-life, and multiple voice actors

Many popular podcasts mix together a few styles over different episodes or through recurring segments. After building your confidence, you can adjust the format as the podcast progresses and experiment with new angles.

Learn more at Which Podcast Format is Right for Your Show?

How to name a podcast

You have a lot of freedom when choosing a name. But it should convey who you are and what the show is in about 29 characters or less. Concise names typically pack a stronger punch because they stay extremely relevant to their topic. 

Here’s some handy tips to keep in mind as you brainstorm:

  • Make it short and sweet, but don’t forget about keywords: Describe your show’s tone, content, and personality. Think about how people search for information related to your topic and include those key phrases. It can help surface your show in search results to hook new listeners.
  • Let it roll off the tongue: Don’t forget that you’ll be saying the name aloud just as often as writing it down. Make sure it doesn’t feel like a mouthful and comes out clearly each time. 
  • Secure similar domain name and social media handles: You’ll want these channels to mirror your podcast name as closely as possible so listeners can easily find you online.
  • Don’t get too clever: If you have to explain your name’s meaning to potential listeners, move on. This isn’t the place to drum up your quirkiest pun, keep it simple.

If you’re stuck in a brainstorm rut, there are a few podcast name generators that can help. They’ll also tell you if the domain name is currently available. Here are a few free options to kickstart your creativity:

  1. Namelix
  2. Kopywriting Kourse
  3. Name Mesh

Learn more at How To Choose A Podcast Name & 4 Mistakes To Avoid

How to write a podcast description

According to The Podcast Host’s 2020 podcast discovery study, people primarily judge new podcasts by their description. This means a podcast’s summary needs to accurately describe the show’s value and provide more information on what a listener can expect. 

The Podcast Host's 2020 podcast discovery study results showing the most important factor when judging a new podcast

To make the most of this space, remember to write a description for two types of users. First for the people discovering your podcast and second for search engine algorithms that will include your show in their search results. To attract new listeners, focus on your podcast’s value. Why should someone listen and why are your episodes different from competitors? Also, remember new people will read the description on their cell phone and many apps truncate the description field. Put the most enticing points first and avoid repetitive details that are already available like host names and your podcast’s title.

Next think about how search engines will understand the summary. A meditation podcast’s description should include the common search terms like “guided meditation” and “breathing exercises”. This signals to search engines that the podcast covers these themes and will include it in these search queries. 

Apple Podcasts allows 4,000 characters for a podcast’s description. Pacific Content found the average length is 243 characters and we recommend sticking between 250-600 to squeeze as much juice as possible out of your summary.

How to choose the right podcast categories

The most popular way people discover new podcasts is by searching a listening app’s directory. Either typing a topic into the search bar or browsing the categories, this is where the majority of new listeners will find your show. Focusing on appropriate category selection can improve a podcast’s discoverability. And the best part is you can choose one parent category and two child subcategories to drill into your podcast’s subject matter. 

Continuing with our meditation podcast example, we’d select “Health and Fitness” as the parent category and “Alternative Health” and “Mental Health” as the subcategories. If a podcast covers a wider niche, you can also choose subcategories from different parent categories. Read through the full list of available Apple Podcast category options to figure out which selections are right for you.

Apple Podcasts Health & Fitness category

How long should my podcast episodes be?

Every podcast will have a different optimal length. We can’t decide how many minutes an episode should be for you but we can arm you with some relevant statistics.

Pacific Content analyzed 10 million podcasts and found the median episode duration is 38 minutes and 42 seconds. The average American’s commute, a popular listening time, is 26.4 minutes. Nick DePrey, who previously worked for NPR, found 46% of listeners consume a full episode, with the 18-30 minute range being the sweet spot for completion.

An episode’s duration can also be a differentiating factor. If competing podcasts are all 45-60 minutes long, your show could be the 15 minute version that cuts out the fluff and gets right to the facts. And remember many podcasters start with shorter episodes that progressively get longer as they gain a following.

As you figure out your optimal episode duration, remember the goal is to fit your podcast into a listener’s routine. Your episodes should be long enough to convey the topic’s information while sustaining an audience’s attention span.

How frequently should I publish new episodes?

Similar to episode length, publishing frequency is a unique decision for every podcaster. It comes down to the podcast’s topic, episode length, and an audience’s listening habits. 

You’ve decided on the podcast’s topic and episode length. Now analyze when and where you expect a future audience to consume that content. Can a fan consume one 2-hour long episode per week? Will listeners stay engaged and remember to download the latest episode if you only publish once per month? Consider if the frequency creates too much content that you audience can’t catch up or isn’t enough that they lose interest.

The best frequency is up for debate, but there’s one thing that everyone agrees on. Consistency is more important than the cadence. Whichever frequency you choose, listeners will come to expect new episodes on that schedule. Miss a publish date and you risk losing audience members because they can’t reliably count on your show. The most important question to ask yourself is, “can I consistently stick to this schedule?”.

Learn more at The Benefits of Consistently Publishing Podcast Episodes

How to name podcast episodes

Don’t let episode titles be an afterthought, they’re equally as important as the podcast’s name. They should be searchable, clear, and descriptive enough that someone wants to hit play. Listening platforms like Spotify include individual episodes in their search results. Think about how to grab that searcher’s attention and entice them to give your podcast a shot. 

Dan Misener of Pacific Content analyzed 23 million podcast episode titles and whittled down his findings to four key points:

  1. Episode titles are headlines similar to email subject lines or article headings. Use the title to highlight the episode’s value.
  2. Include keywords and phrases that a potential listener would use.
  3. Front-load the most important words because titles can get cut off across different listening apps.
  4. Include names of well-known guests but skip including the show’s name each time.

You’ll notice he doesn’t suggest including the episode or season number in the title. That’s because you can use the <itunes:season> and <itunes:episode> tags within an RSS feed to automatically sort episodes. If a podcast should be consumed in a specific order, these tags will orient a listener with which comes first, second, third, etc. And as with publishing frequency, keeping consistency among all episodes titles is key to creating a cohesive back catalogue. 

And don’t forget about the episode descriptions! Listening platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify include descriptions under each episode to provide more color. They can help keep titles succinct by including more keywords and information. And of course, they should further compel someone to hit play.

Step 2. Setting Up My Podcast

To make a podcast, you’ll need some equipment, software, and a bit of knowledge on how to use them. The best podcast setup differs per person so we pulled recommendations from the Castos team. With 35 years of combined industry experience between us, we keep coming back to these tools.

What’s the best podcast recording equipment?

Fortunately, podcasting gear doesn’t need to cost a lot. Investing in a solid microphone, pop filter, and set of headphones will cover your bases and bring your podcast from good to great.

Choosing equipment can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting to learn the ins and outs of audio recording. To remove that excess noise, we have the perfect set up for hosts just starting out. All together, it costs around $160:

Audio Technica ATR2100

Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone

Sony MDR7506 Headphones

Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones

PEMOTech Microphone Pop Filter

Metal Mesh and Foam & Etamine Layer Microphone

However, we believe podcast equipment isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation. Watch this video to learn about how to assess your audio priorities and typical recording environment to choose the right microphone for your setup:

Learn more at A Podcast Equipment Checklist For Any Setup or Budget and A Ranking of the best XLR And USB Microphones For Podcasters

Which podcast recording and editing software should I use?

For us, Audacity is the best podcast recording software for beginners. It’s a free tool that works across PCs and Macs and has an easier learning curve than other platforms.

Another perk of Audacity is it’s an all-in-one tool. You can record live audio, then immediately edit it in the same dashboard, and export the finished episode into multiple file formats. Watch our full tutorial on how to record audio using Audacity:

If Audacity doesn’t fit your needs, there are options with additional bells and whistles. Here are our top recommendations:

Reaper

Affordable DAW that’s as easy to use as Audacity but has more advanced features. Licenses start at $60 and it’s compatible with Mac and PC computers.

Hindenburg Journalist

This software is designed specifically for spoken audio and is available to PC and Mac users. Its features let you record, add sound effects and music, and edit audio files with multiple mastering options.

Adobe Audition

This is an advanced and expensive option that’s best suited for podcasters who have experience with DAWs.

Learn more at 6 Best Podcast Recording Softwares and 4 Popular Options In Podcast Editing Software

How to record remote guests or co-hosts

If your podcast will feature call-in guest interviews or your co-host lives on the opposite side of the country, you’ll need a recording software that supports remote recordings. Our top two choices are Zencastr and SquadCast.

Zencastr

Plans from free to $20/month

Zencastr is a web-based tool with free and paid plans. You can record separate tracks for each guest, capture studio quality recordings, and automatically deliver audio files into Dropbox or Google Drive. It’s built to run right within your browser so all you and your guest have to do is click an invite link and start chatting.

SquadCast

Plans from $5/hour to $20/month

SquadCast is another web-based tool built specifically for podcasters. It offers interview scheduling capabilities, records a separate track for each guest, and like Zencastr, requires minimal set up. SquadCast also includes video functions so you can capture video content during the interview.

Step 3. Recording My First Podcast Episode

With the foundational elements of your podcast figured out, you’re ready to hit the record button. To make sure you have a seamless first recording session, we’re offering advice on scripts and microphone techniques. Then check out a streamlined workflow that you can replicate for every episode to save time and get into a rhythm.

How to record a podcast episode in 4 steps

Getting into a recording rhythm is important for sticking to a consistent publishing schedule. In this tutorial, we bring everything together so far to help you capture perfect episodes from the start. 

While every host is different, we’ve found most beginner podcasters find success with recording a podcast episode using these 4 steps.

Learn more at How To Record Your First Podcast Episode.

Write a podcast script

Writing a script is important when you’re just starting out. Talking intelligently, smoothly, and clearly is challenging without practice! We recommend new hosts chart out what they want to say before hitting record. Having detailed notes lets you focus on the mechanics of recording, like enunciating, removing filler words, and controlling your voice’s volume.

But remember, you probably won’t write out word-for-word what you plan to say. Instead, a podcast script can be an organized list of bullet points. Use delivery notes to indicate where you might pause or emphasize a climatic point in the episode. Most importantly, practice the script either while you’re recording or before you even hit the mic. Your first few takes may not roll off the tongue, but with practice comes more fluidity. 

Depending on the podcast’s topic and format, each script is different. No matter the style, though, there are five basic elements every podcaster should consider scripting when starting out.

  1. Show introduction: it should be short, sweet, and welcome listeners to the episode.
  2. Guest introductions: introduce your guest’s name and credentials, providing context around why listeners should care about their expertise.
  3. Episode content: break out key topics with their main points and include segues to introduce the subsequent themes.
  4. Calls-to-action (CTAs): ask the audience to perform an action after listening to the episode. This is where most hosts ask for reviews and for people to subscribe.
  5. Show outro: recap what was discussed, thank your guests for joining, and announce upcoming episodes or events.

Learn more at How To Write A Podcast Script and The 3 Acts Of Every Great Podcast Episode.

Set up the recording space

Many beginners opt for a DIY home studio. It’s affordable, easy to set up, and will dramatically improve the audio quality. 

Beware, every room in your house isn’t created equal. When choosing a space, avoid places near high-traffic areas like the kitchen or bathroom. Add big furniture pieces like bookcases, couches, and area rugs to damped reverberation and echoes. Move away from noises you can’t control the window near the noisy neighbor. And turn off the noises you can control like your cellphone. 

If you’re in a pinch or don’t have a dedicated space to create a DIY studio, amateurs and professionals alike have recorded episodes in a closet. It may sound a little odd but a closet full of clothes curbs reverb and they’re typically located away from outside noise. 

Whichever place you choose, don’t forget to test it before committing to a full episode recording. Set up your equipment and capture at least 30 seconds of silence. Then hit record again but this time practice a few lines from your script. Listen to each clip back and listen for times when the quality is distorted.

Learn more at 6 Best Home Studio Tricks to Improve Your Podcast Sound Quality from our friends at DiscoverPods.

Set up the equipment and fine tune the settings

Depending on which microphone you purchased, it needs to be properly connected to your computer and DAW to record. 

USB microphone: Plug the USB cord into the microphone then plug the other end into your computer. Open your DAW software (Audacity, Adobe Audition, etc.) and configure the audio input settings to your microphone. Then plug in your headphones and configure the playback device so you can hear the recording as you make it.

XLR microphone: Plug the XLR cable into the microphone and plug the other end into a pre-amp. Then use a USB cord to connect the pre-amp to your computer. Now open your DAW software (Audacity, Adobe Audition, etc.) and configure the audio input settings to capture your microphone. Then plug in your headphones and configure the playback device so you can hear the recording as you make it. 

A note for remote recordings: Be sure to record each person on a separate track. Configure the Track settings and enable the recording settings for each track. For 2 people, you should have 2 tracks, three tracks for three people, etc.

Common DAW error: If your DAW can’t find your microphone input, close the program and unplug the mic. Try plugging in the microphone first, the turn the program back on.

Audacity recording settings to set the recording device and playback device

Next set the recording settings to capture higher quality sound. Start by turning on the recording meter and talk normally into the microphone. Watch the meter as you speak–the idea is to adjust the volume levels so the meter doesn’t get too close to the right edge (lower than -20dB, volume is too quiet) or too close to the left edge (above 0dB, the volume is too loud).

Audacity recording meter example

The sweet spot is generally -20dB to -18dB so adjust the volume levels until your normal speaking voice registers in this range. If the meter is reading below -20dB, adjust the volume level up. If it’s reading above -6dB, adjust the volume level down. 

Important microphone techniques for new podcasters

To feel confident going into your first audio recording, it’s important to practice speaking into the microphone. Follow these techniques to capture higher quality audio in one take:

Example of staying a five finger distance away from a podcasting microphone
  • Try the five-finger distance rule: Your proximity to the mic affects audio quality. Generally speaking, it’s best to position your face about two inches away. To guesstimate where your mouth should be, outstretch your hand with your thumb touching your teeth and pinky finger touching the mic.
  • Angle the microphone: Try tilting the mic at a 45 degree angle away from your face. This will help it pick up less air noises as you speak.
  • Keep your hands off the mic: Put the microphone in a stand to ensure it’s properly positioned for the whole recording session.

Having the right microphone isn’t enough, you have to know how to use it. Our video tutorial walks you through proper microphone positioning, common volume metering problems, and what to consider when you pick a place to record.

Learn more at Top 11 Mic Techniques For New Podcasters and 21 Podcast Recording Tips For Polished Episodes.

Step 4. Editing And Producing My Podcast Episode

The editing and production process of making a process is often the biggest hurdle for new podcasters. For many of us, this is our first introduction to master audio files making for a steep learning curve.

But you don’t have to go it alone. We’ve compiled our top editing tips for newcomers and have a detailed video tutorial on how to edit using Audacity.

Adding podcast music, intros, and outros

According to NPR, a typical episode loses 20-35% of the listening audience in the first 5 minutes. This means you need to start strong and work to engage people from the outset, making intros an important segment to consider. 

A podcast intro is the time to make a great first impression that convinces someone to invest their time listening. It should explain the podcast’s purpose, introduce speakers, and help the listener understand the podcast’s or episode’s value. You can use the same intro for every episode or create custom lead ins for each.

Meanwhile an outro is an episode’s conclusion and typically drives listeners to take action. Ask people to leave a review, join your Facebook group, or to subscribe to the podcast. As your priorities change, we recommend switching up your outro calls-to-action accordingly.

Learn more at How To Create Podcast Intros and Outros.

Podcasts are unique to written articles or films because they only have music and the storyteller’s voice to grab an audience’s attention. Including music within an intro, outro, and throughout an episode can dramatically increase someone’s attentiveness. 

However, the intricacies of correctly licensing podcast music is complicated. For beginners, royalty-free or creative commons licenses will cover your bases. There are a lot of services available to find free and affordable music, here are our top recommendations:

  • Syncly: Pay per track for this podcast music library with the unique ability to customize the tracks to better fit your podcast.
  • Audioblocks: Pay for a subscription to access music, sound effects, and loop tracks. You have the option to customize the license plans to keep costs low.
  • Dig CCmixter: Offers some free music under Creative Commons licenses with many community artists submitting unique tracks.

Learn more about licensing podcast music correctly in Where To Find Free & Affordable Podcast Intro Music

Editing tips for new podcasters

Editing: where you splice in your intro and outro, remove gaps of dead air, cut out your mistakes, and eliminate background noises and those impossible-to-ignore pops.

If you’d rather post production be taken off your hands, Castos Productions is here to help. Our podcast editing service is staffed by a team of seasoned engineers, talented show note writers, and producers to take care of everything. All you have to do is record the content and we’ll do the rest.

Altering audio files can feel daunting for a newcomer so test out our favorite tips during your first session:

  • Make notes while you record: jot down when major mistakes happen as you’re recording. If you take too long to respond to a question or misspeak, take a note a where it occurs so you can easily find it later.
  • Use sound markers: an alternative to taking written notes, try sound markers to signify where mistakes are. A loud pen click or clap will send a spike in the audio level, making it easy to spot the areas you want to remove.
  • Learn the software’s keyboard shortcuts: keep a list of the common keyboard commands nearby as you start the editing process. Hitting ‘CTRL + Z’ is likely easier than hunting for the ‘undo’ button.
  • Come back with fresh ears: after editing for a few hours, try stepping away then coming back with fresh ears. It’s easy to ignore noticeable mistakes the longer you sit with the same episode.

Editing should enhance your show rather than used as a crutch–investing resources in planning each episode allows you to spend less time editing and more time creating captivating content.

Learn more at Podcast Editing: How Much is Really Needed?

How to edit a podcast with Audacity

Since it’s easier to show than tell you how to edit audio, we put a 10 minute tutorial video together showing you how to edit your podcast using Audacity.

The tutorial covers these important editing techniques:

  • Adding music, introductions, and outros
  • Adjusting volumes and adding fade elements
  • Muting individual track segments
  • Remove misspeaking mistakes

Exporting my final audio file

Audio files, especially podcasts, need to be exported with specific settings to enhance the listening experience. 

First, you’ll need to choose the right bitrate setting. A bitrate helps control an audio’s sound quality. The higher the bitrate, the higher the quality. However, a higher bitrate creates a larger audio file that takes longer for someone to download or stream it.

Next you need to decide on how loud your podcast will be by setting a LUFS level. LUFS is a measurement of loudness over a period of time and is used to standardize the episode loudness. If someone plays five episodes in a row, they won’t need to touch the volume and they’ll all sound the same.

Castos doesn’t alter your uploaded audio files in any way. We believe in keeping the integrity of your recording exactly as you want it. As a starting point, our recommended file export settings include:

  • File format: mp3
  • Bitrate: 128 kbps
  • Mono or Stereo: Mono is sufficient for spoken word recordings but if you use sound effects, stereo settings are a nice touch.
  • LUFS: -19 LUFS for mono recordings and -16 LUFS for stereo 

Learn more about our Audio Encoding Guidelines.

How to create engaging podcast cover art

Cover art is the finishing touch that complements a podcast’s title and description. It’s often the first thing potential listeners notice as they discover your podcast within an app.

The design is crucial but first it needs to satisfy a few strict settings. Your final RSS feed won’t work if your covert art doesn’t follow these specifications. The cover art requirements for Apple Podcasts and Spotify are:

  • File type: JPEG or PNG
  • Size: square ratio, we recommend 3000×3000 pixels. (The minimum for Apple Podcasts is 1400×1400 pixels)
  • Resolution: 72 dpi 

Note: Even if artwork is within these requirements, Podnews recently discovered filenames with more than one period (like cover_art.001.jpeg) will cause an error with Apple Podcasts.

Top podcast cover art tips from the professionals

You didn’t get into podcasting to be a graphic designer, so we pulled the characteristics from the top podcasts so you can create an engaging design.

  1. Avoid hard-to-read fonts and stick to two different styles max.  
  2. Choose imagery and fonts that convey the tone or topic of the podcast. Visually communicate the subject matter to complement the meaning behind the show’s name.
  3. Use contrasting colors to make the words more legible and make the image stand out. NPR uses a lot of white, black, and yellow to differentiate their shows.
  4. Don’t be afraid of white space. Have enough padding around the podcast’s title and host names so the image isn’t too crowded.  
  5. Remember, podcast cover art may appear as a small thumbnail depending on where your audience sees it. Make sure everything is legible at 3000×3000 pixels and as small as 55×55 pixels. Try the Podcast Artwork Check to view what it will look like across multiple players.

How to make your own podcast cover art

When it comes time to finalize your artwork, there are two main options. Use a DIY tool to create one yourself or hire someone to make it for you. Depending on your ability level and budget, try these tools:

  • Canva: Use there drag-and-drop features and templates to design stunning graphics.
  • Adobe Spark:  a free basic graphic editing tool that’s part of Adobe’s suite that includes Photoshop and Illustrator. 
  • 99designs: Find a professional designer to create artwork you’ll love and retain full copyright ownership.

Learn more at Compliment Your Podcast With Quality Cover Art.

Step 5. How To Publish My Podcast

Repeat after us: I can’t upload my podcast directly to Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Example of how a podcast is uploaded to a podcast hosting provider and distributing to listening platforms

You may be scratching your head right now but we can explain. Podcast listening platforms and apps don’t store your podcast’s information. Instead they receive the audio files from a podcast hosting service via an RSS feed. If this sounds like gibberish, head over to our infographic that explains how podcasting works.

Your podcast’s RSS feed is what will connect you to your audience so it’s important to choose a podcast hosting service that fits your needs. We’ve highlighted key criteria you should think about along with instructions on how to upload a podcast to Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

How to choose a podcast hosting platform

On the surface, it may appear all podcast hosting providers are the same. But the better services offer more enhanced features to help you grow, without compromising on the basics. When choosing your podcast hosting provider, think about these 5 key functions:

  • Storage capabilities: Consider your storage needs in the near and long term. Or what if now or down the road you want to produce multiple podcasts? It’s important to make sure the podcast host is capable of hosting each of your shows on a separate RSS feed and you’re able to manage them within one dashboard.
  • Website integrations: Many podcasters choose WordPress to build their podcast website. Make sure the podcast hosting provider has a WordPress plugin that can simplify managing the show. If you plan to host your website using SquareSpace or Wix, more advanced hosting providers will provide domain routing capabilities so new episodes automatically appear on your site.
  • Audience Analytics: To grow a podcast’s engagement, you need to understand what’s working and what’s not. Check which insights a provider offers and which ones you may be missing out on.
  • Marketing Integrations: From transcription services to audiograms to repurposing episodes into video content, these functions can make your podcast more accessible. Save yourself some time by working with a provider that offers all of these services in one bundle.

Why should I host my podcast with Castos?

Built for and by real podcasters, Castos is a hosting provider designed for new creators in mind! Here’s how we stack up against other services:

Grid explaining how Castos compares to other podcast hosting platforms

You can try Castos risk free for 14 days and test our powerful features for yourself. Start your trial today, no credit card required, and see what podcasting on your own terms is all about.

How to distribute a podcast to every listening platform

Next, it’s critical to submit your podcast to as many podcast directories as possible to make it accessible to everyone, no matter which platforms they prefer to use. All you need to do is make an account with each directory and submit your RSS link. The major players are Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, Podcasher, and TuneIn. We also recommend submitting to doubleTwist, iPodder, and Castbox.

Start with the top three most important directories: Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes), Spotify, and Google Play.

How to upload a podcast to Apple Podcasts

Follow our comprehensive tutorial with screenshots to upload a podcast to Apple Podcasts. Here are the basic steps: 

  1. Log into Castos and go to the “Podcasts” tab
  2. Click “Settings” and click the “Distribution” tab
  3. Copy your podcast’s RSS feed URL
  4. Log into Apple Podcasts Connect. If you don’t have an Apple ID, you’ll have to create one first.
  5. Click the “+” button and enter your the RSS feed URL in the field and click “Validate” and then “Submit”

Apple podcasts will take a few business days to review the information and confirm the submission. 

How to upload a podcast to Spotify

Follow our step-by-step guide for how to submit a podcast to Spotify. Or follow these 3 simple steps using your Castos account:

  1. Log into Castos and go to the “Integrations” tab
  2. Choose the “Spotify” integration
  3. Click “Submit to Spotify” 

Spotify confirms submissions within a few hours. Once confirmed, the podcast will show up on their platform.

How to upload a podcast to Google Podcasts

Google Podcasts recently changed how podcasts are submitted to their platform. Their tool now works to automatically crawl and index podcasts if their bots recognize an RSS feed on a website. 

Castos creates compliant podcast web pages that are accessible to Google’s bots. Once you finish setting up the RSS feed and upload a few episodes, Google Podcast Publisher will pull your podcast into multiple places within a few days.

Where Google shows podcast RSS feeds

If you want to manually tell Google Podcasts to recognize a podcast’s RSS feed or to troubleshoot why a show isn’t showing up, follow their documentation. Or check out detailed guide on How to Submit A Podcast To Google Play.

If you want to manually tell Google Podcasts to recognize a podcast’s RSS feed or to troubleshoot why a show isn’t showing up, follow their documentation. Or check our our detailed guide on How To Submit A Podcast To Google Podcasts.

Upload a podcast to more directories

There are other popular listening platforms in addition to Spotify, Apple Podcast, and Google Podcasts. To increase downloads, list your podcast across as many directories as possible. There are only upsides to allowing loyal fans listen to your show on their preferred app. 

Meet your listeners where they are by uploading your show to 30 more podcast directories.

Customizing my podcast’s website

A podcast webpage is important. It ensures your content is always available. If Apple Podcast suddenly falls off the map, your episodes will continue to live on your website. It provides SEO value as potential listeners search for your niche and discover the show in their search results. Last, having a polished web presence lends more credibility to your podcast.

Castos podcast webpage example

With Castos, you don’t need to be a web developer to get your website started. With every plan, our customers receive a customizable web page to act as your show’s home base. Update the color scheme, add subscription buttons to any listening platform, and include your social media handles to help listeners follow you across multiple channels. 

A Castos podcast web page has two parts: the main archive page that lists every published episode and individual episode pages. The archive page includes the podcast’s name, description, cover art, subscribe links, and social media handles. For each listed episode, there’s an embedded player so users can listen directly from the page while reading the episode’s description. The individual episode pages is a dedicated landing page for a specific episode. Here you can include additional show notes, transcriptions, and links to resources mentioned within the episode. An embedded player and custom subscribe links appear on each episode page too.

Step 6. Launching And Growing My Podcast

Podcasting doesn’t stop after you record and upload your first episode. The next step is to coordinate a strategic launch plan, focus on audience growth, and ultimately monetization opportunities.

How to launch a podcast

The elements of launching a podcast includes some of the same things as film premieres or newly published books. An official date is decided and the time leading up to launch is full of promotional efforts to generate buzz. 

If you’re at this step but are nervous to take the leap, consider the amount of work you’ve accomplished this far. You’ve taken a dream, put pen to paper, and recorded a show that has the potential to entertain people across the world. It takes hard work, diligence, and motivation to check off all of the boxes to get to this point. In this last stage, finding the inner confidence to launch is what holds a lot of hosts back. Our inner monologues can keep us from continuing with questions like, ”what if no one listens?”,  “am I qualified enough to talk about this topic?, “does my voice sound weird?”, or “what if i don’t succeed?” 

After speaking with hundreds of first time podcasters, every one mentioned their own struggle with mustering up enough confidence to officially launch. But once the first episodes hit the airwaves, the rush of seeing strangers connect with the show was the spark they needed to push forward.

Podcast launch day strategies

There isn’t a one size fits all strategy for launching a podcast because every show is different. Hosts with an established following will utilize a different set of tools than someone starting from scratch. But here are a few of our favorite marketing tactics so you can start formulating a launch day plan:

  1. Create a teaser episode: also known as episode 0, a teaser is the best way to educate potential listeners about what the podcast will sound like before releasing full length episodes. The teaser is also valuable well after you’ve launched as it’s a quick way for people to assess if your show is something they’re interested in.
  2. Release at least 3 episodes on launch day: give people enough content to consume on day 1. Having multiple episodes ready to binge can hook active listeners and give them a better sample of how subsequent episodes will sound.
  3. Tactically submit your show to Apple Podcasts: Apple Podcasts’ New & Noteworthy section can cause a spike in downloads for a newly released show. But their algorithm favors fresh shows with a lot of engagement. Use our guide on How To Get Into The New & Noteworthy Category for a better shot at being featured. 
  4. Network with other podcasters: cross-promotion or feed drops are common ways to introduce an audience to a new podcast. You see this a lot with shows across Gimlet’s network–a podcast will publish an episode of a new show to entice listeners to test out another one of the network’s podcasts. Partner with podcasters within a similar niche where their audience members would be interested in your topic too. And pitch them with your teaser (or even a rough cut of your first episode)  to provide a clear picture of what they can expect from your future episodes.
  5. Be active in online communities: your listener avatar worksheet already has notes about where your future audience hangs out online, now it’s time to engage with them. Don’t be too self-promotional from the start, focus on adding value to the conversation. As launch day approaches, add a note about your podcast’s upcoming release and even ask for feedback from people who are curious about the same topic. 
  6. Don’t be afraid of self-promotion: word-of-mouth recommendations are powerful growth tools but it’s hard to game the system. But no one is a bigger champion of your podcast than you, so don’t be afraid to talk about it with friends, family, and strangers. Add a link to your podcast website to your email signature and social media bios. Attend meetups, conferences, events, or festivals related to your niche and network with attendees and speakers. Some podcasters even print business cards to easily hand out to new acquaintances. It will feel uncomfortable at first but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Learn more at How To Launch A Podcast: Everything You Need To Know.

How to market a podcast

After launch day, continue marketing your podcast as new episodes are released or to promote your back catalog. For each new episode, consider doing a handful of these marketing activities to steadily increase a listenership over time and generate more subscribers:

  • Audiograms: create short video clips of buzz-worthy quotes within an episode to tease a newly released episode. Castos directly integrates with Headliner to easily create custom audiograms and saves the final video inside your dashboard. Audiograms are perfect for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram promotions.
  • Contact brands and people you mention: if you give a glowing review for a product or person, tell them. Brands and people encourage organic promotion of their services and love to show the “social proof” of someone else endorsing them. Tag them on social media or send a quick email about the mention, you may get a retweet out of it.
  • Go from host to guest: promote yourself to podcast listeners by being a guest on another show. You get to show you’re an authority in your topic and introduce your podcast to a new set of ears. Try subreddits like r/PodcastGuest Exchange and Facebook groups like Podcasters’ Support Group to pitch your expertise.
  • Advertise on podcast apps: Apps like Overcast and Listen Notes offer pay-per-ad placements within their apps. This is a great way to attract current podcast listeners and they can easily tap on your ad and immediately start listening to the show. Just make sure to submit your podcast to their platforms before purchasing an ad. 

Learn more about How to Promote A Podcast: The Ultimate 2020 Guide.

You’ll likely hit a little frustration when marketing your podcast. It feels awkward to self-promote and sometimes the needle won’t move much despite your efforts. But stick with it! To build a following, you need to consistently publish new content. It can feel like a thankless job when only 15 people are listening but it’s the key to your success. Too many podcasters never see hundreds of downloads because they didn’t give themselves enough time to be successful. 

You’ll need to play the long game instead. The average podcast sees 129 downloads per episode. Most podcasters reach their first 100 subscribers and struggle to find the momentum to keep growing. Our advice is to continue publishing high quality content. There’s a huge appetite for podcasts but people want to listen to great shows, not average ones. As you promote new episodes, continue keeping an eye on the quality and commit to a publishing schedule you can stick to.

The definition of success is different for everyone. Maybe reaching 10,000 downloads an episode isn’t what you’re looking for and that’s OK. We interviewed the co-editors of Bello Collective to talk about the balance of creative fulfillment and the industry’s version of success.

Additional podcasting resources

This guide serves as one resource to get you started but there’s a lot of information out there. Castos strives to be an educational destination so we have a few more ways to build your confidence to start podcasting:

  • Join Podcast Hackers: a Castos Facebook group filled with current and aspiring podcasters. Pose questions, ask for feedback, or find answers to questions you’re too afraid to ask. Our community is open and the perfect place to feel supported by people who know exactly what you’re going through.
  • Listen to Audience: our own podcast about podcasting. Craig, our host, interviews veteran podcasters about their journey and industry experts for their honest advice. Our team also tests popular podcast growth strategies in real life and reports on our success and failures.
  • Sign up for Podcast Like A Pro: a video version of this comprehensive guide with a few extra lessons thrown in. Receive free access to 25+ videos to go at your own pace and jump around.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter: we routinely publish new articles to our blog about the latest podcasting strategies. Each time we publish something new, we’ll send you an email with the in-depth content so you’re always on the cutting edge. 

Summary

Over 8,000 words later, this is what it takes to start a podcast. For many, there are new words to learn, technologies to test out, and confidence to muster! But the benefits of the medium are endless. 

Podcasting isn’t easy but it is rewarding. The best way to commit to your show in the long term is to remember why you’re starting in the first place. So grab a post-it note and jot down why you’re so eager to get going. The reason can be anything but when you feel frustrated with stagnant growth or can’t find the motivation to record another episode, grab this note to remind yourself why you’re sitting behind the mic.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed but can’t wait to get started, we also offer personalized coaching and consulting services. Get in touch with our team here for an initial call.

Get started with Castos today

And see just how easy podcasting can be.

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One Reply to “How To Start A Podcast: Your 2020 Step-By-Step Guide”

  1. Thanks a lot for the Article you just really helped a lot, but I wanted to ask can I use Anchor App as free method

    Reply

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