I'd like this article to serve as a resource to help people make the decisions of whether or not they should start a podcast. I'm going to assume you have heard of podcasting and understand what it is. If you don't, well, Google is pretty awesome. I'm also going to share the (current) steps to getting featured in the New & Noteworthy section of iTunes and share multiple ways that you can make money with your podcast.
Why should you care about podcasting?
Podcasting is another way to get your unique message out in the world and (hopefully) in front of your target audience.
A podcast is not a place to complain about your issues with your cable provider and their lack of customer service (that's Twitter). A podcast is not a place where you can put photos of your cute little niece Gertrude (that's Facebook). A podcast is not a place to teach people how to put IKEA furniture together, although with some wit, that could be a highly ironic and funny podcast to listen to (that's YouTube).
Think of podcasting as a virtual megaphone. You grow audiences and followers on other platforms and podcasting is no different. However, unlike social media, the experience of choosing to subscribe to a podcast is more like an email newsletter subscription. If your listeners choose to subscribe to your podcast, they get notifications and downloads specifically about your show.
It is highly unlikely you are ever going to be forced to listen to a podcast on a topic that you don't enjoy. On a platform like Twitter or Facebook, however, you never know when a rant about taxes, politics, or religion, is going to pop up in those activity feeds.
Podcasting hasn't reached bubble status yet. It hasn't jumped any proverbial sharks (although I personally think jumping sharks sounds kind of cool). It's a wide-open playing field that's gaining a lot of great attention and momentum, and is becoming more accessible than ever.
Why should you think about starting your own podcast?
When I started the Invisible Office Hours podcast with my co-host Paul Jarvis, it was because we knew we had more to say. There are a lot of people who talk about the sunshine and rainbows of entrepreneurship and working for yourself, but there are not enough people who talk about the difficult times, the struggles, the self-doubt, and the real aspects of making money. We set out to use podcasting as a forum to share our unique perspectives on topics we were passionate about.
If you have something worth saying, a podcast is one of the few mediums where you can do that with emotions and tone.
As someone who does their fair share of writing, sometimes I know my tone and emotions just aren't coming out the way I want them to via words on a screen. This is very different on a podcast. You can vomit your emotions onto your microphone and your listeners will be able to hear them and consume them as you intended.
Podcasting gives you an opportunity to reach an entire untapped segment of your target audience. It also gives you a chance to create a deeper connection with your existing audience. From personal experience, I can attest to both of these things.
Starting new things is fun! The ability to produce and distribute a podcast isn't quite as easy as starting a blog, but it's not at the difficulty level of installing an IKEA file cabinet. (I'll share my experiences about setting up a podcast in a moment.) I personally really enjoy the process of creating a new episode of a podcast. There's something about speaking into a microphone that comes much more naturally for me than typing words on a page. And even though I have quite a bit of video recording experience, recording audio removes an entire layer from that process that causes headaches (and requires a lot more equipment, time, and skills).
Podcasting can generate revenue!
If you've listened to any of the popular podcasts (Serial or $100 MBA) you've probably heard them mentioning sponsors. I know I hear the company names MailChimp, SquareSpace, Audible, HostGator, and others all the time. I have friends who make $100 per episode on their daily podcasts. That's $36,500 in revenue per year! Not too shabby. Oh, and I know other folks who make $1,000-$2,000 per sponsorship mention in their shows.
As someone who has had quite a bit of experience with sponsorships over the years (2,000+ sponsors under my belt!), I can attest the value of a great sponsorship relationship.
If you're sharing a message that brings people value and you can make money promoting a company that aligns with your message, it can be incredibly beneficial to both parties. Granted, if you had a podcast about entrepreneurship, you probably wouldn't want to talk about sponsors like Victoria's Secret or Yankee Candle (I don't think those companies actually sponsor podcasts, but you get what I'm saying).
There are other ways to generate revenue with a podcast as well:
Lewis Howes is a former professional athlete and two sport All-American. He also happens to be a salsa dancer and host of the popular podcast School of Greatness. Lewis has created a thriving community of over 500 members in the School of Greatness Academy and has thousands of customers for his other online programs, workshops, and live events. All of these businesses are fueled by Lewis' email list, which has grown 4x because of his podcast.
Want to find new clients?
Grant Baldwin is a writer, speaker, and self-proclaimed lover of ice cream. While not enjoying a bowl of Rocky Road, he hosts the How Did You Get Into That podcast. Grant has also seen his email list grow because of his podcast, but he has also seen increases in advertising revenue, digital course sales, coaching clients, and the non-measurable benefits of networking and relationship building with the guests he has on his podcast.
How about selling products?
Justin Jackson is a developer, writer, and product-creating-machine. Through his intriguing Build and Launch podcast, Justin generated $12,049 in revenue in just two months. Each week Justin launched a new mini-product (books, plugins, and software) through his podcast. Justin continues to generate new income from his podcast every month, even when he's not producing new episodes.
And I can personally attest to making money from a podcast. The Invisible Office Hours podcast I mentioned earlier generated over $3,400 per episode in revenue during the 12-week second season of the show. We took a handful of products we'd already created, paired with a few unique discounts from companies we know and love, and sold the "Bundle of Awesome." Our expenses were almost non-existent and our podcast brought in over $40,000 in just three months. Not too shabby!
If you're interested, I've put together a course on monetizing podcasts that you can learn more about here.
How can you start your own podcast?
I'm not going to go into great detail about starting a podcast because Pat Flynn and Chris Ducker have both already done a great job of that. I will, however, give you a brief overview of the podcasting process I use and have enjoyed.
For recording podcast episodes:
Microphones: I've used RODE's products for years. Their microphones are extremely well made, durable, and come in all shapes and sizes. I own the RODE Podcaster (at-home recording), RODE NT-USB (travel recording), and the RODE Smart Lav (also travel recording).
Audio Recording: I use Quicktime Player (on a Mac). It couldn't be easier to setup and start recording with Quicktime.
Audio Editing/Engineering: Depending on the podcast, I'll either outsource the audio engineering of my podcast to a professional (which ranges from $30--$100 per episode) or I'll use Final Cut Pro X.
For hosting and publishing podcast episodes:
Hosting: I use Soundcloud and absolutely love the experience. The Pro Unlimited account is only $15 per month and well worth every penny. It connects directly with iTunes and gives you stats for any downloads/listens outside of iTunes.
Publishing: Again, this is where Soundcloud comes in to play. They give you an RSS feed, which you can submit to iTunes (once) and they'll handle the rest.
Analytics: This isn't required, but I use the free service PodTrac. It's an additional piece of code that goes on your RSS feed that you submit to iTunes (once). It, to the best of known abilities, shows you downloads in iTunes (iTunes doesn't give you any statistics).
There are a bunch of podcasting publishing platforms popping up. Like anything else, I'd look to friends who have podcasts and ask them for their recommendations. Do a little due diligence and see what podcasting setup feels right for you.
Getting in the New & Noteworthy Section of iTunes
I'm not going to lie to you and say these next few paragraphs are guaranteed to work. What I am going to tell you is that they worked well for me and anyone I've helped start and publish a new podcast in iTunes.
Why should you care about the New & Noteworthy section? Because it's a guaranteed window of additional promotion to the front page of whatever category your podcast fits into. This is hugely beneficial to growing your listenership early on and creating some awesome credibility for you and your podcast.
Step 1: Build an email list or spreadsheet of contacts first
Before your podcast gets recorded or uploaded anywhere, you should be building a list of people you can reach out to on the first day your podcast goes live. If you already have an active email list you can tap, awesome. If you don't, start building one. You can (and should) use your existing contacts and let them know you're about to launch a new podcast and would their help with it when it launches.
Step 2: Record at least three podcast episodes before launch
This isn't mandatory at all, but it certainly seems to help. Why? iTunes seems to value the time spent listening to your podcast episodes. What's going to increase that time on your launch day? Having more than one episode to listen to!
Step 3: Know that iTunes can take 2-4 days to show your podcast
Once you submit your podcast RSS link to iTunes (via this really outdated form), it can take 2-4 days to have your podcast show up. Be prepared for this! Especially as it relates to this next step...
Step 4: Get people ready and pick a launch date
Whether it's on social media, your email list, or the secret underground group you belong to, let people know when your podcast is going live. You'll want to pick a launch date and ensure it's after the 2-4 day time window from iTunes. If you set a date and get people ready for it, your chances of getting them to help you with reviews (which I'll get to in a second) and listens drastically increases.
*Bonus: Having a podcast launch party is also a great idea! You can do it virtually through live video or in-person.
Step 5: Launch day!
Your podcast (with multiple episodes) is up on iTunes, it's time to tell the world ... but what do you tell them? iTunes values two things above all else: Subscriptions and Reviews. In the email you're going to send to your email list (or list of contacts) share the link to your brand-spanking-new podcast and ask people to hit the Subscribe button and leave a review of your show. It should go without saying that you'll want to nudge them to actually listen to the show as well (albeit, your friends and fans should want to do this for you because you're creating something of value for them). Don't be afraid to hunker down and send 50-100 personalized emails as well. Your first day is an important day for subscribes and reviews.
Step 6: Create and share future episodes consistently
All platforms enjoy consistent content creators. iTunes is no different. Whether you're doing a daily, two days per week, or weekly show, make sure to stay consistent early on. Hopefully you've planned ahead and are recording episodes well in advance of their release. This is a great habit to get into and keeps your consistent content schedule intact.
After those six steps, it's really out of your hands. Yes, you'll want to share your new show on social media, but those platforms aren't great at getting people to take action and do something (especially two things: subscribe and leave a review). You should definitely send another email to your list the day after launch to remind them to keep helping you out. If you have reviews to share, those tend to encourage people who are weary about reviewing something.
I mentioned Chris Ducker earlier. He wrote a solid article about his experience with New & Noteworthy here. It's not a one-size-fits-all formula, but these steps seem to work. And remember, you only get 8 weeks to be featured in New & Noteworthy, so make the best use of that time and promote your show!
Some final thoughts about podcasting
Create something worth listening to. Don't just start a podcast to start one. Do some research into the topic you want to discuss and see who's already discussing it. It's not a problem if there are people already in the space--competition simply means people are already interested in that topic. What's your unique way of talking about a certain topic? Pour as much of your own personality into your show as you can.
Quality over quantity! Yes it's clich, but it rings extremely true with podcasting. Your show needs to sound good, and making that happen isn't hard or expensive. Invest in a good microphone and either learn how to do simple audio engineering or pay a professional to do it. Invest in your show and it will pay dividends.
Good podcasts don't stop at pushing their audio content out into the world. Good podcasts keep the experience going somewhere else and build a loyal base of fans/friends/followers.
Your podcast should be a conduit to something else. Whether that's an email list, your website, your business, etc. Who knows how long iTunes is going to be the king of the podcasting space. If you rely heavily on iTunes and they make an algorithm change (or just get rid of podcasting), you don't be want to be up the up the creek without a paddle.