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How to Start Your Podcast in 2019 According to an Expert

How to Start Your Podcast in 2019 According to an Expert

In 2018, we entered the Golden Age of podcasting. As we forge on into 2019, it seems we will only be spending more time with our headphones on. From celebrities going deep with their favorite spiritual healers to a couple New Zealanders watching the same awful Adam Sandler movie every week for a year, there really is a podcast for everybody.

Think starting a podcast is as simple as inviting a few friends over for a beer and firing up the voice recorder on your phone? Think again. According to Vik Singh of podcasting agency Alternate Thursdays, you’ll need to put in a little more work than that if you’re serious about seeing your podcast flourish in the long term.

Vik was an early adopter of podcasts back in the age of the iPod. After pursuing careers in music (gaining an understanding of audio production) and law, he finally realized his calling when a friend came to him for help with a podcast project. Now, he helps others create successful shows while also running the Bookstories and Podabing podcasts.

For those who might be considering starting a podcast in the new year, we asked Vik for some advice on developing a concept, investing in equipment, building an audience, and creating content for each episode. If you’re ready to live the dream, here are a few tips that will help you get your show up and running and (hopefully) get those Patreon dollars flowing in so you can finally quit your day job.

Start with an obsession.

The first problem to tackle when starting a podcast is coming up with a compelling idea. Some ideas might seem funny or intriguing initially, but remember that if your podcast is successful, you’re going to be discussing that topic for a long time.

“You have to be obsessed with the idea. I use that word — it’s a pretty specific word because the podcast is really all about authenticity,” says Vik. “The subject matter that you’re talking about, if you’re not obsessed with it or if it’s rote, listeners will tune out, and the success of the show will be very spotty or hit or miss.”

You don’t need to be an expert.

You might think creating a podcast on a topic like quantum physics or the history of the pencil might require you to be an expert. According to Vik, that’s not the case.

“One of the ways a podcast can be really interesting is if the host is not an expert in the subject matter. Some of the most successful shows are the ones where people are feeling their way through something, but it’s powered by this genuine curiosity and interest,” says Vik.

Tap into the subculture.

If you’re not sure about your idea, get in touch with your potential audience, and bounce your ideas off them. “The low hanging fruit is to go on reddit and see if there’s a subreddit for the topic that you’re interested in,” says Vik.

“Reach out to the subreddit group and ask them. That’s something that should give you a lot of confidence, if a hundred people are messaging you saying, ‘We’ll definitely tune in if you make this.’ I guarantee you if you dig deep enough on the internet, you will find the subculture. If that culture doesn’t exist, then that might be a tell,” he says.

Learn the basics of audio recording.

One of the most intimidating things about starting a podcast is navigating the recording process. Poor audio quality is a quick way to turn people off and alienate your audience. While you will need to learn the basics like how to set up a microphone and check your levels, the kind of equipment you choose should reflect how complex your project is and how deep you’re willing to go into the recording process.

You can get away with using a USB microphone, but if you’re serious, Vik advises taking it to the next level and buying a professional microphone designed for the human voice, a pre-amplifier (a device that makes the microphone’s signal louder), and an audio editing program.

Always use a script.

While your favorite podcasts might seem like spontaneous, free-flowing conversations, most serious podcasters use some kind of script even if it’s just a bullet list of topics they want to cover. Scripting can help you maintain the momentum during the recording, and it can also reduce the time you spend editing.

“Scripting gives you an ability to be editorial early in the process. If you have a script and you stick to it you will save time on the back end and you’re just being naturally respectful of your audience from the get go,” says Vik.

Of course, if you’re doing a voice-over, or your show is more of a narrative format or not based on live discussions, then you may need to write a more detailed, word-for-word script.

Invite experts and celebrities to appear on your show.

It can be a tough ask to fill an hour’s worth of podcast on your own. If you’re overwhelmed, reach out to experts, celebrities, other podcasters, or your peers to be guests on your show. Mixing it up with different guests can bring new perspectives to your topic and keep it interesting for your audience. Having guests with a following may even bring you more listeners.

“Reach out to people that have actually done something on the subject matter, like writers or bloggers or other sorts of social experts, and if you don’t have the tools, or if you don’t have the resources, or you don’t think you’re a very good host, try and partner up,” says Vik. “A lot of people out there want to do collaborative work. Another way is reach out to somebody who’s done a written version of what you’re doing and ask them if they want to collaborate on turning that written version into an audio version, and come up with some sort of a joint venture.”

Stick it out.

It may seem like podcasters suddenly achieve fame out of nowhere, but that’s actually very rare. For most people, it takes a long time to build an audience and work the kinks out of their content.

“There’s this belief that as soon as you push publish, a million people are going to download your show and you’re going to be world famous. It happens very rarely. As with all things in life, it’s all about the long game,” says Vik. He also warns about getting into podcasting for the wrong reasons. “People that think it’s going to be like a short-term boost to their profile; they’re pretty much wrong.”

It all comes back to your obsession.

If you’re still psyched to start a podcast despite the risk of failure and the hefty investment of time (and possibly cash), that’s a good sign. Vik’s last word of advice is to always bring it back to your obsession. If you’re constantly second-guessing yourself, it’s time to go back and revisit your idea.

Your topic should be so amazing that it keeps you going when you are rejected for the 100th time, when the money runs out, or when the trolls pan your show. “[Your obsession is] going to see you through all those moments when you’re in the fetal position on the bathroom floor saying, ‘What have I done, why have I spent all this money on all this equipment, what am I doing?’” says Vik.

It’s hard to get accurate data on how many podcasts fail, but it’s safe to say that a large number go dormant within 12 months of launching. If you’re in it for the long game, it’s worth doing it right. Or, at least not as half-assed as everyone else.

For upcoming podcast workshops, keep an eye on the Alternate Thursdays Eventbrite page or visit the Alternate Thursdays website.