I was asked to put together some thoughts on podcasting for Inc magazine. They never used them, so I’m publishing them here.
You might notice that I’m a bit blasé about every answer except the first one. That’s because if you nail “what makes your podcast different?”, everything else falls into place. If you don’t, nothing else matters.
I started podcasting six years ago. Back then we had the advantage that podcasts weren’t cool, so you only started one if you really felt you had something to say. Now they’re seen as a marketing tool – so it’s more tempting to just throw a podcast together thinking about what you want out of it personally rather than thinking about what’s in it for the listener.
Because marketers ruin everything.
Anyway, here we go…
What are the key factors you need to have figured out before you start a podcast?
The most important thing is deciding what makes your podcast different.
If you’re doing a podcast for general entertainment, you’re competing with every other form of entertainment out there. If you’re doing something in a niche, you need to assume that people are only going to listen to a maximum of two podcasts in that niche.
So what is about yours that makes it better and/or different? Why should people choose yours over all the other options that are already out there?
What about equipment — do you need any special equipment? If so, what is it and how do you make sure you have the right stuff/reliable quality, etc?
You don’t need a lot of equipment, and you don’t need that equipment to be high-end. To get started, all you need is a half-decent microphone plugged into your laptop, plus some free editing software. That’s it.
It’s possible to go down a nerdy tech rabbit hole when it comes to equipment, but what’s far more important than teeny improvements in production values is having something unique and useful to say.
Is there a financial commitment to starting a podcast? If so, what is it/what should we know?
There isn’t a substantial financial commitment, no. You can get a good enough microphone for $50, and there’s plenty of free editing software around. If you want someone to edit the podcast for you, you can get that done for under $50 an episode (look on Upwork.com). You could do the editing yourself, of course – but that’s a time commitment rather than a financial one.
What are the biggest challenges to starting a podcast, and how can someone overcome them?
The biggest challenge – by far – is finding listeners. Whatever you want your podcast to achieve for you (whether it be brand recognition for your business, advertising money, or something else), the podcast isn’t going to magically find you listeners just by virtue of existing.
Finding listeners is definitely easier when you have something new and unique to say, because then your listeners will do the job of spreading the word for you. But that alone isn’t enough when you’re starting out. So before you even switch on the mic, you need a plan for how listeners are going to find you.
It’s also important to remember that it takes time to build an audience. Whatever plan you decide on, stick with it. Be consistent, stick to a schedule, and continue to work on improving your skills as a podcast host.
If you want to start a podcast with a co-host (or more than one), do you have to be in the same location, or can you record over the phone/computer?
All you need to do is chat over the phone or Skype, and each record the audio at your end. Then, in your editing software, put the two tracks on top of each other afterwards. We’ve been recording every single week for six years without being in the same room and it works absolutely fine.