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PodSchool Podcast | The four things you need to start a podcast

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Podcast equipment must haves…

If you’re thinking of starting a podcast but don’t know the first thing about what you need, it can be easy to overbuy.  Or throw your hands up and think “This is too confusing!”

Do you need a mixer?  Will your computer microphone do?  Do you have to buy special headphones or can you just use the ones you got with your phone?

Search Google for long enough and you’ll have a shopping list of 1000 items but the truth is, to get your idea out of your head and into people’s ears you only need four things…

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Microphone(s)

It stands to reason if you want people to hear you, you have to get the words from your lips into an audio file, and that means you need a microphone for everyone who’ll be speaking on your show.

Unfortunately, your computer’s inbuilt microphone isn’t going to cut it.

Record into that and it’ll sound like you’re broadcasting live from a toilet.

How to record high-quality audio at home

Read

To get good audio quality and create the intimate environment that’s essential in podcasting you really need to be as close to your mic as possible.

A great mic to start with is the Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB/XLR Microphone.

It’s a USB mic as well as an XLR mic (if this is starting to sound like eye-glazing jargon, don’t worry all you need to worry about is the USB bit).

What’s the difference between USB & XLR microphones?

Read

A USB mic plugs right into the USB port of your computer and it’s the simplest way to record audio when you’re starting out.

It’s also a good idea while you’re mic shopping to get a pop guard, which is a little foam sock you put over the top of your microphone that helps avoid some of the harsh P and B sounds called “pops.” These can be grating for your listener and if they’re really bad you’ll need to correct them in your edit which can be a fiddly job.

So rather than having to waste time doing that after the fact, it’s great if you can avoid them when you’re recording.  Using a pop guard will help with that as will talking across your microphone rather than straight down the barrel.

Headphones

When you’re recording it’s essential you’re listening to the audio your audience will hear.

There are so many sounds you won’t pick up with your naked ears that will affect your record, plus if you’re wearing headphones you’ll be able to tell whether you and your guest are off mic and adjust accordingly.

Why you need to wear headphones

Read

These are the things you won’t be able to fix when you’re in the editing phase and sometimes they can be so bad they render your whole record unusable.

But if you’re listening through headphones during the record you’ll have much more control over your final product.

If there’s a loud air conditioner that’s emitting an annoying buzz you’ll hear it and be about to turn it off or shift to another space.

You’ll also know whether you need to move closer to the mic or ask your guest to do the same.  In fact, both you and your guest should wear headphones at all times so they can regulate themselves rather than you having to interrupt them every five seconds to say “TALK INTO THE DAMN MIC!”

You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re having to rebook guests and do interviews all over again because you weren’t across how the audio sounded at the time.

Expensive headphones aren’t necessary, in fact, when you’re starting out you can use the earbuds that came with your phone and upgrade later.

It’s also a good idea, if you’re doing a show with guests, to pack a spare pair of headphones. Just make sure they’re the type that go OVER your ears because no guest wants to put some rando person’s wax in their earholes.

Audio Software

If you’re going to plug your microphone directly into your computer you’ll need software to record the audio.

The good news is you don’t even have to pay for it because there’s a free program called Audacity that allows you to record and edit your show for the bargain price of zero dollars.

There are a lot of podcasters who love this program and still use it even after they’ve “gone pro”.  Personally, I find it a bit clunky and prefer Adobe Audition which you can purchase for a monthly fee.

How to make editing easier when you’re recording your podcast

Read

Ultimately your choice of audio software will come down to personal preference.

You want a program that makes sense to you, that you find easy to navigate and that you enjoy working in.

A Podcast Host

When you’ve exported your show to MP3 you’ll need somewhere for the file to live and that’s where your podcast host comes in.

Podcast hosts are an essential part of getting your show into people’s ears and they’re not expensive.  There are a bunch of different hosts out there so again it will come down to personal preference…

Libsyn

This is one of the longest-running and most trusted hosts.  I started out using them and never had a problem but I decided to upgrade to Whooshkaa because I preferred their tech and player design.  There are a lot of really successful podcasts that use this platform so if you go with them you’ll be in safe hands.

Blubrry

Another long-running host that a lot of podcasters recommend.

Omny

A popular host with a nice player design and a simple interface to navigate.  Unfortunately, their players don’t currently play natively in Facebook and Twitter which is a bit of a bummer.

Whooshkaa

This is the host I currently use for my personal shows.  They’ve got great tech and I love the design of their embedded player.

Their sharing capabilities are also much better as their players play natively in Facebook and Twitter which is something other platforms don’t do.  You can sign up for free and they also serve ads on their network so you can make a bit of money from your podcast.

No matter who you go with when you create your show the host will generate an “RSS feed” which is the link you’ll submit to podcast directories like iTunes.

How to submit your podcast to iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify

Read

Once your show has been submitted to these directories all you need to do is go into your podcast host, create a new episode and each new show will be automatically sent to your listener’s podcast app.

And that’s it!  The four things you need to kick off your podcast!

If you’re just starting out it’s ok to get the bare essentials and build up your kit as time goes on but if you just had these four things you can still create a professional sounding show that will stand the test of time.

Need a little more help? Check out my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

Got some time on your hands? Read the full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to the show. Today I'm going to be talking about four things that you need to get your podcast from your head into people's ears. There are a lot of other things you can add to the equipment you have but when you're starting out you don't want too much paraphernalia. Just start out with these four things and that will be enough to get your show out into iTunes without too much hassle and fuss.

The first thing is a microphone. It stands to reason if you want people to hear you, you have to have a way to get your voice recorded so you're going to need a microphone. Your computer microphone (the little holes on the front of the laptop) is not going to cut it. If you record into that it's going to sound to your audience like you are recording on a toilet because you'll be too far away from the microphone. It also picks up everything including echo and room noise so ideally you'll need a microphone you can get up close and personal with so that you can get as intimate with your listener as possible. This is how you build a connection with the person on the other side of the headphones, so getting decent quality mic is very important if you want your show to sound good. A great basic mic is the ATR2100 by Audio Technica. It's a USB mic as well as an XLR mic. If you're not sure of the difference between the two you can head to PodSchoolPodcast.com and type "XLR" into the search bar. I have an episode of this show about that. But if you are just starting out and you want things to be as simple as possible the simplest way to hook a microphone up is to plug it into your computer. That's where a USB mic comes in handy. A USB mic plugs right into the USB port of your computer so you can record right there. That will be the simplest way to do things when you're starting out.

The other thing that isn't technically on my list of four things (so better make it four and a half) is a pop guard. That's the little foam sock you put over the top of your microphone that helps take away some of the harsh P and B sounds that are called "pops." It can be quite grating for your listener and it's good if you remove those. But if you've ever tried to remove them in post they're annoying because you have to go right in there and slice them super finely. So rather than having to do that after the fact it's always nice if you can avoid as many of them as possible in the record and a little pop guard will help you do that.

The second thing you need is the most important member of your podcasting kit and that is your headphones. You need to be able to hear everything that is recorded exactly as your listeners will hear it because you will not pick up things with your naked ears that you will pick up when you're hearing things with headphones that are coming through the microphone. Stuff like air conditioning or wind noise, things that you will kick yourself about when you hear them in the edit because it'll be too late to fix them. You need to make sure that you can adjust things in the moment when you're recording to avoid you having to go back and record again. This is particularly important if you have guests because you don't want to be ringing anybody saying "You know how it took me like nine months to book you? Well the funny thing is I can't record things properly so I need you to book time in your diary again, come back and pretend we didn't just have that half an hour conversation." You do not want to be doing that so you need to wear headphones so that you can tell if there's any noise that's making the audio sound bad. If your guest isn't on mic then you need to get them to get a little closer to the microphone so that they can be properly heard. If you're not on microphone that's important to correct and those are the things you can't tell unless you're wearing headphones so make sure they're part of your podcasting kit. You can of course just use the earbuds that come with your phone, you don't have to buy snazzy Dr. Dre Beats or anything like that. You can get away with earbuds quite easily and then as time goes on if you want to upgrade, go for it.

The third thing you need is audio software. If you are going to plug your microphone into your computer (and that's the simplest way to start) you need some software to record that show into. You don't have to pay for this software either because you can use a free program called Audacity. I will put links to this and everything else I refer to on the show notes page, just head to PodSchoolPodcast.com and type "equipment" into the search bar. Audacity is a program that a lot of podcasters swear by. I personally find it a little bit clunky so I use Audition and that's about $29 a month but if you just want to start out and give things a try, it does all the things you will need it to do so you can just download the free software online and give it a crack. You might love it because the other thing about audio software is that sometimes it all comes down to personal preference. You might use Audacity for ages and think "Well this is just the way I'm going to record my show" and if you don't have to do many complex things it can be really great to use for the life of your podcast. So audacity is the free version, Audition is a slightly more expensive version.

The fourth thing you need is a podcast host. When you record your audio you will be exporting your show to MP3 file and you need somewhere for those little MP3s to live. You do not want them to live in the media section of your website because your website will run like an old mule. The more files you have on there, the more people listen to them the more they're eating up your bandwidth and your website will be slow so you want to keep all of the audio and all of the giant files out of your backend and in the hands of people who do this for a profession. It's not very expensive to get a podcast host. Libsyn is one of the more popular ones is about five dollars a month. I use a platform called Whooshkaa. They are free but they also pop ads on to your content if you want them to so you can make a little bit of money from that. No matter who you go with it's not a huge investment but it is absolutely the smartest way to go when you create a show. The podcast host will create an RSS feed for you which is basically just a fancy way to say a URL that you copy and paste and give to iTunes and then everything happens automatically. I will pop a link to an episode about how to get your show into iTunes so that you can go into more detail if you want more information on that. The podcast host is essentially the link between you and iTunes or any other podcast directory you want to be a part of and it just makes things really simple. You create a new episode, put your title in and your description and its very very easy to use.

So those are the four things you need to start your podcast - a microphone with pop guard, headphones, audio software and a podcast host. I will post links to all those things and examples of each in the show notes page at PodSchoolPodcast.com.

It doesn't need to be super complex, you do not need 700 things and if people are starting to say to you when you're starting out you need a mixer or anything else fancy don't fall for the hype. Start simply, work out whether this is for you, work out whether you want to commit to this and do it every week and then as you grow your show and you grow your skills then start to build on the equipment and choose things that you like and you need. You'll start to get used to using things a certain way and then you'll be able to make more informed decisions. But in the beginning if you just have those four items you will still be able to get your show into peoples ears.

I hope that's helped you. If you are finding these tips useful I am always very happy to receive your reviews in iTunes or wherever you listen to this show. A little 5 star rating never goes astray. And as always you can check out my online podcasting course PodSchool at PodSchool.com. I'll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

 

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WANT TO START A PODCAST BUT HAVE NO IDEA HOW? THIS GUIDE TAKES YOU THROUGH ALL THE TOOLS AND TECH YOU NEED TO GET GOING!

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