How to Make a Podcast

By Jason Gillikin
Podcasts reach a mobile audience.
Błażej Łyjak/iStock/Getty Images

A Pew Research survey from 2012 reports that more than 97,000 podcasts serve an audience estimated to include 18 percent of adults in the United States. Breaking into that market doesn't require much from a technical perspective, but it does demand superior marketing skill, some broadcast journalism skill, and a fair amount of luck.

Develop Compelling Content

With nearly 100,000 shows to pick from, your show will be lost in the noise unless the power of your content helps it stand out. Pick a niche market and dominate it through hard work, like Mike Gillespie's "WhiskyCast" podcast. Or bring the audience back week after week through an extended narrative like the 2014 breakout hit podcast, "Serial."

Market differentiators include name recognition of hosts or guests, a lively format, tie-ins with products or videos, and the provision of either insider information or humor.

Acquire the Right Tools

Although some podcasts, like the popular Texas show "Denton Dallas and Beyond," use just a single omnidirectional USB-wired microphone to record audio, other podcasters use a variety of professional-grade microphones, mixers and acoustic meters to get the job done. As a general rule, the cheaper the hardware, the more time producers will need to engage in audio post-processing to yield an episode free of background noise, audio distortions or other audio artifacts.

Host and Relay with Prudence

Podcasts may be hosted through a service like Podbean or through the podcast's own website. Distribution occurs through a podcast's enrollment in the major content aggregators like Apple iTunes, Microsoft Xbox Music or Stitcher. The market has several dozen major distributors, each of which has its own sign-up process for adding a show to its catalog. Each aggregator has its own metadata requirements, too; Apple, for example, offers special iTunes tags that must be added to the podcast's XML feed to populate certain iTunes fields.

Mind the Details

A loyal audience will forgive one or two off-kilter shows, but if a podcast consistently demonstrates poor production values -- e.g., through audio distortions or inconsistent audio levels -- then listener patience may wane. Find good bumper music that's personally produced or in the public domain. Develop an aesthetically pleasing logo and snappy tagline for the show. Update metadata with each episode. Produce show notes on the podcast's website so listeners know what to expect. Embed audio files into the website to encourage visitors to sample the show.

Engage Socially

The decentralized nature of podcasting -- there's no universal catalog of shows -- means that word-of-mouth marketing is essential for building an audience. Some shows have capitalized on their popularity by building large Twitter followings or starting Facebook groups. Several Las Vegas-themed podcasts, including "Five Hundy by Midnight" and "Vegas Gang," use Facebook groups to interact with fans and coordinate an annual fan meet-up called the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic.

About the Author

Jason Gillikin is a copy editor and writer who specializes in health care, finance and consumer technology. His various degrees in the liberal arts have helped him craft narratives within corporate white papers, novellas and even encyclopedias.