Sparring Mind

Behavioral Psychology Blog

How To Start Your Own Podcast: Getting Your Voice Heard… Literally!

In my story for SPI I mentioned that I wanted to stop putting a few things aside due to my apprehension to start them and… well, actually start them!

One of the things that I addressed was really getting into podcasting.

I felt both my electronic music blog and this blog could really benefit from providing different content other than my writing, and it would be a great chance to branch out and maybe get some more eyes on my content (something any blog wants).

After doing a ton of research on podcasting, I figured it would be a waste not to also do a post letting you know how to set up your own podcast, so I can share what I’ve learned about setting up a podcast.

Is It Worth It?

In order to really answer this question, you need to look beyond the simple fact of monetizing your podcast directly (which you can do, but which I certainly wouldn’t recommend initially).

What podcasting really helps with are a few things, from what I’ve found:

  1. Mixing up content types (your writing may be great, but it’s nice to mix it up for long time readers)
  2. Include discussions with other smart people (Copyblogger has a 3 person podcast team)
  3. More exposure (Pat Flynn asks people to support & rate his podcast, and it has grown big time)
  4. Repurpose & restructure your content (got an old, evergreen post? Break it up into sections and post it as a podcast segment!)

So as you can see, there are a few great benefits to podcasting, and once you get the hang of it, you can create valuable podcasts with no more work than it would take for a blog post (ahem, a good blog post ;))

Setting Up A Podcast

So, there are a number of ways to set up and share a podcast these days, but we are going to focus on setting up a working podcast specifically for WordPress (because that platforms pertains to most of you, and it’s what I know) and about getting your podcast on iTunes, since that is the dominant platform.

I will also show you some other ways to promote your podcasting content, and I’d really like if you could leave some feedback on them, as they are (I think) fairly new.

For WordPress & our traditional podcast, the first thing we are gonna need to do is…

1.) Get A Microphone

Unless you want your readers/listeners to hear what your voice sounds like at a fluctuating pitch and a depressingly low sound quality, it pays to invest in a decent mic.

And I’m not talking “save up a whole paycheck and blow it on a stupid mic” nice, the one that I use sounds like a professional quality mic and cost me about $100.

It’s called the Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Condenser Mic and you can get it on Amazon.com for $99.95 as of this posting.

Best thing about this bad boy is that is sounds high quality out of the box, you literally plug in a USB cord and you are ready to go, no pop-filter or other accessories necessary.

Because I’m not knowledgable enough to describe the technical aspects of this mic, I thought an actual recording of me speaking about it might be useful for you! Here is a sample from SoundCloud (I will talk about this service down below) with me talking about the AT2020:

I should note that this is a desk mic, and comes with a desk sized stand, so if you are a stand up guy/gal (hard har har) you might need to look for a separate stand, or you could just hold the mic.

If that’s a little too pricey, you could go for this popular Logitech mic, which is only $20. However, the difference is quality is noticeable, so if you are doing this “for reals”, I personally think it’s better to invest in quality.

To record your voice, the best simple and free program that I’ve come across is Audacity, hands down.

It’s just too simple and easy to use for it’s own good, just make sure you have your mic selected and not your laptop’s default mic! (I won’t tell you who made that stupid mistake the first time around… okay, it was me).

2.) Set Up A Host

While it might be convenient to simply set up your podcast on the same (possibly shared) hosting that you use to host your blog, this isn’t the best way to do things, and I’ll tell you why.

If you plan on really putting effort into growing your podcast, putting it on a shared hosting account, or a hosting account tied to a blog, it could become difficult to maintain fast load times.

If that should become a problem, then the real problem emerges: you could be stuck downloading/reuploading every single podcast episode to a new host.

Bummer.

Fortunately, you can set up an easy (and super cheap) alternative with Amazon’s S3 service (and when I say cheap, I mean cheap).

Call it as you see fit, but I say better safe than sorry.

3.) Set Up A Feed

Setting up a feed is definitely a plus for a new (or existing) podcast, and it’s really simple (and free) to do, so why not?

Simply head over to Feedburner and set up a new feed just for your podcast (name it whatever).

It’s nice to set up a separate feed just in case you ever need to change the feed’s source, now with a separate one set up, you can do that with no loss of subscribers to your main feed (plus people can subscribe separately).

4.) Utilize The “PowerPress” Tool

Now, I know that there are some of you out there that would love to set this up yourself, but when it comes to the tackling the biggest part of your podcast, ie actually getting it to go live, I’ve found that PowerPress is an awesome tool that will cut down set up time by a lot.

Speaking of which, when you are setting up your Feedburner feed, it has an option to generate a URL that you can use to input your feed into Feedburner.

Not only that, it also sets up a great looking player that you can custom configure for your blog in order to play your audio files.

To install, simply add this plugin via WordPress jetpack (in you plugin dashboard) or download it from WordPress.org and install it or upload it via FTP to your site.

After you’ve taken care of that, you will see a small box at the end of each post called “Podcast Episode”.

Here you can simply copy and paste the link of your audio file hosted on Amazon’s S3 service, and your audio will be ready to be published.

…But not without doing some customizations first!

You can of course customize your color gradients to fit in with your blog’s color scheme, as well as other aesthetic parts of the player.

Even more important, you can adjust settings such as where the podcast (the actual audio player) will appear in each episode, as well as how much information to display for each podcast.

You can also input stuff like download links and all other sorts of goodies, if you don’t want to do it manually.

5.) Install Analytics

If you’ll remember from my best web analytics post, I stand by the phrase “If it’s not worth measuring, it’s not worth doing.”

Same goes for podcasting, you should be getting some kind of data back if you are going to put forth the effort to create great audio content for your subscribers.

Blubrry, the fine folks who came up with the PowerPress plugin mentioned above, also have a pretty nice analytics system for podcasts (since iTunes tells you… well, nothing, except where you are ranked).

It’s called (simply enough) Blubrry Podcast Statistics, and you can copy the URL made for you by PowerPress into the section called ‘Redirect URL 1′, then BAM, click save and done.

Best part? You can monitor the stats from your WordPress dashboard.

6.) Submit To iTunes

Your first podcast is now hot off the rack, time to ship!

One thing I’d like to note right away is that you should get a well designed image for your podcast.

This not only brands your podcast in a positive light (and connect it with your website), but it also increases your chances of getting accepted on iTunes.

To do this, simply hire a graphic designer from eLance or 99 Designs and you will be good to go. I also recommend designers of banner ads, as the image for iTunes should be 512×512, and a web banner designer could probably accommodate you.

Next you need to prepare an awesome podcast name, description, and summary to ensure that people will be inclined to click on your podcast should they come across it by browsing.

Now, open up iTunes and go to the iTunes store, and click on the Podcasts link. You should see a link called ‘Submit A Podcast’ where you will copy and paste in your podcast’s Feedburner feed from before.

And that’s all for that! You will usually have no problem getting accepted if your podcast doesn’t contain any copyright problems (remember to use your own sounds or use royalty free sounds & music from places like AudioJungle).

Other Ways Of Promoting Your Podcast

Beyond the normal ways of getting the word out about your podcast (posting about it on your blog, tweeting, etc.) I wanted to talk about some other methods of setting up a podcast and promoting it effectively.

Personally, I think that every podcast should be submitted to iTunes, as it is a great way for you to gain a lot of exposure if it gets featured and reviewed well.

However, there are other ways in which you might utilize your podcasts, and other means in which might distribute it, some of which I haven’t seen many doing at all, so it could be a chance to do something different.

SoundCloud

The first medium I wanted to discuss is called SoundCloud, which has been picking up a huge number of new users as of late because it is, simply put, one of the best platforms for musicians to upload their tracks.

However, as you have seen with my microphone test above, you can upload any sound at all, and that includes a podcast.

In fast, SoundCloud has been making a big effort as of late to promote itself as a platform for podcasting as well, because let’s be honest, the only two things that people upload to SoundCloud are music/songs and podcasts/voice recordings.

It’s super simple to use, the recording that I used above to review the AT2020 was recorded in Audacity in about a minute, and uploaded to SoundCloud in less than 10 seconds.

You can literally record, save, and upload, and the main benefit of SoundCloud is that the files are ridiculously easy to share, and can be embedded anywhere.

However, there is currently one problem with using SoundCloud that I can tell: the time that you are allotted per account type is simply not enough in order to host a long podcast.

For a free account, you get about two hours, which you can burn through in no time if you do 30-minute podcasts.

The premium accounts aren’t too pricey, but again, if SoundCloud wants to open up as a podcasting platform altnernative, they are going to need separate “podcasting prices”, because although 2 hours is a lot for someone who makes 3 minute songs, it is not enough for podcasting.

YouTube

Ah YouTube, the third biggest site in the world and the second biggest search engine in the world, and yet, too few business owners and bloggers utilize it.

I’m not sure if it’s due to the stigma that YouTube is filled with goofy quasi-TV shows and clips of people doing stupid stuff (it certainly does have that), but YouTube is sometimes overlooked as a medium for promotion when it can in fact be a high-quality resource for getting your content out there, in an appealing video form.

One thing I really have not seen utilized that I am curious about is uploading podcasts to YouTube.

There are a few pros and cons that I can already see with uploading your podcasts to YouTube to get more viewers.

Pros

  1. YouTube is huge, and if you utilize tagging well, many people will stumble across your videos
  2. YouTube is never down, and you can embed videos anywhere, making it easy to spread your podcast (and embed them on your own site)
  3. Helps you build a YouTube channel, which can also be utilize for ACTUAL videos either at the same time, or down the line
Cons
  1. Will people react negatively to click on your videos, only to find it’s a podcast?
  2. People subscribing to you on YouTube may just be there for the podcasts, if you start doing video, will they mind?
  3. You are hosting your content on a another platform, this can be really dangerous if things go badly for some reason (YouTube channel banned, for instance)

One thing that you might consider is following the instructions above to host your own podcast, and then as a side though, also upload the files to YouTube.

This is just an idea, and really up to you, the important thing is that you get your podcast on your blog and on to iTunes and host the original files yourself, these ideas with SoundCloud & YouTube can just be additional streams of views if you’d like to try them.

One Last Thing…

One thing I feel like I have to mention that I see working brilliantly is as simple as can be…

As your readers to support you on iTunes!

I see Pat Flynn doing this and his podcast gets amazing (and honest!) ratings from his visitors, just because he actively asks you to leave a review about what you really thought about hid podcast, good or bad.

You definitely need to ask sometimes, and there is no harm in doing so, so if you are promoting a podcast tied to your blog, don’t be afraid to ask people to rate it, getting a nice bump on iTunes will certainly help any podcast succeed!

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