The Three Questions
By Craig Shank
Due to the growing popularity of podcasting and the relatively low barriers to entry, many people are interested in starting their own shows. However, some podcasts can get derailed early in their development. If you’re thinking of starting your own podcast and are spending a majority of your time worrying about these three questions, you may want to reevaluate your goals and motivation before starting your show.
What should my podcast be about?
If you’re actively searching for a topic or theme for a podcast, you may already be starting at a disadvantage. There are now hundreds of thousands of entertainment options. Introducing a new podcast that lacks focus or an interesting angle almost guarantees that yours will be ignored. Consider your interests and expertise. What unique perspectives or opinions can you deliver? Talk shows that involve unfocused banter are becoming more common as podcasting continues to reach larger audiences.
Find an approach that sets you apart. Presenting information or humor about things you care about will be far more compelling than trying to force yourself to do a show based on what you think will perform well with an audience. You know what you like in other programs. Think about what you like and why it works for others. Learn from the best, but find your own voice while you’re at it.
How do I make money by podcasting?
You won’t. Well…there’s an extremely good chance you won’t. It’s not impossible, but it’s seriously unlikely that you will reap any financial rewards from podcasting. People that do make money from podcasting have massive amounts of listeners or affiliations with podcast networks that share their resources. You should do the podcast because you enjoy the experience or have something that you believe is worth sharing. Podcasts can also supplement other work you’re doing with your business, website, or other creative endeavors.
If you want to give it a shot, you could try becoming an Amazon affiliate and linking to products related to what you mention on your show. Commission Junction (http://cj.com) is an affiliate advertising site that can earn you commissions if your users click through their links and buy something. You can try to crowdfund your podcast through Kickstarter or IndieGogo if you think you have a large and loyal enough audience. You can also reach out to businesses to provide support, but if you can’t attract a large audience, all of those options will be dead ends.
Another tactic that works for some podcasts is asking for listener support. However, your content has to be outstanding for people to offer support on a large enough scale to make a difference. Podcasting should be fun for you with or without compensation. If you’re only trying to make money, your time would be better spent pursuing other more lucrative endeavors.
What microphone/mixer/computer/etc. should I buy?
What you use to create, document, or experiment with is far less important than simply doing it. What you put in to the world is far more critical than how you get it done. Most people would probably rather listen to a musician that has practiced on an “inferior” instrument than someone who spends hours at their computer mulling over their choices before buying an expensive instrument that they don’t actually play. That’s not to say that those people can’t work hard or that their knowledge can’t be useful. I’m simply on the side of individuals that realize the quality of their output is not entirely dependent on the quality of their technology.
You can buy all of the latest and greatest gear and software, but unless your show’s content is worth listening to, that investment may not be worth it. My suggestion is to simply not spend a lot of money early on. Good tools for creating podcasts are becoming more affordable and accessible. For many podcasts, a simple USB microphone or your computer’s built in microphone along with free editing software such as Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) should suffice if you’re just getting started.
Many beginning podcasters focus on sound quality and investigating gear instead of actually working on making their show great. Take some advice and do a little research, but don’t fall into the trap of “analysis paralysis.” Start making your show. Seek feedback. Improve your content as you go. You can always buy better gear as your podcast grows, but early on it’s important to make sure you stick with it and actually enjoy doing a podcast before investing all of your money into it. Use what you have, work hard, and ignore the noise. Great art comes from great artists, not great resources.
Craig Shank is a host and producer of the Everything Sounds (http://everythingsounds.org) podcast. He has nearly a decade of broadcasting experience and a degree in telecommunications from Indiana University.