Podcasting Guide - Sound Awesome with Proven Techniques

This podcasting guide covers: voice, technique, software, equipment, & platforms.

Have you listened to top 10 podcasts and daydreamed about how you can create your own winning podcast but not sure if you have the skills, tools, platform or voice to be successful?

Podcasting has exploded in recent years. Why? People are busy. They want to multitask. They want to make efficient use of their time. They can listen any time of day: morning when walking their dog or commuting, afternoon at their computer, commuting in the evening, and in bed at night. There is no other medium that lets you be everywhere with someone.

Podcasting is personal. Your voice is in their ear. Written text doesn’t have nuances or timbre that make it unique. Content is everywhere – social media, blogs, news sites. Voice has character. Your point-of-view is the only one available on the Internet because no one has the life experiences that you have.

This complete guide outlines the essentials to making a great podcast:

  • What do I need to start podcasting?
  • Podcasting Benefits
  • Voice
  • Technique
  • Podcasting Equipment [for different budgets: $0,$65,$300,$1200]
  • Podcasting Software
  • Launching on a Platform
  • Free Content to Enhance a Podcast
  • Paid Podcast Subscriptions
  • Boost Your Marketing with Your Podcast
  • Use Your Audio Content for Other Purposes
  • Reason to Podcast
  • Community
podcast studio
Ken Morico Podcast

How do I start a podcast using a platform I control?

If you are going to start a podcast, you want to own the platform. No one should be able to shut you down and you shouldn’t need to rely on a third-party service that may go away in the future.

  1. Acquire podcasting equipment (microphone, digital interface, mixer)
  2. Create a website on a domain and hosting platform you own
  3. Software or plugin to add podcast functionality to your website
  4. Submit your podcast feed to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify
  5. Promote your podcast on social media

You might think all this is too technical for the average person, but really it’s not at all. If you can use a word processor you can do this. And think of the sense of accomplishment you’ll have!

Podcasting Benefits

Podcasting is Low Cost Marketing

With podcasting, you can build long-term relationships with customers for free. Since there is no cost to re-market to your customers, the ROI is incredible. Google remarketing ads can be expensive.

Open Ocean

With the incredibly low cost of starting a web site in 2020, there is content firehose. It’s so hard to rank your text content on Google. Podcasting is competitive. It is a more “open” ocean. With fewer competitors, you can drive more traffic to your site by creating links in the podcast episode notes / description and mentioning your site on the episode.

Your Voice Matters

Are You Self-Conscious About Your Voice?

A lot of people who choose to podcast are concerned about how their voice sounds. Well, it’s a valid concern, but let me address how this can be easily solved: your voice can change. WHAT? Change? YES!

Here are the ways you can change your voice on your podcast:

  • Post production – aka EQ / Equalization. Play with the frequency settings. You can add and remove bass or high frequencies.
  • Change the tone of your voice by doing vocal exercises.
  • Add variety to your spoken word by changing cadence
  • Position your mouth closer or farther away from the microphone.

Once you experiment with these methods you’ll see that audio, much like television can be manipulated and shaped for effect.

We all have unique voices… we want to be unique when people hear our voice.

Listen to Julian Treasure as he explains vocal techniques:

Are you afraid that podcasting is “public speaking”? The reality is that you will be recording in your home or studio… no one will be in front of you, which is the primary reason for the fear. No diapers required!

Voice Technique and Magic

How can I improve my voice or audio quality with a limited budget? Don’t I need a lot of money to sound good on my podcast?

There are a few things you can do when faced with a limited budget for audio equipment.

  1. Get close to the microphone
  2. Speak louder than you normally would directly into the microphone
  3. Learn to use a noise gate and compressor in your audio editing
  4. Point the microphone away from noise sources in the room (point up, for example — experiment in your room)

Podcasting Equipment

So you want to reach an unlimited audience, have complete control of a broadcast, and get free promotion? Time to Podcast! Podcasts are a natural extension of blogs. They are just another medium to spout your commentary, music, and interviews. If you’re interested in podcasting, I’ll explain why now is the best time to get started.

Hardware has never been cheaper and software has never been more intuitive.

Studio-quality microphones are now just about $100. Apple has refined audio making software to the point where mere novices can produce professional-quality results via their GarageBand software.

Here are some equipment recommendations by budget:

$0 Podcasting Budget

No money? Bummer, but here’s what you can use:

Your Phone

Use your phone, but get close to the microphone when you record.

Microphone built into headset

Most people have a headphone / microphone combo like Apple EarPods or Apple AirPods Pro. Those can work. Experiment with what sounds better to you.

$65 Podcasting Budget

For $65 you can get portability and decent quality using a lav mic built for smartphones.

Rode SmartLav+

Note if you are using a newer iPhone you will need a lightning to 3.5mm adapter ($8).

$300 Podcasting Budget

The ZOOM H6 portable recorder is basically a tiny studio. You can use it as a microphone, computer / USB audio interface, and digital recorder. This one piece of equipment can do almost everything you need.

$1200 Podcasting Budget

This is a setup similar to what I use for the Ken Morico Podcast.

podcast studio
Ken Morico Podcast Studio
podcast studio

My old simple podcast setup- We all need to start somewhere!

Recording Skype Interviews with Portable Recorder

Skype has a recording option built in to its software if you enable it, but it won’t leave you with the best quality. To ensure the best quality and have a backup recording for your interview session, be sure to record the session using a portable recorder if you have one.

This video explains:

The Portable Podcast Studio

If you want to spend a little more money on a full mobile solution with excellent audio quality you can look at a portable recorder like a Zoom H6 and newer models (which I also own). Recorders like the Zoom H6 have built-in high quality microphones and microphone pre-amps which record with low noise… much lower noise than the USB interfaces. They record to the same SD cards that cameras use. You can then move the audio file to your computer using the card. They also have USB interfaces, but I found they weren’t as clean as actually moving the file.

The portable recorders are great for the road and have XLR inputs so you can record from studio mixers and microphones when you are ready. Just realize that you need to be close to the microphone to capture the high quality audio since they are omni mics and will pick up room sounds if you are not close. The benefit of the omni-mic is that you may want that effect if you are trying to record several people in the room.

I remember in 2000 being awestruck when I interviewed Bill Rock in his studio space in his home. Bill Rock is an announcer and video producer. He announced for NBC and now for Sirius XM. His studio was crammed with mixers and video/audio equipment. I just have a desk — and now in 2020 I can record anywhere with a portable recorder & mixer. Pretty amazing.

Podcast Software

WordPress and Podcasting

powerpress - wordpress
Powerpress / WordPress

Blubrry released their PowerPress Plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites. The plugin makes it really easy to put together a podcast and make it work with browsers that support HTML5. When you post podcasts on your blog, they appear just like regular posts, but with attachments. When your visitors come to your site and view your post, they will see either a Flash-based audio / video player OR the native HTML5 browser player. This future-proofs your podcast. Also, the plugin makes it easy to syndicate your podcast to iTunes. iTunes syndication is complex and requires a lot of code without the use of an easy-to-use plugin. It supports audio and video podcasts.

I used to use the Blurry PowerPress plugin for my own site and podcast. Still a solid option if you are using WordPress.

Here is a video from Blubrry explaining how to set up the plugin:

Podcast Audio File Compression Settings

Audio / Video Authority Larry Jordan recommends these audio file settings for spoken word:

MP3 Podcast Compression Settings
For single speaker spoken word files, use:

Sample rate: 22,100 if your software supports it, otherwise 32,000
Bit rate: 64 kbps (22.1K) or 96 kbps (32K)
VBR encoding if possible, otherwise use CBR

MPEG4 / AAC Podcast Compression Settings
For single speaker spoken word files, use:

Sample rate: 22,100 if your software supports it, otherwise 32,000
Bit rate: 48 kbps (22.1K) or 56 kbps (32K)
VBR if possible, otherwise CBR

It should be noted that MP3 is the file format to use… for now. The reason is that Spotify, which is responsible for 20% of all podcast downloads, only allows MP3 at this time.

Podcast Resources

There are a lot of resources on the Web to help get you started with podcasting. Apple shows you how to make a podcast here. Of course, with all the help and easy-to-install hardware, there’s gotta be a rub. Here it is: posting a podcast to a platform you own / control takes work. You need your own Web host, you need a tool to create XML files, and there can, though not always be a lot of work that goes into producing a podcast.

Podcasting plugins for WordPress blogs and websites make it really easy to create an XML podcast feed compatible with iTunes.

You need intro music, outro music, topics to talk about, guests (or music), editing time, and you need to promote it. Apple does help you out here though. If your podcast is interesting and good enough, they will feature your podcast on iTunes – for FREE. This is how I found a lot of great podcasts including the DJ Cruze Podcast and Adam Carolla Podcast. Don’t forget that iPhones and other smartphones have built-in audio recorders. It’s great for podcasting on-the-go.

Launching a Podcast

Here’s how to get your podcast in the Apple Podcasts directory.

  1. Create an RSS feed for your podcast. WordPress offers plugins to do this for you. Some services like Libsyn, Anchor, or Soundcloud, the feed creation is done for you.
  2. Log in to Apple Podcasts Connect. Using your Apple ID, log in at podcastsconnect.apple.com
  3. Enter your feed URL and then click “Validate.” Apple will pull your podcast’s feed details (Title, Artwork, Description, etc.)
  4. Click submit.

Apple will give you a confirmation message, letting you know that there may be a review process for your podcast. This is typically within 24 to 48 hours, but can take as long as five days. You will receive an email letting you know if you’re approved. After that, people will be able to find your podcast in the Apple Podcasts app.

Create Audio Content For More Than Podcasts

Audio equipment isn’t just for podcasts. Use audio in personal and business Web sites. I recently used audio in the new version of KenMorico.com after reading in the Mediapedia book how powerful slideshows can be. Audio really does add another dimension to a traditional Web site. It certainly makes a “personal” site more personal. The Web is getting a little more personal than it used to. People are now using their real names and photos on Facebook. Many are using their real names on Twitter. (I use my own name on Twitter – I highly recommend it.)

Some of the most successful social media personalities use their real name and photo. We are more likely to trust them – giving them instant credibility.

Audio enables professionals looking to create a personal brand the opportunity to showcase their unique offering to the world. With all the people online, don’t you want to stand out? I know I do.

So why should this be a big deal now? HTML5 has been moving forward – allowing any device to play audio from standard Web pages without plugins / or additional software. Mobile phones and tablets can play audio from a Web page with one click and little effort from web page creators. Also, think of all the embedded media we can include on our web pages – SoundCloud, Anchor, YouTube, the list is endless.

Audio for Video Production

Utilizing audio production skills is not just useful for podcasting — it’s also useful for creating video podcasts and YouTube videos. If you can create an audio podcast, you should also create a video version if you are able.

One of the most popular podcasts, The Joe Rogan Experience, produces both a video version and audio version. DO video!

iPhone: the Hidden Digital Audio Recorder for Video

For the longest time, I never really knew how useful a clapperboard was in movie scenes. Turns out, it’s used to mark where audio and video should be synced in post editing. Audio and video are recorded separately for movie and TV production. If you’re an electronics nut like me, you might have used a camcorder that records audio and video together. The problem is camera microphones are usually awful. I thought syncing audio and video would be difficult and something only professionals could do. Not so.

In my video on street photography, I recorded my audio separately from the video in the opening scene. I used a lavaliere microphone for iPhone, made a clap noise with my hands (low-rent, I know!) and made sure the camera captured me clapping my hands. It’s important to have a visual so you know where to sync the audio and video.

I suggest trying this method with your iPhone. Be sure to use the built-in Voice Memos app, click the record button, and lock the phone so you don’t accidentally stop the recording.

Paid Podcast Subscriptions — Are They Feasible?

Having listened to podcasts for years, I always thought to myself that they should charge for the content. According to a Forrester Survey [PayWall], I am in a minority. Only 20% of Internet users would pay for news content. The findings also point to users accessing paid content through different channels – computer, mobile phones, and eReaders.

What is the perfect medium for a multitude of electronic channels? Audio podcasts.

Audio podcasts are a perfect candidate for news monetization. Unlike text, audio can be played on almost any electronic device nowadays. You can play an mp3 file on your tiny iPod when at the gym, listen to it on your laptop at a coffeeshop, listen to it in your car on your way to work, or even play it when in the shower from your desktop computer speakers. It’s just more comfortable and convenient to consume information when in audio format. Plus, audio transmits tones and emotions in voices you just can’t replicate in text.

Will People Pay for Podcasts?

It’s been noted in surveys that people are more likely to pay for finance news or sports news than other content. It makes sense. Finance news directly affects peoples’ wallets, and many people are fervent about sports. So it would seem monetizing content has a lot to do with the category of the content.

So how do you get people to subscribe and pay for content? Give them a free sample. Give them a free sample and make it the best sample they ever tasted. (Bloomberg used iamplify.com to monetize their podcasts.) People need to know or perceive value in order to pay for news.

So can audio podcasts save the news industry? Probably not, but it can help add additional revenue to at least keep them in business –  and that would be good news for us all.

Use Podcast Audio for Other Content

KCET Departures Website
KCET Departures Website

The KCET Departures Web site highlights the history of various Los Angeles neighborhoods. The site is wonderfully art directed and deep. It uses “murals” to tell the history of neighborhoods. It combines audio, video, photos and text in an interactive experience.

The reason I mention the site is to demonstrate that audio podcasts can be more than just radio-like audio feeds. They can be combined into greater interactive experiences – as well as radio-like feeds.

Podcasts live a dual life – they live in an Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts feed away from the Web browser, and embedded in Web content like blogs and interactive experiences. Find a way to make your audio content work overtime.

Podcast Using Other People’s Content – Legally

Ever think your own content, while good, isn’t as interesting as watching a newscast with multiple angles and footage and editing that makes it gripping? Fret no more my friends. The Creative Commons Web site allows you to search for images, video, and more using multiple sources. You can then find content other sources have granted for commercial reuse, and add it to your audio or video podcast. You can even submit content of your own to get more exposure. Most content requires you to attribute the source, but this okay since good content providers should attribute sources for material that is not original.

Creative Commons Search
Creative Commons Search

People familiar with open source software will understand the concept of Creative Commons. They are very similar. For example, if you were doing a podcast commentary on Google Buzz, and you found a Creative Commons video of a professor speaking on the subject, you could edit the raw MPEG video file and include clips in your own podcast as reference material. This will certainly make your own podcast more interesting as well as more trustworthy. You could even find images that relate to the topic to include in your podcast cover or video thumbnail. Just find content that allows for commercial use and attribute. Try searching from their homepage and see what you find for your topic.

Of course, there are many levels of license restrictions, so pay attention to the icons for anything Creative Commons. I was explaining to a co-worker about open source software I used to enhance my custom built CRM software. She asked, “Why would anyone give out software for free?” A valid question. Why would anyone blog or podcast for free? To share and get exposure. Good things go around and come back. Besides, not sharing is very 80s.

If you have other suggestions for free content sites, please leave a comment.

Boost Your Marketing with Your Podcast

Audio is a channel just like video, text, Instagram Stories, and billboards. It’s another place to put your message. If your audience listens to podcasts, why wouldn’t you be in their space? Podcast directories allow you the chance to be omnichannel.

I think it’s a large boost to credibility when your podcast is listed in a podcast directory like Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts. Plus, links to your site come from apple.com and google.com.

Podcast directories often have listener comment areas. It’s a chance to further boost your message. The more ratings and comments you get, the higher position the algorithm will reward you with.

Marketing online is a links game. The more relevant links to your online property, the better.

Podcast Promo Codes

A discussion with Hal Werner about trends with podcast promo codes, freemium, and the “theater of the mind.”

Podcast for Your Soul

Speak your soul with a podcast and save yourself!

Everyone has opinions, and podcasting gives you a channel to express them. In fact, I argue that you are doing the world a disservice by NOT podcasting. The reason? People need great content, great opinions, facts,  and personality. Content doesn’t reach anyone when it’s not public. You have something to say, right? You can say it better than others, right? Yeah, that’s right.

Podcasting can be a confessional for you.  Studies often show that people feel better when they speak about what’s on their mind. You are more likely to build a podcast audience when you are honest about what’s on your mind. People form a relationship with people they trust. There’s nothing more intimate than just a voice and someone’s attention.

Did your mother ever tell you to eat vegetables because it was good for you? What if you ate vegetables and it was good for other people too? In a sense, when you podcast you are helping people in some way. They want to be informed, entertained, or enlightened. Provide that to your fellow man.

As a writer, I find many parallels between podcasting and blogging. Essentially they achieve the same effect – reaching an audience using a medium. Like writers, podcasters become famous because they have something interesting to say, and it’s the way they say it or presents themselves that gains them an audience. Many podcasters are radio personalities that just transitioned to podcasting. Same rules apply. Podcasting IS a form of radio.

Did you ever want to run your own show? Yeah, it’s possible with podcasting. In fact, as I writer, I was always frustrated with copyeditors. I had a great title for an article, but they always came up with something boring, inappropriate, or simply unrelated to the article content. My articles succeeded in spite of this, and were syndicated anyway because of their content. With podcasting, you can name your episodes anything you want. You decide the intro and outro music, your guests, and topics. That’s powerful. Oh, and NO ONE CAN CANCEL YOU OR YOUR SHOW.

Speak your soul and make your podcast happen. We’re all waiting to hear from you.

Produce Podcasts with the Help of the Community

Podcasting is a lot of fun. If you are interested in podcasting, join my LinkedIn group, Podcast Producers. It’s the largest and most popular podcasting group on LinkedIn.