Tips for Starting a Podcast

Erica sits at a computer, editing an episode of her podcast

In case you didn’t know, one of my personal projects is cohosting a podcast called Lit Sh*t. It’s a book review podcast I make with two friends, and it is SO MUCH FUN to produce. We’ve been working on it for over a year now, so I figured I’d share my tips for starting a podcast. In addition to being something I enjoy, podcasting has helped me develop stronger communications skills. I’ve gotten better at speaking more concisely. I’ve been able to eliminate a lot of filler words from my speech patterns. I’ve also gotten more comfortable about sharing my opinion and critique. If podcasting is something you’re interested in trying out, I’m here to encourage you and cheer you on. I’m also offering this post to help you sort out some of the logistics of getting started.

Starting a Podcast: Create Your Concept and Content

Creating your concept is one of the most fun parts of podcasting, and it’s probably why you are starting a podcast in the first place. You most likely have a theme in mind already: food, wellness, travel, entertainment, etc. I would recommend taking your concept and breaking it down into the parts or segments of your show. Even if you want your show to be really loose and casual, it’s still helpful to have an outline of sections to give the show some structure. You don’t have to announce to your listeners what each segment is and when you’re transitioning. Knowing what you’re going to cover, though, helps you make sure you hit all your points. It also helps you manage the timing of your podcast. It’s a good idea to have a sense of how long you want your episodes to be so you don’t just ramble.

I like to think of the structure kind of like a talk show. We have our intro, which is kind of like our theme song. It’s always the same and introduces the concept of the show and the hosts. For Lit Sh*t, our intro is:

“We’re three friends who love reading and talking. We talk about books and gossip about the characters as if they’re real people. Each season we go through a series or set of books. We summarize what we read, talk about our reactions, and chat about the characters.”

Your intro should also include any disclaimers you need. Lit Sh*t always has a disclaimer about language because we are an explicit podcast. We also include disclaimers if an episode discusses subjects that may be harmful for some listeners-abuse, violence, racism, etc. Our content is based on the books we’re discussing, so we give our listeners a heads-up if the book contains any sensitive subjects.

The structure we use for Lit Sh*t is as follows:

  • Theme Music
  • Intro/disclaimers
  • Book Summary
  • General discussion
  • Character analysis
  • Questions
  • Game/humor segment
  • Outro-including social media plugs and requests for reviews

Fine-Tune Your Podcast: Recording and Editing

There are a bunch of different ways to record and edit your podcast. I’ve heard you can rent space in a recording booth, but that can be expensive. If you’re an amateur podcaster like me, you’ll probably want a free option. Audacity is great if you can record in person with your cohosts/guests. One of our Lit Sh*t hosts lives in a different state, so we have to record virtually. We’ve found the easiest way to do this is to use Webex, record the meeting, and then export the recording. I’m not as familiar with Zoom, but I would assume it probably has the same functionality. We do have to pay a bit for Webex because the free version doesn’t support recordings, but the cost is about $120 per year so it’s worth it to us.

We also use Audacity for most of our editing. Adobe Premier also has editing capabilities, but it’s not as user friendly. I’m not an expert in using the editing tools so I’m not going to do a how-to here. Between poking around and Google, though, we’ve been able to teach ourselves what we need to know.

Get Your Podcast Out In the World: Hosting/Syndicating

You’ll need to find somewhere to host your podcast files and syndicate them to all the different podcast listening platforms. There are several different hosting options out there. We use and love LibSyn. The tier we use is $15 a month, and it gives stats and data on episode downloads. It’s pretty user-friendly, and it manages most of the syndication for us. There are some initial connections to make to the big podcast services (Apple, Google, and Stitcher are the main ones that aren’t covered by LibSyn automatically when you set up your RSS feed.) Once the plumbing is in place, it’s smooth sailing. The only manual bit is uploading new episodes.

Final Resources

If you’re interested in starting a podcast, here are a few additional resources I recommend:

  • A project management tool is really helpful for brainstorming ideas and coordinating tasks amongst multiple hosts. We use Trello to keep track of our episodes and who needs to do what to get each of them out into the world.
  • Be super careful of copyrights with audio clips and theme music! You can find royalty-free music out there which you access through a one-time fee. We got our theme music from a site called Film Music. Make sure you find one that gives you a certificate to prove you have legal rights to use the music.
  • I recommend checking out the book So You Want to Start a Podcast by Kristen Meinzer. Kristen is a seasoned podcast host (her shows include By the Book, Movie Therapy, and When Meghan Met Harry) and a former director of Panoply’s podcast arm. This book is super helpful for tips about storytelling, interviews, podcast structure, etc.

I hope this is helpful! If you do end up starting a podcast, let us know! We’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or on social media.

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