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5 questions you should ask yourself before you start a podcast

It's all about how to make your content rise above the noise

Did you know there are over 800,000 podcasts in existence? For almost every conceivable topic, someone has recorded or is recording a podcast, from history to true crime to sports to comedy. Many shows are well-thought-out productions with real on-air talent and budgets, while others are amateur hobbyists ad-libbing in their home.

Realistically, you could create a podcast today with nothing more than a computer with a microphone and an idea, but before you do, you should ask yourself these 5 questions...

audio recording equipment
Photo (c) mixetto - Getty

What do you hope to achieve?

If you want to record a podcast simply for your own amusement and aren’t concerned about developing a following or attracting sponsorships, you should definitely do it! The truth is, most hobbyists or amateur podcasters start a show because it’s fun. You can essentially be the radio host you always dreamed of in the comfort of your own home.

However, if your goal is for your podcast to become something bigger, you may want to stop and give it some thought before diving in with your first episode. With nearly one million podcasts out there, you don't want to redo an idea that has been done too often because your show is going to be difficult for potential listeners to find organically. If this is the case, you will need to spend as much (or more) time marketing your show as you do recording it to develop a real audience.

Why should someone listen to you?

In order to host a show about a given topic, whether gardening, knitting, baking or baseball, you probably need to be an expert in the field, be able to offer some unique insight or at the very least be a clear communicator and presenter of a subject.

For instance, if you want to do a podcast on your favorite baseball team, you should probably ask yourself why someone would listen to your take on the team. What kind of unique insight can you provide? What are your credentials? Every pro sports team already has multiple podcasts, from local radio stations to writers to super-fans to team insiders, so what do you have that sets you apart from the rest?

If you can’t answer that question and are aiming to do the show for something more than just fun, starting a podcast on that subject may not be the right move.

What is the scope of your topic?

Broader topics have the potential to attract larger audiences but are more difficult to establish. A show about US news theoretically could interest tens of millions, but again, finding your audience will be difficult. You will have tons of competition, and it will probably be harder to stand out from the other podcasts.

Niche topics, conversely, have a limited audience size but may be easier to gain traction. A show where you and your friend review dog fashion trends in the Austin area means you're likely the only show in town and could find an audience more easily. The downside is that audience can only grow so far, and it may be difficult to curate content.

A topic that falls somewhere between "extremely broad" and "extremely niche" might be a good bet, but the topic itself is something you need to find for yourself.

How committed to this are you?

Theoretically, if your show did take off, could you commit to recording on a regular basis? Or if your show is telling a story, can you commit to recording until it’s over? Fans of your show will come to expect a new episode at a given interval, usually weekly. If you miss several weeks because you have lost interest, your fans will lose interest and move on, too. An effective approach is, if possible, to record multiple episodes in one sitting. Unless your topic is time-sensitive or deals with current events, no one would notice.

Can you produce good sound quality?

Regardless of how great your content is, you will find listeners expect a certain level of sound quality, including clarity, richness, volume consistency and lack of background noise. It probably goes without saying to find a quiet place in your home. Turn off fans, air conditioners, furnaces or appliances that would interfere with your sound.

While it certainly helps to have a working background in sound engineering, there are several amazing products that can allow anyone to achieve stunning results from your own home without breaking the bank.

The Blue Yeti

long gray microphone
Photo (c) Amazon

This is most amateur podcasters’ microphone of choice. With four settings, users can record solo, conduct flawless two-person interviews or even capture voices from a group setting.

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The Blue Snowball

white round microphone
Photo (c) Amazon

Another very popular choice. While it records a rich sound just like the Yeti, it is best suited for one voice.

Buy on Amazon

Microphone Pop Filter

round black filter for microphone
Photo (c) Amazon

In order to eliminate those harsh “pop” sounds that occur when Ps and Bs are spoken, and silence the hissiness of Ss, place a pop filter between your mouth and microphone.

Buy on Amazon

Microphone Isolation Shield

sound barrier for microphone
Photo (c) Amazon

Podcasters will find that many rooms create a noticeable reverb sound, or echo. Using a pop-up isolation shield will absorb sound, reducing that reverb. On the cheap, podcasters could even find a closet filled with clothes to absorb the sound or hang blankets around the recording area.

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Acoustic Panels

foam egg carton wall coverings
Photo (c) Amazon

It’s also wise to place acoustic panels throughout your recording room to further cut down on sound bouncing off the walls.

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Recording Software

Adobe audition logo
Photo (c) Amazon

Lastly, don't forget recording software. While there are free options such as Audacity, many podcasters prefer a more powerful platform like Adobe Audition that offers numerous built-in filters and effects, waveform editing and great mixing abilities.

Buy on Amazon

Now that you’ve asked yourself these five questions, are you ready to start recording and become the next big podcaster?

Also, be sure to check out ConsumerAffairs’ new podcast, The Confident Consumer, which interviews experts in a variety of industries.

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