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How to Podcast: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started

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Creating a podcast isn't magic. But you do need to understand a few things before you launch.

What is Podcasting?

Before discussing further, let's clarify what is meant by podcasting.

In brief, a podcast is typically an audio (or, these days, even video) broadcast of news, information or entertainment. The "pod" in podcast comes from the early days when these broadcasts were largely delivered through Apple's iPod devices. Today, these broadcasts can be accessed through a variety of devices with Internet connectivity for listening and/or downloading.

Audio podcasting bears some similarity to traditional broadcast radio, except that it is accessed on demand by the listener on a device of the listener's choice. Broadcasts are often referred to as shows or channels and each installment as an episode. Length of a podcast can range from mere minutes to hours, limited only by the podcaster and the limitations (bandwidth) of the podcast service or device used.

Podcasting, particularly audio, is popular since listeners can listen to it while doing other things such as exercising, commuting, etc. As well, the myriad of choices of shows gives users access to many types of content that may not be available on traditional broadcast radio (or television) channels.

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How to Start Podcasting

So what do you need to get started with podcasting? Basically you'll need:

  • Content that can would be appropriate for reading aloud (or video recording if doing video podcasting).
  • A recording device or program that will record audio or video into an electronic file. Examples would include a voice recorder, mobile phone or computer with a microphone and recording software for audio. For video, a smartphone or webcam can be used on the low end up to professional video cameras.
  • While not required, a good microphone (or headphones with a microphone), can improve recorded quality. Pro Tip: Getting a windscreen can reduce popping, hissing and other unwanted sounds when voice recording. A windscreen is usually a spongy piece that attaches to the tip of the microphone to help deaden these nuisance and ambient noises. If you watch broadcast news, you'll often see these on the microphones the on-the-scene reporters use. Also, for true professional podcasters, a studio-quality microphone may be an investment to consider to improve the quality of recording.
  • Program that can be used to convert and edit an audio or video raw recording into a file that can be uploaded to a podcasting service platform. Currently, common file formats for podcasting are .MP3 for audio and .MP4 for video, although platforms may allow or require other types of files as well.
  • An account with a podcasting platform to host and deliver your podcast to users. Some examples (as of this writing) include SoundCloud, Blubrry and Podbean.
  • iTunes and Google accounts to submit your podcast feed to iTunes and Google Play (optional).

Audio files uploaded to a web page or blog are sometimes referred to as "podcasts," even if they are not technically so. However, using a genuine podcasting platform and submitting a podcast feed to iTunes and Google Play may offer the opportunity to reach more listeners.

Can You Podcast for Free? Are There Any Other Costs?

If you have recording and editing capability with your current smartphone or computer, and access to the Internet, there's usually nothing more to buy than maybe a paid podcasting service to broadcast your work.

There are free or free trial podcasting services. Usually the totally free services are designed for use by individuals who just wish to share their thoughts with the world. If using for business, these services may require the business to utilize one of their paid services. Costs are often charged on a monthly or annual basis and can range from a few dollars a month up to hundreds of dollars depending on the size of the podcaster's archive of podcasts, the number of downloads by listeners and other services required by the podcaster. Additionally, video podcasting may incur higher costs because it requires more storage space and greater bandwidth to deliver downloads.

How Long Does it Take to Make a Podcast?

Some podcasters just record their live blathering and post it as is. But with the plethora of software and tools available today, this is less acceptable even for small, individual podcasters and may even land you in trouble (see section on risks of podcasting below).

If you've ever done any audio or video recording and editing, you know how much time it can take to get it recorded properly and delete the bloopers. One podcast of 15 to 30 minutes could take many, many hours to edit. Tip: It's better to do several takes and record more than you think you need so that you have enough material to splice and dice during the editing process.

There is a learning curve for audio and video editing skills! However, if this is really outside of your abilities and it takes you away from more profitable endeavors (like sales!), consider hiring professional outside help to turn your work into something worth broadcasting.

Risks of Podcasting

Podcasting IS media. As such, there are media risks of which you need to be aware.

Music Issues. Performing or including songs or other works not written or created by you may violate copyright laws! A podcast is a broadcast and you need to obtain rights, licenses and/or pay royalties to perform or include any written or musical material that you did not create.

Also, professional podcasts usually have introduction, exit and background music to give the show more polish. However, as just discussed with performing music, you need to obtain rights and may need to pay royalties to include this music. There are several services online that can provide stock audio clips for these purposes.

Be VERY careful with stock music services! Not all of them offer clear license and use terms and could land you in copyright trouble. (Be especially wary of "free" or cheap music services.) As well, they may have limitations on how these clips can be used electronically or online. Read the Terms of Service and Licensing Agreements carefully and seek legal counsel for any questions BEFORE using.

Media Liabilities. As with blogging, book writing or any media, be aware of media liabilities (copyright and trademark infringement, libel, slander, invasion of privacy, breach of confidentiality, content liability, etc.) when podcasting. Editing out inappropriate, offensive, risky or illegal material, as well as displaying warnings for minimum age requirements and explicit material, may be required. Seek legal help on how to handle all these matters.

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Can You Make Money by Podcasting?

Many podcasters get started with the intent to make money! Similar to cable television and subscription radio services, listeners (or viewers) will pay for the podcasts they want. Podcasters can choose to take "tip jar" type donations from listeners, charge a subscription fee or charge a per listen (or per view for video) fee for premium content. Be aware that podcasting platforms may require you to use one of their paid hosting or delivery services and may take a commission from podcast sales if you charge for your show.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

© 2016 Heidi Thorne

6 comments

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 4 weeks ago from USA

Very beneficial. Do you happen to know how successful the top jar method is? Does is tend to be used in lieu of advertising or to supplement?


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

Long ago I had plans on doing this. I still do. I only hope I live long enough to see those plans become a reality. Thanks for the guide and Happy Monday to you.


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 4 weeks ago from Chicago Area Author

Hi Flourish! I've always gone back and forth about the "tip jar" type of strategy. I am going to experiment with it down the road. As well, I'm also planning to segment episodes into free and premium paid content. So I'll have some personal experience to share later on. That being said, I don't personally know of any tip jar millionaires. With the abundance of free content on the web, people are not likely to "donate" unless they personally know the podcaster or are truly impacted by the work. I'm glad you brought up that point. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Halloween!


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 4 weeks ago from Chicago Area Author

Hi Billybuc! I still think you'd be a great podcaster. But it does require an investment of time and effort. With all you have going on, it will happen someday. (Just like "someday" the Cubs will finally win the World Series -- we're still hoping it's our year this year.) In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and Happy Halloween!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

This article contains some very useful information, Heidi. It's a great resource for someone thinking about podcasting.


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 4 weeks ago from Chicago Area Author

Hi AliciaC! Glad you found it helpful. Podcasting is a natural next step for many authors. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a lovely week!

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