What Are Podcasts and What Do I Need to Know to Start One?

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The revolution in online digital broadcasting has produced many new avenues for content distribution. Easily one of the most popular mediums for content producers at every level is podcasting, a practice that allows anyone to become the next Howard Stern. Whether its audience numbers in the thousands or the millions, a podcast is a powerful way to transmit information on the web. If you want to start a podcast, the following information should prove helpful.

What Is a Podcast?

Basically, a podcast is any digital recording that’s been uploaded to the Internet for public consumption. For instance, posting a series of MP3 files to a blog so that others can download them technically constitutes a podcast. The key ingredient in a podcast is a subscription model that allows followers to automatically listen to a series of recordings without any extra action. Long story short, it’s like RSS for real digital audio.

The Benefits of Podcasting

While the goals of individual podcasts may vary, the benefits are easy to nail down. For one, there’s the affordability of reaching a wide audience through an Internet connection. You don’t need to buy a radio station or be famous to broadcast a message. This results in incredible ROI for promoters of all stripes. Furthermore, a podcast is a better way to market than direct methods like PPC or display advertising.

Zeroing In On a Good Niche

If you want your podcast to last and thrive, you need a specific focus. Depending on your resources and knowledge base, you can make your podcast as broad or as narrow as you feel like. You could do a podcast on anything from automotive repair to classic film reviews. The point is that your podcast should be unique, appealing and most importantly relevant to your desired audience.

Setting Up a Solid Studio

Putting together a topnotch podcast requires a little investment in good studio equipment and some software. First off, get a decent microphone and a solid desktop or workstation PC. While you could record your podcast with nothing more than a headset and an iPad, it’s worth your time to get reliable hardware. As for recording software, something along the lines of Garageband or Audacity should work quite well.

Recording and Editing Episodes

Once you’re set up to record your podcasts, all you need to worry about is putting out the best product. Audio quality should be a primary concern if you want your podcast to survive. A bitrate of 128kbps is most likely good enough for your typical podcast. Once you’re done, use Audacity or something similar to amplify, equalize and polish your recordings before exporting it to your desired format.

Distribution Details

The final step in creating a podcast is publishing. For the DIYers out there, it’s best to use an RSS service like Feedburner and a cloud storage platform such as Amazon S3 to serve up audio files. Alternatively, a service such as Libsyn will help you to automate the process for as little as $10 a month. You could also simply publish on YouTube. Put your podcast up on iTunes or Google Play to attract more listeners.

Making the Most of Podcasting

The great thing about podcasting is that there’s no hard ceiling on growth and profit potential. If your podcast becomes popular, you should at least monetize to the point where hosting costs are covered. For example, you could sell advertising spots during your podcast episodes. Alternatively, you could charge a small sum of $5 or so per month for subscriptions. Either way, podcasts can be a financial and promotional goldmine when used properly.

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