In this newsletter, I explain how to record your own podcast and what would Darwin say about it (although I didn’t ask him).
It seems like everywhere you turn, somebody is recommending their newsletter or a podcast. Did you know that in April, iTunes has crossed 1 million registered podcasts? During the pandemic, more people started their podcasting careers – this is a great shelter-in-place activity, and an excellent excuse to interview your best friend! And in case you want to invite an expert – it’s easier than ever before because they are not busy traveling all the time.
You don’t need new gear or a studio. A good video-call headset is enough and you can record via Zoom. Stop browsing those fancy microphones!
You don’t need to do any fancy audio editing. In the article, I explain how to do what you need in iTunes and Garageband.
You can publish your podcasts via your blog, or a dedicated service. What matters is the RSS feed (explained in the article). You submit this RSS feed to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all the others. New episodes appear automatically once you publish it at the source (your blog or the podcasting service you use )
Doesn’t it mean more competition?
Attention is indeed a finite resource. You can listen to only as many podcasts during the day, and your cognitive load is further limiting that number. If more podcasts are fighting for the same listenership, doesn’t it mean there is no point in producing a new one?
There are more weird niches on the Internet than you realize, even if you account for the fact that there are more niches on the Internet then you realize (see David Perrell’s version). People are roughly the same but have infinite idiosyncrasies, tastes, and life experiences. They want to hear about different topics and may become enamored with a topic that others find mundane.
And for some people – you’re the expert! While the unimaginative „current events” podcast format is saturated, try finding a niche – the more quirky and unusual, the better:
When the obvious ideas are taken, it makes us explore a more unusual and interesting approach. By trial-and-error, you may discover a hungry audience that didn’t know what they craved. Everything on the Internet evolved until it “started working”, and we have a long way to go still.
This concept was novel on November 24, 1859, when Charles Darwin published „On the origin of species”:
“One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.”
Civilization and the social support system we created removed life-or-death struggle as a daily occurrence. I’m sure everybody reading this newsletter will not have to worry about starvation. Instead, civilization has created a framework for the development of ideas. When more creators can release their’s into the world, they can compete, cross-pollinate, and evolve until all that’s left are the most beautiful and valuable ones.
Painters like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael didn’t produce the most famous art pieces in history despite the competition of 16th century Florence – they did so, because of healthy competition nudging them to create something better.
This is a story of how I started a podcast, in 3 hours (apart from waiting for iTunes verification), with a total cost of $5/month. And that included my own domain name! I share detailed instructions on launching a brand new podcast on WordPress, and later promoting it on iTunes and Spotify.
Why would you want to start a podcast?
Podcasting has been hailed “the new blogging”. According to Edison Research, 51% of Americans have ever listened to a podcast and the medium use has grown 122% since 2014. Listening to a conversation creates a deeper connection and for some, it is more entertaining than the written word.
Together, with a group of Polish bloggers, we were dreaming about a foray into podcasting. We created Placebo Podcast in hopes of meeting interesting people and frankly – having fun.
The title reads “Your dose of absolutely nothing. Confirmed clinical efficacy”
What are the benefits of podcasting?
You can connect with your audience on a much deeper level thanks to your voice and the unscripted nature of the conversation,
It is a fantastic excuse to reach out and meet interesting people,
Interviewing people can help you practice listening skills
How does it all work?
You may have listened to a podcast on iTunes, Spotify or another app. But did you know that the content you are enjoying does not originate there?
The beating heart of every podcast is it’s RSS feed. It is a particular format of new blog content that other services – like iTunes or Spotify can consume and display in the appropriate apps, Alexa devices and various services.
To start a podcast, you need a blog. Then you submit it’s RSS feed to podcast services – like iTunes or Spotify.
What is the easiest way to start a blog? With WordPress.com you can be finished in 10 minutes. You don’t have to worry about hosting, hackers, FTP, GIT, NSA, and other scary 3-letter acronyms. The service has been around for more than 10 years and you don’t have to watch out for ground shifting under your feet. You own your domain and can take it to any competitor.
Full transparency: I work for the parent company (Automattic) on an unrelated product line. I was motivated to check out how our podcasting offering works.
These instructions will also work if you have your own installation of WordPress, on your own host. Once you set up a site, and connect a domain – the following tutorial should be similar.
What do you need to start?
Settle upon a memorable and distinctive name,
Record at least three episodes, so when you are published on iTunes, your listeners will have a better taste of your style,
Edit them with intro and outro so that your listeners can recognize your work. Also, if they listen to a standalone episode, it’s good to explain to them what your whole podcast is about and ask them to subscribe,
Make sure iTunes and Spotify present a fetching cover art so that it is easily recognizable on the list of podcasts,
Make sure your episodes have a place to live, where you can connect with your listeners, posts notes, etc – that is your site!,
You have to submit your podcast to iTunes podcasts, Spotify and Google Play. Majority of podcast listeners use one of these services, so you have to meet them where they are,
Promote, promote, promote,
The name of your podcast will help your listeners find you in their favourite podcasting app. Making it memorable was our main goal and trying to be somewhat humorous was the second. We came up with “Placebo – podcast with a confirmed clinical efficacy”.
People will consume your amazing podcast through an app. You have only a few places to stand out:
Cover art should be simple and easy to recognize. Since my podcast is named Placebo, some kind of satirical medical vibe would be best. One of my co-podcasters had a Shutterstock account, where we found a nice graphic. After a few tweaks, tada!
Cover art should have 1400×1400 px, so remember to find big enough image
Itunes limits the summary to 250 characters, so you have to distill the description of your intended content. We wanted to give listeners a taste and encourage them to give us a listen.
We also made sure to link to our site, where they can learn more.
Podcasting Settings on WordPress.com are located here.
How do you record? Do you have fancy gear?
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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash
I have some good news and some bad news for you. Good news:
You don’t need fancy gear!
You have no excuse to keep browsing podcasting gear.
You should get to work right away. Here is what we do:
My podcasting friends live in different cities, so we decided to record our podcast in a distributed fashion.
We are using zoom.us, a teleconferencing software similar to Skype. Because our meetings have 3 participants, we are limited to 40 minutes if we want to keep using the free version. We embraced this limitation – 40 minutes of listening to me can drive anybody mad.
The audio will travel through the magic portals of the Internet to the meeting hosts’ computer, where it will be recorded. After wrapping up, we have a recording to publish. If you decide to go this route, I have a few tips for you:
Buy some decent (not fancy) microphone. I am using Sennheiser SC-160. Just don’t use the earbuds you got with your phone
Jump on a quick call before you start recording to make sure the audio is ok
Turn off video if you want to save transfer for better sound. Video tends to steal from audio quality
Remember to press record! You don’t want to have the most exciting conversation in the history of conversations only to find out you never captured it. Or maybe you do – in which case podcasting may not be a good fit.
After you finish your zoom call, you will have a file `audio_only.m4a`.
Here is how you can edit using most basic tools
Photo by Adam Sherez on Unsplash
What is the best tool? The one you already have. My Mac came with GarageBand preinstalled, so I decided to stick with it. There is now a plethora of fancy podcast-editing setups, but this is just a fun session with friends, not money-making business recording.
Podcast editing in Garage Band
Get your audio logo. This will be the piece of music that will evoke memories of your other episodes and make sure listeners recognize you. I purchased a one for $10, but there are sites with free music you can download,
Fire off Garageband, with a new “Voice” project,
Record your intro. We decided that intro should give a taste what is in the episode and entice the listeners to give it a try,
Record your outro. After the episode, we want to convince the listeners to try other episodes or check out more on our sites. We recorded outro once and reuse it on all episodes.
Now you can overlay your audio logo with your intro and outro.
Drag audio logo file to Garageband
To create nice transitions and regulate audio levels, Select Mix->Automate and select “Volume” from the menu that just appeared under your audio track.
Now clicking on your audio track will create a graph that will help you create fade in and out
Drop your recording file, adjust the volume
Export the audio file
To make sure iTunes presents your image next to the episode as well, you have to edit what is called ID3 tags. The easiest way to do this is iTunes. Select your file, click “information”
After you edit the information in iTunes, upload your cover art and click OK, your episode will appear in iTunes Podcast library. You can find this file in your Home Directory / Music / iTunes / Podcasts
Uploading to WordPress
On WordPress.com, each episode of your podcast will be a separate WordPress post. You will have a unique link to share with your audience, a way for them to listen to your episode without the app and the place to share notes and links to the episode.
Maybe it is my scout upbringing ( “be prepared” ), but I like to double-check things. I recommend submitting your podcast feed to a service like https://podba.se/validate/ .
The online validator will do a few checks and reassure you that you are ready to submit your podcast to iTunes or Spotify.
Time to go live
Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash
You have your domain and a site for your podcast,
You recorded a few episodes, gave them intro and an outro,
Uploaded them and published on your site,
Checked your podcast feed and everything is working
Now it’s time to publish your podcast to the world!
As I mentioned, majority of people consume podcasts through an app. Be it iTunes podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, etc. Fortunately, they all work by checking your RSS feed. After you submit it to those services, your podcasting magic will work seamlessly!
After your podcast is reviewed and approved in the libraries, remember to publish those links on your site. That way you will be able to promote your beautiful WordPress.com domain and when somebody visits your site, they will be able to choose their preferred podcast consuming technology. We put these buttons right up at the top:
As you can see, publishing a podcast is not hard. That means a lot of people can do it – and indeed, they do. The number of podcasts is exploding, and that is a good thing – more and more quality content (like yours) will be created.
But it also means more competition.
You will have to promote your podcast on Social Media or meet with other podcasters to appear on their shows. I do plan on doing that myself, and I will share my findings.
Now that you have everything set up, whenever you publish a new post with the audio file, it will automatically be picked up by iTunes and Spotify.
Your listeners will marvel at your brilliance, and advertisers will fly bags of money directly into your mansion so you can fill up your Jacuzzi with $100 bills.
Or, you end up like me, with about ten people listening to you 🙂