Podcasting for Beginners: A 101 Guide to Starting Your Own Digital Radio Show

how to start a podcast

There’s something really exciting about a new, up-and-coming podcaster.

Much like a blog that’s starting to make waves, a podcast can soar quickly via word of mouth by connecting deeply with its audience.

It used to be that this avenue was completely off-limits for anyone but the most tech-savvy. Today, it’s different. Pretty much anyone with a computer can start a digital radio show.

The road to success in this niche is very different, too, than it was a few years ago.

In the fast-paced environment we live in today, a well-written blog post or article may capture the attention of its reader for only a few minutes. A well-delivered podcast, however, can keep its audience steadily engaged for up to an hour – perhaps even longer.

Megan Calcote, podcast producer for @EducatingGeeks and @BizJournalism, recently held a beginner’s tutorial, where she shared a high-level look at how to get started.

Before you can consider yourself the next Sarah Koenig or Malcolm Gladwell, here’s a look at the basics from the session and beyond.


Figuring out if you should jump in is possibly the trickiest step to overcome.

You may be asking yourself: “Should I do this?” “Do I have the content?” “What’s really in it for me?” or even the wretched “Who do I think I am?”

These are all questions to take in to consideration. But, if you’re already a blogger or writer, the path to negotiation with yourself shouldn’t look much different than the decision you made to start writing.

The medium may seem saturated, but it’s a great time to jump in, says Calcote.

There’s a burgeoning audience ready to listen and hungry for content — especially when on the go.  “Many love to listen on their commute,” Calcote says.

If you have something to say, and you’re not hearing it yourself, give it a shot. Chances are, if you are looking for it, someone else is too.


I’ve heard podcasters refer to their world as the Wild West of radio. There’s no rules, and everyone is figuring it out as they go.

This presents a challenge for those looking for some structure in getting started. On the flip side, it provides a great deal of opportunity to make your own way.

For example, the idea for Calcote’s Educating [Geeks] podcast was born after learning a friend had never seen Star Wars. Rather than stop at the education of the friend, the group behind the podcast decided to educate on geek culture at a broader level.

You may feel inclined to replicate the best of the best, but — similar to blogging — being yourself can have big impact.

Bloggers pull readers into their lives through personal anecdotes, via text and imagery. But, the human voice is so much more intimate than the written word. Emotion, tone, sarcasm, excitement, humor all can be portrayed and understood much more easily.

Authenticity is truly the key, and perhaps why a “no rules” environment serves the podcast medium well.


There are a number of best practices to consider for a smooth launch.

Solidify your idea. First, you want to hone an idea and determine your target audience. A quick Google search can show you if any like podcasts are already out there. “But, don’t give up because someone else had a similar idea,” says Calcote. “Find a different take; maybe you can do it better.”

Plan your content. Just as you would create an editorial calendar for a blog or larger publication, it’s important to plan out your show from start to finish. After your idea is set, Calcote says to plan each individual episode out and line up all of your guests, before you start any recording.

Keep to a schedule. “Podcast listeners are appointment listeners,” says Calcote. Much like the pre-internet TV audience, they are creatures of habit. Whether daily, weekly, bi-monthly or monthly, put a set schedule in place and inform your audience. Do your best to adhere to it, but know that disruptions may happen. Just keep your listeners informed, so they know what to expect.

Commit to a set amount of time. For writers and wordsmiths, converting your skills to podcasting can be extremely convenient for you and your audience. Audio transfers more information faster than the written word can, allowing listeners to get more information in a shorter period of time. But, it still takes time and depends on your podcast structure and schedule. You have to commit, says Calcote. If you are adding podcasting to an already busy schedule, you may want to consider shorter or more infrequent episodes.

Equip yourself.  A quality podcast means quality equipment. You could record directly through your phone or computer, but you’re more likely to keep listeners coming back with good audio. If it’s just you speaking on the podcast, a cardiod or unidirectional microphone will do. If you plan on having multiple speakers, you’ll need a bi-directional or omnidirectional microphone, depending on the number of people. Calcote suggests starting out with a USB microphone. When you’re ready to upgrade, purchase an XLR microphone and interface to process the audio into your computer.

Find the right software. You’ll need software for recording and editing. You’ll also need a platform for hosting and distribution. Free services like GarageBand and Audacity allow you to record and edit in the same service. Once done, you can upload it to hosting sites like SoundcloudLibsyn, and PodOMatic, which you can then distribute through iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play.

Consider monitization. Podcasting isn’t a free hobby. You will have to put some money into your work. Asking for support from your listeners through donations can help you with the associated costs. Once you are more established, securing ads through your hosting service or on your own can help you see a return on your investment.

Market yourself. It’s hugely important. “No one will listen, if they don’t know it’s out there,” says Calcote. Social media is your greatest friend in this venue. Use Facebook and Twitter to post your episodes, both old and new, in order to get the word out. These platforms allow you to easily engage with listeners and gain feedback. Consider other platforms too, says Calcote, depending on your niche. If your podcast is lifestyle-focused, Instagram can be a great avenue for promotion. LinkedIn is a great space for business-based podcasts, and can also provide a space for you to connect directly with other professional podcasters.

Go beyond sound. Don’t just stop at audio. Consider having a website of some kind to host deeper information and other supporting materials for your episodes. It doesn’t have to be robust, says Calcote, who suggested spaces like WordPress, Tumblr, Medium, or even a Facebook page. Small steps can mean increased interaction with your listeners.

For the full instructional from Calcote through MediaShift, view the session here.

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Anna Jasinski is manager of audience relations at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter at @annamjasinski or onSnapchat. You can also catch her sharing the latest news in journalism and blogging on @BeyondBylines.

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