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Anyone can start a podcast and share their thoughts, opinions and research on popular (and not so popular topics). However, to grow an audience and develop a really exceptional podcast, you need a little knowledge… and some tools too.
Whether you’re looking to share your thoughts on true crime, conspiracy theories, medical advice, political information, comedy skits or anything else you can think of… there’s someone out there who wants to hear it!
We spoke with podcasters who are at all stages of the game, from award winning podcast producers to newbies just starting out, to see what it really takes to start your own successful podcast. Spoiler alert, the answer is a little bit of technology and a whole lot of heart.
If you’re going to be recording yourself, you’ll need a microphone. While everyone has their own preference, depending on what type of podcast you’re running (will you be in a recording studio or quite space, or running around town interviewing people on busy streets and shopping malls?) will really help you find the best microphone for you. However, after interviewing a ton of podcasters, two favorites quickly emerged…
Of all the podcasters we interviewed, one microphone came up again and again, Shure SM58. One of the most popular and iconic microphones out there, the Shure stands the test of time as an all time favorite for just shy of 60 years now.
The Soundcasting Network is Seattle’s first podcast network, founded in 2015 to give all the talented, passionate people I know a platform to talk trash, educate and have some fun. The Soundcasting Network reaches between 15,000 and 20,000 people and covers many topics from lifestyle, fitness, entrepreneurship, among many others. Founder Keith Ancker knows what it takes to get great sound quality, “a mic and a recording device, but most important, a good space to record. You can make up for a lot of gear deficiency with a good sounding space.” When it comes to his mic of choice, Ancker recommends the Shure SM58 for it’s great sound, versatility and durability. (He also is a big fan of the Shure SM7B ).
“Technology has lowered the bar to entry into the media. With a small investment in gear, some University of YouTube and a good space, most people are capable of producing content that is technically good enough to compete with 90% of the content out there. What separates success and failure is consistency, flexibility, consistency, work ethic, consistency and imagination.”
So what else does Ancker use on the Soundcasting Network:
The RODECaster Podcast Pro is another podcasting favorite for it’s “super simple setup, lots of control, and separate vocal tracks.” Ancker also likes how easy it is to integrate phone calls into his programming and loves the additional inputs.
Another Shure fan is Jason Palmer who’s been working on his podcast Foster Care: An Unparalleled Jouney for the past year and has gained an audience of 2,000 listeners per month. “ We are a foster and adoptive family since 2008. We talk all things foster and adoption to try to encourage more families to help kids from hard places and encourage former foster youth and adoptees.” Palmer’s favorite microphone is again, The Shure SM58, “it picks up my voice well and sounds great.” He stresses while you can use a phone to record yourself the sound quality with a mic and a laptop can’t be beat. Paired with his Behringer Xenyx Q802USB (which he was able to get used for a decent price) and wonderful storytelling, Palmer is able to really connect with his audience.
Palmer’s advice if you’re looking to start your own podcast, “Do it now. It will not be your best attempt ever, but it will be better every time you try. Not trying because you aren’t good is the best way to suck forever. Mistakes are your friend. They teach you. Take a step – Correct your mistakes and take another step – It is how all the greats became great”
Yaya Podcasting’s Carrie Caulfield Arick provides resources for podcasters, podcast editors and produces and edits podcasts for brands, so she knows a thing or two about what you need to be successful. Her microphone of choice? You guessed it The Shure SM58. “I am in love with my Shure SM58 XLR dynamic microphone (it does require an audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2).” But she has another favorite, “My less techy go to is the Samson Q2U USB/XLR Microphone.”
“The Shure SM58 is great for all sorts of voices, especially women’s. It captures voice fairly accurately without adding too much bass or too much treble. It’s dynamic, meaning it won’t capture a lot of background noise. Add to that the fact that is durable and rugged– made for the stage– and it’ll last you 20+ years. Oh, and it’s right around $100 new, less used. You will need an audio interface of some kind, whether that’s a field recorder or USB unit like a Scarlett. Those will run you another $100-$200,” explains Arick.
“The Samson Q2U is an excellent entry level alternative. It’s both XLR & USB capable, so it can grow with you. I prefer to use this for Zoom.us calls and webinars. While it doesn’t sound as great (to my ear) as the Shure SM58, chances are the only one who’ll notice any difference are the audio people. It’s dynamic, so you won’t pick up background noise and the USB feature means you plug it directly in your computer or even a camera adapter on your phone to record great audio. “
“I can’t stress enough how where you record is almost more important than what you use to record.” Arick explains, “avoid the bathroom, conference room, large rooms and places with hard surfaces. Creating a great recording space at home is pretty easy these days. Also, your car makes a great mobile studio since it already has soundproofing. Problems like reverb or noises as loud as your voice can’t be removed completely in post.”
Sara Fung who’s had her podcast, The Gritty Nurse, for just under a year, adores the Blue Yeti for it’s sound quality, affordability and for how easy it is to use. The Gritty Nurse Podcast is a podcast centered around the life of nurses, common issues that affect them, and hot topics in the healthcare industry. This medical/health podcast features conversational style episodes with occasional guests, Episodes are informative, humorous and educational, focused on personal experience and the experience of other nurses and healthcare providers. Research is also tied in where appropriate. Co-hosts Amie and Sara are experienced nurses, friends, and former coworkers, working a variety of settings both as frontline workers and in healthcare leadership.
Fung explains, when starting out, “…you need to be prepared to learn a host of new platforms and software. This includes but is not limited to: being savvy on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for businesses), websites (e.g. Linktree, Squarespace, Wix), podcast hosting platforms (I recommend Libsyn), editing software (Audacity), recording websites (Zencastr, Zoom), creating logos and graphics (Canva). I recommend doing a free trial for any service so you can test it out before committing to paying for anything.” She also recommends not getting stuck in your ways. “Be open to any feedback even if it’s uncomfortable, it’s the only way to improve.”
To get started Fung suggests, “find where your audience is and join them there to engage and find out what they want to hear about. In my case, Facebook groups are the place to be for nurses of all ages and Instagram is where the newer nurses are.”
But how do you actually begin? “Just get started! Don’t overthink things,” Fung says. “Podcasting is an ever changing game and you will never get it perfect. We started with zero knowledge, no plan, no prerecorded episodes, and no existing listeners. Get into a routine you can maintain long term. We do very minor editing or scripting so that cuts down on time. We only have occasional guests since we are a 2 person podcast. Never underestimate the power of asking, that’s how we’ve gotten on a number of podcasts in our niche to get our name out there, and now we have a backlog of people wanting to be on our podcast. Figure out what makes you different and just be yourself!” If these busy moms can do it (they have 5 kids between the two of them) so can you!
Starting only 3 months ago, Jonathan Fors’ podcast, Just A Convo, because when politics, difference in opinion and buzz noise is preventing us from connecting on a human level, he believes you have a responsibility as a human on this earth to do your best to better that. Which is why Fors started Just A Convo. On his podcast journey he has found the Blue Yeti to fit his needs. “It’s a really great microphone especially for the price you pay (roughly £200 for microphone and arm mount). It’s being used widely across both streaming, youtubing, podcasting and content production in general since it’s a USB only connected device.” Fors praises the microphone as producing wonderful sound and being easy to use.
“The hardware you need depends a lot on the style of the podcast you produce,” shares Fors. “Being a remote-only interview style podcast like myself I really have no need for a lot of equipment apart from a great microphone and webcam. So from my perspective this is what I recommend: As far as mics go, definitely the brand Blue! As their products are very fairly priced for the quality they provide, regardless if you’re starting a podcast or making youtube videos.”
Fors’ editing software of choice is Resolve 16, “…as it is a completely free software being used in Hollywood (with a paid more fleshed out experience). But seeing as the audio editing part of the software is completely free and you have full access, it is a non-brainer. I use Resolve 16 to edit my content. And all my interviews and recorded directly in zoom and also locally just for the safety in case of a corrupted zoom file.”
“When it comes to hardware a lot of people preach about getting the best of the best but at the end of the day it really is about the effort and quality you put into the final product,” shares Fors. So what’s the most important thing? “PREPARATION! That’s a huge one, while being too prepared is definitely a potential problem because it can lead to a very stiff and stale conversation when everything that is being said is planned ahead. In my humble opinion I believe the best conversations and insights happen when it’s straight from the heart and completely unscripted.” Of course she does roughly prepare some questions and topics for each guest but he stresses that, “ … I do not want to know too much about the guest as that may lead to a loss of curiosity from my side when I already know everything about him/her. I want to be as curious as the listener is when hearing the conversation. It’s a balance act!”
When it comes to podcastin, “we’ve always been kind of “punk rock” about it,” shares Joey “The Ladies Choice” DiCarlo, founder of So Wizard Podcast. DiCarlo has had his for six years and gained over 112,000 listeners, so he knows what counts in terms of technology and what’s not necessary. “I use a cheap mic, $5 headphones, and an old-as-dirt laptop. We use Skype and Audacity which are both free programs. A lot of people will tell you to buy expensive microphones and other equipment, but you can get good to great sound with much cheaper alternatives.” In fact DiCarlo uses an Xbox 360 Rock Band Microphone that only cost $10.
DiCarolo shares, “when we first started out, I didn’t want to spend money on something that I may not use if this doesn’t become a thing, and I like it and it works great so I’ve kept it. “ One item he knows that’s worth the money is his mixer. “It’s a Behringer, it costs about $100 and it helps us to have the best sound quality we can.”
“Before you even drop a single episode, do a ‘dry run,’” DiCarlo suggests. “Go through everything as if it was going to be a real episode. Experience the process of getting everyone together, recording, editing. See what it all entails. That will help you pick a schedule that works. Maybe it’s too much to do to be weekly? Now you know. “
Hysteria 51’s Brent Hand has been podcasting for four and a half years. When it comes to sound quality, great audio it is very important to Hand. Which is why Hand uses the Behringer Xenyx UFX1604. “It has 16 channels so it handles everything we need to throw at it perfectly. Been going strong for going on 5 years now without issue.” Hand’s Mic of Choice is the MXL 990 , “We have several, including 2 Shure SM7b mics, but I really prefer the sound from the MXL when we use it in our sound treated studio. It is a fraction of the cost of other mics, durable, and quality. as long as you have a sound treated recording area I can not recommend it enough.” But Hand believes there’s one item in particular most people forget, a limiter gate. “We use a limiter gate to cancel out noise and that is something I think a lot of people could benefit from. “
“I believe a computer is essential and a DAW you are comfortable using. Editing is important to me and shows I listen to, so I want to make sure I am providing the best “product” I can. This does not need to be expensive at all,“ Hand explains. If you want to create a podcast, Hand believes you should, “just start. Don’t go into debt trying to buy the biggest and best anything, just start. See if it is for you, make the leap, and create. Too many people are hooked on the worries of the tech side and more expensive must mean better. If your show is not worth listening to then the best mic in the world is useless. So find your voice and get going and the rest will follow.”
Hysteria 51 is a weekly podcast that takes an every-man approach to the World of the Weird – UFOs, Aliens, Mysteries, the Paranormal, the Unusual, and the Unexplained. Hosts John Goforth, Brent Hand, and Conspiracy Bot (a cranky robot bent on world domination who also happens to be the show’s head researcher) examine a different topic each week and generally come to one conclusion…the truth is out there, but you won’t find it here.
Hysteria 51 is a 2019 Webby Honoree and has been featured in HuffPost, Podcast Movement, KC Paracon, Planet ComiCon, Alien Con, Wizard World, and Discover Pods as well as being picked by POPSUGAR and UPROXX as one of the best conspiracy-theory podcasts in the field.