Note: This tutorial was published in 2012. However, it has been updated over time. Today, it is still considered one of the top free tutorials on the web to help you get your podcast setup. Emails come in every day from those who take action on the steps below, and I hope you’ll be next. Best of luck, and enjoy!
Last update: April 27, 2015 – Added information about how to connect a mixer to a computer if using a MacBook Air or 27″ Retina Display iMac, which do not have separate line-in audio jacks.
Starting a podcast has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for my brand. Ever.
Since starting The Smart Passive Income Podcast in July of 2010:
- The show has surpassed 12,500,000 total downloads. (as of January 2015)
- The podcast has become the #1-way people who read my blog found out about me – that’s above search, social media and links from other websites. (See survey results)
- I was contacted by a Hollywood producer who listened to my show to consult as the social media director for a $10M independent film (See IMDB)
- Fox News reached out to me to feature my story on the evening news.
- I led a panel at Blog World Expo in New York this past June about the power of podcasting. It was cool to see the room filled beyond capacity. (See image)
- Several other big-name bloggers have started their podcasts, including Michael Hyatt, Michael Stelzner, and Derek Halpern – and even more recently Seth Godin.
- I’ve become more confident as a person and better skilled as a speaker. It was the perfect stepping stone to conquering my fear of public speaking. Next year, I’ve already been booked to speak at four different events around the United States and have been asked to speak at even more events around the world.
And, most importantly, the podcast has enabled me to build a stronger relationship with my audience – much stronger than I could ever do with just my blog alone. The language that people use when they describe listening to my podcast is as if I was there speaking to them in person:
- “Thanks for keeping me company while I was…”
- “I was scrambling, taking notes while you were talking about…”
- “It was when you said [this] that I decided to…”
It’s incredible. I get emails every single day from listeners who have taken action and are seeing results because of the podcast. That is what’s so cool about all of this – people will listen, people will connect and people will take action. As a content provider, that’s exactly what you want people to do, and when you feed your voice into people’s heads there is no chance to skim your content or take shortcuts. It’s you and them – one on one, except in reality it’s you and potentially millions of other people, all at the same time.
Do you really need me to convince you any further? Now is the time to start a podcast and this post is here to help you get started. Now about this tutorial…
I first announced my interest in starting a podcast back in December of 2008. You can read this announcement post and listen to a short test recording I did. Personally, I hate it. I find it very difficult to listen to. If you’ve listened to my show before you can tell how much I’ve improved my skills since then!
We all have to start somewhere.
That was in December of 2008, but I didn’t publish my first podcast episode until July of 2010! That’s a year and a half later!
Why did it take me so long?
Because setting up a podcast was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Podcasting was brand new to me, relatively technical, and I just didn’t know where to begin. After trying to figure it out on my own, I gave up and put it aside until I finally got some help a year later from two dear friends of mine: Jason Van Orden from Internet Business Mastery and Cliff Ravenscraft from Podcast Answer Man. Both Jason and Cliff inspired and personally helped me setup my podcast. Thank you both if you’re reading this!
Since I became interested in podcasting, a lot of great “how-to podcast” tutorials have popped up on the Internet that I wish were around when I first started. The best one I’ve seen, by far, is from Cliff Ravenscraft over at LearnHowtoPodcast.com.
The tutorial that you’re reading today was not created to “out do” any of the other podcasting tutorials out there. Cliff’s is fantastic, and there are several others too (I actually asked Cliff permission to publish this post and he was more than supportive about it. Cliff – you’re awesome!), but I know I have a particular style of teaching that resonates with a lot of my audience, and so here is my version of how to start a podcast. I hope you enjoy.
The ONE Thing You Must Do Before You Start Podcasting…
Podcasting is extremely fun and exciting, but there is one thing you must do before you start podcasting:
You must internally commit to podcasting, as you must do with anything that is potentially beneficial but takes some time and effort to do.
You have to say to yourself:
“This is something I’m going to do, and this is something I’m going to keep doing.”
It’s easy to get excited about the potential of podcasting and what it can do for you and your brand. The possibilities are endless, but only if you keep at it.
My best advice is to enjoy every single part of it. Once you start thinking, “Ugh, I have to record another episode soon,” that’s when you should remember why you started podcasting in the first place.
Results take time, so you might as well enjoy it.
How Podcasting Works (An Overview)
Before I get into the step-by-step videos, I wanted to give you the roadmap so you sort of know where we’re headed.
Setting up a podcast is not push-button easy, but it’s not rocket science either, and once you set things up the first time you’ll have done most of the work. Then, all you have to worry about is producing more audio content and just posting it onto your blog. Everything else happens automatically.
Each particular episode of your podcast show is an individual audio file, typically an mp3 file since it’s the most favorable as far as sound quality and file size. We’ll talk more about recording equipment and what elements to include in your show later in this tutorial.
For the purposes of this example, let’s say you record your first episode and export the recording as SPI001.mp3, which is now on your desktop.
Before you upload this file anywhere, you need to provide some more information about this specific piece of audio. This is what is called tagging the file, or in technical terms, editing the metadata or ID3 tags. You need to include this additional data along with your audio file so that media players can understand and display things like the title of the podcast, your name, the episode number and even the artwork for your podcast. I won’t get into too much detail here in the roadmap, but when I talk about each of these parts individually I’ll give you all of the tools and resources you need.
After you have your audio properly tagged, you must upload and store SPI001.mp3 onto a server somewhere so that whenever a media player wants to play it (from a website, from iTunes, from a mobile device, etc.), it knows where to call that audio file from. You could store your audio files on your own website’s server, but I 100% do not recommended that because you could easily run into bandwidth issues and your site could slow down or even crash as a result. If you upload your audio onto a separate server just for your podcast media, you run no risk of overloading your own site and you’ll be able to provide a better experience for your audience too because the audio will stream much faster.
Once you upload SPI001.mp3 onto a server you’ll get a link that points directly to your audio, such as:
This link is important because, like I said, this is the link that media players and directories like iTunes use to play your podcast episode.
But here’s where it get’s a little tricky because we’re going to talk about feeds, which is a technical term that always seems to confuse people, including myself at times.
A feed is a standardized way to syndicate written content so that it is more easily read by other websites, applications and directories. The specific technical format of a feed makes it so that you, the end user, can read data in a way that is more pleasing and easy to read.
If your website is on a blogging platform like WordPress, you’re already setup with a feed. People who are subscribed to your feed will automatically get your new content whenever you publish new content on your site.
So how do feeds relate to podcasting?
Podcast directories such as iTunes, Stitcher, Zune and others read your feed and scan it for properly tagged mp3 files. That’s how they know a new show came out, because it’s shown in your feed.
Unlike what I had originally thought, you submit your feed address to podcasting directories like iTunes – you don’t upload each individual episode to them. This is why after the initial setup, all you have to do is keep publishing audio content on your website and iTunes and other directories will automatically get updated when new episodes come out.
Don’t worry if all of this sounds a little too technical right now – trust me, I understand. The rest of this tutorial will make it much easier for you than it was for me when I first started.
5 Things You Should Prepare Before You Begin Recording
1. Your Podcast’s Title
You’re going to need a title for your show. For most of you, the name of your blog, or the name of your brand along with “podcast” will make the most sense, but you also have the opportunity to add a few extra words to target specific keywords that you’d like to potentially rank for in iTunes.
iTunes is definitely a search engine – don’t forget that.
Don’t go crazy with the keywords though (don’t keyword stuff with a billion keywords in your title!) and try to keep it as natural as possible, but don’t be afraid to pick a few select words either.
My podcast’s title, for example, is:
The Smart Passive Income Podcast: Online Business | Blogging | Passive Income | Lifestyle
Look up “online business” or “blogging” in iTunes. Scroll down to the “podcasts” and “podcast episodes” section and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
2. Your Host / Talent Name
This is, of course, your name, but you can add a little bit more to help your show rank higher for certain keywords in iTunes. Just as with your podcast’s title, don’t go crazy with it. But, at the same time, don’t be afraid to help people (and the iTunes search algorithm) understand who you are.
My host / talent name, for example, is:
Pat Flynn: Online Entrepreneur, Business Strategist and Blogger
Look up the word “blogger” in iTunes and scroll down to the podcasts section – you’ll see what I’m talking about.
3. Your Podcast’s Subtitle
iTunes and other directories may ask for a subtitle for your show. It’s weird though because I don’t ever see the subtitle used anywhere. That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a short, small description for your podcast handy for later, just in case. A couple of sentences should suffice.
4. Your Podcast’s Summary / Description
This is the main description for your podcast. In iTunes, you can have up to 4000 characters to describe your show. Your copy should be engaging and descriptive, but also include several keywords that you’d like to target in iTunes as well.
A great description that relates to your show will naturally include keywords anyway, so keep that in mind.
As a reminder, write this all down and save it for later so you can copy and paste when you need to.
5. Your Podcast’s Artwork
Your podcast is going to need some artwork – a square image that represents your show. As much as podcasting is an auditory medium, the graphical, visual element that represents your podcast plays an extremely important role.
For one, it’s what people will see in podcasting directories, such as iTunes, before listening to a single spoken word and before reading any written words about your show in the description or summary. Your artwork is your podcast’s first impression, and it’s also what competes for attention with every other single podcast that’s out there.
For iTunes, specifically, a visually appealing podcast image gives your show a better chance of being featured in highly visible sections of iTunes, such as the New & Noteworthy and Staff Picks section in your category.
And lastly, your artwork is what people will see on their media players – their computers and portable devices – when they pull up and listen to your show. It’s an important element for reinforcing your brand identity to your followers.
- You will need one (1) 1400 x 1400 pixel image that you feel best represents your podcast. This is indeed a rather large image, primarily because of the retina display capabilities of some of the new media players available on the market.
- This image should be in a .jpg or .png file format.
- This image should also be readable at much smaller sizes. Many directories and portable media players will automatically shrink the larger image size to fit smaller areas, so it if looks good at 1400 x 1400, but not at 300 x 300 (for example), then it’s not going to work very well. Some devices shrink the size to as little as 73 x 73 pixels. Personally, I’d optimize it for 150 x 150 – if it looks good at that size, then it should read perfectly everywhere else. Remember this when you design (or hire someone to design) your 1400 x 1400 pixel image.
- In additional to the one (1) 1400 x 1400 pixel image, you will need the same image in a different filename at 300 x 300 pixels. You will need this when uploading your artwork as discussed in Video 5 below.
Once you get all the above stuff taken care of, you’re good to go. Now it’s time to get your show up and running on your site. Here’s how to get it done.
Video 1: Podcasting Equipment and Software
In this video, I go over some equipment options including microphone and microphone accessories (with audio examples of each), and software to help you record your show and interviews for your show too.
- Heil PR-40 (XLR connection, not USB) *recommended
- Audio-Technica ATR2100USB (USB and XLR connections) *recommended
- Behringer Xenyx 1002FX Mixer (for XLR connections)
- Samson C01U (USB)
- Blue Snowflake (USB)
- Logitech ClearChat USB Headset (USB)
- Audacity Free Audio Recording/Editing Software
- Call Recorder for Skype (for Mac Users)
- Pamela Call Recorder for Skype (for PC/Windows Users)
- Podcast Answer Man Equipment Packages
Other Gear, If You Need It…
- If using a mixer like the Behringer Xenyx 1002, here’s the cable you need to connect the mixer to your computer.***
- Here is an XLR cable to connect your XLR microphone to your mixer.
***If you’ll be connecting a mixer to a MacBook Air or new 27″ Retina Display iMac, you’ll need one more additional item. This Griffin iMic adapter will be the solution to connect the Dual RCA Cable coming from your mixer (red/white on one end, single 1/8″ stereo jack on the other) into a USB port in your computer.
Video 2: My Top 10 Recording Tips
There’s a lot that goes into recording a high-quality, engaging show. Here are my top 10 tips to help you get the most out of your podcast.
Video 3: Exporting and Tagging Your MP3 File
Once you finish recording and editing your show, there are some very specific things you have to do to turn it into a podcast episode. I do my best to make the technical stuff as non-technical as possible for you.
LevelatorAuphonic.com – The latest and greatest tool that I use to upload audio files to “level them out” – which means to make all the sound levels the same. It’s free for the first two hours, but then you have to pay for credits to continue using the software, so try it out and if it seems to help, consider investing a bit to enhance and level out the show. Again, it helps to make sure (especially when there are interviews) that all of the sounds are at the perfect level for the listener.
Video 4: Web and Media Hosting
You MUST host your media files on a server outside of your own website’s server. Here’s why, and also my top recommended media host (and a discount coupon too!).
- How to Build a Blog in Less than 4 Minutes
- Bluehost for Webhosting (affiliate link)
- Libsyn for Media Hosting (use discount code “SPI” at checkout)
Video 5: Setting Up Your Feed and Publishing Your 1st Episode
Setting up your feed is the MOST important (and most technical) part of the podcasting process. But, you only have to do this once, so do it right and you’re all set. I walk you through exactly how it goes down, step-by-step.
Video 6: Submitting Your Feed to iTunes and Other Directories
This is where (and how) to submit your podcast so people around the world can listen to you and your show.
- iTunes Podcast Feed Submission Page
- Stitcher Feed Submission Page
- Podcasting A to Z by Cliff Ravenscraft (use coupon code SMART at checkout for $500 off!)
Note: in the video, I mention other directories like Blackberry’s directory and Zune. Don’t worry about those. iTunes and Stitcher are where it’s at, for sure.
I truly hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I spent over 30 hours putting this tutorial together for you and I know it’ll help you fast-track your way to a successful podcast.
If it has helped you in any way, please do me a favor and let me know in the comments section below and also share this tutorial using the social media buttons at the bottom of this post. Thank you!!
Cheers, and I’ll see you and your podcast on iTunes very soon!
Why you need to start a podcast and EXACTLY how to do it. (via @patflynn) (click to tweet)
A Special Bonus for You (The Smart Podcast Player)
Since publishing this tutorial a few years back, I created an awesome tool for podcasters who want to increase downloads and number of shares for their show, as well as enhance the look of a podcast player on their website. Introducing, The Smart Podcast Player.
The truth is, nearly 50% of my podcast listening audience still listens here directly on my blog. Yes, we should all be encouraging our listeners to subscribe on their devices, but there will always be “web listeners”. I wanted to make sure we didn’t forget about them too – because most podcast players do.
Here’s a live example of The Smart Podcast Player in action:
Do you see the speed dial next to the play button? That’s my favorite feature of all. It was a direct result of users asking for it.
Since you’re here, and since you’re a podcaster, I wanted to offer you a steep discount on The Smart Podcast Player today. This is a limited sale just for viewers of this tutorial only. To receive a 25% discount off of the player today, use the promo code SPIPODTUT during checkout, or simply click here.