If you have ever felt the impulse to make a podcast, you are not alone. According to podcast search engine Listen Notes, a record 292,041 new podcasts were launched in 2019, up from only 8,786 new podcasts in 2007.
But while many people are starting podcasts, it’s important to note that it’s not easy.
“A [podcast], it’s a lot more work that people realize,” said Marty Grohman, host of the Grow Maine Show. “It better be something you are intellectually invested in, or you’ll just hang it up.”
Here is what experienced podcasters in Maine say you need to start your own podcast and have it stand out among the noise.
Pick a topic
First, you need to choose a topic or theme for your podcast.
“You definitely need to have a passion, something that you really want to explore and dig into [so] you can bring your listener on that journey,” Grohman said.
Grohman said to choose a theme that is “niche ‘til it hurts.” A unique topic will make your podcast stand out.
You will also need to choose a format for your podcast: news, conversational interviews, personal monologues, non-fiction narratives, fiction storytelling or something else entirely.
Listening to other podcasts and figuring out what you enjoy can help you decide your format. Cherie Scott, creator and host of Mumbai to Maine, a podcast that interviews Maine’s food entrepreneurs, said that she modeled her podcast after one of her favorites, “How I Built This” hosted by Guy Raz.
For Cameron Autry, host of the Southern Maine Report, choosing the format helped him develop his theme. He enjoyed listening to comedy-style podcasts with “free-flowing, conversational style.”
“I thought, ‘What’s a way I could do that for my podcast?’” Autry said. “The idea was to find interesting people around southern Maine and talk to them about their arc through life.”
All podcasters need some special equipment, as well as a place to record.
The basic tools include a computer with audio editing software (free programs like GarageBand for Mac work fine, Autry said), microphones (Grohman he uses a pair of lapel microphones that cost about $75 each) and headphones (studio headphones are preferable, Autry said, because they are more comfortable to wear long-term and help to cancel out background noise).
A home studio with sound-proofed walls (which can be done cheaply with foam pads) works well as a recording space.
“Finding a location to record in was incredibly painful in the beginning,” Autry said. “Now, I have a private home studio, [but] I recorded in probably four different coworking spaces [before that].”
If you plan to record in the field, though, Grohman also recommends having a Zoom H4n microphone.
“I can think of any number of my episodes that were built around some great conference that nobody thought to record,” Grohman said.
The equipment you use doesn’t necessarily need to be super expensive, but it should be the best quality you can afford. Autry estimated it cost him around $500 to get started.
Book and record guests
Once you’re technically prepared, it’s time to begin work on the content. If your plans include interviewing people on your podcast, cast a wide net and send potential guests a personal message via email or social media.
Autry said to avoid using overly-formal email templates when conducting outreach.
“Speak to them in what they can get out of it, but make it personal, keep it fun,” he advised.
When you are interviewing, Scott said that you should know as much as possible about the guests before you record with them.
“You have to do your homework as a host,” she said. “Knowledge is power.”
Grohman said to keep the mic running before and after the official “interview” to catch candid moments (though you should always disclose to guests when these are going to be used in the final cut of the podcast).
Posting your podcast episodes regularly is one of the most important parts of retaining listeners.
“It’s fine to take a hiatus, but if you don’t show up, people will forget you’re there,” Autry said. “Every other week is the bare minimum that you should do. You should shoot for every week or more.”
Make sure you are posting your podcast on every possible platform as well: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Overcast, Pocketcast and SoundCloud, just to name a few.
“It’s all free to upload your podcasts to any of them, and it’s incredibly easy to do so,” Autry said. “That might sound intimidating, but that’s about the easiest part.”
Some podcasters suggest having a few episodes in the bank before you launch — Grohman recommended having three ready to go before you start publishing — but others think you should just get the ball rolling.
“Just put it out there and go for it,” Autry said. “If you release your first episode you can get feedback [before you record your next episode].”
Partner and promote
Finding partners with existing audiences — like radio stations, publications, organizations and companies, when appropriate — will make sure your podcast has more reach.
This will look different for everyone. Scott partnered with Maine magazine before she even started her podcast. Grohman currently airs his show on WGAN, though he was a podcaster for years before doing so.
“It’s very important at the end of the day [to work] with a partner who has a presence in the space where you want to be heard,” Scott said.
Make sure you promote your podcast on social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Autry recommended using an app called Headliner to create visual audio bites with captions that are easy to post on social media.
Cross-promoting episodes with guests will also help get more ears on your podcast.
“Make sure the guests believe in telling the stories, so that they share it on all their platforms, that they put a link to it on their websites,” Scott said.
Aim to grow incrementally
When you are just starting out, Autry said not to fret too intensely over small details. A good goal is to try to make everything “one to two percent better” every episode, from sound engineering to promotion, Autry said.
Most importantly, remember to have fun.
“It should be a passion project,” Autry said. “Don’t go into it thinking you’re going to make any money. You will build a network of people when you podcast. If you stick with it, you’ll benefit in ways you didn’t realize.”
Story by Sam Schipani.