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How to Start a Podcast From Planning to Production

/ Max Thorpe

Black man smiling with headphones speaking into podcast mic - smaller

Once dominated by hobbyists and at-home producers, podcasting has become big business in recent years. Especially in the midst of pandemic-related lockdowns, podcasts have become the go-to means of entertainment and information for millions of people around the world.

So if you're wondering, "How do you start a podcast?" — you're asking the right question!

Whether you're a podcasting newbie or a dedicated listener yourself, we're breaking down the steps you need to know to start a podcast of your own:

Tips for choosing a podcast topic

Let's start with the biggest question first: What is your podcast about?

Since you're planning to start a podcast, you probably have at least a relatively good notion of what you want it to be about. But even if that's the case, it's worth taking a deeper look to make sure your topic has both interest and staying power.

Here are a few tips for choosing a podcast topic:

  • Pick a subject that you’re passionate about. Great content will come naturally if your podcast focuses on something that truly interests you. 
  • Consider the depth of the topic. As you build out multiple podcast episodes, you should be able to speak from different angles without repeating yourself.
  • Check the popularity of the topic through podcast show rankings or plain-old Google search analytics. Ideally you'd land in the sweet spot where there's plenty of proven interest but also not 10 podcasts already in existence.
  • Ask your network for feedback. Present your topic and a list of potential episode ideas, and then gauge their reactions. A great idea won't attract everyone, but the basic premise should make sense.
  • To make sure the ROI is there, choose a subject that fits your business goals and lands with your target audience. (More on these next!) 

How to plan a successful podcast

Man with mustache and glasses smiling at computer with podcast setupPhoto by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Before you actually start a podcast, there are a few foundational elements you'll want to consider. These choices will affect how you map out your podcast and how time- and labor-intensive the creation process will be—so it's a good idea to begin here, before you get too far into the weeds of the production process.

The more strategizing you're able to do upfront, the better the end result will be! Start with these six podcasting basics.

1. Define your goals

Before choosing a podcast topic or worrying about recording software, think about what you hope to achieve with the show.

Ask yourself the most important “why” questions: Why would a listener tune into this podcast? Why should my business invest time and money into making this podcast? Why am I even doing this?

There are plenty of reasons you might want to start a podcast:

  • To answer your customers’ frequently asked questions
  • To establish your brand as a thought leader
  • To drive traffic to your website
  • To entertain your audience
  • To monetize through ads
  • To educate listeners on an important social or public issue

There's no wrong answer when it comes to podcasting goals; just make sure you pick a topic that strategically aligns with your business goals.

For instance, if your goal is to increase sales revenue for your small business, creating a podcast that offers dad jokes and conversational banter on current events might not be the best use of company time and resources.

Then again, it very well might be! If your business is trying to reach a particular audience without being salesy, then a lighthearted entertainment piece may be exactly what you need.

The point is to be thoughtful about your approach based on your target audience.

Speaking of which....

2. Know your audience

Your target audience should be a driving factor for every decision you make when you start a podcast. By knowing who you're trying to reach, you'll have a much better understanding of the type of content they want to listen to.

For example, let’s say you own a small winery that specializes in creating white wines and champagnes that retail for $9 a bottle. You might know from your product marketing that your target audience is a younger crowd who consumes alcohol on the weekends and isn’t willing to spend a lot of money on it.

However, for a podcast, this audience category is too broad. In order to really connect with your target audience, you'll want to narrow it down to a smaller niche. Rather than just broadly targeting young people, your target demographic might actually be single women between the ages of 21 to 25 who are beginning a solo professional career and who likely have an interest in social justice, eco-friendly food, and women's rights.

By getting this specific about your desired listeners, you'll unlock a huge number of key insights for your new show:

  • Possible episode topics
  • Guest interview ideas
  • Preferred tone of voice
  • Best ad platforms to invest in
  • Podcast directories and channels to prioritize
  • Key opportunities for cross-promotion

You'll also be able to identify other podcasts that this target audience already listens to, which leads us to the next tip...

3. Research other podcasts

Person holding a phone with podcast covers shown in searchPhoto by Austin Distel on Unsplash

We know, we know. It might seem unoriginal or like you're "stealing" ideas—but you aren't! All successful products and services start with market research, and this step is absolutely essential to understanding what your podcast could and should be.

Now that you know your target audience, make a list of current podcasts that also attract those listeners. Then listen to the top 3–5 episodes from each show, taking note of the following:

  • What is the overall tone of the show? 
  • What is the introduction like? (Is it dramatic, funny, spooky, etc.?)
  • What is the podcast format? (Is it interview-based, call-in, scripted, etc.?)
  • How long is each episode?
  • Is there a single podcast host or multiple?
  • What are the show notes like?
  • What do the reviews say, including the best and the worst?
  • Does it have ads? How many and at what interval?

All of these insights can help inform what's "normal" for your target audience, forming a great baseline for what you might want to do with your new podcast.

4. Find your voice

How will you resonate with your audience? It’s impossible to stand out from the crowd just by speaking about a topic. You’ll need to offer your own personal flair to differentiate your podcast from the rest.

Again, starting with research is a great way to figure out your podcasting "X factor." Listen to some of your favorite podcasters, broadcasters, or TV hosts. What do they do well? What about their vocal presentation feels both authentic and unique?

Like it or not, your performance as a podcast host is key to your show's success—so it's worth paying attention to. Try recording yourself and listening back to the audio for things like tone and vocal inflection, personality, emotions, and language.

You might discover that an upbeat inflection in your voice is much more entertaining than the drab voice you thought was “chill." Or maybe wry language in a deadpan tone suits you better than obviously faux excitement.

Be yourself, but be your most entertaining self.

5. Settle on the details

Based on your research of other podcasters and your own vision for your new podcast, decide on the following elements:

  • Show format: Popular podcast formats include guest interviews, panels, off-the-cuff conversations, long-form narration, theater, news bites, and investigative series. There's no wrong way!
  • Episode length: Based on an analysis of over 18 million shows, the average podcast length hovers just over 41 minutes. The best rule of thumb is to choose the length that fits your content — no more, no less.
  • Publishing frequency: Will you drip out shows on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis? Or will you serve the masses who love binge listening? Be realistic about your audience but also your capacity to create new content.
  • Host or co-hosts: Many podcasters fly solo their entire career, while others prefer a panel-style show with multiple co-hosts. Having a co-host can make conversation easier but also adds complexity to show creation.
  • Video or audio-onlyVideo podcasts are becoming more popular, with the added benefit of serving up content for multiple channels at the same time. Then again, there's nothing wrong with a classic audio show. (If you do go the visual route, our online video editor can help!)
  • Production value: Are you aiming for that sleek NPR sound? Or do you prefer a homemade touch that harkens back to the original days of podcasting? In some cases, a low production value may feel more authentic to listeners.

Ultimately, consistency will be key for your podcast format. Listeners and viewers should know what to expect from each episode so they can build a relationship with your show.

That being said, it can take some time to work out the perfect format, and that's ok! Give yourself the flexibility needed to figure things out at the beginning.

6. Choose a podcast name and cover art

Last but not least, think about your podcast name and cover art—two of the most important pieces of marketing collateral for your show. Both of these items will play a significant role in how many potential listeners actually find your show when browsing in their podcast app of choice.

There are few hard-and-fast rules for your podcast artwork, other than to ensure the cover is legible at very small sizes since most users will be browsing the podcast library on their mobile devices. 

How to create a podcast in 5 steps

Woman sitting on sofa speaking into podcast mic looking at laptopPhoto by Soundtrap on Unsplash

With the in-depth strategizing out of the way, you're ready to move onto the production phase. You know, the part where you actually create your new podcast! Here we're focusing on the production of a single episode, which you can rinse and repeat to create your entire show.

1. Write the script 

If your podcast episodes are scripted, then you'll definitely want a prepared script. But even if they aren't completely scripted, a general outline or list of interview questions can be helpful for keeping the episode on track.

2. Record 

With your script ready, it's time to record! Do some vocal warmups, check your audio levels, and avoid taking big breaths into the microphone. Otherwise speak naturally and do your thing.

What kind of podcast equipment will you need for a high-quality episode, you might be wondering? Here are the most recommended basics:

  • USB microphone, like the Blue Yeti
  • Computer, smartphone, or digital recorder
  • Headphones
  • A quiet space, ideally small and enclosed

You can certainly use fancier equipment for studio-quality sound, but it's by no means necessary. If you're planning to edit your podcast in WeVideo (next step), make it easier by recording your screen or webcam directly in WeVideo, too.

3. Edit the recording

Whenever any new episodes are recorded, the first podcast editing step will be to clean up any audio mistakes.

In WeVideo's in-browser video editor, you can easily remove filler words, awkward pauses, or misspoken phrases in a number of ways:

  • Cut the mistake and stitch the clips together.
  • Mute audio to eliminate distracting background noise.
  • Add background music.
  • Selectively replace audio with B-roll footage.

Get more detailed instructions in this blog post: How to Edit Out Your Audio Mistakes

4. Add effects and music

For most podcasts, sound effects should be used sparingly, if at all. They work well for kids' shows, slapstick comedy, or short news bites — but they can quickly fall into the "too much" category.

Music, on the other hand, is the perfect complement for all kinds of shows. At the very least, you'll want to create an intro and an outro for your podcast so that any episode is immediately recognizable to listeners. Your intro could be a short music bit, a compilation of sound bites, or even a custom jingle.

WeVideo has an expansive library of fully licensed songs, tunes, and sound effects to choose from, giving you the ability to cut and edit as you please. Just browse the library directly in the video editor interface and drag any podcast music clip to your Timeline.

And if you're editing video podcast footage, then WeVideo has even more ways to jazz up your final result. Add motion titles, create custom video thumbnails, throw in some pro footage — everything you need to create a polished video podcast from intro to outro.

5. Write show notes

The final item to create with your podcast episode is show notes.

Show notes are easy to overlook, especially if you're short on time, but they're really important to have. By providing a quick summary and highlight of the episode's contents, great show notes may convince an on-the-fence listener to go ahead and press play.

Show notes are also a natural spot to include a call-to-action directing listeners to your website, a fundraiser, or some other desired next step.

Tips for distributing and promoting your podcast

Man typing on smartphone in front of large monitor and podcast micPhoto by Malte Helmhold on Unsplash

Once your first episode is recorded, you'll need to host your podcast somewhere.

Most podcasters choose to upload their audio files to dedicated podcasting hosting sites, as these sites automatically sync with the most popular podcast directories—pushing out new episodes as soon as you've uploaded them. This route also saves you the performance, bandwidth, and storage worries of hosting podcast episodes on your own website.

There are a ton of paid and free podcast hosting sites available:

Once your podcast is hosted, it can be featured on sites like Apple Podcasts or Spotify, the two most popular podcast directories. Some podcasters also choose to create their own podcast RSS feed (which are also sometimes included with the above hosting packages).

From there, it’s just a matter of promoting, promoting, promoting. Get the word out on your website and social media channels, and try to build relationships with other podcasters who might cross-promote your show on theirs. If you have the budget, paid advertising can be another great way to increase your audience.

Don't worry if you don't see results right away. With a new podcast, it always takes time to find your footing and your following. As long as you keep creating great content, you're well on your way.

Happy podcasting!