Welcome to the first part of our series on podcasting for beginners. Here are all 5 parts of the series:
- Part 1: Preparation (you're reading it now)
- Part 2: Equipment
- Part 3: Production
- Part 4: Editing
- Part 5: Publishing
According to the Washington Post article, "Podcasts are back - And Making Money," Apple podcast subscriptions reached 1 billion listeners. Shows like "99% Invisible" average 1.5 million downloads per month. The list goes on.
So what does this mean for you or your business? Podcasting creates an avenue to reach, inspire, and influence a large group of people. It’s a way for you to connect your brand or message with your audience. It’s also an income stream.
The podcast StartUp hosted by This American Life producer Alex Blumberg, documents his journey of raising $1.5 million for his new podcasting company, Gimlet Media. Opportunity abounds.
So how do you create a podcast? What should your podcast be about? What equipment should you purchase?
If you’ve done any research, you already know about the endless and often times conflicting opinions exist for all of these questions. It can be overwhelming and confusing.
The following is the first of several blogs about podcasting. I'll cover everything you need to know- from figuring out what topic you’re going to podcast about to launching your first episode in iTunes. If the idea of podcasting interests you, please continue reading.
Choose a Topic
The first and maybe most difficult part of the entire process is choosing a topic. What is your podcast going to be about? What is the purpose of your podcast?
Instinctually, we want to choose a broad and adaptable topic, something that will give you a lot of content. The opposite is true- you want to be specific and clear. Pick something niche. Many of the most successful podcasts are on very specific topics.
Make sure the topic is something you enjoy. Ask yourself: Can I see myself producing 20 episodes on this topic? 50? 100? 1,000? Again, many of the most successful podcasts have a hundred or more episodes. Make sure you choose something you won’t get bored with after several episodes.
Check if your topic is interesting. A simple formula Alex Blumberg uses is I’m doing a story about X, and it’s interesting because of Y. Fill in the X and Y in that statement and check with a few people if they think it would be interesting.
Last, know your target audience and create a podcast that is dedicated to them. Go as far as determining a specific listener. How old is your ideal listener? What motivates your ideal listener? Keep these things in mind as you start planning and creating your show.
The clearer your vision, the better your podcast will be.
Decide on a Format
Just as you should know your topic before starting your podcast, you should know the format of your show. How long will it be? Will you be interviewing guests, monologue, or narrative? Will it be free-form or have consistent segments? What matters more than your format is that you are consistent in whatever you choose.
Successful podcasts have a variety of different formats. While there isn’t necessarily a "correct" way to format your show, a couple formats seem to perform better than others.
Consider a shorter length. Most of the successful podcasts on iTunes are in-between 20 and 40 minutes long. I think the sweet spot is around 25 minutes. It’s long enough to develop a connection and interest in the topic but short enough to be consumed on the average commute.
Include elements of story. Story is powerful. Good stories captivate attention. Many of the most popular podcasts contain elements of narrative, emotion, setting, and story.
Choose a Name
Picking a name can be difficult. You want something that fits your personality as well as the personality of your show. It should be memorable and easy to read. I recommend brainstorming several names and running them past different people (friends and strangers) to see what they like. Ultimately it's your choice but getting the opinions of others helps.
You will also want to see if the name you chose has the corresponding domain, social media accounts, and copyrights available. Knowem.com is one of the fastest and easiest ways to check if a specific name is available.
In Part 2 of this series next week, I'll cover what equipment to buy. This is an area that I see some of the most conflicting advice. The type of equipment you purchase can directly affect the quality and listenership of your podcast. I'll review a variety of equipment, give you my opinions on what to use, and discuss the reasons behind my opinions.
Call to Action
If you've considered starting a podcast, whether personally or professionally, take 30 minutes and answer the above questions. Get your thoughts down on one or two pages, share it with a few people who fit your target audience, and see what they say.