Podcasting 101

Do you listen to podcasts? Ever thought of starting your own? Welcome to this week’s Weekly Slice, brought to you by The Good Lemon (we hope you read that in Ira Glass’s soothing voice). 

Podcasting is a great tactic to try for connecting with your audience, sharing content in an easy-to-find format that your listeners opt into receiving, and gaining confidence in your public speaking and interview skills.

The main thing to know is that podcasts are WORK. Podcasting goes way beyond taking 30 minutes out of your day to record your unique thoughts on your iPhone. To do it right, it involves careful strategizing, planning, executing, producing, editing and promoting. But don’t give up yet. This week we’ll talk about some essential podcast facts to know before you take that first step, and next week we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of production so you’re totally prepared to be the next podcast star. 

Let’s start with basics. Podcasts have come a long way since the first, “Radio Open Source,” premiered in 2003. Over the last decade, podcasting has evolved from a niche medium occupied by tech-savvy comedians to a true sounding board for the masses. It’s similar to how blogging evolved, waaay back when; now there’s a podcast for every niche you can think of, from political analysis to reality TV analysis to where exactly Richard Simmons is right now. In 2008, only 9% of Americans had listened to a podcast in the past month. Now, 21% of Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. And the market is only growing as both investment and podcast distribution grow, too.

TL;DR: If you’re going to try this out, now is a great time!

Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you're ready to take on the podcasting challenge:

  • Is your target market already listening to someone else? Consider the podcasting demographic to be a slightly younger, more tech-savvy audience. If you’re trying to reach baby boomers, you might want to consider other options. Just 11% of Americans 55+ listen to podcasts monthly. 
  • What’s your story? Quality podcasting should educate, inspire or entertain. For example, we recently helped launch We’re Cookin’, a podcast for home cooks. The founder of Just Simply...Cuisine, Chris Coppola Leibner, decided to start her foodcast to “teach people how to source, cook, and eat real food close to home,” especially if those people can’t make it to her classes. But it’s not just cooking lessons; she interviews DC food vendors, tells the story of her school and teaching career, and talks to real students about their cooking disasters and triumphs. So think about your chosen topic -- are you inspiring people to do something they’ve never tried before? Are you educating them about an issue? Are you entertaining them with interesting stories and funny anecdotes? Kudos if you can do all three!
  • How special are you? If you know what you’d like to start talking about, do some research and find out who else is talking about it. It’s not that there only has to be one podcast per niche, but you should consider what you can add to the conversation that’s unique. Take the time to listen to those other shows and note what you like, don’t like, and what’s missing. Talk out your ideas with friends and colleagues, and get thorough feedback.
  • Do you have the time? Podcasting takes time -- a lot of time. Aside from buying the right microphone, there are a lot of steps between sitting down in a quiet room and getting that “You’re approved!” email from the iTunes store. Take your time planning and making sure you really want to do this, and that you’ll really follow through. This is a commitment!
  • Do you have an audience already? Promotion is its own burden, so it helps if you already have an audience primed and ready for more content from you. Whether it’s your customers, students, constituents, email subscribers or some other large network of contacts that you’ve curated, make sure you’ve got a squad who will support you with reviews, ratings, and subscriptions when you’re ready to launch.

Next week, we’ll explain the production process, from planning out a show to getting those five-star ratings. In the meantime, check out some of our favorite podcasts as a bonus (or for inspiration!) below:

  • The Moth: This podcast contains all true storytelling told live. It contains every type of story from inspirational to downright hilarious, and one of our team members Michelle is obsessed. 
  • My Favorite Murder: Recently one of our team members Erin told us about this true crime podcast, combining murder stories with a touch of humor. Think CSI without the over the top drama.
  • How Did This Get Made?: It’s like book club but better. Comedians and actors (and the audience) watch terrible movies and analyze them in gritty detail, and even interview the people who made them. Movies reviewed are gems like Hackers, Grease 2 (yes, there was a sequel), and, TGL founder Katie’s recent favorite, Surf Ninjas.