Podcasting Made Simple

Start Your Podcast in Two Weeks

Lesson 1: Getting Started

I’m so excited that you are interested in starting a podcast!

The benefits of podcasting are numerous, but there is a decent amount of work that goes into it as well. Some people get overwhelmed with everything, so I’ve put together this e-mail course to help make the process simpler.

My goal for you (you ultimately get to set your own goal) is that you will know what you need to do to start a podcast in two weeks. Hopefully, you will also be taking action on the things you learn here and be well on your way to launching your podcast.

Legal Considerations

Before we get too far into how to create a podcast, I want to make some legal statements.

First of all, I am not a lawyer. I don’t play one on TV. I don’t even play one on a podcast. Any advice or suggestions I give are based on either personal experience or information I’ve gathered from other sources. You’ll need to take due diligence to contact legal experts if you have questions or concerns about those kind of issues.

What kind of issues?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it generally boils down to copyrights.

Remember watching that movie. You see all the previews for other movies that the company wants you to buy (or maybe you spend the time getting the popcorn and drinks ready). Then, just when you think the movie is going to start, a blue screen comes up. Or maybe a short commercial. Either way they tell you that duplicating or using the movie without proper licensing is pirating. No, not the cool kind where you wear an eye patch and hook, pillaging other ships. Here’s to you, Captain Jack Sparrow.

Companies and people try to work at protecting their digital media. Even though it is fairly easy to copy and spread those songs or movies, it is an infringement on the owner’s copyright. Which means it’s illegal.

With podcasting, this especially includes music and images. You need to be careful about the things you use. There are loop-holes for some things, but you need to tread carefully. You may have heard about “fair-use,” but that is a legal defence – after you’ve already been taken to court – so it’s best to stay away from anything copyrighted without proper permission.

There are plenty of legal options, some of which are free or inexpensive.

Don’t let this discourage you from podcasting. Just learn to do it properly!

Know Your Audience

I know you’re excited about starting your podcast, but there are several things you need to nail down first. The first and most important thing is your audience. It is the most important thing to know before your start, and it is still the most important thing as your grow and maintain.

At this point, you may or may not have an audience already. Maybe you already have a blog or YouTube channel with followers already. Maybe you just have a Facebook profile with some family and friends. Maybe you’re wondering what Facebook is.

No matter what your current status is, you need to figure out and understand who exactly you are trying to reach. This is a process of being very specific. Saying that you are targeting males 18-80 that love fishing is not good enough.

Here is one thing to think of to help you: your target audience is one person. Not one kind of person. One person.

That one person cannot fulfill every demographic or psychographic category. They cannot be 18 and 80 at the same time. They cannot live in the US and in Germany at the same time. Be very specific to describe this person.

Here’s some questions to help you get started:

  • What is his/her name? (that’s right – a name)
  • How old is he?
  • Is he married? How long?
  • Does he have kids? How many? Names, ages, etc.?
  • What is his career/job?
  • What is his greatest strength?
  • What is his greatest weakness?

This is just a start, but you get the idea. Be very specific about who he is.

After you nail down your target person – also called an avatar – you will probably be editing the description as you go. Just think, when you meet someone, you learn some basic things right away. As you talk and get to know them, your description of them become deeper and more clear.

As you move along the podcasting journey, you may be able to broaden your audience to include additional demographics. Instead of just a 30-year old accountant with a wife and 2 kids, you may start reaching other 30-something men that have office jobs. Or you may start reaching those that are 30-50 years old. As you grow, just make sure that you always come back to your avatar. He is the center of it all.

Knowing your audience is just the starting point. Next we’ll examine what you need to keep going through the tough times (because it does get tough).

Know Your Why

Besides knowing your audience, you must know your why.

You need to have a “why” that is huge. Podcasting is usually a slow-growing process.

Yes, there are plenty of stories of people that started a podcast and things took off for them: they had thousands of downloads, money started coming, and they became famous overnight. However, this is the exception rather than the rule. And usually, these “overnight successes” are a result of years of strategy, skill, time, and money.

Most likely, you will have smaller numbers. You won’t be bringing in money for a few months or even a year. You won’t reach that celebrity status. You’ll be putting your time and money into podcasting and see little results.

The average number of episodes for a podcast is 7. That’s it. Seven. It’s interesting that, in marriage, people also talk about the 7-year itch, where things seem to get more difficult.

In order to make it, you need a strong “why.” A reason that will keep you going even when things look down. Many podcasts take a while to get off the ground and really make some traction. Those that persevere through these early difficult times will usually make it for the long haul.

Your “why” should be more than “I want to make money.” It’s not wrong to want to make money using podcasting, but it’s not a strong reason to keep going.

“I want to help people do ___________” is a better reason. You probably need to go a little deeper, but this can keep you going when you only see a few people that are downloading each episode.

The virtual aspect of the online world has a disadvantage. One thing that can help during the down times is to think in terms of holding a class in a physical location once a week. A classroom with 25 people is generally considered to be full. Imagine everyone listening to your podcast as a person in a classroom, all coming to listen to you every week. Does that help change your perception?

You need this strong why before you really get started so that you can have a solid foundation.

Your Podcast Topic

This is probably where you thought we should start. But hopefully you can see now why it’s important to know who your audience is and why you are podcasting. When it comes time to really look at the topic of your podcast, these are two things that will really help guide you.

Looking at the avatar you developed, what does he need help with that you can fulfill? Notice that this is identifying one thing that answers two questions:

  1. What is your avatar’s problem?
  2. What can you provide to solve that problem?

The key is to find the intersection of those, and that will give you an overarching topic for your podcast.

For example, let’s say that your avatar’s problem is inexperience with lawn maintenance. You may have expertise in this area – or at least some practical experience. You could potentially have a podcast that shares tips on how to care for your lawn.

The other approach to figuring out your topic may have nothing to do with your expertise of the topic. It may be driven by your passionate desire to learn the topic.

Let’s go back to the lawn example. Let’s say that you have mowed your lawn and used a trimmer many times, but you end up with an uneven, brown lawn with pretty yellow dandelions. In other words, you may be your avatar!

You could potentially start a podcast where you document your own learning experience through interviews, research, and other content curation. You can put things into practice and report your results.

Whether you start your podcast as the expert or as the student or guide, you make sure that you can address the problem of your avatar.

After you nail down your main podcast topic, you need to see if you have enough subtopics to make it worthwhile. If you can only come up with 5-10 subtopics or ideas for specific episodes, things will dry up pretty quickly. Sit down and write (or type) out as many subtopics that you can think of related to your topic. You can use the journalistic questions to help (who, what, when, where, why, and how).

For the lawn care idea, you may have a list that has subtopics like:

  • Choosing the right mower
  • Choosing the right trimmer
  • How to get a clean edge along the driveway
  • What to do when dandelions take over
  • Why you need to use fertilizer
  • When you should use weedkiller

This list doesn’t have to be extremely detailed at this point. This is just a brainstorming stage. If you need help thinking of more ideas, you can use a couple resources:

  • Google
  • Amazon – you can search for books on your topic and preview their table of contents
  • Books and magazines – you can get a bunch of ideas from your local library
  • Talk to experts in the field of your topic
  • Talk to your potential audience and see what specific problems they may have

You can take this list of subtopics and see if you can break any of them down into more specific subjects. If you can come up with a list of 20-30 things, you have a great start, and this could be a great topic. As you progress, hopefully you will be able to add to this list as you engage with your audience.

Take a moment to do this brainstorming activity, and then you can come back for the next lecture, where we’ll address your podcast title.

Your Podcast Title and Description

Coming up with a great title is one of the most important things to help your podcast be noticed by new people. It’s not the most important thing when it comes to keeping your current listeners, though. Great content will keep them coming back.

Imagine you are in a doctor’s or dentist’s office. You’re sitting in the waiting room and there is a pile of magazines on a table. Now, thinking about those magazines, what do you usually do first? You first look at the covers to see if one interests you. The title or name of the magazine will usually be the biggest clue, such as Time, People,  or National Geographic. You will know pretty quickly if you’d be interested.

Once the magazine title strikes enough interest, you’ll read the headlines on the front cover. If one of them stands out to you, then you’ll open the magazine to find that particular article. You may check out several articles in that magazine. If you liked the articles enough, the next time you see that magazine, you’ll be much quicker to pick it up and start reading. You may even decide to subscribe so you never miss an issue.

This is a perfect comparison to podcasting.

For someone new to your podcast, the two things they will see first is the title and the artwork. We’ll cover the art in the next lecture. These two things are what will either draw people in or repel them away. If the title is appealing, they’ll tap or click to find out more. They’ll see the list of episodes you have (more titles) and see if one of them sounds interesting. The quality of the episode is then what will bring them back. Hopefully they’ll subscribe so they are notified every time a new episode is released.

So, how do you pick a great title? Start with the things we’ve already covered to help:

  • What is the topic of the show?
  • Who is your target person?
  • What benefit will he get?

Generally speaking, you don’t want to be ultra clever. I fall into this too easily. It does work sometimes, but it’s usually best to be clear and straightforward.

One podcast is called, the “Social Media Marketing Podcast.” Can you guess what it’s about? That’s right. Marketing with social media.

That’s one test you can do when you pick a title. Tell people the name of the podcast (and nothing else) and ask them to tell you what they think it’s about. If they can figure it out, it’s a good title. It might be a great title, but it’s at least good.

Another consideration for your title is the domain name. What domain names are available. This isn’t a total deal breaker, but there is much stronger branding when everything can match. A “.com” domain is best because of its popularity, but other extensions can be good options, too. If your domain isn’t available, you can try alternatives, like adding the word “the,” “my,” or “your” in front of it.

You should probably try to keep the title short. Not only does it make it easier for people to remember, but there is also only a short space available on different podcast apps. Don’t worry if you want to include a little more information. You can have a subtitle.

The subtitle allows you to bring a little more information about the podcast. I have one podcast:

Success Road: inspiration for your journey

The title is only two words (“Success Road”), but the subtitle gives a little more information (“inspiration for your journey).

One thing to be careful of, though, is don’t have the subtitle be part of the actual title. Apple Podcasts has been cracking down on people that add keywords to their title and author tags in a spammy way. Many times they do this by using certain punctuation marks in the title (like a dash or colon), which has also affected many people that have been using those punctuation marks legitimately. Whether you agree with Apple’s decisions or not, if you want to “play the game” of podcasting, they’re the ones that make the rules.

Another area you have is the description. This is where you can write more about your podcast. You can make this pretty long, but you need to remember that people are looking quickly, so you want to make it easy and quick to read. Know exactly what you want to say and find the best way to be concise. And always front-load the value benefits for listener so it catches their attention first.

Your Podcast Cover Art

The other thing that people will see first is your podcast cover art. There are many things to consider regarding your artwork. We’ll look at the artwork’s size, the text, and basic design considerations.

The primary standard for podcasting, including the art, comes from Apple Podcasts. This is because they are the largest collection of podcasts. Plus there are many other services and podcatchers that take the information for your podcast from Apple.

The first thing I will talk about is the size of the cover art. The Apple standard is that the artwork should be at least 1400 by 1400 pixels and no larger than 3000 by 3000 pixels. This may seem huge, especially when you consider that the device that most listeners will have fits in their pocket. One reason for the large size is because of the increasing development of better resolutions on these devices. Devices with retina displays are able to fit more pixels into a smaller area, creating a much crisper image. A larger image would be needed to display it in the best way possible.

Another thing to keep in mind regarding image size is that it is better to start big and make it smaller (still keeping the original large file) for certain projects (i.e. placing it in a blog post). If you were to take a small image and try to make it bigger, it will distort the image and make it look grainy. This is something you don’t want.

I would recommend going with the largest size (3000×3000) so that you will be ready, no matter what the standards may be later. In a year or two, the size will likely increase. In 2013, the recommended size was 1200 by 1200, and it may jump up anytime, especially as screen resolutions improve.

You also want to consider the text that will be on the artwork. Generally speaking, you want the text to be large.

Keep this in mind: your artwork will be displayed in many different sizes. It will be displayed in its large size, so the text size won’t matter as much in that way. But, the same artwork will also be displayed as a little square on a phone – possibly 150 by 150 pixels. You want someone to see your artwork in this small size and still know what it is. If they can’t read it, they may just go right on past it.

This will also mean that you won’t be able to put a lot of text on the artwork. You definitely want your title, and possibly your subtitle and/or name. A general rule I heard from a fellow podcast consultant, Daniel J. Lewis (who happens to create podcast cover art as well), is that you want the title to be large and that the subtitle should be half the size of the title. So, if you use 80 point font for the title, the subtitle should be 40.

You can see how it looks, too, to determine the size. You have the title fit on one line, stretching across from one edge to the other; and then you may want the subtitle (which is a little bit longer) to match up to the title, edge to edge. Doing this may break the 2:1 rule on the font size, but it’s still a good rule of thumb to keep in mind.

Your overall design should be simple. If you try to put too much into the artwork, the busyness may make it more difficult to convey your message quickly. You want your message to be clear and easy to understand. Too many images or designs may distract too much.

As a word of advice, you may want to consider outsourcing this part of your podcast. Unless you have a good eye for design and have skill in creating images, you could spend time needlessly on something that may not be the greatest. There are many great options for different budgets, but you need to be careful – many times, you get what you pay for.

This wraps up this lesson about getting started with your podcast. By this point, you should:

  • Know your target audience
  • Really understand your “why” for podcasting
  • Know your topic and subtopics
  • Have a great, relevant title
  • Have great cover art

The next lesson will come in two days, so set aside a little time to brainstorm and work through the things mentioned in this lesson. While it may not seem sexy and exciting, you won’t believe how incredibly helpful it will be to go through these exercises.