4 Steps to Podcasting Success

social media how toAre you thinking of becoming a podcaster? Are you curious about what it takes to become successful? If you answered yes, this article is for you.

Podcasting is like any other content medium. To both provide value and keep your audience returning, it’s best that you have a plan that maximizes your potential.

The most important feedback I can give potential (or current) podcasters is that you should take the medium seriously, possibly more seriously than you treat your blog. We’ll talk about why that is throughout this piece, but for now, I ask that you consider podcasting not as a way to get cheap traffic, but as a professional media outlet.

This is not HAM radio. Podcasting is a now a million-dollar business, and it’s showing signs of a resurgence, so much so that professionals are in the game, which means that if you treat your podcast as an amateur effort, then you’re likely to fall short of your goals.

However, if you follow these four steps, you’ll be on the road to podcasting success. So with that, let’s get started!

#1: Decide on Show Frequency

I know it might seem strange that I list podcasting frequency first, especially because we’ve yet to discuss topic, format or any of the finer details. But there’s a reason I do it, and it’s this.

Just as a TV show runs on the same day and time every week, as does a radio show or even blog posting schedule, so should a podcast.

The most important factor in running a successful podcast is that you treat it as the professionals do, which means that you create a schedule and stick to it. Take a look at any major podcasting platform, such as 5by5, Mixergy or Revision3 and you’ll find a show schedule with specific days for release.

As a podcast listener, I can tell you that there’s nothing more frustrating than finding a good podcast only to realize that the posting schedule is erratic. When I can’t rely on opening iTunes and seeing your new podcasts on a regular basis, then I quickly move on, and your podcast is removed from my feed.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to podcast every week. For new podcasters, I recommend a bi-weekly posting schedule, which should give you adequate time for pre- and postproduction, as well as generating new content often enough to keep your audience engaged.

As you get more comfortable, you’re free to bump up the frequency to weekly, or even multiple times per week. The only caveat is that you post on the same day of the week or month and stay consistent with that schedule.

Lastly, post the schedule on your podcast’s About page and make sure your readers know about it. This will help them ease in to your routine.

twist

This Week in Startups is a weekly video podcast that features great examples of how to do live reads for sponsors. It's run on Fridays at 1 EST.

#2: Decide on Format: Audio vs. Video

Many new podcasters can’t seem to decide whether they want to do an audio or video podcast. My answer to this is simple… do what you can.

If you’re bad on camera, then no amount of high-quality production is going to make your podcast more entertaining. However, the same is true of your talent on the mic. The most important point here isn’t whether your podcast is audio or video, but where you look and/or sound the most polished.

Sure, you’ll get better as you go, and practice certainly helps, but looking at most video podcasts, you’ll find that their production quality is very high and that the hosts are great on camera. If you don’t have a great place to shoot video, then you might stick with audio. Also, if your podcast lends itself to a longer, more extended format (more on that soon), then audio is probably your best option.

Shows like Digg Nation and GeekBeat.TV are video podcasts, but also short, snappy and entertaining, which is why they do so well on video. Interview shows, such as This Week in Startups, also do well on video. This occurs because they’re treated like talk shows rather than podcasts.

To help you make the decision, find other iTunes podcasts that do what you’re planning to do and see what format they’re using. That should tell you most of what you need to know.

#3: Determine Length Option

Podcast length is a tricky beast, and it’s something you’ll have to test often until you get a good feel for what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re the sole host, then I recommend keeping it to 15 minutes maximum. You can extend the time by adding a series of interviews, but even then I recommend that you keep it short enough so you don’t exhaust a topic. If you close the recording feeling like you should’ve done more, then you probably stopped at the right point.

Even on co-hosted podcasts, such as Free Market Anarchy, I choose to keep the time between 12-15 minutes because it forces the hosts to move through topics quickly, which helps to keep the audience interested. The only long podcast I host is Lifebeat, which offers a mix of electronic music to keep the episode fresh.

That being said, many of the most popular podcasts I listen to—such as Internet Marketing for Smart People, hosted by Robert Bruce of Copyblogger, or Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel—thrive on longer formats, often running well into 45-60 minutes.

What makes the difference here is the experience of the host in keeping an audience engaged, as well as the type of content. If your content requires in-depth discussion or you feel very confident on the mic, then it’s possible that a longer format might work for you. However, there are very few new hosts who can pull this off, so use the long format with caution.

When it comes to podcast format, the key ingredient is the host, not the content. A bad host can make the best content boring, just as the best host can make crappy content exciting.

Going longer will give you the option to squeeze in more content (or sponsors), but keeping it short will at least give you a chance to guide your audience to the end of the discussion. There’s nothing wrong with experimentation here, at least until you get it right.

revision3

Revision3 is a video podcasting platform that acts as a TV station. They've proven that independent media is profitable, given that you take it seriously.

#4: Determine Production Quality

This is the often under-appreciated part of managing a good podcast that can really make the difference between building an audience of 1 or 1,000.

By production quality, I’m referring to everything from how it sounds to how you run breaks in between segments.

Sound and Audio Quality:

I can’t stress this enough—use good equipment! Don’t try to sneak by with a cheap microphone or video camera. If your audience can’t hear you, then they won’t listen, and if you look fuzzy, they won’t watch.

The Blue Snowball is a great entry-level microphone, and is what I use on all the BlueRize podcasts. With video, I recommend an HD camcorder, preferably one that isn’t on a phone or Flip camera.

Intro and Outro:

People should know what your podcast is about within 30 seconds of listening. If they don’t, or struggle to figure it out, then they’re likely to tune out before you get started. Take the time to craft a good elevator pitch that explains your podcast in 1-2 sentences, and record it solo so you can easily add it to every episode.

Segments:

The Instance is a World of Warcraft podcast that runs heavy at an hour per episode, but it works because they break their podcast up into a mix of different segments. Jason Calacanis of This Week in Startups does the same thing… treating his show like something you would find on TV, rather than a mere video podcast.

In this case, think like a TV or radio show, not like a podcaster.

Postproduction:

Recording the podcast is only the first step—it’s postproduction that helps give it that professional feel that you see on all great podcasts.

On Mac, I use GarageBand to edit out the awkward pauses and other mistakes I make while recording. On PC, I use Audacity, which is free.

Though I’m not one to edit out every “um” or “ah,” I do recommend that you take the time to even out sound levels and add your intro and outro music. If you add music over speech, make sure to reduce sound levels so that you can actually hear the speech. In most audio programs, this is called ducking.

If you don’t have intro or outro music, I recommend that you buy some from Soundtrackster or Audio Jungle. It’s an inexpensive way to make your podcast sound more professional.

I know, it’s much easier to just record and upload, but resist the urge. I’ve tested the difference in doing this, and it’s amazing. If you respect your podcast, so will your audience.

5by5

Notice how 5by5 calls their podcasts "broadcasts" and present them in a lineup, just as a radio or TV show would.

Final Thoughts

If you made it through the end of this piece, you’re probably thinking that podcasting is more work than you thought it would be. This is good though, because now you can make the decision to start based on what it takes to be successful, rather than what it takes to simply exist.

In many respects, podcasting is more difficult than blogging, but ask any person who hates to write and they’ll sing the praises of podcasting all night long. So really, it’s a matter of what you like to do mixed with what you do best. All that being said, give it a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose!

What do you think? Have you done any podcasting? What do you recommend? Leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Nathan Hangen

Nathan Hangen is an internet marketing strategist and founder of Webrepreneur Media. He co-authored the book Beyond Blogging with Mike-Cliffe Jones and provides small business consulting services at Making it Social. Other posts by »




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  • http://scottwyden.com/ Scott Wyden Kivowitz

    I just started working on a video podcast and have been looking for the best solution for hosting group video chats. Right now we’re using Skype but it’s not the most efficient way to do it. We’re using screenflow and/or quicktime to record the screen of the chat and Audiohijack to record the audio. Aligning the audio to video is a pain. Any tips or advice would be great!

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    The podcasts I’ve listened to are always entertaining, and they command a certain amount of respect from listeners, if the topics and hosts are interesting. It does take a bit of work to do it right, but with the free tools out there that you mentioned, it doesn’t have to be such a chore to put these together. The reward is that you’ve gained another avenue to pull fans in to your cause.

  • http://www.extremejohn.com/ Extreme John

    I give bloggers that podcast a lot of respect, I can’t even find the time between running my small businesses and blogging, especially in season. Not to mention my constant fail at using video for any one of it’s billion benefits, I couldn’t even begin to imagine squeezing in podcast time.

    I need to delegate more, some of this stuff looks like a blast to take advantage of.

  • http://mrtunes.ca/ Mr. Tunes

    i was working on the next episode of a podcast last night and i was just cracking up with some of the segments. i think it’s *way* more fun than blogging, and i haven’t even lined up my interviews yet!

    now my question is: does anyone have any tips on avoiding the ums and ahs? i don’t think editing is great because it takes a lot of time to do it well. scripting works great (also helps keep things short), but some people don’t like that either. what’s the happy medium?

  • Word-of-Mouse

    Wow, thanks for this timely article. I was perplexed on Friday while googling seeking options for podcasting solutions for a client of mine. This article simplified what one needs to focus on to start out right. Thank you Nathan!

  • http://www.easyonlinevideotips.com Hani Mourra

    Hey Scott,

    With ScreenFlow you can configure it to record both “Computer Audio” (other people’s audio) plus “Microphone” (Your Own Voice)….plus your screen of course. This way you get all the audio and video in a single recording, already synchronized.

    If that doesn’t work, another small tip in syncing audio and video is to actually clap your hands really loud on camera soon after you start recording and use that as a marker to sync the video of you clapping with the sound of the clap.

    I hope that helps…

    Hani

  • http://scottwyden.com/ Scott Wyden Kivowitz

    Unfortunately right now ScreenFlow and Skype 5.0 don’t work well together. A 30 minutes chat recording was worthless when ScreenFlow wouldn’t STOP recording. They know it’s a problem and are working on a fix but until then I have to use Quicktime. Thanks for the clap tip though!

  • Jcrumpton

    Timely info. Thanks. Just beginning a series of 1minute Business Solutions for a college. We will use what you shared!

  • njsmyth

    Our organization sponsors a regular audio podcast on contemporary social issues—our schedule is aggressive (every two weeks) and it would be hard to keep up with if we hadn’t heeded some good advice early on, that is, to have a bank of podcasts ready to go before we launched. In our case we had several months ready. This might not be an issue for some folks depending on the frequency that you select, but it was essential for our success…we just passed our 2.5 year mark and 100,000 downloads.

    Nancy
    http://www.socialwork.buffalo.edu/podcast/

  • http://www.EntrepreneursUnpluggd.com Tim Jahn

    Some really good tips here. I can’t stress consistency of content enough. From the day I started BeyondThePedway.com, I stuck to a schedule. It started as weekly and now it’s daily (in terms of posting content – new interviews come Tues/Fri, consistently). As long as you’re consistent, your audience will know what to expect and will tag along if they like your content.

  • Carrell Halley

    I love this idea. As a former broadcaster with over 20 years in the business, podcasting is a wonderful way for me to marry both my radio/TV expertise with my current wedding business. Genius!

  • Carrell Halley

    As a former broadcaster, I can tell you that the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ come with the territory…especially at first. I guarantee, in time, there will be fewer and fewer in your delivery. Having said that, sometimes they are very effective in your presentation.

  • PhilMershon

    Nathan,
    I appreciate that you started out by talking about schedule and plans. It’s so easy to think “I’ll try podcasting” and see if it’s successful. But you can only be successful if you stick with a plan and become a trusted source of great content. Having a plan is critical. Thanks!

  • startupsuccessnow

    Great info and very timely. One question what is the minimum time a podcast should be done? I am thinking of starting with 3-5 minute quick tips. Is that too short?

  • http://felixrelationshipmarketing.com/ Juan Felix

    hi Nathan, I enjoyed reading your post. I am working on a video serie and got some useful tips from this post. Thanks. – Juan

  • http://www.danarogersphotography.com Danaannrogers

    thanks for the info. i was wondering if you could recommend a portable set up – an entry level digital recorder. would this require mikes for each person?

    thanks

  • http://thepodcastersstudio.com Ray @PodcastHelper

    I have the best tip for you…slow down. When you talk, ums and ahs creep in because you feel the need to fill dead-air while thinking about what you are going to say next. Don’t get ahead of your brain. Slow down your speech and don’t hesitate to say nothing instead of letting the ums and ahs come out. As you practice slowing down, you’ll generally get used to not saying ums and ahs and you can slowly gain a more fluid sounding speech pattern. It’s just a matter of training your brain. Slowing down will help a lot. If you start listening to some of the best in the biz (e.g. Leo Laporte of TWiT) you’ll notice that he leaves pauses in between some of his speech. It’s a proven technique and it will work great for you.

  • http://thepodcastersstudio.com Ray @PodcastHelper

    Doing a quick tip show is a great way to get your feet wet. Give it a shot. I do a show called Podcast Quick Tips which doesn’t usually break five minutes but can be as short as three. Some of the most successful podcasts are one minute long (see Grammar Girl’s Quick Tips).

    Once you get used to producing a podcast, feel free to start a new show in a longer format but stick with the quick tips show and don’t change the format. The people who subscribe to that show will come to expect and enjoy the quick tip format.

  • http://thepodcastersstudio.com Ray @PodcastHelper

    A nice, concise article about the basics of podcasting. Based on all my experience I think the most critical point you make is the idea about respecting the quality of your show.

    So many people want to podcast but they want to do it with little to no investment in quality means not having decent gear, post production tools, proper file hosting, and time, just to name a few.

    I understand that most of us are podcasting on a budget however, not making an investment in your podcast will actually do more harm than good thus losing the benefits you are looking to derive from it.

    My advice is to learn which elements you will need to purchase and save your pennies until you can afford at least the minimum level of quality. In the meantime, develop content for your show, prepare your website, design your show art and tag-lines until you are ready to make the proper investment.

    Then when you have all the elements, pour your heart into your podcast and you’ll be glad to have it represent you. And have fun!;)

  • http://mrtunes.ca/ Mr. Tunes

    thanks folks! that’s really helpful. do you guys recommend any books on traditional broadcasting? i see a lot of podcasting books are most centred on rss feeds and recording.

  • http://mrtunes.ca/ Mr. Tunes

    i imagine 3-5 minute shows would work great if they were done very frequently

  • http://jeffkorhan.com Jeff Korhan

    Nathan – I have plans for podcasting – have been learning the ins and outs of Garage Band as a result. However, how do you accomplish interviews? I have one scheduled next week and was planning to use FreeConferenceCall.com – my interviewee plans to be on a phone so my concern is balancing the audio.

    Recommendations?

    Jeff

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    I tend to avoid services that use landlines like that because the quality is often suspect. I prefer Skype to Skype using Pamela (windows) or ecamm call recorder (mac)

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Great point. It’s not something you should jump into unless you are willing to spend the time and money to respect the medium. It doesn’t cost a lot, but it starts with a good mic.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    hm, I don’t really use digital recorders, but maybe someone else can jump in and offer a suggestion.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Sounds like you’re a perfect fit :)

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    yep, and I think your show looks very professional as a result. Speaking of which, don’t you owe me an email ;)

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Good idea. I find that I struggle to get too far ahead, but I do try!

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Great point. I found that as I got comfortable in silence, that mine were reduced significantly. They aren’t perfect, but I’ve never believed you have to be 100% um and ah free anyway.

  • http://donnygamble.com Donny Gamble

    I was thinking about starting my own podcast show, but I just can’t find the time to do it on a consistent basis

  • http://twitter.com/jucargonsan Joan Carles González

    Muy interesante

  • http://twitter.com/balexandros Bryann Alexandros

    Nathan, been a fan of the Lifebeat podcast with Mokhov for some time now. Love the advice in this article. Aside from having personality and knowing how to engage the audience, I especially agree with frequency and consistency in schedule. It shows me that the podcaster respects their work, and as a listener, that encourages me to respect their work, too. It shows that they’re not just another fly-by-night op.

  • Dean LoBrutto

    Nathan,

    Thank for the useful article. Can you make any suggestions for a podcast novice regarding distribution?

    Regards,

    Dean LoBrutto

  • http://www.florida-attractions-tickets.com Alisha Andre

    podcasting has been an interesting topic since it was introduced.. and people are liking it too… nice post Nathan!!

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Killer tips. The number one key in podcasting is consistency.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    When you say distribution, do you mean getting your podcast into more hands, or do you have questions with iTunes?

    This might help: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/5-steps-to-starting-your-own-podcasting-show/

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Thanks Bryann, really happy to have you as a listener, and thanks for the feedback.

  • http://jeffkorhan.com Jeff Korhan

    Thanks Nathan – I checked out ecamm for Mac and it looks like that will work nicely for me.

    Jeff

  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com/blog Lewis LaLanne – NoteTakingNerd

    This is an outstanding “Reality Check” on what it takes for your podcast to stand a chance out in the market.

    What’s nice about it also is that it’s concise. It gives you what you the bare bones of what you need along with resources that demonstrate the proof of why you need them that also serve as models you can follow.

    Man, this would definitely save the lazy person a ton of grief by keeping them on the bench and also inspire the person who shines in front a camera who see’s this as an easy way to get their content rolled out.

    As of now, I fit into the first category but I want to expand who I am embrace this idea doing video or audio content! Thanks for giving me a great introduction to this podcasting process!

  • Pingback: 4 Steps To Podcasting Success | TheBusinessSuccessFactory.com

  • http://www.EntrepreneursUnpluggd.com Tim Jahn

    Jeff, definitely recommend Ecamm for Mac as Nathan suggested. Check out any recent interviews on my site BeyondThePedway.com to get an idea of quality, I use it for those. Of course, the cameras on either end matter too. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/AllanHunkin Allan Hunkin

    Nathan… excellent starter advice. Let me point your readers to the Podcast and Talk Host Mastery Resource Guide, Industry Directory and How to Handbook where they can get in-depth information on everything you spoke about. http://talkmastery.info. (Note, all orders include the 2011 Edition when it is release later this spring. Affiliate Program)

    With Gratitude,
    Allan Hunkin, Publisher
    Podcasts.com

  • offshoreteam

    Hi Nathan,
    It’s really interesting post. The incredible thing about podcasting is that you don’t even need to have a website or any products to sell to make a pile of dough!
    http://www.offshoreteam.in

  • offshoreteam

    hi,

  • lucythorpe

    What is the deal if you are on wordpress.com – I looked breifly at this and they seemed to suggest you had to buy extra space to put audio up on your blog. Is this always the case?

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com/ Ricardo Bueno

    I’ve had some good success with my interview series however I do need to get back to point #1 – deciding on a schedule and sticking to it. I have to admit that I’ve been a bit inconsistent here as of late. Ideally I’d love to post episodes bi-weekly.

    Here’s a link to my podcast: (if you don’t mind me sharing)
    http://www.ricardobueno.com/podcast-2

  • Pingback: This Week in Digital Marketing 14 – 18 February: Red Cross Avoids PR Nightmare, New Facebook Photos, and J.C. Penny’s Big SEO Mistake | Young & Shand

  • http://www.getlostinasia.com/ bobby

    Thanks again for this great list, I start podcasting about one year ago, I do a show for a streaming radio and I publish on my site after but the show last 2 hours with music. So its too long to post it on my website.

    for now I just publish single topic or interview for help search engine result but I wonder if is not better put a complete show instead what you think work best. Any advice. Thanks

  • Lyria Charles

    Great article and sound advice (pun intended!). Thanks so much!

  • http://dontloseyourdayjob.com/ @KevitoClark

    Appreciate this. Definitely putting this into application. ||







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