Should I Start a Podcast (You Might NOT Be Ready)
Over 62 million people listen to podcasts weekly, and it can seem daunting to approach that audience.
Learning by doing is usually something I recommend, but with podcasting, there’s a steep learning curve. The key to a successful podcast, I have discovered, is proper preparation.
Have you asked yourself, “Should I start a podcast?” Honestly, I can’t tell you the answer for sure. However, I can break down the process into manageable steps and explain what you need to do. Before sitting down and hitting record for the first time, you can set yourself up for success with a few actionable tips.
Are you ready to start a podcast? Let’s take a closer look.
Should I start a podcast?
Why Should I Start a Podcast?
If you want to start your own online business, you have no shortage of options. You can write blogs, make videos, post images, and more. What makes podcasting different? Let’s break down all the reasons you might want to start a podcast:
It Requires a Minimal Initial Investment
Starting a podcast sounds like a technical and time-consuming process, but it’s far more straightforward than many people think.
I’ll cover the exact equipment required later on, but for now, all you need to know is that you likely own 90% of it already. For most people, their biggest investment initially is a microphone (and you can get a good one for cheap).
You Can Explore Your Interests
Are you truly passionate about a subject, even an obscure one? That’s awesome because you can use your enthusiasm and knowledge to power your podcast.
The world of podcasts is both vast and deep. You have the potential to build a fairly sizable audience, even with a niche topic. For example, did you know you can find a whole world of podcasts about roller coasters? You don’t have to appeal to the mainstream to find success.
It Boosts Your Personal Brand
Your podcast doesn’t have to be your sole online presence. Instead, it can help boost your overall brand. For example, if you have an existing website related to a business you own, you can embed a podcast explaining more about a service you provide.
It’s Easier than Writing Blogs
Unless you’re a professional copywriter, crafting enough blog posts to build an audience is both time-consuming and difficult. Even just a few typos or awkward sentences in a blog can be enough to destroy your credibility with your audience.
However, most people find podcasting much easier than blogging. With a podcast, you can convey information far quicker. Specifics vary, but it takes roughly seven minutes to speak 1,000 words. Compare that to how long it takes to write a 1,000-word blog, and it’s easy to see which is the faster way to build up a collection of content.
Even better, a certain lack of polish is expected in a podcast. Because most shows are recorded live, the audience understands that you’ll occasionally lose your train of thought, veer off-topic, and trip over your tongue. In many cases, a slight absence of professionalism can increase your credibility among your audience because it makes you relatable.
You Can Repurpose the Content
Podcasts can also turn into blogs rather effortlessly. You can transcribe your podcast and post it on your website. When transcribing, you’ll want to clean up any speaking mistakes and otherwise add focus to your thoughts.
Turning a podcast into a blog has two benefits. First, posting blogs on a regular basis helps attract an audience who would rather read than listen. Also, blogs help boost your ranking in search results. Even if people don’t read your blogs, an increased ranking helps you reach more potential podcast listeners.
Do Podcasts Make Money?
First, let me get this out of the way: Yes, podcasts can make money. However, the road to revenue is often a bit more complicated than simply creating a great show. You need to understand the potential earning opportunities – and how they relate to your podcast.
Direct-to-brand advertising is when a company buys advertising space on your podcast. In 2017, advertisers spent over $479 million on podcasts, and that number increases every year. The ads can run either before (preroll), during (midroll), or after (post-roll) the episode.
How much do you charge for ads? Generally, prices are determined by the CPM model, which stands for cost per 1,000 downloads. Obviously, the more popular your podcast, the more you can charge for advertising.
Typically, direct ads aren’t separate packages played on your show. Instead, you’ll likely read the ad yourself, so it appears you’re personally endorsing the product. Because your audience considers you an expert in your field, they’ll typically take your endorsements seriously, which is why this advertising model is so valued by advertisers.
Podcast Network Advertising
You don’t have to approach advertisers on your own. A podcast network is a collection of different podcasts. Everyone in the network is managed as one unit for advertising purposes, which gives advertisers access to a large audience.
You’ll find no shortage of podcast networks. They’re typically grouped by genre, geography, topic, or some other common theme. Requirements for joining vary, so you might want to start your search with networks geared towards beginners.
You can forgo external ads altogether by using a subscription model. Here, you put your content behind a paywall, so only subscribers can hear it.
A subscription model means you don’t have to deal with, or care about, advertisers at all. For example, if you review products on your podcasts, the ability to not accept ads can increase your authority among your audience.
However, subscription models have disadvantages, too. Many podcasts are free, so you’ll find that people are often reluctant to pay, especially if they can find similar content elsewhere for less. Generally, a 100% subscription-based podcast isn’t possible until you have a well-established show with a large fanbase.
Premium is a popular option that attempts to grant the benefits of a subscription model without the potential downsides. With a premium plan, your content is split into two sections: a free section plus extra content behind a paywall.
Ideally, your free content will drive listeners towards purchasing a premium plan. However, as with a subscription model, getting your premium section off-the-ground can be difficult for a beginner.
Increased Brand Awareness and Promotion
Podcasts don’t have to make money directly. A successful podcast can lead your audience to some other avenue, such as a product or service you sell. However, this doesn’t mean every episode of your podcast should promote your product. Instead, you want your show to increase awareness of your brand among your audience. Ultimately, that’ll lead to sales down the road, but don’t turn your podcast into an infomercial.
Highest Paid Podcasters (and How Much They Make)
You’re not going to make millions right away, but it’s important to look at the top earners in the world of podcasting, so you can get a feel for what’s popular.
The Joe Rogan Experience is arguably the most popular podcast in the world. With over 190 million downloads a month, this comedy/interview show has a huge advantage in that it’s been around for over ten years. He earns an estimated $30 million a year or more.
While comedy is popular in podcasting, the news is perhaps even more so. Over 2 million people a day tune into The Daily, a New York Times morning news show. They produce a 20 to 30-minute program five days a week, setting a high bar for short-form podcasting. Although exact figures are difficult to find, The Daily has contributed to the paper’s recent record profits.
Aside from comedy and news, true crime tales also enjoy consistent success. My Favorite Murder, hosted by Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, is a rising star in the genre with over 35 million downloads a month. They’ve earned over $10 million from their podcast and related licensing deals.
What Equipment Do You Need to Start a Podcast?
Many people are reluctant to start podcasting because they believe the initial setup requires tons of technical equipment. Fortunately, you don’t need much to get started.
If you’re looking to get the most out of a limited budget, invest in a good microphone. It’s arguably the most important piece of podcasting equipment. As discussed above, your audience will forgive a certain lack of polish, but most will quickly drop a podcast they can’t properly hear.
You can’t use your computer’s built-in mic. Instead, you’ll need to purchase a standalone mic. For the best quality, you’ll want a mic with XLR cables. Commonly used in professional recording, they’re rounded cables with three pins.
The best podcast microphone, if you are on a tight budget, is the Samson Q2U.
However, if you are willing to spend a bit more and are looking for a higher quality podcast microphone, check out the Rode Podcaster.
If you are going pro on the other hand, have a look at the ShureSM7b.
Additionally, you’ll want what’s called a pop filter or pop shield. It’s a circular shield that sits in front of your microphone. With either a nylon or wire mesh screen, the pop shield dampens the harsh, mechanical “popping” sound the human voice makes when talking into a microphone. Trust me when I say that a lack of a pop screen is incredibly noticeable – and annoying – to your listeners.
You’ll want a pair of headphones that completely cover your ear (called on-ear headphones). Earbuds won’t provide the level of quality you need. Truthfully, you don’t need amazing headphones when recording your podcast. When you need them is during editing. A quality pair of on-ear headphones allow you to detect background noise, mixing issues, and other potential problems when preparing your podcast for listeners.
You can check out the Sony MDR7506 which are great for home recording.
If you can afford to spend a bit more, you can check out the Sennheiser HD280 PRO.
Furthermore, if you are looking for pro headphones, have a look at the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro.
Recording and Editing Software
Speaking of editing, you’ll need recording and editing software. Fortunately, many of the top options are both intuitive and affordable. Adobe Audition is a popular choice that allows you to clean up sound quality, add effects, and perform other editing functions. If you have a Mac, you already have GarageBand, another widely-used (and free) platform.
Podcast Hosting Account
Podcasting isn’t like YouTube. Once you record a podcast, you can’t then directly upload it to a site where people get podcasts, such as the Apple Store or Spotify. Instead, you need to upload it to a podcast hosting platform. The platform then connects with various podcast directories, allowing others to download it. Popular podcast hosting platforms include Buzzsprout, Libsyn, and Soundcloud.
What Subject Should I Choose?
After asking, “Should I start a podcast?” your next question should be, “What do I want to talk about?”
When selecting a subject for your podcast, make sure it has longevity. For instance, you probably can’t get much mileage from a series about clipping the nails of a Golden Retriever. But you can discuss Golden Retriever care for weeks or even years.
Before committing to any topic, sit down and write out 25 potential show topics. If you can’t reach 25 fairly easily, you’ll likely have difficulty sustaining that podcast.
Also, consider your enthusiasm for the topic. Very few podcasters can find success commenting on whatever they like. Your audience, at least initially, will likely be drawn to you because of your topic, not necessarily your personality. You won’t have the freedom to stray far from your main subject, so make sure it’s something you can discuss without becoming bored.
Am I Ready to Start a Podcast?
Even if you’re super, over-the-moon excited about starting a podcast, you might not be ready. Here’s how to know if you should start a podcast:
Do I Have the Right Topic?
You need to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the subject you pick. Also, if you can’t sit down right now and write out 25 potential topics related to your subject, you’re not ready to start your podcast.
Do I Have the Correct Equipment?
You don’t need the absolute best-of-the-best, but you want a pair of quality on-ear headphones and a standalone mic with a pop shield. Also, make sure you’re comfortable using both your recording/editing and hosting software.
Do I Have a Plan to Make Money?
You don’t need to know every detail here, but you want a general idea of how you plan to monetize. Do you want to try to join a podcast network right away? Do you have potential sponsors you want to reach out to? Will you put some (or all) of your content behind a paywall?
“Should I start a podcast?” you ask. Yes, I say, but only when you’re ready. Take the time beforehand to cover all of the issues above. Understanding both the creative and technical elements lets you hit the ground running and launch with an engaging podcast that will draw listeners.
Your podcast could become more than a steady source of income. It can also allow you to express yourself creatively, learn more about a topic that fascinates you, and help you connect to a world of devoted listeners.