Podcasting 101: The Complete Guide to Getting Started via @Buffer

Content marketing comes in many different shapes and sizes. Creators like you have a lot of options: blog postssocial media updates, visuals, video, slide decks, and even more. You can even add podcasting to this mix.

Audio is being used in clever ways to fit into the content plans of some of the top forward-thinking websites and blogs. Tim Ferris—author of The Four-Hour Work Week—recently started a podcast on his blog. Copyblogger runs their Lede podcast amid their traditional awesome marketing posts.

Podcasts seem to be a growing trend that is here to stay. Have you thought about starting your own? If so, here’s what I dug up for how to get going in this new content direction. Read on to learn the ABCs of podcasting for beginners.

How to Overcome Your Fears of Starting a Podcast

I have always been podcast averse but never quite able to put my finger on why.  Then I read a pitch from Copyblogger for a podcast seminar. Demian Farnworth listed pretty much all my fears.

“My voice sounds weird.”

“The technical skills needed to record, upload, and store audio files are so far out of my wheelhouse.”

“The cost of quality equipment exceeds my small budget.”

“I want to pee my pants when I think of speaking in public.”

That’s me in a nutshell. I am not used to the sound of my own voice. I have no idea what’s involved in getting audio recorded and edited. I cringe at spending money on a microphone. And I’m rather uncomfortable speaking extemporaneously without the safety net of rough draft after rough draft after rough draft.

So what can someone like me—and maybe someone like you—do about it?

Reasons to Jump Headfirst Into Podcasting

When was the last time you listened to a podcast?

If it’s been awhile for you, chances are that someone you know has listened pretty recently. Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults listen to podcasts at least occasionally.

Commuting–be it by train, subway, or car—along with the ubiquity of mobile devices represent a huge opportunity for the growth of podcasts. People who listen to podcasts via cell phone grew 10 percent from 2010 to 2012.

Then there are the strategic reasons, too. Michael Wolf,  chief analyst of NextMarket Insights (and a notable podcaster), sees podcasting as a less crowded content channel than blogging. It has deeper engagement, as listeners tend to stay tuned in longer than with blog content. Podcasts work as multitasking options, too—you can listen to a podcast while you cook or while you drive. The same can’t be said for blog posts or any form of visual content.

Done right, there are many advantages to starting a podcast of your own—new audiences, less competition, and greater intimacy among them. And it takes less than you think to get started. Here’s all that’s needed for a beginner to create an amazing podcast.

Gear to Get Started

A quality podcast will mean quality equipment. Sure, you can scrape by with a bare minimum setup. You can record a podcast with nothing more than your smartphone, but it’ll sound like just that—a phone call recorded on a mobile device.

Have you heard of the MVP concept? It stands for Minimum Viable Product, and it is a startup-y term for pushing out the bare bones version of whatever you have, seeing if people enjoy it, then building it up from there. It’s a lean approach we love at Buffer, and I think it makes sense for getting started with podcasts, too.

Invest enough to create a quality podcast, see if people like it, then advance from there.

Step one: Buy a microphone. 

Audio quality begins and ends with a microphone. The better microphone you buy, the sharper your podcast will sound. And audio quality reigns supreme when a person’s podcast choices include heavyweights like WNYC, NPR, and ESPN.

Fortunately, it won’t break the bank to get a good-enough microphone.

USB microphones—like the Snowball by Blue Microphones—start around $60. Most buying advice you’ll read about podcast microphones is to purchase a dynamic microphone that is front-firing with good rejection, meaning it picks up your voice clearly without the unwanted sounds of wherever you’re recording.

You can also pick up a headphone/microphone headset for around $30. This is a great option if you’ll be podcasting with cohosts or with guests (more on this below). If you opt for the standalone mic, you can always grab a separate set of headphones—even some you have lying around—and you might also consider buying or fashioning a microphone stand so that you’re comfortable for your podcast.

Recording, Uploading, and Promoting

Before you press the record button, there are a couple final steps to prepare for your podcast.

  1. Format: What’s your podcast going to look like?
  2. Content: What’s your podcast going to say?

Podcasts can take many forms: one-man shows, cohosts, guests, call-in, etc. Metafilter founder Matt Haughey, who has put in hundreds of hours on podcasting, recommends that your show involve two or three hosts.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and the most typical format is 2 or 3 hosts and sometimes one guest. I’ve never subscribed to a single-person podcast before because I’ve yet to find a single-person-talking podcast that is interesting enough to stick with… Two or three people chattering to each other is the most common format but it’s possible to take it too far.

Stick to 2-3 people on your show.

Your best bet for a podcast that sounds organized and professional is to practice beforehand by figuring out what you’re going to say and coming up with an outline for your recording. You don’t have to go so far as to script things out. Just have a road map for where you’re headed and what you want to touch on.

Here’s a sample outline to consider, via Voices.com:

  • Show intro (who you are, what you’re going to talk about): 30-60 seconds
  • Intro music (repeat for each show so listeners identify the jingle with your show): 30-60 seconds
  • Topic 1: 3 minutes
  • Topic 2: 3 minutes
  • Interlude (music or break): 30 seconds
  • Topic 3: 3 minutes
  • Topic 4: 3 minutes
  • Closing remarks (thank audience, thank guests, talk about the next show): 2 minutes
  • Closing music (suggest same as Intro music jingle): 2 minutes

When it comes time to do the actual recording, the easiest solution might be a simple recorded Skype call. You can call up your co-host or guests via Skype, and record the call with special Skype recording software. When you’re finished, an editing application can help with the clean up, processing, music, and publication.

For Mac users, here is what you could use:

For PC users:

(Note: If you have co-hosts, you might consider each of you recording your end of the conversation and stitching the separate audio files together in post-production. This makes for cleaner audio.)

Your final audio can be uploaded to a number of different places. Here are a few of the big ones:

After you’ve finished recording, editing, and producing your podcast, you can upload it to hosting sites like Libsyn, Soundcloud, and TuneIn, or you can aim to get your podcast live on iTunes. Here’s what’s involved in taking your podcast onto iTunes.

Step 1: Create an RSS feed for your podcasts. If you upload your files to a site like Libsyn, the feed creation is done automatically for you.

Step 2: Click on “Submit a Podcast” in the iTunes Store. Open iTunes, navigate to the store, click on Podcasts from the top menu, and the “Submit a Podcast” link will be in the right column under Quick Links.

Step 3: Enter your feed URL and fill out the other information required (Name, Author, Description, etc.)

Step 4: Click submit.

iTunes will give you a confirmation message, letting you know that there may be a review process for your podcast. Typically within 24 to 48 hours, you will receive an email letting you know if you’re approved. Three to five days after that, people can begin searching and finding your podcast in the iTunes store.

For promotion and sharing of your podcast, a lot will depend on the site where you upload. Places like Soundcloud, for instance, offer a robust set of sharing options built in. You can share directly to Twitter, Facebook, and more, and you can embed the audio directly into your blog posts.

Embedding audio is perhaps the best way to sync your podcast with your blog content. Many top blogs use their podcast as an additional blog post, adding the audio directly into the body of the post and providing either a full transcript of the podcast or a list of topics and resources covered in the podcast. (Complete transcripts can be helpful for SEO and accessibility.)

The Ideal Everything for Podcasts

We get quite a kick out of learning the ideal length and frequency for a number of different types of content, and podcasting is no exception. There’s less research out there about podcasts, so what I couldn’t find, I ran the numbers myself.

Ideal length of a podcast: 22 minutes

Stitcher, an online radio and podcast site, says that the average listener stays connected for 22 minutesThe science of attention spans supports this number, too. TED Talks have an 18-minute maximum because scientists believe we can’t hold our attention on a single presenter for any longer before we check out.

Best day to post a podcast: Tuesday

To find this conclusion, I pulled the numbers for the Top 25 podcasts in the iTunes store and noted their publishing schedule and the frequency with which they published new podcasts. There was a large variety of posting schedule among the Top 25, but a small trend did begin to develop. Sixty percent of podcasts with a regular schedule posted early in the week, before Wednesday. The most common single day was Tuesday (which just so happens to be the day when new music hits the iTunes store, presumably meaning more visits who might see a new podcast).

Best frequency to post a podcast: Weekly

Forty percent of the Top 25 podcasts with a regular posting schedule publish once per week. The next most common frequency is twice per week. Of the Top 25, only three podcasts did not have a discernible schedule to their posting. It seems that some publishing rhythm is preferred over no rhythm.

Podcasts to Learn From

We love taking inspiration from others and learning how to best tackle new media like podcasts. As I mentioned up above, several key sites are exploring podcasts, and they’re doing so in really interesting ways. Here is a breakdown of five of the top ones and how they do podcasts.

Tim Ferriss – Four Hour Work-Week blog

  • Average length of the past five podcasts: 48 minutes (Ferris sprinkles in short “audio essays” of 10 to 20 minutes alongside his longer podcasts of over an hour)
  • Podcast frequency: Twice per week
  • Embedded audio: Libsyn
  • On iTunes? Yes
  • Full transcript in post: No
  • Show notes: Yes


Coypblogger – The Lede podcast

  • Average length of the past five podcasts: 24 minutes
  • Podcast frequency: Weekly
  • Embedded audio: Flash player
  • On iTunes? Yes
  • Transcript in post: Yes
  • Show notes: Yes



  • Average length of the past five podcasts: 44 minutes
  • Podcast frequency: Weekly
  • Embedded audio: Libsyn
  • On iTunes? Yes
  • Transcript in post: No
  • Show notes: Yes


Convince and Convert – Social Pros podcast

  • Average length of the past five podcasts: 48 minutes
  • Podcast frequency: Weekly
  • Embedded audio: Flash player
  • On iTunes? Yes
  • Transcript in post: No
  • Show notes: Yes


Social Media Examiner

  • Average length of the past five podcasts: 40 minutes
  • Podcast frequency: Weekly
  • Embedded audio: PowerPress player
  • On iTunes? Yes
  • Transcript in post: No
  • Show notes: Yes



At the top of the post I mentioned a few of the fears that stand in my way for thinking about podcasting.

“My voice sounds weird.” “I hate public speaking.” Many of the best podcasters began with the same fears, and once you hear the wide variety of voices in podcasts, you’ll feel okay, too, about starting your own.

“I don’t have the technical skills needed to record.” Technical skills are easier and easier to come by nowadays with the technology available. And there’s really not much editing to be done with a simple podcast.

“The cost of quality equipment exceeds my small budget.” Forty dollars should be within most everyone’s budget, and that’s all you may need to get a viable microphone set up and begin podcasting.

Hopefully you’re feeling better about those fears now.

What questions do you have about podcasting? If you’ve already dabbled with podcasts, what lessons have you learned along the way? What podcasts do you like the best? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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This post originally appeared on Buffer, and is re-published with permission.
Image credit: M. Keefe