How to start your own podcast
Start your own podcast? Why not? Instead of streaming someone else’s show, maybe it’s time to create one of your own. And a fine time to start a podcast it is. Podcasting once took a bit of effort to get into. The recording software, the hosting, and the equipment could end up costing a reasonable amount of money and took a certain degree of technical savvy to use. Yet like so many things on today’s internet, those barriers have dropped, particularly for folks who simply want to dive in and give it a try. With a pair of headsets, a built-in microphone, and some free software, you can start podcasting now with your computer or even your phone. So, if you’re ready to give it shot, let’s take a look at some of the resources available to you.
Coming up with an idea for your podcast
More so than choosing this software or that, the process really starts with a basic concept for your podcast. You’ll have a topic that you want to cover, a format such as a one-person show or a talk format where you have multiple hosts or guests, and a target length for your show.
For example, let’s assume that you’re trying out podcasting as part of a little family project. Maybe you and your daughter want to talk about going on adventures like hiking, canoeing on lakes, and fishing. A great concept for you could be a 20-minute show about adventures kids and parents can take together. You can talk about how you decide on your adventures, plan for them, and tell some stories about your triumphs and pitfalls along the way. What does it feel like to catch your first bass, or how does it feel to set up your tent in a sudden downpour? People love hearing stories that’ll inspire them or make them laugh or, better yet, both.
Another idea is to approach it like as a learning opportunity for your kids. Recently, I posted an article on project-based learning for kids at home. One of the suggestions was for kids to make a short podcast of their own to show what they’ve learned about after researching a that they’re interested in. What you learn here in this article could point the way for them to create their own show, whether with your help or independently.
That’s just a few examples. And really, coming up with an idea for a podcast is a topic in and of itself. For more on that, check out this article on creating a podcast from National Public Radio. While written for students, it’s packed with plenty of solid advice for anyone who wants to get started in podcasting, plus several pro tips for making your show sound great.
What about podcasting equipment?
Chances are you already have the basics. If you have a set of headphones with a built-in microphone and a computer or phone you can attach them to, that’s a great start. Of course, people who invest more time and money into their podcasting pursuit will have things like a podcasting microphone mounted on a miniature boom arm, a “pop filter” that prevents you from popping your “P’s” in the microphone, and maybe even a small mixing board. But, for just getting started or just having some fun as a family, you really don’t need those things.
Free podcasting software and hosting
What you will need is some software that lets you record your show and even do some basic editing too. Here are a few free options that’ll cover your recording and editing while giving you a place to post your shows too:
Anchor gives you standard recording features, plus extra bells and whistles like importing voice messages from your phone, group chat, and transitions. As Anchor is part of streaming music provider Spotify, you can also import music into your podcast from there. And when you’re done recording, Anchor offers free hosting for creators. If you’re creating a multiple-host podcast, your co-host or guests can use the Anchor app on their phone and join in.
It may look like a typo, yet Spreaker is the name for this offering. Much akin to Anchor, it offers a combination of recording software and hosting capabilities so that you can add things like music and sound effects to your podcast. The app also supports Google Hangouts and Skype so that you can bring on a co-host or guest.
A third popular option is Podbean. It also allows you to record and publish your podcast for free as part of a basic plan that offers 500 MB of storage space and 100GB of bandwidth per month (meaning, a 500 MB could be downloaded 200 times at no cost—where 500 MB is approximately 5 hours of showtime).
Free options for editing your podcast
If you already have a way of recording your podcast, such as with a simple audio recorder on your phone, computer, or laptop, you can drop those audio files into free audio editing software to edit your show together.
These are more formally known as Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). Depending on which one you select, these apps offer functionality similar to what the pros use to record and edit their audio. You’ll see things like multiple tracks where you can place people, music, and sound effects on their own timeline that you can mix together, different options for exporting your show to different file types, settings to sweeten sound quality, and much more. As you might imagine, audio editing and mixing is a pursuit unto itself, and you can really dive deep here if the podcasting bug bites you. Here’s a rundown of what’s out there:
Apple users will probably know this app. Garageband is available only on Mac and iOS devices (iPad and iPhone). It has all the watermarks of an Apple application, where it’s an app that looks good and simplifies an otherwise complicated process. Above, we mentioned multi-track recording. If you’re new to that, it can feel a little overwhelming at first, yet GarageBand color-codes its tracks and leans heavily on drag-and-drop editing. That lends itself to ease of use, exploration, and even a fair share of trial-and-error as you get comfortable with it. Plus, as its name would imply, GarageBand features a library of musical instruments. So when you get tired of podcasting, you can play around with it and drop some beats.
Slightly further along the audio editing learning curve is Audacity, which is a free download for multiple platforms. Visually, it’s a contrast to GarageBand yet its functionality goes much deeper. One appealing aspect of Audacity is that it’s celebrating a 20-year run as open source software—meaning that it’s a community-supported effort. So if you’re dedicated to learning audio editing, there are numerous resources out there that can help you learn the Audacity interface and feel confident that you’re learning an audio app that’ll be around for some time.
Reaper Digital Audio Workstation
And of our three free options, Reaper is the most full-functioned editor, which you can download for a free 60-day trial. If you’re completely new to audio editing, you may want to start with one of the other options just to get familiar with the basics. Otherwise, if you’ve used some other simpler platforms before and feel ready to move up, Reaper is a fine choice.
Your podcast and your privacy
Here’s the thing with dipping your toe into the world of podcasting: you don’t have to post your podcast for others to hear. As we talked about at the start of this article, this could just be an entertaining project or exploration for you and your family. You can hang on to your podcast and just share it with family at home, or you could send it to some friends and family for them to listen to it too. Regardless of what you decide to do with your podcast once you’ve recorded it, you’ll want to think about your privacy.
Online privacy isn’t a topic that’s discussed much in many “how-to start your own podcast” articles. Yet it’s a vital topic. (In fact, we discuss privacy all the time on our own Hackable? podcast.) Keep privacy in mind when you podcast. Just like anything else you post online, a picture, a status update, a blog, or what have you, you’re exposing yourself to the entire online world. When it comes to anything digital, what you say and what you share is forever. It can be copied, shared, disseminated, and even reconstructed in umpteen different ways.
So the general rule with podcasting is much the same as everything else you do online: think before you post.
Before you post, consider …
Just as you go back and look at what you’ve typed in that email or that status update, go back and review your show before you post or share it with others. Listen for things like:
- Have you overtly or inadvertently shared some information about yourself and your family—like birthdays, when you typically go on vacation, or other information that uniquely identifies you in a way? Hackers and crooks could find this useful when it comes to online identity theft or physical theft on your property.
- Are you keeping your family business and friendships private? “Sharenting” details about your children, good or bad, or talking about your relationships with others could lead to embarrassment or hurt feelings amongst family and friends.
- Can anything you’ve said be construed as hurtful, casting someone in a bad light, or simply mocking? Remove it from your podcast or simply don’t post it. You could be held legally responsible. Laws will vary across countries and locales, so make a point of understanding what they are with regards to defamation, libel, and slander in your area.
Again, stop and think before you post. Could this compromise you, your family, your friends, or someone else now or in the future? If so, and even if you’re uncertain of the answer, don’t post.
Start your podcast!
These are just a few of the numerous, and often free, options that allow practically anyone to get started in podcasting, and there are plenty more. Just be sure as you’re surfing around for software, tutorials, and resources, use comprehensive security software to protect you from threats—particularly a browser advisor app that will steer you clear of malware, bad downloads, and suspicious links. Also, caveat emptor, buyer beware. When researching apps, always look at the reviews so that you can spot any issues before you download or use an app.
With that, I hope this inspires an interesting side project, or even a new pastime for you and your family. Get out there and have some fun!