How to Start a Podcast: Your 2019 Step-by-Step Guide

Last updated on December 2nd, 2019

If you’ve wondered how to start a podcast, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll show why now is the perfect time to take a show from dream to reality and the six steps it’ll take to get you there.

Podcasting has gone from a niche community of listeners to the mainstream in just a few years. In 2019 alone, over 211K new podcasts launched and the total number of episodes in the world grew to almost 56 million.

While it may seem like there’s too much content to consume, you’d be wrong. An estimated 20 million more people listened to a podcast in 2019 compared to last year. A milestone moment highlighting our eagerness to discover and devour more episodes than ever.

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.

Given the eagerness for listeners to tune in to more podcasts and the willingness of brands to spend their marketing budgets to reach these people, the conditions are perfect to start 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.

But with so many resources available, it’s information overload and difficult to figure out which how-to article has the best tips. So we’ve simplified the process, giving you the most relevant details on how to create and publish a podcast.

The 6 Steps For How To Start A Podcast

How to get a podcast off the ground doesn’t have to be a mystery. Follow our instructions step-by-step or navigate to the section you need most. Below has everything you’ll need to successfully learn how to start a podcast. Let’s get started!

The Beginners Guide To How to Start A Podcast

Step 1. Planning

Producing a podcast is full of parts that need to work in harmony. To ensure you start off on the right foot, we’ll start with planning the three foundational pieces to every podcast: choosing a topic, format, and name.

But first it’s important to remember why you’re getting into podcasting in the first place.

Why are you podcasting?

There isn’t one right reason to start a podcast, new hosts are motivated by a variety of factors.

Podcasts are a medium that allow people to connect over a niche idea and find others who share the same enthusiasm. No matter the topic, from the daily realities inside the San Quentin prison to exploring the unusual histories of things like gnomes and straws, there’s likely a show with a loyal following hanging on the host’s every word.

Are you thinking about how much you’d enjoy exploring one of your passions more? How the chance to be creative and share your unique voice with the world is too exciting to pass up? This hunger to create meaningful connections with a like-minded community is exactly why you should start a podcast.

This drive is important to your journey as a podcaster. It’s no secret that producing a podcast takes work. But a strong desire to be fulfilled creatively and cultivate long-lasting relationships is essential to take a show from an idea to reality.

How to choose a podcast topic

A podcast’s topic helps define the structure, tone, and flow of the show so you should give it some serious thought. 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 four 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. Who is your audience? Think about how your topic satisfies an audience’s needs.
  3. What’s your differentiator? Refine the topic to nail your unique point of view.
  4. Can it be monetized? Consider how a topic lends itself to revenue in the future.

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

How to choose the right podcast format

Finding the right form for your podcast is an important decision because it’ll stick with you through the life of your show. You can create your own unique format or consider one of the five most popular styles. But there are pros and cons to each style, so try thinking about what’s the best way to education 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

You’ll want a consistent format to build an audience–if you’re constantly changing the formula, you’ll confuse listeners and struggle to keep them engaged.

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

How to name a podcast

You have a lot of freedom when choosing a name. Here’s some handy tips to keep in mind as you brainstorm:

  • Relate it to your topic using keywords: Think about how people search for information related to your topic. Including those key phrases in a title can help surface your show in search results.
  • 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 assets to mirror your podcast name as closely as possible so listeners can easily find your social channels.
  • 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.

How long should 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 to being the sweet spot for completion.

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

Step 2: Setting up

“What do I need to set up a podcast?” is often the first question beginners start with. 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:

Learn more > No BS Podcast Gear Recommendations

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 with an easier learning curve than other tools. 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.

A more premium option is Adobe Audition. For a little over $20 a month, you can record and edit your audio files within the platform. The tool also boasts a few more bells and whistles than Audacity. New podcasters have the benefit of using their built in presets for your audio settings to help you get started.

Learn more > 6 Best Podcast Recording Softwares || 4 Popular Options InPodcast 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 your first podcast episode

With the foundational elements of your podcast figured out, you’re ready to hit record. 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.

Should I 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.

Depending on the podcast’s topic and format, each script is different. No matter the style, though, there are three 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. Calls-to-action (CTAs): ask for audience support by sounding authentic and emphasizing how easy it is to do the action you’re asking of your audience.

Learn more > How To Write A Podcast Script || The 3 Acts Of Every Great Podcast Episode

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:

  • 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.

Learn more > Top 11 Mic Techniques For New Podcasters || 21 Podcast Recording Tips For Polished Episodes

How to record a podcast episode in 6 steps

Getting into a recording rhythm is important for sticking to a consistent publishing schedule. While every host is different, we’ve found most beginner podcasters find success with this six step method:

  1. Research the episode’s topic
  2. Write out a script or interview questions
  3. Set up your equipment and recording space
  4. Fine tune the recording settings and levels
  5. Practice proper recording techniques
  6. Relax and hit record

Learn more > How To Record Your First Podcast Episode

Step 4: Editing and producing a 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 comiled our top editing tips for newcomers and have a detailed video tutorial on how to edit using Audacity.

Do I need an intro and outro?

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.

You only get one first impression so we think it’s important for podcasts to have a sleek intro. It explains the show’s purpose, introduces the speaker, and help the listeners understand the value they’ll receive. Intros include elements like the podcast and host names, tagline, and typically a musical jingle.

Similarly, outros offer an opportunity to call the audience to perform an action after listening to an episode. It’s the perfect moment to ask audience members to leave a review, offer financial support, or subscribe to future episodes. Try swapping in different calls to action as you produce more episodes to keep this section fresh.

Learn more > How To Create Podcast Intros and Outros

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.

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 > Podcast Editing: How Much is Really Needed?

How to edit your podcast using 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

How to create engaging podcast cover art

Cover art is one of the first things potential listeners see when evaluating if your show is worth their time so don’t skimp on this step. It should compliment your podcast’s topic and name, communicating its subject and tone.

In your design, don’t be afraid to use your company’s logo, avoid hard to read fonts, and stick to high-resolution imagery. The final asset should be a square ratio and 3000x3000px in JPG or PNG format to adhere to Apple Podcast’s and all other listening platform’s requirements.

Learn more: Compliment Your Podcast With Quality Cover Art

Step 5: How to publish your podcast

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

You may be scratching your head right about 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 actually submit a show to Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

How to choose the right bitrate and LUFS to export your episode

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

First, you’ll need to choose the right bitrate setting. A bitrate helps control the an audio’s sound quality. The higher the bitrate, the higher the quality. However, the higher the bitrate, the larger the audio file and the longer it will take to download or stream for your audience.

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 loudness of episodes. If someone plays five episodes in a row, they won’t need to touch the volume and they’ll all sound the same.

Podnews analyzed the top podcasts and found a common trend. To hit the sweet spot, most recommend 64 or 94 kbps for mono mp3 files and 128 kbps for stereo mp3 files. For LUFS, -16 LUFS is most popular and is recommended by both Google Play and Apple Podcasts.

How to choose a podcast hosting service

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.
  • Content Repurposing Services: From transcription services 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 you should host your 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:

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.

Which directories should I publish my podcast on?

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.

Learn more > The Top Podcast Directories To List Your Show

Step 6: Launching, growing, and monetizing your podcast

Follow these six steps and you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful podcast. But podcasting doesn’t stop after you record and upload your first episode. Follow our guides below to learn more about how to support your podcast’s growth, monetization, and consistency.

Additional podcasting 101 guides

Join our favorite podcast communities

Podcasting isn’t for the faint of heart. Luckily there are a lot of other people like you who are either just starting out or are veterans of the industry. To find support along this journey and keep up to date on best practices, consider joining or subscribing to these podcast communities:

  • Podcast Hackers – a private Facebook group for all Castos customers
  • Podcast Movement – a private Facebook group for members of the podcasting industry or aspiring hosts
  • She Podcasts – a private Facebook group specifically for podcasters who identify as female. they also host a conference to meet members in person.
  • Podnews – a newsletter for industry updates and original reporting. They also produce a podcast with similar content.

How to launch a podcast guides

How to monetize a podcast guides

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