How to Produce a Podcast Series: A Beginner-Friendly Guide to the Art of Podcasting
As digital media and content creation continue to evolve and expand rapidly, and as remote or hybrid workplaces are becoming more typical, I wanted to outline the technical processes of creating a podcast for folks who are inspired by or interested in this form of producing. I found many niches to explore during my graduate studies at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, but podcasting was the one that intrigued me greatly. That fervor recently led to the opportunity to collaborate with HowlRound as a podcast consultant, which has taught me even more about the podcast industry that I’m eager to share.
This beginner-friendly essay will touch upon the following:
- Equipment and gear needed to start a podcast
- Top digital software to edit your audio materials
- Best practices to keep your podcast organized, well edited, and efficient
Podcasting Equipment and Gear for Beginners
You have chosen a topic for your podcast, outlined the breakdown of each episode and what guests (if any) you’d like to be on the show—all the preparation and planning is done! You’re ready to put it into action.
Next, you want to start figuring out what equipment is best for you and your podcast needs.
If it’s your first time using any sort of recording equipment at home and want something easy, I recommend this Blue Yeti condenser mic that you can plug in as a USB to your computer. Overall, this is an easy microphone to use and is convenient for travel.
I personally use this WA-47 Condenser mic that also doubles as my mic for recording music vocals. Given my audio interests and overall needs as a sound designer, podcast producer, and vocalist, this mic was best for me.
Some additional well-reviewed and budget-friendly options include:
- Blue Snowball Ice Plug n’ Play USB Microphone
- Rode PodMic Cardioid Dynamic Broadcast Microphone
- Zoom ZDM-1 Dynamic Podcasting Microphone
If these microphones don’t fit your style, feel free to chat with an expert at Sweetwater to discuss more microphone options. They have a helpful customer service team to set you up with the audio equipment you need.
In terms of headphones, I find that plug-in jack headphones work better than the external speakers of a computer or even AirPods. You want to make sure that the headphones you do select allow you to clearly hear your audio for editing and playback checks. I recommend any Beats by Dre headphones, however, I also suggest reading this article by Riverside.fm for the 10 Best Podcast Headphones for 2022 to learn about a wide variety of the types of headphones out there.
In addition to a great microphone and headphone set, you’ll need a desktop or computer that can run a digital audio workstation (DAW), multiple browsers at once, as well as any software on your computer with materials you may find necessary for recording. I do all my editing on my MacBook Air; however, some folks find it easier to utilize a desktop. Again, it’s up to your personal preference!
Considering that it isn’t always possible to purchase this equipment in one go, you could consider accessing these items through your public library, your university if you are a student, or even friends or family who may have access to equipment directly or know folks who do.
After you’ve rounded up all your podcasting equipment, you’re ready to get into software.
Best Audio Editing and Technical Software
Figuring out what editing software and programs can help you conduct interviews and put together your podcast can be daunting. In the podcasting industry, there is never one set software, program, or style of equipment that is used across the board. This opens up the possibilities that producers have at their disposal to explore software that they might have never known about before.
I highly recommend Adobe Audition, the platform I used all throughout my master’s program. It seems to be the most cohesive and extensive platform to do anything and everything with sound clips. It’s easy to organize, label, and color code clips; cut and delete audio segments; add compression and other audio filters; and so much more!
Some software similar to Audition that you may want to explore are:
- Ableton Live (Femme House and Ableton have teamed up for their “She is The Producer” bootcamp series to offer free subscriptions of Ableton to folks who take the course)
- Avid Pro Tools
To record interviews, I used Zencastr (sign up for a free trial of their professional tier here). You log in to the site and send your interviewee a link. The both of you will speak through your mics onto the platform, and at the end you can download all the audio. The only downside is that you won’t be able to stream video. If that’s something you want to do, I recommend Zoom as a last option only because the audio quality isn’t as great as I’ve found it to be on Zencastr.
Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks for Podcast Producers
The following practices and tips have helped me tremendously in learning what it takes to be a podcaster! You may find all of these helpful and adopt them or align with one specific tip. Regardless, I hope this list helps you in thinking of the next steps for carrying out your podcast series.
- Start contacting folks to set up interviews sooner rather than later.
Find guests you want to interview, introduce them to your show, and give them the rundown on what makes your podcast unique and why they would be a great fit as a guest.
You want to make sure that you’re keeping multiple options open for folks to interview, because let’s be real—some folks won’t be able to be interviewed by you, and that’s okay! Utilizing Calendly or Google Calendar can help keep your schedule and interviews organized.
- Record all audio segments that don’t require guest interaction in advance.
This means recording your intro and outro in advance so all you would need to do to piece the episode together is import the intro and outro clips into your DAW. Also, make sure to record any other segments of your podcast that don’t involve your interviewee a couple days to a week in advance.
For my podcast “Soul Cypher,” I had sections of the podcast in which I would talk about the song for that specific episode, its history, and the spiritual meaning of the track. I made sure to do all of that recording prior to my interview so the material was fresh in my mind. That way, I already knew what I wanted to talk about throughout the episode.
During this time, you can also explore your DAW and get acquainted with what you will need to record and how to do so. Get some practice with inserting audio clips, fixing any edits, and exporting your podcast from the DAW to your computer.
- Edit your podcast only when you have all the materials and interviews recorded.
For the editing phase of producing your podcast, you’re going to want to check sound levels, add some background music, check transitions to make sure they are seamless, add in some compression if you think it’s necessary, and any other sound edits you may find that need your attention.
4. Let fresh ears listen to your podcast before doing a final mixdown.
Audio fatigue is a thing! At some point, our ears end up missing some of those minute details. If there is anything that may have been missed or that needs some attention, a fresh set of ears could help identify that.
5. Research anything you feel you may need to know for optimal podcast production on YouTube.
A lot of the time, I had to learn how to produce a podcast by engaging in the act of recording, editing, and finalizing materials myself. However, I wouldn’t be able to do half of what it takes to produce a podcast without watching folks on YouTube do the same first. This free resource has step-by-step videos from podcast producers who do this work for a living, so definitely take advantage of that!
Here are a few videos to get you started:
- How to Start a Podcast 2020: Podcasting for Beginners
- How to Edit & Export a Podcast in GarageBand 2022
- Podcast Production Workflow (Part One) and Podcast Production Workflow (Part 2) I highly recommend the channel that produced these videos, Clean Cut Audio, for tips and tricks for recording and editing audio.
You can distribute your podcast can in many ways, including through a podcast housing platform like Anchor or Simplecast. You can also do so right here on HowlRound! If your podcast aligns with HowlRound's mission and values, pitch your content here. Accepted podcasts are distributed not only on HowlRound's website but also across platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and more.
Once your podcast episodes are uploaded, sit back and watch your podcast grow! Of course, this will take time and dedication. But in the meantime, browse through these awesome podcast resources. I’m sure they will elevate your production processes, as they have with mine.
- How to Start a Podcast 2020: Podcasting For Beginners
- Podcasting 101 Tab with Bello Collective
- Alitu: Simple Recording and Editing for Busy Podcasters
- Podcast Research with Edison Research
I hope this guide is helpful for you and your podcasting journey! Of course, we have yet to cover the content side of producing. Stay tuned for a follow-up essay exploring the preparation and planning of content.