How to Start a Podcast

Article by Corey Bishop

One of our main goals here at the Creative Commoners Podcast is to foster creativity in all its forms. Each week we talk about how to encourage that creative spark. We have even held two creative challenges to get our listeners involved. We talk a lot our various creative projects: Chris’ webcomic, Allison’s novels, and Corey’s short stories and game development. But, until now, we haven’t gone into detail on how we produce one of our biggest creative projects, the podcast itself.

This post serves as a companion to Episode 30: Creating an Electric Audio Podcast. Listen to that episode to hear the story behind the start of Creative Commoners and the hurdles we had to work though. While the podcast episode gave more of the story behind creating the podcast, this post gives the technical details.

One more thing before we get started. When your podcast on Bavarian folk music or obscure 1980’s Japanese video games (or whatever you’re into) becomes wildly successful and you become rich and famous, remember who helped you get started. Throw the Creative Commoners some love. It’s the least you can do.

Content is king

Your first and most important concern when creating a podcast is what the show will be about. Your content is what will get people to keep listening. Unfortunately, this is the hardest part and the part where you are most on your own. All this stuff really depends on what type of show you want to do, so only the most general advice can be given.

You will need to come up with a (preferably) unique or interesting topic and name. You will also need to consider length, how often you release a podcast, the format (if any) for the show, and co-hosts (if any). When choosing how often to release the podcast, don’t overextend yourself. Start slow. No matter what topic you choose, it is important that you are passionate about it. Otherwise, you will lose steam quick.

Communication

One tiny hurdle we had to overcome was due to the fact that we all live in different states. Getting together in the same room to record a podcast would be impossible. We needed to figure out a way to talk to each other and record it. We pretty quickly decided on Skype to talk to each other. We had all used it before, it’s (mostly) reliable, and it’s free. The harder part was figuring out how to record the conversation.

Recording

Microphones
Sound quality begins with your microphone. We needed a microphone that worked well, but wasn’t too expensive (and microphones can get very expensive). We settled on the Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 Headset Retail 39.99 (23.99 on Amazon). It works great, has great sound quality, and a nice price point. It also has a convenient mute button so you can mute while coughing or taking a drink. The only down side is the headphones can be a little uncomfortable for long periods of time. Take note that it is a Microsoft product so you may have less support on an Apple OS.

Recording Software
Since we all live hundreds of miles apart, we were not sure how to actually record the podcast. We do not have the luxury to record together in the same room. We first looked at recording the Skype call itself. For this, Pamela seemed like a good solution. Pamela records the Skype conservation, it does it well, and only costs $30. But, the sound quality was not to the level we wanted for the podcast. We still use Pamela as an emergency backup, but we wanted to look elsewhere to get better sound quality.

We decided to opt for recording locally on each person’s computer, then edit the files together. We decided to use Audacity to record and edit the show. It is a free, open source recording and editing program. You cannot beat free and it does everything necessary to record a podcast. Syncing the different tracks is the only issue. To get over that hurdle, we all press record at the same time and all say “sync” at the same time as an audio cue when editing.

Once you have edited podcast with whichever software you choose, make sure you check out a program called Levelator. It automatically adjusts the sound levels in a finished podcast and just makes it sound better. It has saved us a bunch of time, made our podcast sound better, and is free.

Hosting & Domain

Once you have an edited and wonderfully sounding podcast, you need to put it up on the web. There are many options for hosting. There are several web hosts that specialize in podcasting such as Libsyn and Podbean. Podbean even has some helpful tools to create a website and RSS feed which I’ll talk about next. Since the Creative Commoners is a weekly, hour-long podcast, the storage space we needed made Libsyn and Podbean cost prohibitive. Also, they both give you a web domain specific to those hosts. It would be very difficult to move off of them later.

We ended up using Godaddy for hosting and to buy our own domain. Godaddy is a regular web host and domain registrar and does not specialize in podcasting. There are a number of different hosts to choose from. We went with Godaddy because we had experience with them, but there are many equal or better hosts out there.

A free option is www.archive.org. They host podcasts for free, but it is harder to get setup and the reliability is not as good as paid hosting.

Publishing

The next step is publishing so that you listeners can subscribe to your podcast and download it to their favorite audio listening device. To do this, you need to create an RSS feed. A podcast RSS feed is a listing of podcast episodes including title, description, and location in XML format. This RSS feed is the file a podcast aggregator like iTunes reads to list a podcast.

We use a plug-in for WordPress called Powerpress to create our RSS feed. WordPress is a powerful content management system to create websites and blogs. It is free and has a huge user base with a large ecosystem of plug-ins and add-ons. WordPress is not too difficult install if you have some technical knowledge and they have a handy guide. Some web hosts have push button WordPress installation. The other advantage of WordPress is it makes it easy to create a blog or a full blown website to go with your podcast. Powerpress is a well supported third-party plug-in that creates an iTunes compliant RSS feed for you. It helps you set up all the meta-data and settings required for iTunes and then gives you the URL to submit to iTunes.

The process to submit your podcast to iTunes is pretty straightforward. Apple has provided a handy guide to submitting a podcast. One thing to keep in mind is that Apple approves all podcasts before they are listed in the iTunes. This can take days, sometimes a week or two.

Congratulations! Your Are Now a Podcaster

Once your podcast is up on the web and listed in iTunes you are done. The next step is to promote your show through all the usual social media suspects like Twitter, Facebook, and Google +.

Have fun! Oh, and remember to throw us some love when you’re famous.