Well, that escalated quickly. If you’re a podcaster, you’ve seen the explosive growth of the medium over the last few years.
When I launched my first show on November 25th, 2014, I thought I was late to the party — but that wasn’t the case.
Back in those days, there were roughly 50,000 podcasts. Today, there are around 850,000 active podcasts.
I started just after the second wave of podcasting happened, and since then, there have been several more waves. In 2015, podcast ad revenue was around $70 million.
Today, it’s over $650 million.
All this growth has been great, but at the moment, the podcast scene is being dominated by celebrities, corporations, and huge podcast networks.
It’s making it hard for the little guy to stand out, but through the years, I’ve picked up some valuable lessons.
Over the last 5 years, I’ve hosted multiple shows, recorded 350 episodes, Interviewed some of the top minds in my field, and have hundreds of thousands of downloads.
Here are 5 things to focus on if you're thinking about starting your own podcast.
1. Just Launch Your Show
Even though there’s more competition for podcasts, there’s an even bigger audience. It’s important to get your show out there as soon as possible to build a following.
Podcasting is still one of the best mediums to grow your brand and business and only continues to grow. Here are a few amazing podcast stats:
- 70% of Americans are now familiar with what a podcast is
- 51% of the population have listened to a podcast
- 32% of the population listens to podcasts at least every month
- Half of all podcast listeners are in the coveted 25 to 44 age demographic
- Weekly podcast listeners spend an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes listening each week
- 45% of podcast listeners have a $250,000 + annual income
You can see what an amazing platform this is, with an ideal audience. If you’ve been debating releasing a show into the wild: just do it.
2. Your First Few Episodes Will Be Terrible
This is a good thing, as it gives you a starting point to build from. These first episodes will get you on the path to finding your voice and developing your style.
If I go back and listen to some of my first episodes; I dry heave. I knew they would suck, and that’s the point.
You have to start somewhere and understand what your strengths and weaknesses are.
You need to put in the reps to develop a better speaking style, tone, and inflection. This only comes with time, so don’t worry about those first shows being lackluster.
Takeaway tip: Don’t release the first recording of your first episode if you’ve never done this before. The nervousness and apprehension will be apparent. Instead, record it; then record it again; then record it again.
Releasing the third or fourth take will help warm you up to get comfortable with the entire process.
3. Great Audio is Critical
If I hear a podcast with poor audio — I'm out. There really is no excuse for this now. The technology is so much more affordable and usable, that poor sound shouldn’t be an issue.
A great microphone is paramount for your podcast. The good news is there are many great options for under $100. As you progress, you can upgrade.
You don't have to record in a professional studio or use a mixer — but those things will help.
You can still use a great USB mic, plug it into your Mac, and use Garageband to create an amazing podcast.
You can record in a closet, and make your own soundproofing — but that microphone will be key.
During the pandemic, I couldn’t use the studio where I normally record. Instead of pausing the show, I set up a makeshift studio using couches and pillows to create soundproofing (it also doubled as a nice fort).
I bought the best USB microphone I could find and an adapter to use with my iPhone.
I used Garageband on my phone (which isn’t as bad as I thought) and kept the show going. And you know what? It wasn’t perfect — but a lot closer to the studio recordings than I thought was possible.
That’s how key a great mic is.
Takeaway tip: Investing in a pop filter will also go a long way for better sound quality.
4. Launch Your Podcast With Multiple Episodes
I’ve had a few podcasts including a health and fitness show, and one about pop culture/nostalgia. When I launched both, I made sure to have 3 to 5 episodes ready to go.
If someone finds your show early on, having a single episode doesn’t give them much to consume.
If they like what they hear, they’ll want more, and you want to provide that for them.
Having 3 to 5 episodes on launch day will give them something to binge listen to and get drawn in.
Takeaway tip: Make those first few episodes like a mini-series. There can be a connected theme running through them, but create something that requires them to listen to the next episode to keep following your topic.
To go one step further: Release a podcast trailer. Everyone loves movie trailers, and this can be a 1 to 3-minute synopsis so people can know what to expect from your new show.
5. Have an Avatar In Mind
There are podcasts for every topic and niche you could possibly think of.
Whatever your specialty is, you can find an audience for it. The important thing when starting out is to picture your ideal listener.
What kind of work do they do? How old are they? Where do they live, etc? When you have your ideal listener in mind, it makes it easier to cater your show towards them.
No matter how small a niche you think you are in, there are thousands and thousands of potential listeners.
6. Expect Technical Mistakes to Happen
Count on it, actually. This is especially true if you are going to be hosting interviews. You are at the mercy of technology, and we know how bad that can go.
Plan on recordings to get botched, interviews to drop out, and sound levels to get messed up. First, understand it’s not the end of the world, but be prepared to deal with them.
If you can anticipate problems, you’ll be better able to handle them.
I once interviewed Hal Elrod, the best-selling author of “The Miracle Morning” for my health podcast. During the interview, I knew there were some connectivity issues happening, but I had to keep it going.
When I went back to edit it, around 20% of the show just didn’t record, and there were long blank sections.
I only had that one shot to interview him, so I had to go back and awkwardly edit it together.
I gave a disclaimer at the start of the show explaining the issue, but the audience understands as everyone experiences technical problems.
I’ve had guests on where the wifi dropped out in the middle and they continued to talk the entire time.
I would have to jump back in, seem like I was always there, and hope I didn’t sound like an idiot with my responses.
Another time, I was interviewing someone with one of the biggest health podcasts out there. It was a big deal to have her on, and after her great opening response — I realized it wasn’t recording.
She was gracious enough to start the show over and redo her opening.
The takeaway is to plan on issues coming up, understand that it’s often out of your hands, and don’t get rattled.
Here’s one last story relating to that.
On my health podcast, I got the chance to interview WWE Hall of Famer, Diamond Dallas Page about his incredibly successful Yoga business.
I only had a short amount of time and it was a miracle he could squeeze me in.
I had the perfect opening statement/question which I was sure would impress him and set the tone for the interview.
And I completely botched it.
I had rehearsed it in my head so many times, but what came out of my mouth made no sense.
I could feel he was thinking I was an idiot (which is true), but I quickly transitioned it into something else to get the interview going.
We struck up a good rapport, and he stayed for twice as long as he was supposed to.
Key takeaway: Try not to get flustered if you are doing interviews and be ready to take things in a different direction if need be.
7. Keep Editing to a Minimum
You want your show to sound natural, but editing still has its place. It’s great to take out mistakes or eliminate gaps of silence — but you don’t want to overdo it.
If you have every moment edited, it can take away that natural flow. Too much editing may make your episodes sound mechanical and unnatural.
You don't want your show too loose, but I think it’s helpful to have some “um’s,” and “ah’s” in there. This helps you to better connect with listeners as the show becomes more like a conversation.
This is one of the big draws to the podcast medium. There is an intimacy with the listeners that you don’t get on other platforms.
Blogs are great, YouTube videos are effective, but with a podcast, you are right in their ear. You go wherever they go, and you build that powerful connection with the listener.
If you’re a podcaster and have ever met your listeners, they will always say how they feel like they already know you. This is the connection that only podcasts provide.
Podcasting also brings you a more engaging and devoted audience compared to other platforms.
The average person spends around 8.4 minutes on YouTube at a time, 37 seconds on a blog, your social media post can disappear in one scroll, but remember: the average weekly listener is consuming 6 hours and 37 minutes of podcasts.
Podcasting is not going anywhere. In fact, it’s getting stronger by the day. Joe Rogan’s $100 million Spotify deal has shown how powerful this medium is. The good news is, it’s not too late to start.
Here are the main takeaways:
Just launch: Podcasting only continues to grow, so there is no time like the present to get started. The sooner you start, the sooner you can grow.
Don’t worry about sucking at first: Everyone starts somewhere. Don’t get discouraged if it’s not going great at first. Podcasting is a skill — like anything else — and takes time to develop.
Great audio is critical: You don’t have to spend a fortune on equipment. There will be time for that later. For now, just get the best microphone you can afford, and a simple pop filter.
Watch YouTube tutorials about simple mixing and sound levels to make your show sound as good as possible.
So take some of these tips and learn from the shows that influence you the most to make your podcast great. Give yourself all the chance to succeed as a small fish in an increasingly bigger pond.