As of November 2020, there are approximately one million podcasts and this number is growing daily.
I’ve been podcasting for over a decade and I’m often asked for advice about equipment and editing software. So, I thought I’d write an article about starting a podcast in 2020.
Planning is King.
This is a very overlooked part of the podcasting. You need to plan. Some would argue that Bad Wilf sounds like we just hit record and riff, but even our impromptu episodes are planned to an extent. We’re a film and TV review show. So, if we take a trip to the cinema, we know there’s a good chance we’re going to record sometime after seeing the film. Planning is where you should spend most of your time. I recommend getting an A4 note pad or a whiteboard, to put up near your recording space. These will enable you to make notes or write down topic points for your episode.
Choose A Subject.
You want a subject matter you’re passionate about. We started our life as a Doctor Who podcast, but a few months in we really found our interest fading. So we switched to covering other TV shows and Film, something we were both passionate about. We still cover Doctor Who, but it’s just one of many things we talk about. For example, rather than start a podcast about lawnmowers, I’d recommend starting a podcast about all aspects of landscape gardening. With lawnmowers being one of the things you cover.
Co-host or no co-host, that is the question.
Honestly, you’re the only one that can answer this. I’m not the type of person who talks a lot. I talk when I have something to say, but I’m quiet the rest of the time. The premise of our show is that we’re all just mates having a chat in the pub. So, I needed a co-host. I asked my best friend to join me. I’ve found that having a co-host keeps things sounding more natural and conversational. However, having one or more co-hosts can have its drawbacks. You all need to be committed for the long-haul and scheduling can be an absolute nightmare.
You’ll need a name. We went with Bad Wilf, as we launched as a Doctor Who podcast and we felt it was a clever wink and a nod towards the show. If you check the Apple Podcast charts, you’ll see a wide variety of names. Some are very descriptive, some not so much. We were lucky that our name is just a reference to Doctor Who and doesn’t rely on Doctor Who. Say you wanted to launch a podcast about the Toy Story franchise, I’d steer clear of calling it ‘The Toy Story Podcast’. This could lead to getting a letter from Disney, or leave you stuck with a name you no longer want when you decide you want to cover Pixar’s other films. Instead, I’d recommend calling your Toy Story podcast ‘infinity and beyond’. People will know what it means and it gives you the flexibility to cover more subject matters. You also no longer need to add the word ‘podcast’ to your podcast title, we had to as it helped iTunes list them back in the day.
Get a website.
If you want to look professional, then the importance of having a website can’t be overestimated. When we branched out and decided we wanted to interview people, the first thing we were asked by their representatives was “do you have a website?”. Believe me, telling people “Yes, badwilf.com” is easier than saying “Well, we don’t have a website per-say, but our podcast host site is www.thebadwilf.libsyn.com”. Having a website makes you look legitimate. You can find advice on website building on YouTube, I recommend using WordPress.
I’ve seen a lot of “experts” say that podcasts shouldn’t be shorter than 45 minutes because that’s the average commute to work. We went for a running time of 30-45 minutes because that’s how long my commute to work was. But in reality, it doesn’t really matter. Again, if you check the Apple Podcast charts you’ll see they all vary in length. Some are 6 minutes long, some are 6 hours. Some of Joe Rogan’s shows break the 4-hour mark. If you’ve got a great show, people will listen.
This isn’t something I can really help with. That’s entirely up to you. I would steer clear of having too many people on an interview-style show though, you, your co-host and a guest should be fine. But you, your co-host, guest plus others can sound incredibly crowded to the listener.
The standard format we use is;
Teaser (An out of context clip from the episode)
Ads (If we have them)
Call to action (rate us on Apple Podcasts etc).
Introduce yourselves clearly at the start of every episode. Ever episode you put out, will be someone’s first episode. You’ll have new listeners and repeat listeners. New listeners will want to know who you are, repeat listeners won’t mind sitting through a couple of seconds of introductions. Especially if you make them fun. I’ve heard so many podcasts over the years, where the hosts are very clinical and don’t even introduce themselves.
Show notes. Use them.
Show notes are important, you can write a break down of everything you spoke about. If you reference a good book, you should link to it. Provide a service for your listeners, if you mention a book I think sounds interesting. I might order if you link to it in the show notes. I can order with one click. If you don’t, I either have to order it the moment it’s mentioned or, remember whereabouts in the episode you mentioned it, so I can go back and listen again for the title. That’s a hassle, your listeners will appreciate links.
You can also use show notes to link your social media. I can’t tell you how many podcasts I’ve wanted to follow on Twitter, but can’t because they don’t put the link in the show notes.
People do judge a book by its cover.
Your cover art is almost more important than your content, it’s the listener’s first impression of your show. Decent cover art can get you noticed, it also helps you stand out and climb that charts. If you’re somewhat artistically gifted, you can make some pretty decent cover art in something like Canva. If not, you could always pay someone to do it on a service like Fivver.
Get a decent microphone.
With every actor now launching a podcast, people have become accustomed to a professional sounding podcast. However, most of us aren’t backed by professional producers, nor can we afford studio time. The best most of us have is our bedroom or living room. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds on a decent setup. Most smartphones are as good as a medium budget mic. We currently use Rode podmics, that are connected to a Rodecaster Pro. But you could get a decent sound from a £15 XLR mic and a £30 audio interface. Approximately 100 episodes of Bad Wilf, were recorded on an £80 Zoom H1 or a £30 USB mic from Maplin (RIP).
Acoustically treat your recording space.
Most of us won’t have bedrooms or living rooms that are acoustically treated. Wooden floors and concrete walls will cause an echo. Now, you could spend a few hundred on soundproof foam and completely kit out your recording area, you could buy a Kaotica Eye Ball or a cheaper alternative. I record in my living room – I rent so I can’t stick foam panels to the wall. I used to have one of those Kaotica eye ball alternatives, but my current mic isn’t suited for them. Instead, I’ve taken to surrounding my recording area with duvets. I hang one duvet up on the curtain pole. This stops the reverb of my voice and reduces traffic noise, I hang another duvet on the Kallax unit behind me and, a third on a washing airer just to my side. This works spectacularly well. It doesn’t make the area soundproof, but it softens the reverb of my voice. I also have hard wooden floors, so I’ve placed a rug under my microphone.
Recording and editing.
Every episode of Bad Wilf has been edited using the free to use software, Audacity. There is some paid editing software out there, such as Adobe Audition. They’re all good. But honestly, there’s no real need. Audacity has worked incredibly well for me. More recently, I’ve started using a service called Descript. Descript transcribes your audio into text, with an 85% accuracy. You then edit the audio, by deleting the text. It’s £12 ($15) a month for the basic package, but it enables you to auto-delete filler words such as “um” and “errrr”. This is an absolute time-saver, you can also programme in filler word/phrases like “like” and “y’know”. I do the very basic edit through Descript, but I still use Audacity for the main edit.
In the good old days, Bad Wilf was recorded mostly in-person. I’d take my trusty Zoom H1 to my co-hosts house. We’d hit record and chat. We then graduated to two XLR mics running into a Zoom H5. In a post-Covid world, nearly every episode is recorded remotely. I use my Rodecaster Pro for this. It enables me to basically run the podcast, like a live radio show. If you don’t have a Rodecaster Pro, you and your co-host can record your own sides of the conversation, then Dropbox to whoever is editing. Alternatively, you could use a Skype recorder. There are drawbacks to these however, they mostly tend to be sound related. A Skype recorder works by recording what is coming out of the earphone jack, that can lead to a drop in quality. I’ve used Ecamm in the past, which I found to be the best of the bunch. It was a one-off £15 payment. Ecamm also allows you to split the tracks into two. The benefits of this are that if your co-host coughs whilst you’re talking, you could silence it on their track. The downside to this is, if you have more than one guest, all guests appear on one track.
Before getting my Rodecaster Pro, I’d taken to recording with Zencastr. You don’t have to download any software. What makes Zencastr different to a Skype recorder, is rather than taking the sound that’s coming out the headphones, it takes the sound that’s going directly into each users microphone. It also records each user in a separate track, which is a Godsend when it comes to editing. If one co-host is moving around whilst the others are talking, this can be silenced in editing. Zencastr has two tiers, a free service which allows users up to two guests an episode and 8hrs of recording a month, or a paid version which allows unlimited guests and unlimited monthly recordings, for $20. However, during the Corona outbreak, Zencastr has lifted the restrictions on the free tier.
I’ve lost count of how many “professionally” produced podcasts I’ve stopped listening to after the first 3 minutes because they’re just too damn quiet. I’ve run every episode of Bad Wilf through free software called ‘Levelator’. It basically levels out all your audio to be exactly the same. Now, it’s not a magic wand, it can’t fix all audio problems, but it’s served me well for over a decade.
Launch the thing.
To launch your show, you’ll need a podcast host. There are many out there. But I’ve always used Libsyn. They’re reasonably priced and they’re pretty fair. I would advise steering clear of any podcast host that offers their service for free. Read the small print, because they could end up claiming your show and/or all content you make.
Research these, there are a lot out there. The big ones are obviously Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Player FM etc. But there are some very niche directories out there that may cater more directly to your audience. 52% of listeners consume their podcasts from Apple Podcasts, so even if you only submit to one service, make sure you’re on Apple Podcasts.
Post to your website.
Make sure you embed your podcast episode on your website and you should put some accompanying text above the embedded player. This could be just a copy/paste of your show notes. I’d also recommend listing and linking to everywhere people can listen.
So, you’ve recorded and edited your show. You’ve uploaded and submitted it to all the podcast directories you can find, you’ve embedded it on your website. Now you want to shout about it on Twitter. Great. But, remember, in this day and age we’re being sold to 24/7. So if you launch a Twitter account specifically to promote your podcast, be wary of only posting to promote your show. Think about it like this; would you have any interest in following someone who only ever posted about the fact he was giving guitar lessons? Instead, you should give-give-ask. Provide a service, build a community. Give a solution, then ask people to listen.
I hope this has been helpful to you, if you have any further comments or questions, then please tweet me.