Podcasts are growing in popularity. According to the Pew Research Center, 17 percent of Americans listened to a podcast in January 2015, up from 9 percent at the same point in 2008. More than one-third have listened to at least one podcast in their lifetime. If you're building a digital business, podcasting can help you find and keep an audience.
And you can make a lot of money doing it. Business podcaster John Lee Dumas says advertisers are generally willing to pay at least $18 for every 1,000 listens to a 15-second ad placement. Put in practical terms, that means producing a weekly 30-minute podcast with two sponsors and 10,000 listeners per episode could yield $1,440 monthly.
Sound interesting? You'll need four things to start a podcast: a concept, a format, some recording equipment/editing software, and an online host to help get your episodes distributed. Let's break down each step to make your own podcast.
1. Find Your Niche
What can you speak about? What interests you? If it's website design, then look for the top website design podcasts in iTunes and see what they cover. A quick search as of this writing finds several shows loosely focused on marketing. A podcast about CSS tricks or quick website hacks could find a following among those who aren't well served by the more generic shows in this category.
Or choose something else entirely. The key is to be unique enough to stand out in a sea of sameness and reach the underserved audience that needs your show. As author and speaker Sally Hogshead puts it, "Don't change who you are. Become more of who you are, because different is better than better."
2. Choose a Format
Your podcast needs structure. Will you interview guests, or will you have a monologue? Or would you rather have a panel discussion? How long will you plan to talk? Decide what format your podcast will take early in the process, but know that you can always change if a better idea comes along. The key for now is have to an idea for a completed episode, so that you can script an intro, talking points and a sign-off. For more on format and easily avoidable mistakes, listen to this episode of The Showrunner, a podcast about podcasting form Copyblogger Media's Jerod Morris and Jon Nastor.
3. Recording Equipment and Editing Software
Plenty of podcasters and other pros will try to convince you that fancy equipment is required to record a podcast. Recognize that a number of these missives are meant to promote products that kick back a fee to the author when you buy from a link at their page — a practice commonly known as affiliate marketing.
That's not a bad thing. Advertising products you believe in can be a great way to monetize your podcast later, after you've established a track record and built an audience. Until then, a set of headphones -- heck, even earbuds -- and your computer's built-in mic are all you need to create a podcast. Content is always going to matter more than equipment anyway.
What's more, your computer is likely to have access to wonderful (and free!) tools for editing your audio. Garageband on the Mac is a good example. On the PC (or the Mac, if you're so inclined), Audacity is well-known and widely supported.
4. Pick a Distribution Platform
Just as a good website host provides you with tools for creating engaging visual content, a podcast host provides the space to upload and share audio on distribution channels such as iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and more. Libsyn and Spreaker are two of the most popular podcast hosting choices, though Spreaker is better for those just getting started (and who aren't sure of their commitment to podcasting).
Why? First, because there's a free version of Spreaker that includes 10 total hours of audio storage and basic analytics for your show. Record 30 minutes at a time and you'll have over a year of monthly podcasts to publish without paying a dime. Also, and in addition to iTunes and other podcast networks, Spreaker allows members to add social media channels for publishing directly to feeds when new shows go live.
Get Started Now
Four simple steps are all you need to start a podcast. Find a niche, choose a format, record and edit some shows, and then pick a platform where you'll distribute to listeners. Most of the big podcasts got started this way and some to this day remain one-person operations. As Morris puts it in the show notes to the inaugural episode of The Showrunner, "now [is] the perfect time to launch a podcast." You've just learned how to do that. What's stopping you from getting started?