Starting a Podcast: What You Need to Know to Succeed

Do you listen to podcasts?

Are you interested in starting your own podcast?

To learn why you should start a podcast and what you need to know to get started, I interview Cliff Ravenscraft for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview Cliff Ravenscraft, the world’s leading evangelist on podcasting and founder of Podcast Answer Man.

Cliff shares his knowledge and experience of hosting many different podcasts.

You’ll learn practical tips and advice you can use to start your very own podcast.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSSStitcher or Blackberry.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Starting Your Own Podcast

Why is now a good time to start a podcast?

Cliff believes that now is a great time to start a podcast. Recently, CNet reported that Apple is going to end up selling 1 billion iOS devices by 2015 and already 410 million of these devices have been sold.

You’ll learn about Apple’s official Podcasts app and how this has had a very dramatic and positive impact on those podcasts that are listed in iTunes.

itunes podcasts icon

When you visit the Apple iTunes Store, the Podcasts app is one of the first apps recommended.

And in September, CNet reported that 500 million Android devices have already been activated.

Cliff shares why it’s easy to get people hooked on podcasts. It only takes 5 to 10 minutes to install a free podcast app on a smartphone and it’s easy to subscribe to your first podcast.

You’ll also learn some interesting numbers to note. For instance, 30 million people have a gym or a fitness club membership, and 97 million people in the USA drive to and from work every day alone in their car, with an average commute time of 26.2 minutes.

Cliff believes podcasting is different than when it first came out because of the smartphone. The smartphone makes it easy for anybody to subscribe from their device. You don’t have to be technically savvy anymore. Every time people go into their app, your latest episode is going to be there for them.

Listen to the show to find out more reasons to start a podcast.

What are the different types of show formats?

Cliff believes there is no limit to the type of podcasts that can be created. Cliff  started podcasting as a hobby in the entertainment genre. He started out with the TV show Lost as a podcast, followed by fan podcasts covering the TV shows Heroes, Dr. Who, The Hunger Games, Twilight Saga and a soon-to-be-launched The Lord of the Rings podcast.

These are podcasts that bring fans of existing shows together where they can share their interests with one another. You’ll discover why Cliff loves this podcast format.

Not only does Cliff do TV show–related podcasts; he and his wife also host one called Family From the Heart. It’s a weekly show about behind the scenes with the Ravenscrafts. It’s an authentic, real-life audio show. This type of show makes Cliff feel really nervous, but people love it.

family from the heart podcast

The Family from the Heart podcast is hosted by Cliff and his wife.

As for the Podcast Answer Man show, it’s a show that stands out on its own. This is his brand where he teaches people about podcasting based on his experiences.

Cliff has devoted more than 20,000 hours to podcasting in new media. This is double the number of hours required to become an expert, as referred to by Malcolm Gladwell.

There are two shows that exist outside of Cliff’s GSPN.TV ”network”: the Podcast Answer Man and the Virtual Assistant, which is similar to Podcast Answer Man in that it’s Cliff sharing his experience and knowledge about becoming an expert in a field.

Other show formats are:

  • Solo
  • Co-hosted
  • Panel hosted
  • Interview
  • “Sound scene tours”

Listen to the show to hear the format behind Cliff’s new podcast, The Lord of the Rings Fan podcast and find out more about the “sound scene tours” format.

What do you need to know if you’re scared to take the leap?

Cliff recommends that if you are scared of starting a podcast, then don’t start one for your business or your brand. Instead pick a hobby, something that you are extremely passionate about and start there.

Amazing things happen when you start building relationships with people around the world who are just as passionate about a subject as you are. When the subject you are passionate about becomes the focus of the show, it helps take the pressure off.

Listen to the show to find out how you can make it a lot less scary when starting out. 

What’s the most consumed type of podcast—audio or video?

Cliff believes hands-down that audio is consumed the most. There are a number of popular video podcasts, but they are very few and far between. If you look through the top 10 categories on iTunes (you can sort by audio or video only), audio is certainly at the top.

The reason why Cliff likes audio more than anything else is that people can listen to it just about anywhere.

Human beings are able to listen and do other things at the same time, but it’s impossible to multi-task when you are watching a video. This is the key to why audio will never go away.

Listen to the show to learn why audio over video is the way forward, if you want to get 20-40 minutes of content to your subscribers on a weekly basis.

What’s the best show frequency?

The ideal frequency depends on why you are creating the podcast and your desired outcome. If you want to remain top of mind like most marketers, Cliff believes that a weekly format is the best choice.

Cliff advises against anything more than once a week, even though there are people doing it. People who subscribe to podcasts tend not to like missing an episode of your show. If they subscribe to your content, they want to consume all of it.

For the last 5 years, Cliff has been doing a “litmus test” where if you go to Twitter and do a search for the phrase “behind on podcasts,” you’ll be blown away. You’ll find that within the last 48 hours, people will have been complaining about the fact that they are behind on podcasts for a specific show.

behind on podcasts

Twitter search for "behind on podcasts."

The main thing is to make sure you are consistent.

Listen to the show to find out why Cliff would unsubscribe from a podcast rather than get behind.

What equipment is needed?

If you want to find out what equipment you need, head over to Cliff’s site where you’ll discover a list of each item he uses, an explanation of what they are and the reason why he chose to use them.

You’ll also find a tutorial called Studio Set Up, where you can purchase a guide, Inside the Studio. It’s a step-by-step description of how Cliff hooks up and his podcasting workflow from beginning to end. If you don’t want to buy it, you can still check out pictures of Cliff’s studio and how it has evolved over the years.

inside the studio

Inside the Studio is a step-by-step guide to how Cliff hooks up and his podcasting workflow from beginning to end.

If you want a professional-quality audio, Cliff’s advice is to make sure you invest in an audio microphone. It’s very easy to get a professional audio sound at a reasonable cost.

You can start a podcast with nothing more than your built-in microphone on your iMac, but for more decent-quality audio, you can spend anything between $50-$100. At the top end for very professional quality, it can cost you around $1500. You should only buy expensive audio equipment if you are doing podcasts on a serious scale.

Today, it’s important to have good audio quality because there are more and more podcasts coming out.

Listen to the show to learn more about the different price options for microphones.

How can you get prerecorded questions to be used in a podcast?

Cliff talks at great length about prerecorded questions in one of his blog posts.

voicemail for podcasters

Cliff's blog post, Voice Mail for Podcasters, is an excellent resource for discovering how to use prerecorded questions.

Here are 3 different ways Cliff gets voicemail feedback for his show:

  1. A voicemail feedback telephone number that you can call 24/7. Cliff receives an audio file via email whenever a caller leaves him a voicemail. He uses software called SpeakPipe.
  2. Other podcasters can send in super high-quality audio and attach it as an MP3 file in an email.
  3. You can record a message using voice memo software on your iPhone or Android device and then send it in.

Listen to the show to discover more about how SpeakPipe works.

Discovery of the Week

We have installed an awesome new function at Social Media Examiner for this podcast. It’s a voicemail feedback.

sme-voicemail-center

Using Social Media Marketing Podcast Voicemail Center is a great way to leave a question for the show.

Do you have a question about content marketing, blogging, social media marketing or podcasting?  You can now leave a voicemail here. It’s easy and uses the microphone on your computer. I’ll then select the questions to answer in an upcoming show.

You’ll have an opportunity to mention your website and your company and we will cross-link that information back into the show notes. It’s a great opportunity for you to make it onto our podcast. We have about 18,000 people who listen to this podcast every single week.

Listen to the show to learn more and let us know if you give it a try.

Other Show Mentions

Social Media Marketing World is Social Media Examiner’s latest mega-conference—taking place at the waterfront San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina in San Diego, California on April 7-9, 2013.

As you’d expect, Social Media Examiner recruited the biggest and best names in the world of social media marketing for this conference. Only the best for you! Be sure to check it out.

Check out this amazing new video showcasing all the event has to offer PLUS you can save $300 if you register by Dec. 31st.

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Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on starting your own podcasting show? Please leave your comments below.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, founder of My Kids' Adventures and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He's also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.winningstack.com/ Adarsh Menon

    Podcasts are a great way to repurpose your existing content. So you could take old blog posts and turn them into podcasts that could hopefully promote you to a new audience. This way the same content can be used to reach out to multiple audiences (in the same way that this post includes a summary for people who prefer to read than watch a video).

  • http://www.davethackeray.com/ Dave Thackeray

    Podcasting is a natural marketing method for any personality or brand with a baked-in community providing you have the passion to make it work. There isn’t one show that has achieved instant success – but if you have the vision and commitment podcasting can be a huge benefit bringing your message to life.

  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    Great interview Cliff and Mike. Cliff, I totally agree that you can start a podcast from your hobby or something that you are passionate about and luckily, I get to do that everyday. Podcasting can also be a great way to market your brand and I am working towards that. Cliff, I can’t wait to tune into your new podcast about Lord of the Rings….I am a BIG fan!  Have a wonderful Friday everyone!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hi Adarsh,

    Very good point!  Michael Hyatt of the This is Your Life podcast does just that.  He takes many of his most popular blog posts and “respins” them into extended monologues.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Dave,

    I might add that you do not have to be a personality or have a baked-in community.  There are tons of success stories for podcasters who started from scratch and were very successful without any of that.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for chiming in John.  Folks John does a DAILY podcast (not advised for the faint at heart).

    John, how has that worked out for you and would you suggest folks getting started do less frequently?

  • http://www.davethackeray.com/ Dave Thackeray

    John and I both do daily podcasts. We’re among a niche breed of entrepreneurs challenging the norm. I don’t have any of the mentioned problems of people missing shows since they’re properly tagged and you can’t possibly create every show to satisfy every member of your listener community. Cherrypicking is fine by me!

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  • http://www.therisetothetop.com David Siteman Garland

    Mike – I’ll chime in here as well. I did daily for 2.5 years (5 days a week). 

    I then scaled it back (now once a week in terms of the actual show).

    I have mixed feelings on advice here.

    #1: Every day can give you a leg up on the competition, but can also be overwhelming, cause some burnout, etc. For example, I love playing football once a week. If I start playing every day over and over and over again, sometimes I get burnt out.

    #2: That being said, I think folks also get overwhelmed with the commitment of doing it every day, but that shouldn’t be a reason NOT to create a show.

    My conclusion, start with once a week :)

    -D

  • http://ImpartialGeek.com David Foster

    As always great Podcast. I actually purchased all of Cliffs trainings on Podcasting, and just used his schematics again last week when I moved my Podcast studio back into my office. It saved me a ton of time trying to figure it all out. I highly recommend him to anyone wanting to start a podcast. Thanks Mike and Cliff!! 

  • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

    Thanks for this, Michael. I started my podcast on a whim thanks to inspiration from Marcus Sheridan after he started his. I really had no idea what I was doing — and am still kind of winging it — but it keeps life interesting.

    But I want to go beyond “keeping life interesting” and make it something that actually benefits my business. I know there’s a long list of tasks that I’m not doing to help get it out there in greater circulation. I also could have done a better job of setting it up since I have no way of tracking how many people are subscribed (awful).

    Anyway, I appreciate all of the information you’re giving out here. Should be a good start for me!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for chiming in here with your experience David

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Dave

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Cool, I also used Cliff and he was a great help

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Jon – If you host with Libsyn they have a feature that tells you the number of downloads per episode

  • Dara Khajavi

    I have not started a podcast yet, but I intend to soon! I was a little nervous about creating my first podcast. This post was incredibly informational. I have always liked the idea of podcasts. It is a great opportunity to further connect with one’s readers.

  • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

    Thanks, Michael. I self-host and XML to iTunes. Is it difficult to move? I’ve got 27 episodes, so I’m worried about the people currently subscribed if I make any structural changes like that.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Jon – This is a great question.  I would leave an audio version of it for Cliff’s PodcastAnswerMan here http://podcastanswerman.com/voicemail/ and chances are pretty good he will answer it in one of his future shows

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you liked it Dara – Go for it!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Sorry Jon – Wrong link, try http://www.speakpipe.com/gspn

  • http://www.myonlinetip.com/ Kate Luella

    yeah podcasts are the bomb at the moment (in a good way!)  So easy to make, enjoy, share, build authority, all that good stuff online…  I’ve got two already Blogger Interviews Podcast & Special Needs Trust Fund Estate Planning, and launching a new daily show next Feb – yeah, tough routine, but I’m going to steal some of John’s Entreprenuer of Fire’s technicques, record in bulk, release slowly – LOVE IT!!!  :) Kate

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for your comment Kate.  Glad to hear you are all in :)

  • Bakerallen43

    Thanks Michael. I have recently made it best practice to listening every friday to SM Examiner. I am launching a new site and part of it will be interviewing action sports production companies. This was the perfect podcast for my new endeavor. I have a $500 budget to get the equipment, so it  we will see where it goes.. 

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for being a loyal listener.  Be sure to check out the links on this post to Cliff’s suggested equipment :)

  • http://dreamjobprogram.com/ Drew Tewell

    Michael, lately I’ve been listening to your podcast more and more. Today, when I receieved your email, I was excited to see what this weeks podcast was about & who would be on the show. I am strongly considering starting a podcast next year, in addition to my blog. Thank you for all that you do with the Social Media Examiner.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks so much Drew :)   So awesome that you are inspired to start–no go do it :)

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  • http://www.maxminzer.com/ Max Minzer

    Feel like this whole post is a huge answer to my question/comment 3 weeks ago on “How to Create Content People Love” :)

    Thank you, Michael! I’m completely blown away by what you and Cliff said. I already started implementing some of this info :)
    Merry Christmas, brother! :)

  • http://www.amazon.com/Ways-Flood-Website-Traffic-ebook/dp/B009HJLV3A/ Jack Mitchell

    My friend started podcasting about 4 months ago, and then ran out of room on his website’s hosting account – he was hosting all the audio files on his shared server (I think he had hostgator or something), and his website started slowing down when his podcast got popular.  Then he tried libsyn to host his files, and everything worked so much better.  Website is faster than ever, he gets tons of stats, and doesn’t need to worry about hosting his own files on his own server.

    And yes, he’s found that podcasting, and then distributing his podcasts to dozens of different podcast syndicators and websites and directories, that he got tons of traffic to his website as well.  Especially the podcast directories that allow links back to your website.  Nice post, podcasting just seems fun!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Max – Glad you found this useful.  Merry Christmas 

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I was thinking the same as your friend but Cliff made it very clear that when you have potentially 1000s of requests coming in at once for these big audio files it can cripple your servers.  I use Libsyn as well

  • http://www.deswalsh.com Des Walsh

    Valuable podcast, Michael. I started podcasting a few years ago, then somewhere along the line lost the plot. This conversation with Cliff has me thinking very seriously about getting going again.In particular I appreciate the advice about frequency: the reality for me is that, at least at the outset, I would find it quite challenging to keep to a daily commitment, but weekly should be very manageable. It’s also good advice for anyone a bit hesitant to start with something you are passionate about, not necessarily (or even maybe not preferably) your brand. And, in case you are interested, how did I know about this podcast? One of your email updates.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Des,

    Thanks for your comments and for listening to the show.  I think now is an excellent time to get back into podcasting and I agree it needs to be at a manageable pace :) .

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  • http://www.evolveyourweddingbusiness.com/ Heidi Thompson

    I’m trying to figure out how to build a podcast into my strategy. I want to do a mix of monologues and interviews. Should they be on a set schedule. Alternating weeks for instance? How far ahead do you work Mike? I’m not sure if the podcast should take the place of my weekly blog posts or be in addition to them.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Boy that depends on your goals and such. I might search Podcastanswerman.com for his advice

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