It’s a great time to start a podcast. In 2021, there were 120 million podcast listeners in the U.S.—a number that Statista expects to grow to 160 million by 2023.
So what’s stopping you from launching your own?
If you’re intimidated, no need to worry. Creating a successful podcast can be within reach. Check out episode two of “Listen Up: A Podcast Primer” and follow the steps below to create your own podcast.
1. Set goals for your podcast
Before you create your podcast, ask yourself one question: What do you want your podcast to achieve? The answer to that question might be generating more brand awareness, engaging on a deeper level with your audience, or maybe it’s just having fun and learning about the medium.
If your goal is more measurable, determine what your key performance indicators (KPIs) will be as you embark on your podcasting journey. For instance, to measure how well you’re doing with audience engagement, you could track your podcast’s ratings, the number of episode reviews or listener comments. If you want to track audience growth, you could measure your subscriber numbers and social shares of your episodes.
As you’re setting your goals, keep in mind that podcast ROI can be trickier to pin down than the ROI of, say, a sales team. In his book Association Podcasting, Blake Althen discusses the concept of “unintended return on investment.” That is, if your podcast is interesting, well produced, and consistent, then your listeners will become fans of the show—and, by proxy, fans of your brand. While this effect can be difficult to measure, it can make a real impact on the bottom line of your company.
2. Determine the format and style of your podcast
Prior to recording, you’ll want to determine your podcast format and style. The interview format is popular. With this style, the host typically leads a discussion with a thought leader or subject-matter expert. According to Peter Kosmal, Senior Audio Manager at Imagination, this style of podcast lends itself well to exploring niche topics.
You could also consider a podcast that’s more like a roundtable conversation among multiple guests, led by a host. “This is great for building rapport and has a natural energy that can be lacking in a standard interview,” Kosmal said.
There are plenty of podcasts that are more than recorded conversations as well, such as narrative podcasts like the popular Welcome to Night Vale and Open Source Heroes, which weave together a story over multiple episodes, while documentary-style podcasts like Serial and Radiolab tell a true story over multiple episodes in an engaging and polished way.
If you decide that a podcast is too much of a commitment, there are still other ways to use audio in your content strategy. For example, you can embed audio snippets into a piece of content to add a new dimension of interactivity while enhancing the story you want to tell.
3. Do everything you can to help your podcast stand out
Now that you’ve established your goals and identified the format and style, you’re ready to start producing your podcast. You’ve got some decisions to make: Are you going to record and produce your podcast completely in-house? Or will you send your audio files to a production company for editing? Or will you find a full-service podcasting partner to help hone your content, record your shows, and edit them concisely?
No matter which option you choose, keep in mind these four elements of a successful podcast:
“You need to clearly define what your podcast is about and find your niche,” Kosmal says. “Don’t think about casting a wide net.” Hundreds of thousands of podcasts are launched each year, he points out. Most of the successful ones are targeted to a specific audience. The old adage, “If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one,” definitely applies to podcast creation.
Beyond the topic you choose to focus on, you can decide how you approach and execute it. What can you do to put a unique spin on your audio storytelling? Look at your competition and try to identify any conventions that you can subvert to stand out. Podcast hosts typically interview guests, but what if the guests were to interview the host? If everyone else is staying surface level and broad, what if your podcast went deep on specific topics?
A successful podcast consistently delivers the goods to its audience while offering up something fresh in every episode. If you can find that sweet spot between reliable quality and spontaneous excitement, your audience will keep coming back for more. Also: Don’t make the mistake of overcommitting yourself to a demanding publishing schedule. Publishing a new episode even once every two weeks is challenging, and if your audience looks for you and you aren’t there, they could drop off and never come back.
Sound quality, music, editing and hosting—each of these elements can either enhance or detract from the listening experience. “Audiences won’t have patience for poor quality audio or meandering conversation,” Kosmal says. Make sure the team working on your podcast has the skills and equipment to produce a professional-sounding podcast.
4. Host and distribute your podcast to the world
After you’ve produced your podcast, you need to release it to the public to start building an audience. There are a variety of different places users can find and subscribe to podcasts, but the primary places are Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
To distribute your podcasts, you’ll also need a hosting service. Libsyn, Buzzsprout and Podbean are a few of the most popular, but there are a lot of options with various price points. Most hosting services provide analytics, which can help you track the podcast KPIs you defined in step one. As you move forward on your podcasting journey, regularly review your performance to see how you’re progressing toward your goals.
Looking for more episodes of “Listen Up: A Podcast Primer”? Check it out on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.