Tips for starting a podcast

Occasionally I get messages asking for tips on starting a podcast - so I thought I would put some info here to direct people.

Firstly, the best advice I can give to any potential new podcaster is to read read read, and watch youtube tutorials on starting a podcast. There is no one correct answer or one way to do things.

A few personal tips from my experience:

  • BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING Search for other podcasts that might be similar to the one you’re thinking about starting. Make sure no one has the name you’re thinking of, or a similar name! I’ve seen many podcasts start that didn’t do this initial research, and it’s created a lot of headaches for them.

    Here's a good resource to get started: Please note, I don’t necessarily agree with all the tips for what I do, but there is some good info there.

  • MICROPHONE SETUP My setup involves a microphone and a pop filter. For a starter, I recommend the Blue Snowball microphone. It's an inexpensive USB mic that plugs into your computer. Friends of mine have also recommend ATR2100, which is a little more expensive. You then use recording software to record and then edit your audio file. After about seven episodes when I had decided I was going to continue with the podcast*, I invested in a more expensive microphone (but beware - this microphone may not be good for all situations. Take a look at the difference between condenser mics and dynamic mics and pick a type that suits your podcast setup).
    A pop filter is a barrier between you and the microphone to block those hard P and B type sounds that listeners generally don't enjoy hearing.

    * Another tip: check out Podfading. It's a thing, and it happens to many new podcasters after they realize how much work podcasting actually is!

  • RECORDING SOFTWARE Audacity is free editing software that you can use to edit your audio. Most first-time podcasters use it. I watched a heap of youtube tutorials on how to do it... and continued to watch more as I came across problems and things I wanted to do in editing! I don't find the software difficult to use, but there's a steep learning curve that you can only learn by actually doing your own editing.

  • RECORDING SPACE Record in a small room or create a "blanket fort" to record in - it reduces the echo and you'll sound better. I used to record in my closet because it's a small room, and the clothes hanging inside absorb extra echoes. Now I record in a pop-up semi-permanent booth in my basement.

  • EDITING Editing audio is important and takes a long long time, especially if you want a decent-sounding podcast. Audiences have a lot of choice in podcasts these days and prefer things tightly edited. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can just turn on the microphone and talk or have a conversation and then upload that as an episode—well, not if you want to attract an audience! Listeners prefer that excessive ums and aars, long silences, mouth noises, and going off-topic too much is edited out. I have a scripted show, and edit out all narration errors and loud breathing noises.

  • MUSIC Looking for music? If you want something created just for you (for example, theme music for your show), I use and recommend We Talk of Dreams. Nico has extensive podcast experience and is extremely cost-effective. He created the new theme song for Canadian True Crime as well as several other songs you’ll hear on episodes.
    For free music to use under an attribution license, Incompetech is a great resource. Just make sure you read the specifics of the attribution license to ensure that you're using the music correctly and giving the correct credit to the artist.

  • ARTWORK Podcast artwork is important, as that’s often the first thing a potential audience sees of your show. The standard size for iTunes / Apple Podcasts is 3000 x 3000 pixels. It seems large - that’s correct. Here’s some good tips.

  • RESEARCH As for research resources for a true crime podcast, I use a mixture of news articles, court reporting, documentaries, court documents if available as well as true crime books. Please note: I am not a private investigator and can't access anything that an ordinary member of the general public wouldn't be able to access.

  • TIME EXPECTATION To give you an idea of how long it takes to produce each of my episodes (based on a basic one-hour episode)

    • 25 hours for research and writing of the script

    • 2 hours for recording of the narration

    • 4 hours for editing (I allow one hour for every 15 minutes of raw audio)

    • 4 hours to select and place ambient background music

    • 2-4 hours for final listens and edits

    • 2 hours for writing the show notes, credits, music credits, website and social media posts about the new episode

      = approximately 40 hours per episode

  • HOSTING Once you have an episode (finished audio file) ready to go, choose a hosting service to host your podcast. I have used a few different hosting sites now - Libsyn and Podbean are staples for a new podcaster. After you have chosen your host, and have uploaded your first file (it could even just be a short introduction to your podcast - doesn't have to be an episode), then you can submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes) as well as the other podcatchers like Stitcher, Podbean, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, Castbox, etc. Start with Apple, and then apply for the others one by one. That’s how people will find your episodes. More info on how to do this.

Happy podcasting! :)