The podcast industry is booming.
Everybody is eager to jump onto this bandwagon with eyes closed because they’ve already missed the YouTube or Instagram rush. People who started creating audio content back in the day, when podcasting was just a hobby on par with blogging, are already reaping the results.
And guess what? They’re also telling everyone how podcasting worked well for them, why people should start their own today, and what advantages you’ll get if you start recording and producing your own shows right now.
Currently there are hundreds of reasons to start your own podcast. In fact, it is easier than ever to launch a show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. All you have to do is record something on your iPhone, publish it, and boom!
But then what?
I started a podcast in my home country of Romania and found it was a great way to waste a lot of time with little reward. Sure, I managed to top the list of the best podcasts in my country, but none of that popularity converted.
Podcasting also gave me the chance to talk with major personalities, like music celebrities, marketing people, media personalities and online influencers, all from my own country. It allowed me to test and experiment new ways to distribute this new type of content. In the process, I wound up creating a media product that was all about helping others, plus giving them examples and reasons to launch their own podcasts.
However, while I was working on my show, I stumbled upon two articles on why not to start a podcast. Ryan Holiday wrote it in his own style, covering why you should not record and publish a podcast today — if you have nothing good to say. Jordan Harbinger presented his case on the cost of podcasting, and how much money he invested in The Art of Chamber for more than 10 years.
So, who should we listen to?
Should we listen to the ones who tell us that we shouldn’t podcast or should we listen to the ones that encourage us to start doing it today?
1. The podcast industry
Even if the industry is rapidly growing, there is also a big disadvantage that comes with this growth: More shows plus more episodes published every day or week equals a lot of competition in the market.
The problem isn’t just that you’ll be competing with other podcasters, but that you’re also competing with podcast networks, and with companies like Virgin, Netflix, or Facebook that also want to get people’s attention in the industry.
You’re about to enter a space similar to the one described by Jordan Harbinger who managed to put it so succinctly in an article for GrowthLab – “a space on your own that venture capitalists are trying to claim.”
Realistically, the competition gets tougher every day, every week, every month with every episode you record, edit, publish and promote.
Right now, the podcasting industry faces 3 major problems:
You won’t see a Google Analytics service for podcasts. There is no such measurement tool, there’s nothing even remotely similar to the analytics you get on a blog, not even to those on social media, like Facebook or Instagram.
Your podcast shows are published on your website, hosted on a free or paid podcast hosting service, listed on networks like Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Overcast, SoundCloud, TuneIn or Stitcher, where you can subscribe, download or stream it whenever you want it.
Therefore, even if your hosting service is giving you a “downloaded per episode” number, you don’t have an exact measurement analytics app or service.
- How many people listened to your podcast?
- How much of the episode did they listen to?
- What’s the biggest network?
- Where do these people come from?
- What are their demographics?
- Which devices do they use to listen your show?
- How many subscribers do you have on each platform?
It’s very difficult to answer these questions with current platforms.
YouTube has created a powerful platform where you can find all the videos you want, and they also know how to recommend content based on your behavior. Facebook is working on a similar kind of platform for their video content.
Lately Google launched a new kind of SERP for podcasting and Dr. Peter J. Meyers is talking about Audio as the next frontier in SEO.
- But what about podcasts?
- Why doesn’t Apple create a platform where they can recommend new shows based on my listening history?
- Why can’t they recommend new shows based on the amount of time spent listening to specific podcasts, or likes?
How much money can you make with podcasting? This is probably the most common question top podcasters get today because people think that podcasting is just like YouTube. If you have a number of subscribers, you get a minimum of views per video, then you earn a certain amount of money. The strategy is to build up your community, create content, get more views.
But what about podcasting? Thus far, the biggest form of ad revenue is the sponsorship strategy. But the problem isn’t the sponsorship, it’s how to show the numbers to the advertisers after they sponsored your show.
- How many people listened to an ad?
- How many people from your podcast clicked on sponsors’ websites or followed their social media pages and accounts?
No one has a good answer for this yet.
Even if it’s a trendy topic right now, I still believe that the podcasting industry has to solve these problems in order to get to the level of YouTube, Facebook or blogging so it can get the recognition it desires.
The real question for you is this:
Are you willing to start a podcast even if you can’t measure your work?
2. The podcast
Setting up your podcast is not a difficult process but it will cost you a small amount before you can even consider searching for a content distribution network.
Unless you are a music producer or a musician, there are some pieces of hardware you’ll need as a podcaster. For starters, you need a professional microphone. So let’s talk a little bit about the microphone and other essential tools for a podcaster:
There are a ton of options here, ranging from cheap to expensive. I suggest browsing the dedicated stores and online retailers to try and match your budget with the best offers. If you want quality, you’ll need to spend some money on decent gear.
On a budget? The Audio-Technica AT2020 microphone is exactly what you need.
If you’re looking for a high-end microphone, the Shure SM7B model may be exactly what you want. It has all the technical specs required for professional voice recording and it includes a windscreen, which will improve your sound.
When it comes to cables, you should buy them based on how you want to record your sound. If you are going to use a mixer, you will need a high-end cable such as MC-001. On the other hand, if you want to insert the cable directly in your laptop or desktop, you’ll need an adapter, like this.
B. Microphone stand
You’re going to be working at a desk so you’ll want your hands free to operate the mouse and the keyboard. You’ve got a professional mic, but it needs something to hold it still while you speak. On top of the price of the microphone, the stand could add at least $30 or more to your spending budget.
C. Other devices
Based on your strategy, you might find that a microphone and a stand just aren’t enough. Whether you need a USB audio interface, a mixer, or a compressor, these gadgets will add even more to your budget.
If you want to produce a professional, radio-quality show, such gadgets are a must and they don’t come cheap. A basic audio USB interface will empty your pockets by at least $50 for a Behringer UMC 22 but you can spend even more if you want a device such as the Focusrite Scarlett which costs a little over $100. If you want an audio mixer as well, your budget will have to grow, as the cheapest Behringer mixer starts at a little over $65.
Costs of audio production
Again, if you aim for being a truly professional podcaster, you’ll want to hire a sound engineer or producer to mix down and master your recordings. They do not come cheap either, at least not if you are expecting good results. It could cost you $50 per hour to get a good quality mix.
Other adjacent costs
Besides the gear, you’ll need a website. Costs for a website include hosting, domain name, and content management system.
Even if you’re already paying for those, you might want to design a new logo, new visuals for the website, or even a new framework suitable for a podcast.
You’ll probably need a professional designer and, if you’re not into web coding yourself, you’ll need to pay for a professional WordPress theme, or for a web developer who can adjust your existing one.
Here’s a short summary of the potential costs of a podcast, including the already mentioned gear costs and, of course, other costs added by the website, marketing, and hosting:
A. Gear costs:
- Microphone – $100 to $400 depending on your needs and budget
- Microphone stand – $30 or more
- Mixer/Audio interface – $50 to $100 for the audio interface, plus a similar amount for an audio mixer
B. Production costs:
- Audio recording software – Adobe Audition (PC/Mac; $20.99 USD per month)
- Call recording software – Ecamm Call Recorder (Mac; $39.95 USD)
- Intro and outro music (AudioJungle – 15$) – a single payment
C. Administrative costs:
D. Marketing costs:
- Bannersnack – $18/Month for full access to all the design tools you need. This tool is important because it allows you to create professional designs without being a professional designer. You can create full sets of designs for all major social media channels at once. You can save your files in the cloud and reuse them whenever you need to. Also, their app is HTML5-based so it’s easy for you to create animated banners and social media visuals.
- Wavve – Alpha 10$/Month. This tool, on the other hand, allows you to create animated Instagram posts from your audio files, based on the waves generated by them. They are great for social media promotion no matter if you’re using Instagram posts, stories, or ads. Just crop a snippet from your audio mix you think is worthy of marketing, something that will convince the audience to follow and listen to you. Then upload it to Wavve, create your video, and post it on Instagram.
- Transcribe the audio – Rev.com ($1/minute), Temi ($0.10/minute) or Fiverr ($5). Transcribing is another great service considering you’ll most certainly want to make your podcast discoverable by search engines. Unlike other types of content, audio content is not automatically indexed by Google, Bing, and other similar search engines. But it can be indexed as text, and for that you’ll need a transcription. Unless you want to do this by yourself, you’ll want to find a simple and effective service to do it for you. You can do it on Rev.com for a small amount or, you can hire someone on Fiverr for the same job.
- Smart Podcast Player – $8/Month. We’ve already mentioned the fact that you need a dedicated website for your podcast. A website is great, but it would be useless without a player your fans can use to listen to your show. Smart Podcast Payer is the best choice since the app does not only play your files, it will also allow you to capture users email addresses and sign them up for a newsletter.
- Around $100 / Month for social media promotion – Facebook, Instagram. You have everything you need, but there might be something you’ve missed. Yes, I’m talking about social media. Regardless of the numbers of fans you’ve got, there’s a slight chance you’ll need to invest a little in social media paid promotion as well. It’s not much but if you want to reach audiences outside your circle of friends, you’ll need it to grow your audience..
There are two content channels that are very cool and trendy today. The first is YouTube, with its video blogging features. The second is the podcasting phenomenon. It looks like a great portfolio item to have for everyone who wants to be a little different in this market. It’s like back in the day when only a few people were able to launch a blog as others were just following them and consumed content published by them on a daily basis.
Things have changed since then, and now there’s a lot more content to be consumed. It’s easier to create, publish, and consume content now than ever before.
A. The uniqueness of your podcast
The first real question here is the following: What’s that new thing you can bring to the table in this overcrowded content industry?
Because guess what? You will compete with big names like Oprah, Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, and Tony Robbins or networks like BBC, NPR, Buzzfeed, CNN, and ESPN.
Not only do you have to find your uniqueness but you also have to think about it in less than 10 or 20 episodes. Because yes, you are different — that’s who you are. But how will you be different 10 episodes from now? What will your podcast be about in each and every single episode? Why should people invest 30 or 60 minutes of their time to listen to your show?
People listen and follow podcasts because of the content those shows share and not for any other reason. Therefore, you have to come up with something new, something that’s a good idea, and something that was never told until now.
Do you listen podcasts because
— Robert Katai ✪ (@katairobi) February 14, 2019
Just think about the new things you’ll come up with in your own industry. Think about the fact that you may publish the first podcast in a boring industry. This isn’t something new. Anyone can do it. But how you present it and what your different point of view is matters a lot.
This is the essential focus when building your podcast.
Think about Reid Hoffman who hosts the awesome, very well produced podcast named “Masters of Scale.” Not only is the quality of production high and it’s fun to listen to, but he can get in touch with people like Arianna Huffington, Kevin Systrom (co-founder Instagram), Mark Zuckerberg, or Marissa Mayer.
Plus, if you go to his website, you’ll see an amazing user experience that sets the standard for how to publish and promote a podcast.
Can you find a unique voice for your podcast show?
B. Don’t do it for personal branding
I get it. You want to grow your personal brand and you want to do it in a different way.
But a podcast won’t skyrocket your name to the top of the list of professionals in your industry. I know it’s something cool, and you think if you get to interview a bunch of people you could be one of the top-rated podcasters today, but it’s hardly going that way.
You want to build a personal brand with a podcast and you want to invite all the top influencers on your show so they can promote it across social media communities, theirs and yours. You think their community and their fans will start listening to it.
- Well, why someone should listen to another show just like the others?
- Why would someone listen to a show that features the same kind of questions where you get the same answers?
When I talked with Andra Zaharia about her podcast “How do you know?” she told me that the primary reason she created her podcast was she needed to have a side project to get her out of her comfort zone. She also said it helped her learn more about productivity and decision making.
Now, she’s not only learning to do a better job, and diving deep into decision-making, but she’s also building a community around a topic I haven’t seen in podcasting.
If you want to do this in order to build your personal brand, then you should stop right now. A much better way to build your personal brand is to put in the work and make things happen. Let people know about something worthy you’ve done rather than just presenting them a new show that probably isn’t much different than the rest.
Because time will tell you if podcasting is for you or not.
Answer this question:
will you still launch a podcast if it won’t help your personal brand?
C. You don’t have enough patience
The online industry is an environment that can get you immediate results.
Post a photo on Instagram and here come the likes. Post a tweet and here come the retweets. Post a video on YouTube and hopefully you get views. Even if there are 2, 5, 20, or 500 clicks, that’s something.
You can immediately measure the performance of the content you published.
Think about Seth Godin. He announced in February 2018 that he is going to launch a weekly podcast, Akimbo. Since then, he published 20 to 30-minute episodes every week about a topic of interest for everyone who follows his work. No guests. Just a simple “100% organic and handmade” podcast reaching into his years of experience.
However, with podcasting, measurement is more difficult than with any other type of content.
You will see results only if you have enough patience and consistently post content every month or every week.
Answer these important questions:
Thinking about these three reasons why not to start a podcast I’ll pose a few questions you should answer to know if you really want to start a podcast or not:
Validate intent and structure
- Why is my podcast different and what’s the uniqueness of it?
- What if my friends won’t know that I’m behind the podcast will they still listen to it?
- Am I willing to record and produce a weekly podcast show at least 3 years from now?
- How much money am I willing to invest in gear?
- What kind of gear do I need to start an average podcast?
- Will the tools that I’m using now to promote my business be used to also promote my podcast?
Define and track success
- What will I measure to know that my podcast is something that’s having an impact? Social Shares? Backlinks? Reviews?
- How will people discover my podcast? What’s my strategy to make my podcast more popular? Will I rely only on platforms like Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast?
- Do I want to monetize my podcast? Will it be a direct monetization through sponsorship or will it help me get new clients?
And here’s the final and most important question:
- Am I willing to create this podcast even if I don’t get any results, any big interviews, and any ad revenue or even if I would only have 10 listeners/episode?
Creating a good podcast show takes time, involves a lot of work, and also requires some experience to work on it.
Find your unique voice (as Seth does), understand who is your audience (as Noah Kagan does), publish it constantly (as Tim Ferriss does), and distribute it every time you have new content (as Gary Vaynerchuk does).
Finally, here’s the big question for you. This is the final question before you decide whether you should launch a podcast or not:
Would you still launch a podcast if, for 2 years, you only have 20 listeners for every episode?
Sometimes the best podcast is no podcast at all.