podcast tips

everything you ever wanted to know about starting a podcast

how to start a podcast

Welcome to podweek here on Writes Like A Girl! A lot of people have been asking me lately about podcasts, both starting them and listening to them, so I wanted to do a little series. All week I’ll be sharing podcast-related resources and insights.

To start, I’ve got a little Q&A for you that my boyfriend and co-host Dago and I put together answering everything you ever wanted to know about podcasting.

Getting Started

Why did you start podcasting?

Dago: I’ve been listening to podcasts for about 7 or 8 years. I was really into sports pods on ESPN Radio because I was a student and didn’t have a lot of time to keep up with things like the latest draft news or whatever. I then started to branch out into different types of podcasts like educational ones, pods that told linear stories, and of course comedy podcasts of which there are so many right now. A few years back I got into a podcast called The Black Guy Who Tips hosted by Rod and Karen, a couple out of Charlotte. They are so freaking funny and have such amazing insights about pop culture and current events. They opened my eyes to a whole new type of podcasting and a bunch of other great shows. The more I listened to them, I was like, “Hey, yeah, I can do that with someone.” My friends and I always entertained the idea of having a soccer-specific podcast, but it never got off the ground because the REAL key to a good podcast is consistency and commitment. Without those, you’re out of luck. 

I had the podcasting bug for a while, and in Fall 2013, I asked Nic if she wanted to start a podcast together. If you’ve ever met us, you probably already know that we pretty much just try to make each other laugh and say ridiculous things to each other all the time. We thought it would be cool to record those crazy conversations and see if anybody cared to listen to them. We’re about 75 episodes in, and I think it’s safe to say there are some very chill people that like listening to our ramblings. 

Nic: The most chill! We both love to laugh and talk to each other (guess it’s a good thing we’re in a relationship, right?), so starting a podcast felt like a productive use of that fun we were having. Without sounding too vain, we were always saying how we should really record ourselves so other people could hear how funny we were. Now we have this thing that people listen to and enjoy, while we still get to hang out every week and have awesome conversations that we might not have otherwise. Our shared love language is quality time, so this passion project has been great fit for us.

How did you come up with your name?

Nic: We thought it made the most sense to name the show something we both loved or words that described us, so we made a long brainstorming list. Though we kept coming back to Breakfast for Dinner, we were almost Milleni-LOLs!

Equipment & Programs

What hardware do you use to record your show?

Since Dago is the expert on our equipment, I’m going to let him take the lead here!

Mixer: Behringer Xenyx Q1202 USB Mixer ($99) | If you’re just starting out this mixer might be too much power for a two-person podcast. It’s got 12 channels — 4 of which are powered XLR inputs. We like to have in-studio (dining room) guests. This is a perfect mixer for that. At most, we’re running three mics together. We could run 4 no problem. The USB out is super duper helpful because I can just hook up the mixer to my MacBook Pro (MBP), change the settings on my computer, and the mixer serves as the primary audio input. Easy peasy. Also, Behringer makes REALLY great mixers that are easy to use and are powerful enough to make you sound like a professional while not breaking the bank. The problem with this mixer is that they’re no longer sold in stores. Amazon will have some in stock from third party vendors. The Behringer QX1202USB ($129) still is available in stores, and it’s a newer model with new bells and whistles you probably don’t need. You may need it. Idk. Do you, beloved. 

If you want an even simpler setup, there are USB mics that act as great room mics or just for use by one person. My personal fave is Blue Microphone’s Snowball.

Mics: PG48-XLR Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone ($40) | I’m a big fan of these mics. My only gripe is that they’re very sensitive to movement like moving the mic stand or hitting the table. Higher-end Shure mics won’t have this issue, and they might have a warmer, fuller tone. Unless you’re an audiophile that might not matter to you.  I’m a big Shure fan, but I’m s(h)ure you can find suitable mics with other companies. ALSO, in order for services like Stitcher to get your show to people quickly, your audio might not be at the standard that you export it at.

Mic Stands: On Stage DS7200B Adjustable Desk Microphone Stand ($13) | They are mic stands, and they hold our mics. They have never dropped our mics. They are good mic stands. 

Fuzzy thingies: Bluecell 5-Pack Handheld Stage Microphone Windscreen Foam Cover ($2) | These are great for cutting out some of the popping noise that comes with saying your Ps, protecting your mic, and you can rub your face on them ALL DAY LONG. [Exhibit A]

What software do you use to record your show?

Dago: We use GarageBand. It can be intimidating at first for someone just getting use to it, but it’s actually pretty easy to use. Since high school, I’ve dabbled in more complex audio recording software like Cakewalk, and to be perfectly honest, I prefer GarageBand. Especially when you’re trying to get something recorded and out the door quickly, GB is #1. 

How do you edit your show?

Dago: GarageBand makes everything pretty easy for us. We like to take breaks between segments to gather ourselves and talk some stuff out. GarageBand makes it really easy to just snap the segments together. 

If you’re on a Microsoft computer, and you’re being all like, “WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS, DAGO?” Well, I suggest using Audacity. It’s free, easy-to-use, and it’s the preferred software for a lot of my podcasting buds. 

Where do you host your show?

Dago: We use Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 (Simple Storage Service). AWS is one of the largest cloud storage services in the world. It’s incredibly affordable and reliable. We’ve never had server issues, and we’ve been doing this for almost two years. The amount you pay every month will vary on how much storage you’re using and the amount of file transfers you make. The first 5GB are free, I believe. I like AWS because it makes figuring out how many downloads we have every month pretty easy. It just takes a little math. We also pay for a mid-level subscription to Soundcloud. It limits us to 6-hours of content to the site, but we like to use it as a place for new listeners to try out our show before they subscribe on another service. They could also just stick around on Soundcloud. 

Our way is definitely a more hands-on approach than you may prefer to take. PodOMatic is an option for a crew that may want some of that back end work done for them. There are several other services I’m not entirely familiar with, but they exist. Soundcloud has also just unveiled a new RSS feed feature for content creators. It may really change the game for podcasters, and it’s exciting. 

How do you get your show on iTunes?

Dago: There are a lot of great tutorials online about how to create an .XML file for your podcast’s RSS feed and uploading that to your server space so services like iTunes and Stitcher can distribute the podcast to their users. If you have a little HTML experience, it’s a lot like building a table in HTML. 

Chris Linford (this is my fave)

At the end of the day, there are tons of different kinds of ways to record and distribute your show. My advice is find the best fit for you and your audience.

Content & Creativity

How did you decide how to structure your show?

Nic: We definitely took different aspects from shows we loved. We love podcasts that get into deep conversations in the heart of the episode, but keep it light on either side by playing games or including segments that are intentionally lighter. We’ve also changed up the structure of our show over the course of the last year and half as we decide things make more sense. For instance, we recently moved our “Stories” section of the show to the beginning where we talk about what happened during the week. Then we go into talking about television from the last week, our Question of the Week that involves community participation, Song of the Week, and a silly game to finish out the episode.

Dago: When I got into shows like The Black Guy Who Tips, Insanity Report, and Where’s My 40 Acres, it really opened my eyes about what podcasts could be. It wasn’t just about being informational, educational, or a vehicle for punditry. It could be fun, irreverent, and warm. I think that’s the spirit of our show. The little segments we have are definitely inspired from other shows we love and the conversations we have, but the purpose behind the structure of the show if to allow us enough freedom to be creative while maintaining the mirage that we know what we’re doing. 

Where do you find interesting topics?

Nic: We both follow lots of news sources on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with current events, both serious and silly in nature. A lot of our news comes from sites like Jezebel, Gawker, Death and Taxes, Refinery29, etc.

How do you decide what to talk about each week?

Dago: We usually talk about stories we find most interesting the day prior to recording. We’re sit in the living room and go through our communal Google Doc where we save all of our fave stories from the week. Some make the cut for the show, and all of them go in the companion material we post at bfdpod.com.

Is there anything you won’t talk about on the show?

Nic: This is a tough one. When I was still working at the domestic violence hotline, I really struggled with some of the tougher topics in the news. We decided to draw a line and not discuss domestic violence, child abuse, etc. on the show for the sake of our own hearts. I’m not sure if there’s anything other than that that we explicitly won’t talk about?

How do you get people to listen to your show?

Dago: NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK. “If you build it, they will come,” only applies to ghost stories about dead, dead baseball players. (Editor’s Note: Nicole is pretty sure no one will get this reference.) Find other like-minded pods that you can connect with locally or even nationally, and go on each other’s shows. Share each other’s links. Have discussions online and offline. If it isn’t obvious already, podcasters LOVE to talk. It’s how the whole thing works.

Nic: Yeah, it’s just like blogging: putting energy into your community means your community will put energy into you.


What has been the hardest part about podcasting?

Dago: Staying consistent has been the hardest part for me. Early on, when you’re preoccupied with what you’re doing or saying or worried about whether or not anyone is listening to begin with, it’s easy to get down on yourself and quit. But, it’s like with any creative pursuit, you’ve just gotta keep pushing along the best you know how and with the resources available to you.

The most surprising?

Nic: For me it’s been the community we’ve found. With blogging, people comment on each other’s blogs and you can click through to comment back and start a friendship. I just didn’t see that happening with podcasting, but we have made some really fantastic friends through this medium, some we connect with over Twitter and email or through shout outs on our shows, and some we’ve even met in person!

How has sharing a podcast affected your relationship?

Dago: We’ve become even more powerful than ever before. Not even the Avengers could stop us tbh. 

Nic: I know he’s being facetious, but podcasting really has brought us so much closer together. We’re both very independent people, but having this project has put us very much on the same wavelength and we’re more connected than ever.

Have you ever said something on the show you regretted later?

Nic: Once in a while I’ve said things on the show that I wished later I could have worded differently. You know, in the moment, things don’t always come out quite the way you mean. The other thing that I sort of jokingly regret is admitting that I thought (and still think) the lyrics to Wanna Be A Baller are “shacalla” instead of “shot-caller.” I’ll never live that down.

Dago: I regret being so hard on online dating. Luckily, our listeners and Nic reeled me in. 

How do you deal with negative responses to your show?

Nic: We aren’t big enough to have had a lot of experience with this, but we recently got an email that sort of rubbed us the wrong way. We talked about it a lot and ultimately decided not to address it on the show because we want this to be a positive space. However, when we receive constructive criticism about the show, whether something we’ve discussed or the structure, we usually address it in the feedback segment at the end of the show.

How did you find a community in the podcast world?

Dago: Twitter was/is a great resource for finding new shows. I just started following the hosts and just kinda jumped into conversations that were going on. It took a while, but we’ve built a really nice podcast fam out of interactions we’ve had on Twitter. Stitcher is a wonderful resource for finding new shows similar to your own. Their discover function has introduced me to a lot of great podcasts and creative folks out in the digital wilderness. 

What’s the one thing you would tell someone who is thinking about starting a podcast?

Dago: Be honest with yourself and your audience. The one thing that doesn’t transfer well to podcasting is being disingenuous. People who listen to podcasts want to hear YOUR side of a story or opinion. Being who you think someone wants instead of who you really are will hurt you from the start. Oh, also, do your research. 

Nic: Just start and don’t stop. It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s also not going to be anything until you press record and put it out into the world. You don’t have to be an expert to create something really wonderful.

So there you have it! Everything you ever wanted to know about starting a podcast. Did we leave something out? Ask in the comments below! And be sure to check back in tomorrow to read what podcasting has taught me so far.
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