No matter what niche or field you're passionate about, you can probably find a podcast in it. And maybe you've even already thought to yourself, Hey, I could do that…. Well, you probably can do that. While podcasting can be a technically complex undertaking, it's really not all that difficult.
There has never been a better time to dive into podcasting than it is right now. You simply need to understand the basics, be willing to work hard (especially at first), and be consistent about it. And judging by the auto-fill suggestions in Google, more people than ever are interested in creating their own podcasts. So we'll cover the basics & best practices for podcasting in WordPress in this article.
- What is podcasting, anyway?
- Before you start with podcasting
- Podcasting equipment & technology
- Podcasting plugins for WordPress
- Best practices for successful podcasts
What is podcasting, anyway?
Let's start by defining the term podcasting – or rather, by letting Google pick a definition for us:
That's really all there is to it – a streamable, downloadable audio file in episodic format to which listeners can subscribe. However, there's quite a lot of variation in modern podcasting. Probably the most familiar podcast recently was the insanely popular Serial podcast, which helped to win a convicted murderer a new trial. But for every Serial-level success story, there are hundreds or even thousands of other podcasts, perhaps not as well known but with devoted audiences of their own.
Folks listened to the first podcasts on a brand new piece of technology called the iPod, that's one source for the name (though some also say it stands for Personal On Demand Broadcasts). These days, people listen to podcasts through all kinds of devices, including tablets and smartphones. In fact, the rise of the smartphone coincided neatly with the recent surge in podcast popularity. About 57 million Americans listen to podcasts, which represents a 23% increase from 2015 to 2016.
Before you start with podcasting
If you're ready to create your own podcast, there's one thing you should do before you spend the first penny on equipment or write your first script: Listen to podcasts. In fact, you should listen and subscribe to a number of podcasts on various subjects. Look for podcasts in your niche or subject matter, so that you'll know what the competition is doing. But also listen to podcasts on other subjects and in varying formats (for example interview-based, storytelling, dramatic/comedic, etc.).
This is the single best way to get a big picture understanding of the variety and creativity you can bring to your own podcast. You might also want to check out various authoritative podcasting resources online. Popular and well-respected podcasting blogs, sites, and email newsletters include:
- The Audacity to Podcast – an award-winning how-to podcast about podcasting hosted by Daniel J. Lewis.
- EOFire with John Lee Dumas
- The Podcasters' Studio
- Hot pod newsletter
- The Spreaker newsletter
- Podcasting Tools
Podcasting equipment & technology
Regarding podcasting equipment and technology, first and foremost, you'll need a microphone – the highest quality one you can afford. If you have a little bit of budget, and aren't sure where it will do the most good for your podcast, put it into your mic. You'll also need a computer, of course. Mac or Windows, whichever kind you're more comfortable working with, will do the job just fine.
Software to edit your files – a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) – is also necessary. To get started with, Audacity (which is free and open-source) will be sufficient. This post at Lifehacker walks you through the recording and editing process for a podcast using Audacity. Many professional-level DAWs are also available, such as Adobe's Audition or PropellerHead's Reason, but their licenses can cost several hundred dollars. It's up to you, but for the start a free tool may be the best choice.
Finally, you'll need a platform on which to host your files. You can upload your files to your own WordPress website or blog; basically, you'd be hosting your own podcast. That might work if you expect only a small audience, but could quickly prove costly if your audience grows beyond your current bandwidth. Most podcasters choose to upload and host their files elsewhere. Popular choices are Soundcloud, LibSyn, Podbean, and Spreaker. Or you can convert your mp3 file to mv4 format, add images (using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie), and upload to SlideShare or YouTube.
Podcasting plugins for WordPress
You don't necessarily need a special podcast theme to start your own podcast with WordPress. Usually any well-coded WordPress theme can be used to set up and host your podcast. But you certainly may want to look into a suitable WordPress podcast plugin. A full listing of all available WordPress podcasting plugins could take up an entire (long) post in itself, so instead, here are four handpicked choices that are particularly of interest to new podcasters:
- Libsyn Podcast Plugin (free) is currently in beta and would be most useful if you're hosting your podcast on Libsyn's website. This plugin allows you to host multiple podcasts from the same blog or site, all with their own RSS feeds to make subscribing easier for your listeners.
- Smart Podcast Player is a full-featured WordPress podcasting plugin that's not free – it costs either $8 or $12 a month, depending on the level you select – but it does offer quite a bit more functionality than other options. You can choose to display a full audio player on your page, or a single-track simplified player. Smart Podcast Player also integrates with social channels for easy promotion and lets listeners speed up or slow down the audio they're listening to.
- Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting is a popular and free podcasting plugin that can grow with you. This plugin offers a simple mode that will prove useful for beginners, with simplified settings to help you get going quickly. When you're ready to try more functionality, you can switch to Advanced mode to take advantage of the professional features. This WordPress podcasting plugin includes full support for both iTunes and Google Play Music.
- Seriously Simple Podcasting is another plugin that WordPress podcasting beginners will appreciate. True to its name, Seriously Simple Podcasting will help you get your podcast up and running quickly, though more advanced users may want more functionality – and they may find it, in the plugin's growing body of add-ons, also free (as is the core plugin itself).
Best practices for successful podcasts
If you want to become a successful podcaster, the ways to achieve this are quite similar to running a successful blog or any other online business. While every podcast will differ, keep in mind the following best practices when creating your very own podcast in WordPress. The advice below comes from experienced podcasters and applies no matter what type of podcast you're producing:
- Create an ideal listener avatar for your podcast (e.g., who is my ideal listener?). Then start filtering all essential production decisions (length, subject, format, frequency, content) through that avatar (e.g., what does that listener prefer? how frequently will you podcast?).
- Invest in the best equipment that you can afford. A pop filter for example will go a long way towards producing a more professional sound for your podcast. (And if you'd rather not spend money on one, you can make a serviceable pop filter out of paper.)
- Podcasting is a listening medium, which means your biggest asset is your own voice. Get used to listening to yourself over and over. Try out different speaking techniques – though as a rule slower and softer is usually better – to see what sounds best.
- Don't let the audio-only nature fool you into thinking podcasting is somehow easy. Because despite its audio-only nature, podcasting indeed requires a lot of effort and time, especially when you're first starting out producing your podcasts, says Patrick Allan from Lifehacker.
- Rehearse. A dry run is non-negotiable for professional podcasting. You want to make sure your audio levels are correct and that you understand the script (or outline) and the transitions.
- Finally, commit to the podcasting process, says Pat Flynn, the host of Smart Passive Income's podcast. You need to be consistent with creating, releasing, and promoting new podcast episodes if you want to build your audience.
Conclusion: Get started with podcasting in WordPress
Podcasting definitely can help you advance your brand, reach an expanded audience, and even increase your revenue if you go about it the right way. Prepare each of your podcasting episodes carefully. Expect to refine and revise your approach considerably as you gain more experience and as technology changes. And most of all, have fun when podcasting! Do you podcast in WordPress? What's your favorite set up or podcasting equipment? Share your favorite piece of podcasting advice or lesson learned in the comment section below.