Getting Your Own Podcast Started

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This is part two of a multi-part series about podcasting. If you’ve ever wanted to do your own podcast but didn’t know how to get started, you’re reading the right blog. If you missed Part One, it got you thinking about what your show might be about. Part Two, the blog you have on your screen now, shares some ideas about structure, running time, and how to find guests.

How long should your show be?

The default running time for your show is certainly not “one hour.” Mike Rowe has a popular five-minute podcast. It literally takes five minutes to record, and not surprisingly, takes a lot longer to write. Michael Rank has a History in Five Minutes podcast with the tagline, “History, Only Not Boring.” Podcasts can run as long as you need them to. Ten or 20 minutes is a good benchmark to start with. Many listeners can find ten minutes in their day to listen to your show all the way to the end. Podcasts in the 30- to 60-minute range are great for commuters. Your podcast doesn’t have to be the exact same running time for each show.

How often should your podcast air?

The key to success in podcasting is showing up. (You also have to hit baseline technical standards and be as fascinating as possible.) Your podcast can be daily, weekly, or monthly. You can pick the frequency that works for you. (Not annually, though. That wouldn’t work very well.) It all depends on how much time you want to put into it each week, and how much planning you want to do. More details on this coming up, but unless you are completely winging it, assume that you will need to plan for an hour to create a 30-minute podcast.

How far in advance should you plan your podcast?

Consider the type of podcast you want. You might be going it solo, simply talking about topics you like or reading from a book you’re writing or other project in progress. (Red Cup does a podcast like that, showcasing a book we’re working on about angel investing. The podcast is a solo read without guests, and runs about seven minutes each show.) You might be doing a podcast that is closer to a traditional talk radio show, with guests talking about themes that you’ve worked out in advance. (Red Cup also does podcasts like that. They run about 20 minutes each show.) You might be doing improv comedy, or location podcasts that cover events.

Some successful podcasts just “get a few friends in the room” and riff on a topic together. That requires minimal prep. If it is a fit for what you want to do, wonderful.

Most of the podcasts we work on are built like talk radio or talk shows on television. We develop topics that we’d like to cover and then look for guests who can speak knowledgeably about them. Most often we interview one guest per show. When we have more than one guest, we handle it like a panel discussion or conference call.

The best planning usually takes the form of an editorial calendar or spreadsheet grid you set up. The calendar shows topics, guests you want to discuss them with, and potential recording dates. We plan Red Cup podcasts a few weeks in advance, with six to 12 ideas in the bank. Some of those ideas can go into recording right away while others might need weeks to come into focus. We always think of a few different guests to be part of a podcast so that we have alternates, in case our primary choice can’t be part of the show.

At Red Cup, we write outlines for every podcast. We offer our guests a chance to see the questions we will ask in advance. We show them what we will say about them in our on-air introduction so that they have time to change it (and not be surprised during the recording.)

A five-minute podcast will cover one topic. That is about as simple as it gets. When a podcast is that short, you generally need to script it out (write down everything you plan to say) unless you are a brilliant improviser.

A 10- to 15-minute show might cover more ground, so a list of questions can be circulated among the host and guests. Podcasts that push into the 20- to 30-minute range and longer are usually divided into segments. Each segment might have a single guest, with the next segment moving on to a new guest. Music podcasts use segments like sets. Topic driven podcasts use segments like chapters.

Most often, it’s better to plan, and toss out the plan if improvisation will work better, than to try to wing it every time. Podcasts do not have to be live, so you can fix things later, but why not have your first pass be as good as it can be?

How do you find guests?

If you have selected your topics and put together a calendar you can start by looking for guests who are most influential about that topic. The easy way? Google. If you are doing a podcast about wine tastings, google “wine tasting” or “sommelier” and a few more keywords such as the region you’re interested in, organic wine, red or white - you get the idea. Here are some more granular ways of finding guests that we use at Red Cup every day.

  • -Use a service like Mention to seek out influencers on social media. You can create a list of people who are taking about your topic on Twitter, Facebook, in blogs and in the news. Sprout Social also works well.
  • -Subscribe to a research service like FollowerWonk from MOZ. This will allow you to dig deeply into the Twitterverse to look for influential guests. Don’t forget to search for other podcasters who cover your topics. They are often willing to promote their own show on yours - you both benefit - and they have good recording equipment, so your show sounds good.
  • -Subscribe to a research service like Meltwater. This is what we use. It can give you a snapshot of where your influencers hang out.
  • -Use HARO.This is a service for journalists seeking sources. If you are a Huffington Post contributor or have another known blog outlet that you write for, and you intend to write about your podcast there, HARO is a good way to find people to interview. If you are an expert about something, you can also list yourself as a source.
In the next article I’ll cover the the technical stuff.
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