The perfect podcast setup like a unicorn can be magical, but the perfect podcast setup will be different depending on the podcasters needs and resources. In this article we are going to shoot for the moon and talk about dream setups and a few variations that will apply to most podcasters.
Podcasting Begins With an Idea
The minds of creative and entrepreneurial people are boiling over with ideas. An idea without action is merely a dream. When we decide it is time to take action and start a podcast there are a few questions we may want to ask ourselves during our brainstorming sessions.
- What is the purpose of my podcast?
- What benefit will I get out of it?
- What is my genre?
- What topics will I cover?
- What branding will I create?
- Who will my audience be?
- Is there a community I can tap into?
- Am I all in and willing to commit valuable resources to podcasting?
Many podcasters have that Nike mentality of “just do it”, so they just dive in and make adjustments on the fly. Many podcasters also fade away into the ether. Taking time to explore why you want to podcast and the benefits you will gain. Along with what you will cover, who your audience is, and how to find them will go a long way when it comes to the longevity of your podcast.
Going Solo or Getting Busy With It
There are advantages of being the host of your own podcast. You control the topics and the conversation, and you create the voice of your show. In fact, you are the voice of your show. If you want to interview a guest or invite a friend to join you that option is still there, but you are the driving force behind your brand.
Having one or more co-hosts has advantages too. It can make show preparation easier and adds opportunities for humor and fun. It’s surprising how staring at that red record light can suddenly instill fear and stage fright. Having co-hosts makes a potentially anxiety ridden beginning as easy as a conversation with a friend. Co-hosts can also make a show crash and burn if not done well. Many listeners hate too much banter, hosts talking over each other, and too much out of control laughter.
There is a fine line between fun and professionalism. You just may not be witty and clever enough to keep an audience committed when your podcast is an hour long drunken BS session with you and two of your buddies. Especially, when your voices begin to slur more as the show progresses.
The Interview Show
This format deserves its own shiny gleaming heading. This popular format has many advantages. You are still the voice and the brand, but you also get to have fun and inspiring conversations with awesome guests. The networking potential is amazing. You not only get to meet smart and influential people, but the two of you get to cross-promote the show and share your audiences with each other.
This popular format has propelled many podcasters to unparalleled success. Being a podcast guest has also been a great way for authors and non-podcasters to promote their brand and products. Many podcasters include being a podcast guest as part of their podcast promotion process and have had amazing results.
Podcasters love talking about gear. Especially, microphones. Maybe it has to do with podcasters spending so much time with a microphone in close proximity of their faces, but whatever the reason podcasters love to talk about microphones.
Microphone 101 Condensed Version
For the uninitiated learning about microphones can be super confusing, I am going to break things down so even my parents can understand it. There are three main features to look at when choosing a microphone.
Connection USB or XLR
The choices are USB or XLR. You can use your USB connection to connect your microphone directly to your computer. This is a popular option for simple setups such as small studios or laptops on the go.
An XLR connection is usually used to plug into a mixer or audio interface. A mixer or audio interface can give you more control, allow mixing on the fly, create better sound by boosting power, and allows multiple microphone inputs which can be ideal for in studio guests.
Some microphones come with either a USB or XLR input, and some create versatility by providing both options. The next microphone option to consider is dynamic or condenser.
Dynamic or Condenser It’s All About the Diaphragm
Condenser microphones have a diaphragm mounted close to a conductive plate. They usually have a higher dynamic range and are more sensitive. They also usually require extra power from a mixer which means an XLR input.
Dynamic microphones have a diaphragm attached to a thin coil of wire. Sometimes referred to as moving coil microphones. They don’t usually require an external power supply, and they have a poorer dynamic range. This means they pick up less which makes them more resistant to microphone feedback.
Microphone Polar Patterns
The last microphone feature to consider is the polar pattern. In the simplest terms, this is how well the microphone picks up sounds from different directions. A cardioid microphone is most sensitive to sounds directly in front of it. This is a good choice if your studio isn’t sound proof.
An omnidirectional microphone picks up sound evenly all around the room. This is great for recording everything in the room, but can’t be focused away from undesired sounds. The bidirectional or figure of eight polar pattern picks up sound in front of the microphone and from behind. This microphone could be shared with two speakers sitting across from each other.
The best microphone choice depends on your recording situation, but most microphones will have a variation of these features. Understanding what they mean will make microphone shopping a little less confusing.
A really nice microphone is the Heil PR-40 it’s a dynamic cardioid microphone with an XLR hookup. It has rich deep sound and is used by many of the pros. It’s not cheap, but it is possible to find bundled deals that also include the shock mount, boom arm, pop filter, and XLR cable. You will also need a mixer with this option.
A popular less expensive option is the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB. This microphone is much more affordable and has decent sound. It is a dynamic cardioid microphone with both a USB and XLR connection. This affordable option can be plugged directly into your computer or mixer.
Rode makes a couple of quality middle of the road solutions. Haha, no pun intended. The Rode Procaster Broadcast Dynamic microphone is a nice solution if you are using a mixer and want to have an XLR hookup. This microphone sounds good and won’t set you back as much as our top choice. It has an internal shock mount and an internal pop filter to reduce plosives.
If you want a microphone with a built-in sound card that uses USB to hook directly to your computer, you can’t go wrong with the Rode Podcaster. This microphone has the same sound quality as the Procaster, but it offers portable plug-and-play convenience. There are bundled kits available that include shock mounts and boom arms for the ultimate podcast setup.
Mixers and Audio Interfaces
Why would you even need a mixer or audio interface? The most obvious reason would be to connect your XLR microphone and to add phantom power for microphones that require it. The next reason would be having multiple in-studio co-hosts or multichannel recording. You also get the benefits of higher quality preamps and the ability for audio enhancements on the fly.
The bottom line is that having an audio interface can help you to produce better sound quality. Although, at the beginning, there may be an added layer of complexity until you understand what you are doing.
Mackie, Behringer, Yamaha and Focusrite all create popular audio interfaces and mixers that are popular with podcasters. Here are a few examples of some of the many choices out there.
If you are using a high-end microphone that requires a mixer, you probably aren’t after a budget mixer. This choice by Yamaha has gotten a lot of positive attention if you are looking for something on the less expensive side. The Yamaha MG10 10-Input Stereo Mixer is an affordable and well-rated option.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface if you need a preamp with plenty of gain and multiple microphone inputs this is a very popular brand and model. It improves sound quality and you can purchase units with one to eight mic inputs. This model has two. This is affordable popular and easy to use when it comes to improving sound quality.
Mackie and Behringer make several popular mixers. The Mackie PROFX8V2 is a solid example, but it may have more functions than you will actually need. You can always explore different channel options and find what will work best for your needs. The same thing goes for the Behringer Xenyx 1204USB it’s a solid choice, but it might be more than a podcaster needs.
Computer or Audio Recorder
Now that you know how you are going to record it’s time to decide where to record. No, I don’t mean the insulated soundproof walk-in closet. I mean are you going to record on your computer or into a separate audio recorder. Recording on your computer is very common and it keeps your recorded files handy for the next step of audio editing.
A separate audio recorder is another popular option. Audio recorders have the advantage of being portable, easy to use, and you won’t have to worry about computer crashes or fan noise interfering with your recording. There are some really nice portable audio recorder options by Tascam, Zoom, and Roland. Some even have built-in microphones and WiFi.
Software, Horn Rimmed Glasses, and Pocket Protectors
DAW is an acronym for a Digital Audio Workstation. The nice thing about a DAW is that you can use it to record your podcast audio and then edit the audio. You can also record using a different software option and then edit your files in the podcast editing software of your choice.
You might already have something installed on your computer that you can use to record your audio files. Most Macs come with GarageBand and Audacity is free to download. If you are using Skype to record remote interviews, you will need something to record the calls. The Ecamm Call Recorder or Pamela are both options that can be used to record your Skype calls. Just be sure to record each voice on a different channel to make audio editing easier. There are also new web-based solutions like Zencastr.
I guess the geeky part is finding the right recording and editing software, converting it into the correct formats, and then adding metadata or ID3 tags. Even though, some of this sounds confusing it is pretty straight forward.
You can record in MP3 format or in a different format and then convert the file to an MP3 after editing or when you export the file. You can add descriptive information about your show in your editing software before you export it as an MP3. You can also add descriptive information on your hosting platform or in a directory like iTunes.
Professional audio editing software can be expensive. Now there are new subscription-based options that can be used to access professional quality audio software without shelling out a lot of money up front.
There is a free version of Pro Tools that you can download and try out. You can also use the full version for around $25 a month. There is also a powerful HD version that can be accessed for around $85 a month. They also have quite a few getting started tutorials on their website.
Another good audio editing program is Hindenburg. This DAW was made specifically for broadcasters, and they offer several versions that would be perfect for podcasting. You can even record your Skype calls on multiple tracks within the Hindenburg Journalist PRO version.
Adobe Audition is another professional quality DAW that can be accessed through a single product or Creative Cloud subscription. Like most Adobe products, this is powerful software with a powerful learning curve, but there is nothing wrong with starting out like a pro.
Learning how to edit audio is a big job. You have to understand audio basics and understand how to use your audio editing software. Here are a few free audio resources that might help you get a general understanding of audio editing.
Your basic goals will be to remove any unwanted sections, remove background noise, normalize the volume levels, equalize frequencies, use compression to reduce loud sounds and increase soft sounds, and then add your intros, outros, and advertisements.
The Host With the Most
Your podcast files need to be hosted on a media server. Because of bandwidth limitations, they can’t just be hosted on the same web host as your WordPress blog. You need a dedicated media host.
Things that you will look for in that host are reliability, functionality, ease of use, and cost. Libsyn is one of the oldest and most popular podcast hosting services. They are fast and reliable and offer unmetered bandwidth. They also offer stats, advertising options, and other premium services.
Blubrry claims to be the largest podcast directory in the world. They also offer podcast hosting, statistics, the PowerPress plugin, and PowerPress sites. Soundcloud also offers a podcast hosting option and they have a nice directory and a cool player. Podbean is another hosting option that might work for some people.
Graphics Make the World Go Round
A picture is worth a 1000 words and you will need graphics for your podcast. You will need podcast cover art and graphics for your podcast episodes. Especially, the ones you publish on your podcast website.
If you are using a full-service podcast editing service like Podcast Motor we will take care of this stuff for you. Otherwise, you may need to find a designer or use available graphics software to create your own.
Having a Website to Call Home
You will want to have a website to post your podcast, show notes, and call to actions. This can be the home base where users can find out more about your, your podcast, and what you are all about.
Many podcasters already have a website, so all they need to do is upload a category for their podcasts. If they are using WordPress each new episode will be a post and the podcast page will be the podcast category.
To start a site from scratch. Find affordable WordPress hosting and install WordPress and a podcasting theme. Then you will need graphics and content. You will also need to create a podcast page or have the front page be your podcast page and have each new episode be a post.
Each post will feature a podcast player with that post’s episode, show notes for that post, and a list of links and resources. You can also add images, calls to action, and subscribe buttons, links to previous episodes, or ask for reviews on iTunes. You are limited by your initiative and creativity. You will use a podcast plugin like Seriously Simple Podcasting to plug in your podcast feed for each episode.
iTunes Steve Jobs Has Another Brilliant Idea
Before the iPhone, Apple had an innovative product with iTunes. It may not be the best directory or the easiest to use, but it is the most popular. The iPod and the use of iTunes were instrumental in the growth of podcast popularity.
To reach your audience, you want to get your show in front of as many listeners as possible. That means putting it in iTunes and as many other places as you can to get those download statistics that advertisers love to hear about.
To submit your podcast to iTunes you need to record your content, add ID3 tags, upload the file to your media host, get your feed, make sure it validates, and submit your podcast to iTunes. For subsequent episodes record, edit, and tag your content. Upload it to your media host, the RSS feed should take it from there.
Promote Like a Beast
Now that you have all of that under your belt. The real run begins. It is time to promote your podcast and really grow your audience. Leverage your podcast guests. Use social media. Get your show featured and available in as many directories and places as possible. And always create killer content and have fun on the way.