Podcasting is more accessible than ever, but learning how to start a podcast is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to build up an audience and keep them coming back for more. In this guide, we’ll show you how to start a podcast from scratch, including all of the essential gear, software, and techniques you need to get started.
Topics in this Guide:
- How to Plan a Podcast
- Essential Podcasting Equipment
- Choosing a Podcast Microphone
- Must-Have Podcasting Accessories
- How to Choose Podcast Software
- How to Record a Podcast
- Microphone Placement for Recording a Podcast
- Tips and Tricks for Recording a Podcast
- Podcast Recording on Location and in the Field
- How to Record A Podcast Remotely
- How to Edit a Podcast
- The Art Of the Interview
- How to Grow Your Podcast
- Best Podcast Hosting Platforms
- How to Monetize a Podcast
Planning Your Podcast
While you probably came here to read about mics, software, and recording, proper planning is just as important to launching a successful podcast. Taking some time to flesh out your ideas and create a solid plan can pay huge dividends later on.
After all, even the best-sounding podcasts can still be boring, or drive away a potential audience with inconsistency. This section will cover the “soft skills” of podcasting like developing your ideas, naming your podcast, and preparing for interviews.
You probably already have an idea of your podcast’s theme. Now you need to refine that idea until it’s as unique and compelling as possible—something you’d actually want to listen to.
Say you want to create a podcast about your favorite TV show. There’s probably at least one podcast about it already, so you’ll have to narrow your focus a bit in order to stand out. Will you be giving a blow-by-blow recap of each week’s episode, exploring crazy fan theories, or presenting a philosophical analysis of the show’s themes and hidden meanings?
And then there’s the name—a hugely important factor for attracting an audience. Think of your podcast’s name as a book on a shelf. It needs to be catchy, funny, or informative enough to make someone pick it up—not to mention memorable enough to stick in their brain. Will your podcast pique someone’s curiosity like Welcome to Night Vale, cut to the chase à la NPR News Now, or get a chuckle with a name like The Adventure Zone?
Once you have a clear vision and a catchy name for your podcast, give some thought to what format your podcast will take, including episode length and frequency. This can be anything from a 15-minute daily news digest to a long-form production with monthly installments. However, most podcasts are between 30 and 60 minutes long and publish weekly or biweekly.
Consistency is one of the most important factors for podcast success, so it’s best to choose a format you know you can commit to, and stick with it.
Essential Podcasting Equipment
Yeti USB microphone, Radius III Shockmount and Compass boom arm, and Mix-Fi headphones
Before you can start a podcast, you’re going to need some gear. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to get started—you can put together a proper podcasting setup on a shoestring budget and be up and running faster than you can say, “This podcast is brought to you by…” And if you’re a gear-lover, you can also go all-in on building a complete podcast recording studio.
First, you’ll need to decide what you want to achieve, and what kind of gear you’ll need. Are you looking for some entry-level podcasting equipment to get your feet wet, or are you ready to put together a more complex podcasting setup? Are you the sole host of your podcast, or do you need a multi-mic setup? Will you need any special gear for field recording or on-site interviews?
Whatever your goals, the main tools of podcasting are essentially the same. You’ll need:
- A microphone to record with
- Headphones to hear yourself
- Audio editing software to produce your podcast
- Accessories like a pop filter or shockmount to improve your results
In the next few sections, we’ll cover each of these categories in-depth, demystifying some technical terms and suggesting podcast equipment for beginner and intermediate podcasters.
Choosing a Podcasting Microphone
Yeti X Professional USB microphone for streaming and podcasting
We’ll start with what Blue knows best: microphones. Choosing the best podcast microphone can be a little intimidating, considering the wide variety of options available.
Should you get a USB or an XLR microphone? Dynamic or condenser? Large-diaphragm or small-diaphragm? Learning the terminology alone can be exhausting, but in the end, the best podcast microphone is one that delivers great sound with as little hassle as possible.
If you’re looking for a plug ‘n play solution that gets you great sound with minimal setup, go for a desktop-mounted USB microphone. With a USB mic, you really don’t need much other gear—just connect the mic to your computer, plug your headphones in, and off you go. In fact, many professionals stick with USB because it’s the most streamlined solution.
Blue offers a range of USB microphones suited to podcasters of all levels:
If your podcast requires a multi-microphone setup, an XLR microphone can give you greater flexibility. Instead of plugging straight into your computer, XLR microphones connect to an audio interface to amplify the signal and send it to your computer. This type of configuration makes it easy to use multiple microphones and record each person to their own track.
XLR microphones come in two main types: dynamic and condenser mics. Dynamic mics were traditionally used in classic broadcast studios, while condenser mics require "phantom power" but are much more sensitive.
- Condenser microphones deliver a crisp, modern sound, and are ideal for capturing detailed or quiet recordings. Spark SL and Mouse are favorites among professional podcasters.
- Dynamic mics like the enCORE 200 have a more focused sound with a bit less sensitivity, which can help reduce background noise and handle louder voices with ease.
Another important thing to understand is the concept of polar patterns or “pickup patterns.” In short, a microphone’s polar pattern describes the directionality with which it captures sound.
For example, a cardioid microphone picks up sound only from the front, which is ideal for recording just one voice. Omnidirectional mics pick up sound from all around, which is better for recording groups.
See our article What’s the Deal with Polar Patterns? for the full scoop.
Must-Have Podcasting Equipment
Yeticaster bundle with Yeti USB microphone, Radius III Shockmount and Compass boom arm
You can certainly produce a quality podcast with just a microphone and a laptop. But there are plenty of useful accessories available to improve your sound and make life easier. Two tools that can make a difference right away are the pop filter and the shockmount (also called a suspension mount).
If you're thinking about adding accessories to your setup, the Yeticaster bundle is an obvious choice. Yeticaster combines the Yeti USB mic with the Compass boom arm and Radius III shockmount, offering podcasters a convenient one-box solution. Both accessories are compatible with Yeti X and most XLR microphones, allowing you to upgrade your setup in the future.
Pop filters go between you and your mic to reduce unwanted vocal noises in your recordings, such as popping sounds from “P” and “B” syllables. Shockmounts, like Radius III, isolate your microphone from vibrations such as rumbling traffic and accidental bumps.
Those looking to give their podcasting setup a professional broadcast upgrade should consider a swiveling boom arm like Compass instead of a traditional mic stand. Compass attaches directly to your desk and works with any standard threaded microphone mount, allowing you to easily position your mic and de-clutter your desktop.
As mentioned previously, if you’re using an XLR microphone, you’ll also need an audio interface to amplify and record the signal into your computer. Audio interfaces like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or Audient iD4 offer:
- Inputs for microphones
- Preamps to boost the signal
- Converters to send audio to and from your computer
- Outputs for headphones
While it is possible to use multiple USB mics at the same time, an audio interface with XLR mics is recommended for multi-mic setups.
You probably own a pair of headphones or earbuds already. But if you’re serious about podcasting, it’s worth upgrading to professional headphones. While you may not need headphones when recording solo or with a co-host in the same room, they're essential for editing and recording over Skype or Zoom.
Quality headphones like the award-winning Mix-Fi deliver unmatched detail and comfort, whether you’re editing or listening to the latest episode of Song Exploder.
How to Choose Podcast Software
Apple GarageBand, included free with OS X
In order to record and edit your podcast, you'll also need an audio editing program, sometimes called a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW.
One such app is Descript, which provides a streamlined interface for recording, editing and mixing audio and video content. Using advanced speech recognition technology, Descript automatically generates transcripts with up to 96% accuracy. You can also edit audio by editing text and even correct your voice own recordings just by typing in new words.
Another podcaster-focused audio software is Hindenburg Journalist, available in the Yeti Podcaster bundle. Journalist offers a unique set of tools not found in most DAWs. The virtual “clipboard” is great for organizing audio clips. Smart tools like automatic volume adjustment and automatic sound enhancement instantly adapt to your voice.
There are many other audio editing tools available as well, each with different feature sets, interfaces and price points. Many podcasters do fantastic work with free podcast recording software such as GarageBand, Audacity and Reaper. Others choose paid options like Logic Pro or Pro Tools for extra flexibility.
How to Record a Podcast
Blue Yeti USB microphone for podcasting
Now that we’ve covered the equipment you need to start a podcast, let's talk about how to make a podcast. In this section, we’ll cover how to set up your recording software, strategies for recording in the field and editing tips for achieving professional results.
Your first step toward recording a podcast is to get your mic, computer, and software working together. Since Blue’s USB microphones are plug ‘n play, all you have to do is select the mic as the input and output in your podcasting software.
To do this, navigate to the audio preferences menu in your software and select your USB microphone as the main input and output. The process is the same if you’re using an audio interface—just be sure to select the specific input that your mic is connected to.
One easy way to save time is by creating a template in your audio software specifically for podcast editing. Start with a blank session, then add tracks for each element of your podcast. You might have separate tracks for the intro, main content such as interviews or conversations, sponsor spots, ad reads, and whatever else you may need.
Name each track according to its content and set up any other settings according to your workflow. Finally, save this file as your template to record and edit all future podcasts (don’t worry, you can always make changes to your template).
Microphone Placement for Recording a Podcast
Since your voice will likely be the central element of your podcast, getting a good vocal sound is absolutely critical. Achieving that coveted “radio voice” requires a combination of clear speech, effective microphone placement and tasteful audio processing. But if you take the time learn good recording habits, you can easily achieve a professional-sounding vocal.
A good starting point is to position your microphone about 6-12 inches from your mouth, slightly off-center to reduce sibilance and popping. If you’re using Yeti or another desktop microphone, simply place it to your right or left and tilt the front of the mic up toward your face. Speak forward as you normally would, instead of directly into the microphone.
Most podcasters apply additional audio processing such as EQ and compression after recording to further clean up their sound. Yeti X features Blue VO!CE, a suite of broadcast vocal effects you can engage while recording to capture even better sound at the source. With a combination of effective mic placement and Blue VO!CE processing, your audio will be broadcast-ready without needing any extra “sweetening” later.
Tips and Tricks for Recording a Podcast
Compass premium microphone boom arm
Before you can begin recording, you need to “arm” your track by pressing the record button. Be sure to press the button on the track itself, not the master record button that actually starts the recording. If you’ve set your inputs correctly, the meter on the track should start displaying the mic’s input level in real time. If not, you may have to manually select your mic input on the track itself.
Start speaking at a normal volume, then adjust the gain knob on your microphone or interface until the level hovers somewhere near the top of the meter. If the signal goes into the red zone at the very top, turn your mic down a bit to avoid distortion.
When you’re all set up and ready to roll, press the master ‘record’ button and record a short test of yourself speaking. Listen back to your own voice (in quality headphones) and decide if it sounds good or if you need to make some adjustments. If your voice is sounding thin or quiet, you may need to move your microphone closer and point it toward yourself more. If you sound “boomy” or unintelligible, your microphone might be too close.
Even when you’ve learned to capture a good recording, sometimes noise still manages to sneak into your audio. Traffic, neighbors, pets and other common sources of noise can all taint your recordings, making you sound instantly amateurish.
For a clean, professional recording, pick a quiet room and a quiet time of day to record and use proper microphone settings and placement. Some audio software includes noise reduction plug-ins. However, these should be used only as a last resort, as they can degrade your sound quality if used too heavily.
Recording on Location and in the Field
Yeti professional USB microphone
Even with a well-equipped podcasting studio at home, you may find yourself venturing out into the world from time to time to record material for your podcast. Sometimes it’s easiest to travel to someone’s home or place of business to conduct an interview, or meet at a central location such as a quiet café.
If your podcast is journalistic in nature, you may need to capture field recordings at events or unique places. Some established podcasters even record live episodes with an audience at events or conventions.
Whatever your reasons for getting out of the studio to record, you’ll need to equip yourself properly in order to get the best results with the least hassle. This may mean stripping down your typical podcasting setup into a few easy-to-carry components, or putting together a dedicated mobile recording rig.
For a run-and-gun podcasting rig that’s easy to set up and tear down, try pairing a laptop with a small USB mic like Yeti Nano. If you need an ultra-stable solution for long-form recordings, consider using a standalone recorder with a couple of XLR mics.
How to Record A Podcast Remotely
In some cases, you won’t always be able to meet with your guests face-to-face. Thankfully, tools like Zoom, Skype and Zencastr make it easy to chat with people all over the world.
Start by installing your program of choice on your computer, and ask your guests to do the same. Most conferencing apps are free for basic users, which means guests should not have to pay to be able to use the software. Some apps, like Zencastr, are fully browser-based. That means your guests won’t have to download anything at all in advance of your podcasting session.
Next, connect your Blue USB microphone to your computer. The software should automatically recognize your mic, but if you’re unsure the correct microphone is being used, double-check in your settings. At most, you’ll just have to select the mic you want to use.
For a quick and easy recording, you can use your conference software to record the call. Unfortunately, your guests won’t sound as clear as you since their vocals are compressed in order to reduce lag while streaming.
If possible, it’s best to have your guests record themselves on their end as well. While it does require some additional setup, the difference in sound quality is noticeable. For best results, have your guests use a program like Audacity or GarageBand to record their audio and send you the files after the call.
For more info on recording podcasts remotely, like recommended Zoom audio and call recording settings, check out our blog on How To Record a Podcast Over the Internet (Using Zoom).
How to Edit a Podcast
Hindenburg Journalist podcast production software
Once you’ve recorded or imported all the audio clips that will make up your podcast, you’ll need to edit everything together to create the final product. Good editing can make or break your productions, but if you’re new to podcasting, it can be hard to know where to start.
Fortunately, today’s tools can take a lot of the complex and tedious work out of audio editing. For example, Descript can automatically detect filler words like “um” and “uh,” and prompt you to remove them with a single click. It also simplifies other common editing tasks like adding music and sound effects and applying fades to audio clips.
Whether you use a tool like Descript or choose to edit your podcast the old-fashioned way, many of the same principles apply. Before you sit down to edit, think of a podcast you listen to regularly that you think sounds “professional.” Besides the recording quality of the voices and music, what exactly makes it all sound good together?
Great podcasts have a natural-sounding flow, smooth transitions between sections and consistent volume. All of these things add up to create a quality podcast, and they can all be accomplished with proper editing.
The first step in editing a podcast is to arrange your audio clips along the timeline in your audio software. Start by dragging your theme song or intro clip all the way to the left, and then continue to position your material from left to right on separate tracks.
Next, it’s time to fine-tune your sound. When editing a podcast, flow is key. Make sure that each section of speech, music, or sound transitions into the next in a natural way, without excess gaps or abrupt stops. You may need to fade music out as the host begins talking, re-arrange an interview to keep it engaging, or leave just the right amount of silence between advertisements.
After editing comes the mixing stage, where you tweak each track to achieve a balanced, cohesive sound. First, adjust the volume faders for each track so that every element can be heard clearly. Just make sure the whole mix isn’t so loud that it turns the master meters red or distorts your speakers.
Then, use equalizer (EQ) and compressor plugins to further dial in the sound of each voice. EQ helps reduce harshness and increase clarity by adjusting different frequencies. Compression smooths out tracks with uneven volume by reducing the range between loud and soft moments.
The Art of the Interview
Snowball premium USB microphone
Interviews are the lifeblood of many podcasts, and a great way to keep your listeners engaged with fresh content and interesting points of view.
The best part is, practically any type of podcast can contain an interview. But crafting a good interview takes preparation, open-mindedness and a little spontaneity.
Before conducting any interview, think about what you want to ask your subject and what might be most interesting, useful, or entertaining to your listeners. If your guest has a unique story to tell, start by asking them where it all began. If they’ve got expert wisdom to share, try taking questions from your audience. And if they’re just a naturally entertaining personality, you may end up throwing out your script after the first question!
Lastly, make sure your guest is as prepared as you are. Brief them a little beforehand, ask them what they want to focus on, and always have them sign off on your edited interview before publishing.
From time to time, you may need to record a podcast remotely, over the phone or with a VoIP service like Skype or Zoom. While these are wonderful tools for chatting, they can be tricky to set up and audio quality often suffers.
If possible, try to have each participant record themselves with their own mic or computer and then send you the files to edit. If this is not possible (or when you need a redundant backup), call recording apps like ACR or Skype’s Call Recorder function can be a lifesaver.
How To Grow Your Podcast
While there’s nothing wrong with doing a casual podcast for a small audience, most podcasters want to build their audience and eventually start making money.
Once you’re proficient in technical skills like recording and editing, the “endgame” of podcasting ultimately becomes about growth. In this section, you'll learn how to reach more listeners, distribute your podcast, and even make some money.
The best way to grow your audience is also the simplest: just keep creating quality content! If you’re rushing to pump out episodes, the quality of your podcast will suffer and your listeners will notice.
Secondly, always be genuine. Listeners can tell when your hearts not in it, or you’ve become uninspired. Maintaining quality and integrity is one of the best things you can do for your podcast. Only once you have that solid foundation can you start to build on it.
Best Podcast Hosting Platforms
Hindenburg Journalist exports directly to SoundCloud, Libsyn and more
When it’s time to publish your podcast, you’ll need to use a distribution service to reach as many people as possible. This means finding a hosting platform, be it a free or paid service.
If your budget is tight, free solutions like SoundCloud and Anchor (or even a free-to-make website) can be a great option. However, storage space is often limited and you may have to pay for pro features like analytics.
If you have the cash to throw down on a paid hosting service, you’ll likely find that a small investment can make a big difference. Services like Podbean, Libsyn and Audioboom offer advanced features and greater (or unlimited) storage space for a variety of different subscription prices.
Most of these premium services also put your podcasts on multiple distribution platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and iHeartRadio, giving you maximum reach with minimal effort.
How To Monetize A Podcast
Yeti X professional USB microphone
Believe it or not, making money from podcasting is possible. Whether your goal is to offset your production costs, make a little pocket money for yourself, or even make a living, podcast monetization is the way to do it.
The main way that most podcasts generate revenue is from advertisements and sponsorships. Essentially, a company pays a certain amount per episode in exchange for a brief mention in your podcast, which helps them reach potential customers.
Depending on your agreement, you may be asked to mention the product at the beginning of the episode or read a full ad during the mid-show break. You may even work out a deal to host ads on your website.
If you want to keep your podcast ad-free, there are other ways to generate income. Crowdfunding sites like Patreon and Ko-fi provide an easy way to accept donations or monthly subscriptions from your fans, usually in exchange for bonus content or other rewards.
Merchandising is also an option, but before you start printing t-shirts, hats or coffee mugs, try sending a poll out to your listeners to gauge interest. Finally, if you’ve got a sizeable following and don’t mind public speaking, you can even try to book speaking events or tours.