How to Decide if You Should Start a Podcast

Polly Campbell (author of You, Recharged) helps you answer those questions of starting a podcast with these six questions.

Photo by Jason Rosewell, Unsplash

Three years ago, I launched my podcast Polly Campbell, Simply Said. It is one of more than 2,000,000 podcasts airing worldwide, according to podcast statistics from PodcastHosting.org, which reviews podcasts and the industry.

With thousands of listeners and downloads each month, my show is small potatoes compared to the 16 million downloads of The Joe Rogan Experience, one of the most downloaded podcasts in the world, but significantly more than the 26 download average recorded by most shows each week.

More importantly, Polly Campbell Simply Said, is achieving the goals I set for it when I began. It’s helping to build my author platform, connect me with personal development experts, and provide a fun, new creative outlet that has been a catalyst for business growth.

The value of doing something different, of creating novelty in your daily work life, can’t be understated. Novel experiences and changing up the routine in new ways have been shown to enhance learning and growth, according to research by Joachim Morrens and others at KU Leuven, Department of Neuroscience, Research Group Neurophysiology.

Other research shows that novelty can spark curiosity and creativity leading to innovation and even greater well-being. I needed to inject my work routine with some new creative energy, and a podcast helped me to do that.

Podcasting is also demanding, labor-intensive, and time-consuming. Though it seems like everyone is launching a podcast, I can tell you definitively, podcasting is not for everyone.

But how do you know if it’s for you?

Take a minute to consider the factors that are driving your interest in podcasts and answer the questions below. Then, if you do decide to take the podcast plunge, you’ll have a better idea of some of the things you’ll encounter along the way.

Six Questions to Answer Before Doing Anything Else

1. What are your favorite podcasts?

I was an avid listener to podcasts before I developed my own. Some of my favorites? Criminal, The Moment, Longform, The Writer Files, Happier inspired and helped me structure the show I produce. Evaluate the podcasts you enjoy and write down why. Get specific. Is it the storytelling, production quality, tone, information? Also, identify the things you don’t like.

I don’t like shows that sound scripted (though they are, this is all about delivery). I do like shows that teach me something in an entertaining, relatable way. If it’s a writing or personal development podcast it works best for me if the show runs under 30 minutes because I usually listen while commuting or working out and I don’t have a ton of time to come back to it.

I modeled my own show around this structure. Polly Campbell, Simply Said is conversational, presents one, practical way (or more) that listeners can use the research-based information immediately, and most episodes are around 20 minutes. Figure out what works for you and chances are it will appeal to someone else.

2. Why do you want to do a podcast?

Whether it’s to learn something new, have fun, increase sales and grow your business, establish market presence and credibility, you need to be clear about why you want to podcast. It isn’t all that hard to get one on the air. It is hard to keep it there and do it well. If you aren’t clear about why you want to do it you could actually create a show with poor sound quality and writing, that demonstrates your skills in all the wrong ways. For example, if you want to grow your writing business, you probably won’t do that by launching a poorly written show. If you come out with a big launch, and last a month, that says something about you too. Take time to understand what’s driving your desire to launch. You want the podcast to add value to your work, not become a liability.

3. How will your show help others?

Podcasts showcase your ideas and values to the world. Whatever you develop will literally be cast out to an audience. No matter how large or small this show will linger out there for listeners you will never know about. Make sure you are creating something that adds value to the world, not something that detracts from it. How will your show do that?

My goal with Polly Campbell, Simply Said is to provide listeners with practical tips and ideas that can help them live well, do good, be happy. Though the podcast has helped to build my author platform — another goal — my objective for every episode is to provide value and immediate information listeners can access that moment to live healthier lives. If I do that well, my other personal and professional goals will probably be met too. It’s working that way so far.

4. What will your podcast focus on?

Now is the time to get specific about content. My topic is all things personal development. My focus is “practical strategies to help you live well, do good, be happy.”

Know what you want to talk about clearly enough that you can explain it in a sentence. Yet, make sure your topic is broad enough that you can generate a constant stream of ideas for episode content.

I’ve covered everything from self-compassion to personal boundaries, reiki, vitamin D, resilience, parenting, and exercise with lots more to come. But every show fits into my focus of providing insights that help people live good and happy lives.

Which topics will cover the first year?

Write down 52 specific show ideas. Not kidding. Do this. My list was easy to write, the ideas flowed quickly, and that process showed me I wouldn’t have any problems coming up with a sustainable program. Many podcasts last less than 12 episodes because people start before realizing how much work it is. If you plan to do interviews, understand who you will want to talk to and make sure you have access to them.

If you cannot comfortably come up with 52 specific episodes, evaluate whether your show focus is too narrow, or whether you should wait on producing a podcast.

Having the long list of show ideas before I even purchased a microphone helped me recognize this was something I wanted to try before I invested any money — because it does take some investment. It also gave me a great framework for my first year. Nearly all of the ideas I wrote down on that first list became early episodes.

5. What do you bring to the production?

My strength is in writing and speaking. I had experience in broadcast before I launched and I knew, that though the learning curve has been steep, I had skills that could help me with podcasting. I did not have any technical experience. No idea about sound engineering. So, I took an online class (mine was on Udemy, but there are several out there under other platforms) and I learned about the logistics. Then, I designed the show in a way that worked with my beginning technical skills.

Know the strengths you have to bring to podcasting. Then, focus on learning or hiring for the other skills required — writing, speaking, researching, sound engineering, editing, production, marketing. It doesn’t have to be a fancy production to be a good one, but sound quality does matter. Most people don’t listen to podcasts with poor sound. Too uncomfortable.

6. How will you handle the logistics?

This is a big question with lots of other smaller questions buried within it.

To actually produce the podcast, there are several logistical details you’ll need to figure out ahead of time.

Where will you record?

If you are using a space in your home or office, instead of a studio, what are the acoustics like? You may need to soundproof or move into a closet or smaller space to prevent echoes and other sound issues that lead to poor recordings. If you are interviewing others on the phone or on the road, you’ll need to make sure you have the right equipment and recording devices to preserve sound quality.

What microphone, earphones and other equipment will you use?

Famed podcaster Tim Ferris has a helpful blog post that talks about the gear he uses. I record in a nook in my home office with an Audio-Technica ATR21000-USB microphone and a set of over-the-ear headphones. Took about $125. to get up to speed with that equipment.

I record directly onto my computer. When I do interviews, I record via Zoom. But programs like Zencastr, Squadcast, and others offer recording programs with a few more bells and whistles. Again the best quality I can get for a simple production is what attracts me to my current system. As I learn more, this may change.

Which sound software will you use to edit the podcast? I think every show can benefit from at least subtle edits to clean things up and keep things moving. Some shows require more edits than others. I do this on Audacity primarily because it was free and easy enough to figure out the basics. But, I find the help documents and other features are cumbersome and hard to follow.

What host service will you use?

There are a bunch of hosts available and more popping up all the time. These platforms host your show, offer a website, sometimes create the RSS feed, and often distribute to the major players like iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. Most will give you the option to distribute the podcast to other sites and offer helpful options to monetize and advertise. Libsyn, Anchor, Buzzsprout are a few of the hosting services to consider.

Who will write the script?

Even if you want your podcast to sound conversational in nature, you need to have some idea of what you are going to say, otherwise, you run the risk of spiraling into a lot of “umms” and “yeahs” and unfocused ideas that make it hard to follow.

Even three years into this I write the show before I tape it. Now, my script process is a little looser, because I’m comfortable with the structure. I list out notes and research I want to cover and go straight to tape.

That first year, though, I created a script so I could clearly explain the concepts I wanted to cover and the discipline helped me learn how to structure a show. I never want to deliver a product that sounds like an incomprehensible mish-mash of ideas. The script keeps me on track.

Other Questions to Consider

Who will host, and edit?

What logo or show art will you use?

Who will design it?

What intro and outro music will you have if any? Where will that come from?

What is your development budget?

Buying intro music, show art designs, and other details cost money or time. Either way, know your budget. And most hosting platforms cost a monthly subscription fee. Mine is around $15 a month and I haven’t monetized my podcast yet, so I’m not making any money from advertisers on it yet. It definitely has paid dividends in other ways, serving as a marketing resource for my book and other ventures, but it costs money and time to produce so you need to know what your budget is and what it will cost to create the kind of show you want.

Finally, when will you launch?

I gave myself two months to research and decide whether it would be worthwhile and possible to create a sustainable show and get it launched.

I launched with four episodes produced and recorded, so listeners would have a backlist to get a feel for the program. Then, I had two more episodes ready to go. That first month I released six shows. Since then, I haven’t missed a week. Consistency is key. It can be slow to draw an audience, but when listeners know you are going to show up every week, they do too.

Market studies and surveys from organizations within the podcast industry indicate that there is still plenty of room for growth in the podcast marketplace.

Get clear about what you want to create and achieve. And, if you do decide to give podcasting a try and create a consistently good show I think you’ll find an audience waiting for you there too.


You, Recharged

How to Beat Fatigue (Mostly), Amp Up Your Energy (Usually), and Enjoy Life Again (Always)

Small Steps, Big Energy. Self-help books for women often encourage you to throw out the life you’re living and create a fresh start. You, Recharged isn’t about that. You don’t have to quit your mundane job, cut out cocktails, or sign off of social media to recharge. Instead, Polly Campbell’s inspirational book is about adding things in―good habits, practices, fun, people, activities, self-care strategies―that ignite your essential energy, the sustainable source that fires you up from within and keeps you going during the good and bad.

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