Are you thinking about starting a podcast? Or maybe you have had a podcast for a while, but want to take it to the next level?
In today’s post, Ian Anderson Gray will be interviewing Colin Gray from ThePodcastHost.com to talk all about podcasting – everything you need to know to be successful in creating and running your own podcast.
In this post, we’ll cover
- How to plan a podcast
- Setting up a process
- Podcast hosts
- Podcast editing
- Podcasting tech, including the best microphones for podcasting
- And more!
Watch the full episode
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Ian: So I’m excited to be joined today by Colin Gray all the way from Australia and Colin. You’re not from Australia. Are you?
Colin: I knew as you can probably tell by the accent, I’m not. I’m just a passing visitor right now.
Ian: You’re obviously a Scot living in Australia, which is why we’re prerecording this segment. Otherwise we’d be live at something like 3AM, which would just be mean.
Colin: Yeah. It’s like, I’m adding an hour and a half to my time and then inverting the clock. So it’s almost 12 hours. It’s almost exactly opposite.
Ian: Yeah, we wouldn’t want that for you. We want you to have some sleep.
So we’ve known each other for quite some time. We met, I think at New Media Europe, which is a conference that happened in the UK. And we also know each other from Youpreneur, which is another conference in the UK. But for people who don’t know you yet, can you tell us a little about you and how you got into podcasting? It’d be great to know.
Colin: Yeah, sure. My story goes back to one of my original jobs. I’ve had a lot of jobs over my time, but for a while I was a learning technologist, which basically means helping lecturers learn how to teach better with technology. So I had to use technology to help their students.
And one of the fashionable, fancy learning techs back in 2007 or 2008 was podcasting. Funnily enough, it could have been more popular even earlier than that, but it came to the attention of the university I worked for around that time. So I was told as the, the resident learning tech, to figure out how this whole thing worked.
So I jumped in and started learning how it works and I just fell in love with the medium. Part of the main reason I loved it so much was because I always worked in front of a desk and I love to go for a walk like for an hour at lunchtime and it meant I had something to do while I was on that walk. I could listen and learn and be entertained at the time. And partly because I just love the feeling of speaking into a microphone and how personal audio is. It’s very different from video. I find it’s just very personal. It’s very intimate.
It feels more one to one, like you’re speaking to just one person. I just always loved the process. And so I started teaching a course at the university, helping lecturers learn how to podcast. I started a blog around podcasting because I was loving it so much at the time, I just want to teach other people how to do it.
After about nine or ten years of blogging and podcasting, I was earning enough to quit my job. I took on some staff and nowadays we have a whole range of courses on podcasting and a piece of software that helps people run a podcast called Alitu.
I get to spend all day, every day either teaching or doing podcasting and creating some kind of content related to podcasting. I feel very lucky.
Ian: Oh, that’s that sounds awesome. And I love what you said about the intimacy of podcasting, because I think you’re so right is there’s nothing else quite like it. People will effectively plug you into their ears and listen for like more than five minutes, more than five seconds.
I was talking about the different audiences recently. Live video is very, very intimate. I think it’s very authentic. And you’ve got those two audiences. You’ve got your live audience and your replay audience, but I think the feeling is that when you’re live streaming, you’ve got a big audience… a community of people who are listening and experiencing it along with you and participating. With podcasting, it feels really more like you’re speaking with one person. It’s very intimate.
So what can make it sometimes a little challenging is when you’re repurposing a podcast from a live video, you need to think about both audiences so that you’re creating the most effective content. How do we model that around in our brains?
Colin: Yeah. I mean, I think I would argue that you should always think about speaking to just one person because that personal connection is what you’re looking for. Whether it’s a live video, whether it’s YouTube, whether it’s the blog posts you’re writing, and certainly when you’re doing a podcast… everyone out there, my whole audience… I’m always talking to one person and building that personal connection.
I think even if somebody is watching a live video, they know that other people are watching as well, but there’s still something special about it that feels very personal and meaningful. When I’m speaking into this microphone, I’m speaking to one person on the other end. I always think about it that way. It gives me more of a connection to my audience and makes the content more authentic.
Ian: I agree. I really like what you said speaking to one person. I think that everyone knows if you’re watching a live show, everyone knows there’s more than one person watching or listening, but it does still always have that community feeling. You’re experiencing it together in real time. It’s a bit of a juggling act.
Colin: I think even if you have a group of people, you can still give that personal impression. That’s how you want that person to feel. And they will feel it, even though they know it’s not a fact people feel that because it’s, you’re speaking into their head, whether it’s headphones in a live audience or podcasts, whichever way I think it works.
Ian: So let’s dive into some of the details. Your website is The Podcast Host, correct?
Colin: Yes, www.thepodcasthost.com, exactly.
Ian: Excellent. I’m glad I got that right, because otherwise you’d be not talking to me for the next year. You’ve got loads of resources on your site. Everything to do with podcasting from podcasting gear to tips, tricks, and more.
So for those just getting started with podcasting (whether they’re starting with a podcast or repurposing into a podcast from a live show), what are the things that we need to think about right from the start?
Colin: It’s got to be the content first. You always need to start with the content before you ever think about the gear or the software. Content always comes first.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that people care about the gear because it’s certainly important and it can make a difference, but you’re only going to be able to grow your podcast and be successful and find an audience if you have great content. And the way you’re going to do that is by solving a problem for your audience in a unique way.
So before anything else, think about what problem you’re solving for your audience. For some people, that’s going to be really obvious. Maybe you’re a marketing coach who’s trying to get more leads. Maybe you’re a health coach helping people lose weight. Maybe you’re entertainment based and you’re teaching people how to play Dungeons and Dragons more effectively.
The best starting point is really thinking through how you’re going to help someone. That’s what’s really effective when it comes to content planning. Let’s face it, most people are generally selfish. We all want to know what we’re going to get out of listening to a podcast or watching a show. What’s in it for us?
So that’s the problem.
What’s the solution? The solution is also relatively obvious. It’s whatever you teach. It’s your knowledge and your experience. Once you’ve defined the problem, the solution is just how you’re going to help your audience solve it.
Finally, the uniqueness. And this is what a lot of people miss. What makes you most uniquely served to solve this problem and give your listener the best solution? This is something really worth thinking through. There are a lot of different ways you can approach this. You can be unique in your angle on a subject, like knitting for men or rather than politics, it’s Scottish politics. Find your niche. You can also be unique in your format. Maybe your format is that you’re going to do an interview, but at the end of it you’ll always do a pop quiz. That’s a special segment.
So that’s what I think is most important. Think content first and then think through the problem, the solution, and your unique spin on both. It’s a combination of those three things that’s going to make your content worthwhile for someone to listen to.
Ian: I love that. So you can almost never get too niche. Maybe you can, but I think we tend to think more general, but actually get a little bit more niche. I’m going to ask you Colin, are you a Dungeons and Dragons fan? Just out of interest.
Colin: Yeah, a wee bit.
Ian: I’ve never played myself, but it’s the kind of thing that I probably would do if I had my life again. Right, so how do we do all of that? Why do so many of us go right to the gear first?
It can be intimidating, but also gear is a bit easier. You can ask a friend what’s the best microphone and they’ll tell you what to get, but it is more difficult to think through what’s your niche and your audience and the content and value you need to bring.
How do you go about doing that research? Any tips for us?
Colin: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s why a lot of people skip it. It’s difficult and you have to spend a fair bit of time researching and thinking through it. Some people are faster than others, but it does take time. Even coming up with a show name can take a long time and can be a bit of a nightmare.
I think it comes down to this. You should only start a podcast on something you’re interested in. Unless it’s a really unique case where you’re doing it for a client or something like that, but otherwise it should be a passion for you. You should be a big advocate of the topic and vocal about it and already coached in it. It should be something you know a lot about. So think about what are the most common questions people ask you?
Think about common questions from customers in your industry or niche. Can you do an episode on that question? Maybe a few episodes or a season? We could do a whole season on podcasting equipment – breaking down each episode into a specific piece of gear. Episode one could be on mixers. Episode two could be on microphones, etc etc.
And just because you do an episode or series of episodes on a particular topic doesn’t mean you have to stick with that forever. You can get to the end and ask your audience “what did you enjoy about this? What do you want to know next?”
Look for the next most common question and expand into that. You’ll see a lot of podcasters who will start with something super niche, super specific – partly because it’s easier to plan. And also partly because it makes it much easier to sell into your audience.
Because if your content is super specific, you’ll know that anybody that finds it will know right away whether this show is for them. It’s a no-brainer whether they should listen or not. So it’s a really good idea to go to super specific and then expand out as you go.
Ian: So let’s talk a little more about podcast seasons and episodes. You mentioned the idea of having seasons.
So there are two ways to do it. You can have episodes (one, two, three, four, five… all the way up to whatever) or you can do seasons. Can you explain to people the differences between the two and why someone would chose one format over another?
Colin: Sure. I’m a big advocate of seasons. I honestly think that seasons are just better for most podcasts and it’s a really good way to start. There are a few different reasons around that. One is that it makes planning easier. It’s really just like a TV season.
You can say, okay this topic is about eight or twelve episodes of content. That’s one season. That’s three months. You can see the beginning and end of it. One of the biggest challenges that podcasters face is the commitment.
In the early days, you’re really enthusiastic about it and suddenly you’re there for like two, three, four weeks and it becomes this kind of endless cycle that you’re committed to forever. That can be intimidating. But if you think about it as a season, you can plan out 12 episodes at a time which all tie together and then you can break up those seasons.
So with a season, you can have three months of content all planned out in advance and make your workflow really simple and straightforward. You can even record it in batches because you’ve planned so far ahead.
And there are actually more benefits on top of that for your listeners. As soon as you have an organized season of say 12 episodes, each episode leads into the next and you’re building that knowledge episode to episode to episode.
If you compare that to the traditional method of podcasting or general content creation, which is, you know, this week I’m gonna talk about beginner’s level and this area next week, I’m going to talk about an advanced subject and this other radio over here. It can be a bit overwhelming for your listener. Seasons have each episode building off the previous episode and you’re taking your listener step-by-step with you through a larger topic.
Ian: That makes a lot of sense. I suppose you could also have seasons within a normal episodic kind of structure. For example, you could have four episodes in a row all about Dungeons and Dragons and then move to another “mini season” of episodes on another topic.
Okay, so hopefully by now we’ve got a good understanding of our content, our audiences, and now seasons vs. episodic, so we should move on to talking about format. Do you do a live show as well as a podcast? Should you do solo podcast episodes or have a co-host or guests? What’s your take and how do we make those choices?
Colin: So this is the thing that I love most about podcasting.
And it’s the question you always get, which are something like exactly what you’ve just asked. So what format should I follow? How long should my podcast be? How often should I do my podcast and all these are great questions. Like they’re, they’re good questions to be thinking about. But the answer is you can do whatever the heck you like.
It’s totally open. Podcasting is so good in that. You can just do what you want to do. And because you’re going to find your own audience and your own voice and solving your own problems. You will find people that love the way you go about it. Sorry to avoid the question, but that’s the answer.
In my experience, the listeners do want to know what to expect. They want to know what an average episode sounds like. Is it generally a co-hosted show? Is it two pals who chat every week? You can have a mix of different formats, but you’ll need to be clear about what the average is.
Ian: That’s really good. I hadn’t thought about it that way.
So for my show, I do solo episodes and guest episodes. I find it a lot easier to have a guest. Cause it’s like having a conversation. I need to work harder if it’s just me, but I hadn’t thought about getting like a rhythm of different formats. That’s a bit tricky, but definitely something to think about.
Okay, let’s talk about mindset. I think I’ve spoken about this before, but when I got to like episode 20, 21, 22 of my podcast I got the blues. I just felt like nobody cared and I didn’t know what to do. And then I went to a conference and I bumped into lots of people who said “oh Ian, I love your podcast!” I was thinking: “well, why didn’t you tell me about this weeks ago?”
So I want to talk about how to promote our podcast. How can we keep going when we have these tough moments? When we feel like we’re not getting the growth that we wanted to?
Colin: That’s a great, interesting question. I guess, what were your expectations, if any, when you started your podcast? Why did you get those blues? Why did you not think it was enough?
Ian: Well, it definitely wasn’t logical. The numbers were pretty good. I was comparing myself against others… I don’t even really know who, to be honest. I think it’s easy to go through those stages and just think “maybe it’s not enough.”
Especially when you may not be getting people emailing into you or leaving a ton of comments and reviews. Without those positive affirmations and “love affirmations”, it can be hard to not wonder if you could be doing more or doing better.
Colin: There’s a couple of really interesting things in there. I think the reason I asked that was because I think a lot of people do have very unrealistic expectations when it comes to podcasting.
It’s important to know that podcasting is a much smaller medium in general than others. So if you’ve been running a blog for awhile already or a YouTube channel, you might have expectations of having 10,000 blog readers or thousands of YouTube subscribers, but 1,000 podcaster listeners is actually quite a lot.
For example, 229 listeners in your first seven days is above average. If you get 229 listeners in the first seven days, you’re in the top 10% of all podcasts. This is measured by Buzzsprout. It doesn’t sound like a big number.
If you get more than 500 listeners, you’re in the top 5% of all podcasts, and if you get more than three thousand listeners, you’re in the top 1% of all podcasts. So, if you want to compare yourself, then it’s good to have these realistic numbers.
So before you start comparing, remember that if you’re seeing above 200 listeners, you’re doing well. You’re already in the top 10% before a lot of podcasts get less than that. It may feel a lot less than blog readers, but another thing to remember is that podcasting is a much more trust-based, engagement-based medium than blogging. One listener is worth a thousand blog readers, especially if I’m trying to get someone to take action (like clicking a button at the bottom of a blog post). To get someone to click something in a blog post, I might get 0.1% of all of my readers to take action. In comparison, if I have 200 podcast listeners who are listening to me each episode regularly and trust me and have gotten to know me personally, they’re much more likely to take my advice. I could probably get 50% of my podcast listeners to try something or take action.
So that’s what I mean. Podcasting has much smaller numbers generally than the other mediums, but has so much higher action and so much higher engagement.
Ian: That makes me feel a lot better. Thank you. That’s really helpful to have those, those stats.
Colin: On the other side of it, you also get the opportunity to engage and ask a lot more in podcasting. You can put yourself out there and ask for feedback each week. That’s the best call to action that you can put into your show for the first 10 to 20 episodes – “are you enjoying the show? Am I giving you what you want? What do you want to hear more of?” And make it really specific. Ask them to tweet you in the next five minutes and give you some feedback. That’s the greatest way to grow your podcast.
Ian: Well, that is great advice. Thank you, Colin. Okay, let’s get into the gear – the shiny stuff. What do we need? We obviously could spend thousands on a state of the art studio with a mega microphone and acoustic paneling, but what gear do we really need to get started in podcasting?
Colin: Well, the first thing is that you need a good USB mic. That’s really all you actually need for podcasting.
My favorite is the Samson Q2U. It’s a great little USB microphone for podcasting and it only costs about $70 or $80, so it’s good quality at a great price. It can be handheld or attached to a little stand (it comes with a stand) and plugs directly into your computer.
Even better, it actually also has an XLR connection, which means you could add in a mixer. So the Samson is a microphone that will grow with you.
Ian: That is a great example of a USB microphone and it’s awesome that it also has XLR. Am I right in saying it is a dynamic microphone? Why would you recommend a dynamic microphone over a condenser microphone, or a shotgun microphone, or a lapel mic?
Colin: Great question. For podcasting, you’re really looking for a dynamic microphone, even as a professional podcaster because we’re recording more. A condenser microphone picks up more sounds, which is great for a silent studio. If you have no noise around you, you also have no reverb. But most of us are recording in a pretty standard office room, so a dynamic microphone works better. I also use a Rode Podcaster, which is an awesome microphone to upgrade to. It is a bit more bulky and it doesn’t come with a stand, so you have to buy a boom arm as well.
I also have a shock mount for it. All in it’s probably around $450, so it’s more expensive than the Samson, but it does sound really nice and is definitely a step up.
Ian: Yes, definitely. And a shock mount helps to protect from any knocks and bumps you might get. It’s great if you’re a desk basher.
Okay, so we’ve got our microphone plugged in and ready to go and the thing I’ve been saying on this show is that you can actually use Ecamm Live to record your audio for your podcast using their new ISO recording feature, which lets you save the audio files of all of your guests and yourself separately. It’s amazing. So with that, you’ll have all of your sound effects and music and audio on different channels.
So how do we edit all of those things together and turn them into an actual podcast that people can subscribe and listen to?
Colin: The editing part is probably the most complicated part of the process. Podcasting itself is not overly difficult, but editing can be. My advice is to keep the editing as light as possible. Don’t worry about taking out all of your “ums”. Don’t do a lot of sound processing and equalization and compression and all of that kind of stuff. Not just because it’s hard to learn and takes a lot to learn, but because it also keeps your workflow light. The more time you spend doing that stuff, the less time you’re spending planning out good content and perfecting your presentation skills.
That’s the stuff that really matters.
But if you want to do some editing, there are lots of tools you can use (free or paid). One free tool that we recommend a lot is Audacity. It’ll help you piece all of your bits together, add music, do all of the compression, everything you need. It’s a bit old fashioned and clunky, but you can’t really complain.
Another option for podcast editing is Adobe Audition. Audition is part of the Adobe Creative Suite and is a subscription. It costs about $25 a month, I believe. It’s definitely more modern and sleek than Audacity, but it has a big learning curve.
We make a tool called So we have a tool called Alitu, which is designed to do this for anything as well. Alitu is an editing and production tool, but it handles a whole bunch of it for you. So it does all of the processing. It does the noise reduction, the dynamic leveling, and it joins together the separate files. So you can take your recap recordings and it’ll level everything out separately and stick them together at the end.
It’ll let you pull your segments together, edit them, and actually spit out the finished MP3 at the other end that you can upload to your podcast host as well.
Ian: That’s awesome. So we’ve been skipping about quickly, but we do have the main parts of podcasting covered. Now we have an MP3. So what do we do with that? Email it out to everyone? Is that a podcast?
Colin: Well, now we need to get into podcast hosting. Podcast hosting is something that intimidates people. These days, podcast hosts have become brilliant. A podcast host is nothing more than a website that hosts your audio files and creates the method by which people can subscribe to your show.
So it’s called an RSS feed, but you don’t need to know how that works or really even what that is. All you need to know is that you create your episodes on your podcast host similar to the way you’d create a blog post in WordPress, for example. And then that is published to the web.
Podcast hosts can handle the distribution for you, so they can send your podcast off to iTunes, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, etc. and that’s where people subscribe and consume your podcast.
So podcast hosting really it’s just like your web hosting, but it’s where your audio files live. And it’s where people download your audio files from when they’re listening to your show.
Ian: That was a great explanation, Colin. Thanks. Do you have any recommendations for podcast hosts?
Colin: Yeah, there’s a lot. The two that I would recommend are Buzzsprout, which is probably the simplest and lowest cost way to get out there at only $12 or you can try Captivate, which has a bit more power and more growth tools so you can create more than just one podcast.
I really think Captivate is one of the best podcast hosts out there. It’s a bit more expensive at $19.
Ian: What about Anchor? A lot of people use Anchor as their podcast host. What’s your view on that?
Colin: Well, Anchor is free. But it’s important to remember if you’re not paying for a service then it means that you’re the product. So they’re making money off of you and your podcast and you lose a lot of control. You don’t get as much in the way of website options and they technically own your RSS feed and your listing with Apple podcasts as well. So it’s certainly not a bad way to start out, but you should be aware of that going into it.
If you’re just dabbling with podcasting, then Anchor is probably fine, but if you’re planning a business around your podcast or it’s a long-term project for you, then it’s best to just invest and start with a paid option.
Ian: I would definitely agree with that.
Okay, so how do we promote and get more listeners to our podcast? How do we actually promote that more?
Colin: Yeah, there are a lot of ways to promote your podcast. We actually just published a book called Podcast Growth: How to Grow Your Podcast Audience all about this topic.
So I’ll say a couple of things. My favorite ways to grow a podcast are actually the unscalable ones. So things like really going to back to your podcast listeners and encouraging them to recommend the podcast. Word of mouth can be really important in podcasting because most of the barriers are listening. It’s a bit harder to get someone to listen to something then scan through a blog post. It’s a bigger investment of their time.
Podcast listeners need to subscribe to your show and a specific app to listen to it. They need to download it. And then they need to actually listen. The process is more complicated. That’s why word of mouth recommendation is so important.
The other thing I love to do is attend events and network. You could go to an event and meet 50 people. 50 new blog readers wouldn’t really be a big deal, but 50 new podcast listeners makes a big difference.
Even if you can’t make it out to physical events, you can definitely network and participate in virtual events. Join some Facebook groups, Slack groups … get to know people in your space and contribute to those groups so they can get to know you.
I honestly think that’s the best way to grow your podcast.
Ian: Yes. And of course, if you’re re-purposing your live show into a podcast, you can talk about your podcast on your live show and try and get more of your live viewers to listen and subscribe to your podcasts.
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