Podcasts have become one of the most popular sources of information and entertainment worldwide. Since there is no limit to the range of topics available, and their creation is relatively easy and inexpensive, more are produced every day to great effect. The Infinite Dial says 62% of Americans have listened to a podcast in their lifetime, 38% of Americans have listened to one in the last month, and 26% in the last week. Insider Intelligence estimates there are 424 million podcast listeners worldwide.
If you're an AV or IT professional, you already know new technologies arise at a frantic pace, matched only by people's need to understand them. Many in these industries are discovering podcasting is the perfect vehicle to spread this knowledge and market their business. And there are a variety of resources available today to launch them.
AV pros are already familiar with content production and distribution. The nature of podcasts, though, often requires a quick turnaround, so studio-quality production and audio aren't necessarily needed. Indeed, podcasts can be recorded, edited, and posted in a number of ways, making choosing the right software and hardware seem daunting. That's why we've created this guide that includes recommended platforms and tools.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: GET ORGANIZED
Before making any decisions on software and hardware, it's essential to define your goals. For example, do you want to share information with your audience, market your services, or both? Next, find your niche in the community. Consider the unique perspectives that you offer.
Your title should be carefully chosen. It's the first thing people see, so make sure it's descriptive and uses keywords to help listeners find your podcast. You should also develop an agenda to keep your podcast episodes organized, allotting a certain amount of time for each topic if you have various ones to cover. Your phone or tablet can even work as a teleprompter and alert you of your timing so you can keep track of it through apps.
Although listeners usually download pre-recorded podcasts, some listen live, so you must decide the frequency and schedule of your podcast and stick with it.
Where you create your podcast is almost as crucial as how you do it too. There's no need for a deluxe sound-proof studio, but a quiet room with a high-speed internet connection and no interruptions is recommended.
HARDWARE MATTERS, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS YOU THINK
Before diving into the world of podcasting, a high-quality microphone and a reliable computer are recommended. With most software either being platform-neutral or cloud-based, it doesn't matter if you're using Windows or Mac.
Though cloud-based platforms don't require this, your computer should also be able to handle a digital audio workstation (DAW) if you plan on doing post-production. Before using a computer and DAW, check system requirements to ensure your computer has what you need. Specifically, check the CPU, RAM, and storage.
Microphones have seen a revolution in quality since the pandemic, with an influx of people investing in them for remote work. A simple headset with a built-in mic is more than sufficient for most shows. Remember, though, that less background noise means a better listening experience, so if you want to upgrade to a professional-level mic, check out this article on some of the best podcast microphones.
Hector Rodriguez, Director Network Operations, stresses the importance of a quality microphone and having a consistent audio quality stream by using the same type of microphones throughout the entire podcast episode when possible.
“Concentrate on getting the best audio quality from the beginning,” advised Rodriguez. “Consistency in sound comes from consistency in microphones. Different ones will sound different. If one person is using their laptop for audio and one person has a good microphone, it will sound different.”
AVIXA Instructor Chuck Espinoza also recommends that keeping your budget in mind is imperative when choosing a mic.
“A lot of this is going to be budget based,” said Espinoza. “There's an iron triangle. We have money, scope, and time schedule. How much money do I have toward this? What do I need it for? And how fast do I need to buy it? If I need it to be portable, that's going to be one of the requirements.”
Consider whether you will need a one-person setup or more. For XLR interface mics, there is the Shure MV7 which allows you to benefit from having an amp and mixer console to maximize sound quality. For USB interface mics, consider mics like the Audio-Technica AT2020 or the Blue Yeti, which gives solid sound and has that ease-of-use quality. If you are planning to podcast on-the-go, a mic such as the Shure MV88 is handy as it works with your phone and is multi-directional, so it is able to capture your voice and another person’s voice easily.
When deciding on a microphone, it is vital to keep these two attributes in mind: how it connects and the way it captures sound. A good mic doesn't have to make a huge dent in your wallet. To deal with any echo effect or ensure no ear fatigue occurs from your voice fighting for attention with background noise, get the microphone as close to your mouth as possible. And if your budget permits, purchasing a shock mount, mic stand, or articulating arm as well as a pair of comfortable headphones can be helpful in creating your podcast.
Some podcasters choose to stream live - and on camera! If they're not camera-shy, a built-in computer webcam is more than suitable. However, investing in a quality camera is recommended if you're planning to make a 'production' out of your podcast. Here are a few camera suggestions:
- Panasonic X1500 - High speed and remarkable performance
- Logitech BRIO - Excellent video quality
- Olympus Mark III - Stylish
- Sony Alpha A6600 - Solid performance
- Canon EOS M50 - Excellent vari-angle touchscreen
Lighting is an important aspect to keep in mind with video – and even the clothes you wear, as highlighted in these Youtube videos on remote work by AVIXA Instructor Espinoza.
And for a more in-depth look at various cameras, check out this article.
SOFTWARE AND CLOUD-BASED PLATFORMS
Competition in the podcast recording space has been heating up. There are more contenders than ever before, but that means more choices that best fit you and your needs.
In terms of software, there are applications that live on your computer for the purpose of pre- and post-production, and software that lives in the cloud with no download needed. For cloud-based streaming platforms, a podcaster just sends guests a special link and they can join the steam from their computer. If the software you’re using doesn’t live in the cloud, it is recommended to have a cloud device alongside your podcasting service.
Choosing the right application to create and stream your podcast can be overwhelming. That’s why we've broken down the benefits and downsides of some of the best podcast recording suites:
When it comes to downloadable software, Audacity is a solid choice. It’s a free, accessible, open-source audio recording and editing suite that many podcasters start with. It provides all the basic features you’ll need to edit your tracks and clean up your recordings. It also allows you to export into multiple file formats. But if you’re using Audacity, you might want to incorporate a cloud system yourself, so you don’t lose any work.
- Free and open source
- Runs on any operating system (Windows, Linux, Mac).
- Library of audio effects
- EQ and fading
- Supports most file formats
- 16-bit, 24-bit, or 32-bit recordings
- Commonly used, so there are many online tutorials
- UI is outdated
Adobe Audition is professional-grade podcast recording and editing software. If you’re just starting out, Adobe Audition’s rates may seem too steep, but this DAW has many great features and it’s one to keep in mind, especially down the road. Adobe Audition software can be downloaded separately or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Adobe is an established brand, so there are plenty of online tutorials
- Features geared toward podcasting
- Sound panel for professional-quality audio
- Includes single and multitrack recording, noise reduction capabilities, and advanced compressions
- Built-in presets to help new podcasters
- Batch processing
- Steep learning curve
Anchor, owned by music streaming service Spotify, is an integrated platform and easy to use for distribution. It also has a variety of built-in tools for a free service. And because it’s hosted by Spotify, you can use any piece of music in the streamer’s library. But if you use a podcast hosting service like Anchor, you'll need to export your file in its recommended format. Download the free app to start your podcast with Anchor's all-in-one platform.
- Free built-in tools
- Easy to use for distribution
- Spotify music integration
- Must export your file in its recommended format
Captivate is a podcast hosting platform that prides itself on ease of use and flexibility. Many indie podcasters nurture and build their podcast for future growth using Captivate.fm. This downloadable software allows you to reach audiences with single-click submission to leading directories such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Amazon, as well as popular listening apps like Overcast. It doesn’t have a free plan to start with, but all of its packages include a 7-day free trial, and access to Captivate's Podcast Growth Labs. All prices are in USD, but they also offer Euro and GBP pricing.
- Advanced analytics
- Podcast player
- WordPress plugin Captivate Sync™ provides seamless integration
- Access to Captivate's Podcast Growth Labs
- No free plan to start with
Riverside is a reliable, high-quality service. This browser-based podcast platform is the first one dedicated to providing audio and video recording. It is also improving its connection stability, overtaking other contenders, and setting the pace with its rapid release of new and improved features. As Riverside has updated its pricing, it’s now one of the most affordable platforms.
- Studio-quality audio that holds its own against competitors
- 4K video recording (regardless of how good or bad your wifi connection is)
- Features such as screen sharing, social live streaming, and a new featured called ‘Clips’ for easily repurposing your podcast content
- Stable connection
- Multitrack recording
- Echo effect
StreamYard is a live streaming studio that lives in any web browser. It interfaces with other platforms, allowing you to stream directly to Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other channels.
- Ease of Use
- Interaction with viewers and comments shown on screen
- Limit to how many people can participate in a call
- Echo effect
Overall, it's essential to first get organized, and then concentrate on choosing a good microphone and software that fits well with you.
For more tips on starting a podcast, check out this article from Captivate.fm that provides a practical 5-step framework. And for a list of the 11 best podcast recording and editing software, check out this article. If you have used these or have additional suggestions, please let us know about your experiences in the comments!
Pretty soon you’ll be recording and showing your podcasts off to a wider audience, like the ones here created by AV professionals. In addition to podcasting, here are some other audio content formats that will add some spice to your marketing strategy.
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Starting a podcast seems like such a daunting task, but a guide like this makes it seem quite a bit more achievable.