Ultimate Guide to Podcast Production
Podcasting is a great way to tell a story, promote a brand, or show off your comedic chops. Lucky for you, producing a podcast isn’t complicated. We’re going to give you a complete rundown on how to plan, record, edit, mix, and master your podcast.
Learn more about how to produce podcasts, and how tools like iZotope RX can help you create a professional-sounding podcast.
How to Plan a Podcast
Let’s start with planning. Having a set intention is integral to fashioning a successful podcast.
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1. Define what your podcast is about
First, figure out what you want to say in your podcast. Identify which topics you want to tackle, and which subjects you want to cover. Are you trying to promote your business? Or become a thought leader in your area of expertise? Or are you fascinated by a particular topic and want to cover it in detail in a themed podcast? These are all important questions to ask yourself when defining your podcast topic and theme.
Market research is also an important step to defining what your podcast is about. Make a list of competitive podcasts that are already out in the market to evaluate your opportunities.
And lastly, take a good look in the metaphorical mirror and ask what makes you the perfect person for this project? This will help you stand out in a crowded field. There’s a podcast about nearly everything these days—but there’s only one you!
2. Choose your target audience
Once you have your subject, imagine your target audience. This will help you refine your idea further. It will also help in the promotion stages, when you’re networking with other podcast creators or looking for ad spots.
Perhaps you’re an entrepreneur looking to get the word out about your business—then you know that your target audience is potential customers for your specific product. Perhaps you and a group of friends are looking to get into the chat show space; look into shows with a similar vibe and find out what their audience is. This will help you cater your voice to your end goal.
3. Select your podcast format
Are you making a chat show with multiple people? Are you doing a two-hander interview, just you and a guest? Maybe you’re aiming to produce an in-depth investigation of a topic.
A few popular podcast formats include:
All of these formats are different from each other. They require different production schedules, and demand different skills from you as a creator. Picking a format early on will save you a ton of trouble later.
However, be wary of the double-edged sword of a gimmick or hook. For every person who makes a success out of a specific framing device, there are dozens who find themselves trapped in a doomed premise. Don’t make your job harder than it has to be!
4. Name your podcast show
In naming your show, there’s a crucial rule: make sure the name isn’t already taken! Do a bit of research to make sure your unique name is actually unique.
It’s important to have a clear and concise name. It should be memorable, and similar to your business name or brand if applicable. Run your desired podcast name in a Google search to see if social accounts and web domains are available for you to use to market your show.
Also, consider how your show’s title will look in a squared thumbnail image as part of a logo; this is how people will first come upon your show online.
5. Figure out avenues for podcast monetization
Think about whether you want to make money off this podcast. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t! If you do, think about the route you’d like to go.
Maybe you want to charge a monthly fee for access to bonus content via Patreon (very easy to do). Maybe you want to pitch the show to a production company to get funding (much, much harder). Either way, work on a plan now, so you can execute your strategy and manage your expectations.
You can also investigate podcast advertising and sponsorship opportunities. Podcast advertisers currently pay podcasters about $18 per 1,000 listens.
6. Determine your ideal podcast length and release schedule
Figure out how long you want each episode to last, and how often you want to release episodes. Having a reliable feed is better for attracting an audience out of the gate. A reliable release schedule also helps you organize a production timeline that you can execute.
The optimal podcast episode length can vary. There’s only one rule: it has to feel natural. To determine what’s natural for you, it can help to do a dry run.
If you’re still looking for somewhere to start, the most popular podcast length nowadays tends to be around 20–40 minutes.
7. Test your format with an informal dry run
If your format is simple to execute, now’s a good time to try a dry run. This isn’t hard to do: set up a phone on the table, open a recording app, grab an informal guest if need be, and just give it a go with minimal preparation.
This exercise will show you a lot about what you need to work on. As soon as the mics are on, you’ll find it’s a little harder than it seems—and that’s okay. That’s what the next steps are for!
8. Outline and plan your script
Outlining an episode is extremely important. How the outline should look depends on the show’s format, but it always pays to make a bulleted outline.
What are the topics you want to cover, and what is the order you want to cover them? Much as any high-school essay benefits from a bulleted outline, so will your podcast.
A podcast outline can look something like this, with more details filled in underneath each bullet:
- Guest introduction
- Sponsor message
- Topic 1
- Topic 2
- Topic 3
- Call to action
How to Record a Podcast
Learn about key recording techniques for your podcast along with podcast production tips.
Recording podcasts well requires a little knowhow, but it’s nothing too fancy. Just some basic room setup, mic setup, and gear setup—all of which we’ll cover now.
Set up your podcast room for success
Recording your podcast in the right room is half the battle. The room shouldn’t be too small, with reflecting surfaces bouncing sound around. It shouldn’t be too big either, or the recording might feel too live and bright.
It’s important to understand how room tone can impact your recordings. The average living room is a good space, with carpeted floors, bookshelves, couches, and other common household pieces of furniture helping to deaden the room a bit. Stay away from windows if you can. Turn all extraneous noise-making devices off if you can (air conditioners, heaters, etc). Get away from fridges, which make a ton of noise as well.
Depending on the type of podcast and your target audience, you can get away with only minimal room treatment. Some of the biggest hits on Patreon are recorded in common living rooms, with mics you’d often find at a comedy show.
Of course, nothing beats a well treated room.
Select microphones and pop filters
For a solo podcast, a USB mic might be the way to go. Hosting more than one guest? XLR mics plugged into an audio interface is the tried and true method. do
Make sure the mic matches your environment. A dynamic mic like a Shure SM58 or Shure SM7B will be a lot more forgiving of an untreated room than a condenser microphone. But if your room is treated, a condenser microphone will give your podcast a more sparkling, sumptuous sound.
Another item to consider is a pop filter. This device reduces mouth noises, plosives, and more in your recording.
Select the right audio interface
An audio interface connects your microphone to your computer. In addition to the digital port for your computer, an interface often has a preamp for your microphone, as well as a jack for your headphones.
If you’re using a USB mic, you don’t need an interface, because the interface is built into the mic. For multi-mic setups, there are a lot of options.
What to record a podcast on
You can record your podcast to your computer, or you can record it with a dedicated hard disk recorder.
A computer is perfect for the home-studio environment. You plug your mics into an audio interface, which plugs into the computer. If you’re using a USB mic, you plug straight into the computer. Either way, you use a DAW (short for “digital audio workstation”) to record the audio.
Hard Disk Recorders (Zoom Handy recorders, Rode podcasting interfaces, and Sound Devices MixPre recorders) are great for mobile setups or multi-mic podcasts. A hard disk recorder lets you go mobile. Need to record at a guest’s house? Just plug your XLR mics into the recorder, hit record on the device, and start the interview. During podcast editing, you’ll dump the files onto your computer, and work within the DAW.
Select a DAW
A DAW is a computer program used to record, edit, mix, and master audio. Consider how heavily you want to get into audio production before choosing a DAW.
Audacity is a free one lots of dabblers use, but if you want something with a better workflow, you can pick up REAPER relatively cheaply. REAPER has a lot of bells and whistles, as well as a fantastic community for tutorials and support.
Choose the right podcast accessories
In addition to mics, podcasts require mic cables, headphones, and hardware devices like audio interfaces or hard-disk recorders. These can clutter up a room and lead to all sorts of logistical problems, such as people tripping over mic cables.
Get yourself the right accessories to keep your room in shape. Boom arms are a great investment here. A boom arm is a fancy mic stand that clamps to a desk or table. It often aids in cable management, as the mic cable can be threaded through the boom arm, and run neatly to the interface or computer.
Podcast recording techniques
Mic placement is an important part of making sure your podcast recording sounds professional. How close you are to a microphone determines the "proximity effect" on your recording. The closer you are to the microphone the better your sound will be in terms of fullness and frequency capture. The further away you are, the recording will sound more hollow and catch more reverb and echo. A good rule of thumb is to place your microphone 2 inches (or four fingers’ width) from your face.
Don’t place microphones directly next to your co-host or interviewee, either. This can cause microphone bleed, making the podcast editing process more tedious. If you have the space, consider the 3-to-1 rule: the two mics should be three times farther apart than the distance from your—or your guest’s—mouth to your respective mics.