There has never been an easier time to start a podcast. And during the pandemic, lots of us decided to give it a try!
As a result, there has also never been a more challenging time to build an audience for a podcast—because podcast listeners can choose from so many of them.
This guide will help you decide whether it’s a good idea for you or your organization to launch a podcast series and, if so, what podcast equipment you need, how to set yourself up for success, and how to avoid the most common mistakes.
What Makes a “Good” Podcast?
There is no single definition for a “good podcast,” a “successful podcast,” or even a “great podcast.” People make podcasts for a wide variety of reasons, and you need to think carefully about what a good and successful podcast means for you.
Many assume a good podcast is the same as a popular podcast: one with a vast audience that generates a lot of monetization and podcast advertising revenue. For Joe Rogan (Spotify), The Daily from The New York Times, Conan O’Brien (SiriusXM), or the Smartless team (Amazon), this certainly holds true.
For others, you might want to explore a hobby or passion. A good podcast might be talking about Dungeons & Dragons with your friends, talking to photography experts, or sharing your movie reviews. And if you’re doing it for fun, that is a good podcast for a considerable number of creators. The audience might be small, and you might not be doing the podcast to make a living.
For companies, your own podcast might be a way to position your brand or change your brand perception. And it might be targeted at a tiny, specific group of people. Considerations like audience size and revenue may or may not matter at all in a good podcast from a brand.
Whatever your reason for starting a podcast, you need to define what good means for you—and for your audience.
The only consistent factor for a good podcast across all use cases is that, as a creator, you need to put the audience first. Think about creating value for the people you want to reach above all else. If no one listens, it’s probably not going to meet anyone’s criteria for a good podcast anyway.
Why Do You Need a Strategy to Start a Podcast?
The most common beginner mistake new podcasters make is to jump into recording and releasing new episodes right away. They set an expectation that there are going to be regular episodes before they publish their first episode.
There is an initial burst of excitement and creativity, and real life sets in. Work gets busy. You take a holiday. Your kids are sick. And you miss a few episodes. And the listeners are small and not growing. Or even shrinking. Then your motivation disappears.
And the podcast dies a slow, painful death known in the industry as “Podfade.”
I am going to implore you to fight the urge to record and publish quickly. Instead, take some time to think carefully about what the podcast is for, who the podcast is for, why you are doing it, and how often you can realistically produce, publish, and promote an episode.
In short, before you hit record, you need a podcasting strategy.
6 Questions To Ask Before Your Start a Podcast
How should you decide whether it makes sense for you to start a new podcast? Here are the strategic questions you need to think about:
1. What does success look like for me?
Are you looking to make millions in ad revenue? Are you keen to share your love of pickleball with other pickleballers? Are you trying to establish yourself as a comedian and see a podcast as the right vehicle? Are you trying to change the way people perceive your brand?
There are countless reasons to start a podcast. What’s yours? You have to know why you are doing the show.
2. Who is the target audience? And what value am I creating for them?
No matter why YOU want to make the podcast, you must think about the people on the other end: new podcast listeners.
Who is the target audience you are trying to reach? Is it a massive mainstream audience like My Favorite Murder? Or is it a small, targeted niche of people who share your hobby or passion? This matters A LOT. Remember: Making something for everyone is making something for no one. Be specific. Choose carefully.
Once you know who you are trying to reach, you need to think about why they should listen. What is the gift that you are giving them with this podcast? What value are you creating with your podcast that did not exist beforehand?
3. Can I make my podcast differentiated from everything else out there?
There are a whole lot of podcasts in the world. Millions. And most of them aren’t very good. And most of them don’t have very many listeners.
The way you stand out is by thinking about what is going to make your podcast different than all the others. If you are hoping to make the best podcast about fantasy sports, have you researched what else is out there? Have you listened to the top fantasy sports podcasts you’ll be competing against?
Can you identify a gap that isn’t filled yet? A need that isn’t being served? Or an area where your unique point of view, experience, or approach will set you apart from everyone else?
There are a bunch of fantasy sports podcasts with sports fans sitting around a mic having an unedited conversation with each other. What’s going to be different and special about yours?
Here are some factors to consider when thinking about differentiation:
- Podcast format: Interviews? Conversations? Storytelling? Trivia? There are so many options to choose from.
- Audio quality: Are you editing out the boring parts? Are you mixing the show? Are you using good microphones?
- Podcast topic: Is your fantasy sports podcast about all fantasy sports? Or about fantasy table tennis? If you pick table tennis, you might be the only one on the planet and be able to dominate your particular niche.
- Voice, tone, and point of view: Do you have a particular POV? Is this a serious show? A funny show? A heartbreaking show?
- Episode length: Your show can be any length you want. What can you do sustainably?
- Podcast name: This might seem obvious, but search podcast directories and podcast websites to make sure there aren’t already podcasts with your desired name.
You should be able to write up a podcast description and feel that your podcast is unique. You have to write a podcast description when you launch it. As an early focus group experiment about differentiation, you can write it up before you start, show it to a few people in your target audience, and ask them about their first impression and if they would listen.
4. What time and resources can I commit to producing, publishing, and promoting a podcast?
Once you know what success looks like for you, who the show is for, what value it will offer the listener, and how you will differentiate the show from every other one out there, it might be time to record a pilot episode.
A pilot episode is a way to see if your strategy comes together nicely. It’s a chance for you to put a full episode together and learn your lessons before you publish.
Here’s what you should be paying attention to:
- How much time did it take to make the pilot in total?
- How much time did it take to figure out an episode idea? To book guests? To book a time for the recording? To edit and mix the episode?
- Did I enjoy this process? Could I see myself doing this regularly for months and months (potentially years and years)?
- How often could I put this much time and effort into a podcast and still have a regular, predictable publishing schedule?
- What else do I have going on in my life that isn’t the podcast, and how often can I realistically commit to making and promoting episodes?
Why all these ominous warnings, you ask? Because podcasting is supposed to be fun.
If you want to succeed, you have to be passionate about the show and make great shows that you’re proud of. If you overcommit to what is possible, the podcast becomes a burden. You cut corners. And, eventually, you Podfade.
5. What is a sustainable publishing frequency?
You don’t need to be daily. You don’t need to be weekly. You need to be consistent. Set expectations for the potential listener about how often you publish—and keep that promise.
You also don’t have to have to be “always on.” You can think about podcasts in seasons. Maybe you start with a season of six episodes and see how it goes. And you can take a bit of a break, catch your breath, and evaluate how you want to move forward.
If you like making podcasts and the first season does well, you can make a second season. And then a third.
6. How am I going to market this podcast? How will listeners find out about it?
Your podcast is not one in a million. It’s one in more than 2.4 million. If you want anyone to listen to your new show, you have to figure out how they will find out about it.
Publishing isn’t enough. Existing is not a marketing strategy.
Make a list of all the ways you can tell your ideal listeners about your new podcast episodes. It could be:
- A list of all the social networks you belong to
- Your blog
- Your company’s Slack channels
- Posting in your fantasy sports league
- A poster in your table tennis club
- Or anywhere else your new listeners might be hanging out already
You could also do some work to find online communities that focus on the same topic as your podcast. Or other podcasts or newsletters about your topic.
Then you can develop outreach strategies to create value for those other creators. You could:
- Have them on your podcast.
- Offer cross-promo or sponsorship exchanges with their podcasts or newsletters.
- Buy host-read ads on their podcasts.
- Ask every guest on your podcast to share their episode on all their social channels (you should—it’s super easy!).
There are so many things you can do! So make a list. This is your marketing strategy. Then, prepare to start doing things on the list. If you don’t, almost no one will listen.
It is probably not what you want to hear, but you need to be willing to spend as much time promoting your podcast and growing the audience as you do making the podcast itself. And don’t just promote it when it launches. You have to promote every single episode.
Why are we discussing marketing before deciding if you will make a podcast? It’s very simple: You need to know if you have what it takes to build an audience and create your desired success before you start producing it.
You can save time and effort by thinking about marketing and audience development on Day One.
What Tools Do You Need to Start a Podcast?
In terms of podcast recording equipment, it doesn’t have to be very expensive. You’ll mainly need a podcast microphone. A USB microphone that plugs right into your computer (and still delivers great audio quality, like the Blue Yeti, for example) is the easiest option for new podcasters.
However, if you are recording multiple people in the same location, everyone needs their own microphone, and you need a mixer to pull all the mics into the same recording source. Your podcast guests and co-host also need headphones to hear themselves and everyone else without creating an echo.
And if you’re worried about popping your P’s, you can also get a simple pop filter for your microphone.
Podcast software and audio tools
There are a lot of software options out there, but the basics you should explore are:
- DAW (digital audio workstation/podcast editing software): This is the software to record, edit, and mix your podcast. It can be free (Audacity, GarageBand for Mac) or have monthly subscription fees (Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, Hindenburg). The coolest software of the last few years is called Descript. It uses AI to do extremely fast transcriptions of your audio. You can then edit the text of the transcriptions and have those edits applied back to the audio. In other words, you’re editing the audio the same way you edit a text document.
- Remote recording software: Audio recordings can be at very high quality remotely, which means you can interview guests all over the world. Most software has a monthly subscription fee. Some are very focused on audio (Riverside, Squadcast), and some are generic and can record meetings (Zoom, Teams, etc.)
- Podcast hosting service: Your audio files need to have a home. There there are several podcast hosting platforms that make it easy. From free and basic (Anchor) to monthly subscription models for creators or enterprises (Simplecast, Omny Studio, Art19, Buzzsprout), you should make sure whatever hosting site you use allows you to create an RSS feed that you own, has an easy-to-use interface and metrics that allow you to track your personal success markers.
- Podcast packaging: Your podcast is kind of like a movie. People will see the poster before they listen to the show. And sometimes, the poster helps people decide to listen. The poster is your podcast cover art. You can also have customized podcast artwork for each episode (featuring guests or topics). You’ll also need social media assets to promote each episode. Software that can help you make these assets is essential. Again, expect a monthly subscription fee for software like Canva, Adobe Photoshop, or similar software.
- Royalty-free music: You don’t need to start a band to have great podcast music. There are several free music resources you can check out to create the perfect podcast intro and outro.
- Transcription: You may want your episodes transcribed for various reasons: accessibility, SEO in your show notes, or using the podcast material for blog posts or social assets. There are many options for transcriptions, from Rev to Descript.
Your podcast hosting software will handle any scheduling for publishing episodes to all the major podcast platforms and podcast directories. You can use the standard social scheduling software of your choice (Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social) for your podcast marketing plans if you don’t want to do it manually.
Content management software
Unless you’re running a network, something like Trello or even Google Sheets is enough to manage your content planning and publishing schedule. If you’re a pro and have a complicated setup, Airtable is an advanced option for those who want to roll up their sleeves a bit more.
Podcast distribution platforms
Podcast distribution is free, but you have to submit your podcast to a variety of different platforms. The RSS feed you set up for your show is submitted separately to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and others.
Each platform has its own guidelines with requirements for podcast art, metadata, and other important details. The requirements change over time, so check each platform carefully before you submit your show.
Start a Podcast That Will Keep You and Your Audience Happy
So there you have it. Everything you need to do before you decide to start a podcast.
If you choose to go forward and make your show, you’re going to be in amazing shape because of all the strategic thinking and preparation you’ve done—and you’re going to avoid the biggest and most common mistakes new podcasters make.
Stay tuned for our step-by-step guide to launching your first podcast, coming to the Indie Media Club soon.
Speaking of podcasts, don’t forget to check out and sign up for the Indie Media Club podcast to get the latest tips and tricks about content creation, publishing, branding, podcasting, and more.