Today is an exciting day. We’re sitting on the launchpad for your show. As with any launch, there is a lot to do prior to liftoff. So in this post, we’re going to walk through what we need to do in order to get your show into orbit.
The first thing we need to do is get the proverbial rocket to the launchpad. Of course for that to happen, we also need a launchpad, and by that I mean we need a podcast host. A podcast host is a service where you upload your audio and the host distributes the show for you to whatever podcast directories (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts) you want to put your show on. The best baseline for this comes from Podnews, which, in addition to being a great news source for the industry, has some great tools. You can find their list of recommended directories here. If you happen to already have a show, you can even use their search page to look up your show and verify that you’re where you need to be.
As you may have already discovered, there are tons of podcast hosts to choose from when you start your show. The options can seem endless, and every one appears to cost about the same… so how do you know which one is best for you?
When choosing a host, I recommend first looking at your podcast’s objective. The reason for this is that your objective for the show will dictate a lot of what you should consider in a host. For instance, if your goal for the show is to get a large audience and eventually grow through ad revenue, you’ll want to ensure that your podcast is hosted on a platform that is IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Certified and offers some sort of dynamic ad insertion. For that direction, Omny Studio, Libsyn, and Podbean are great hosts to consider.
I have personally managed shows on both Omny Studio and Podbean. I can tell you that Podbean is definitely better for a beginner. It has more beginner-friendly services (such as a built-in website, and an app-centric audience), and will help you get your show up quickly. Omny is definitely more complex, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re likely to miss registering some podcasting services. They also don’t have that nice built-in website option.
If advertising isn’t that important to your show, or you don’t like the idea of dynamically inserted ads, then I recommend Transistor. It is hands-down the easiest platform to use for podcasting. I use Transistor for the work we do at HumblePod as well, and I really like their application. My one word of warning is to make sure that you use a third-party podcast tracking application like Podtrac to keep tabs on your content. Transistor is IAB compliant but they are not IAB Certified. This means they follow the IAB standards, but they have not gotten certified by IAB. This may not matter until your show is much bigger, but it’s worth setting yourself up properly from the start. Thankfully, they make integration with Podtrac (a third-party IAB Certified podcast tracking service) a breeze when you’re ready for that step.
At this point, I know some of you are asking, “What about Anchor? Aren’t THEY the easiest podcast host available?”
Technically speaking? Yes. Absolutely.
AND they’re free!
But “free” comes with a cost.
You see, when you launch a show on Anchor, they take care of all the hard stuff for you. That includes registering your show on multiple podcast directories, such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Of course, they’re owned by Spotify, so you’re guaranteed to have them registering your content on their platform. The problem with this is that you don’t own any of that registration information. Should you grow out of Anchor (as I highly recommend), you’ll find your show’s registrations are all tied to Anchor. If you’re already on Anchor, my recommendation is to do what you can now to get control of your content. Thankfully, they do provide instructions on this within their help center, but you don’t want to be put in a situation where you need to move away and can’t.
Another problem with Anchor that I’ve run into is that they have the ability to shut down your show if they feel your content violates their Terms of Service (ToS). This isn’t just relegated to people that equate “free speech” with racist and bigoted comments, either. It means if you have a music podcast that plays too much music, they can shut you down because what you’re doing interferes with Spotify. Even if you have all the proper rights to use the music, they can do this with little to no warning. The worst part is that some of this process is apparently automated as well. So, before you get deep into all their nifty tools, ask yourself, “Why would I want to be a part of a platform that may automatically delete not just an episode, but my entire account along with my audience?”
Once you’ve decided on your podcast host AKA “the launchpad for your show,” it’s time to start our pre-launch checklist. It’s at this point where you’re going to be glad you did all that pre-work for your show. So pull out your notes and get ready to go.
Every podcast needs three pieces of content in order to launch:
- Audio in MP3 format. (Check)
- Podcast Information
- Podcast Art
So, what information do we need for your podcast to go live? I’ve created a simple checklist below that should help you with this process.
Podcast Description of 500 characters or less.
This is why we do all the hard work at the beginning of this process. You should have your messaging down, and you can use that to write this description. This is essentially the written version of your trailer. It’s what everyone will read when they’re trying to understand what your podcast is and why they should listen to it.
If you’re creating a podcast for an existing business, make sure you link your podcast to your website’s blog page at a minimum because that’s where you should be posting this content if you don’t buy a domain. Or do like I did and buy a domain and redirect it to a landing page or blog page on your website. If you plan on building out a website, either choose a podcast host that will also host a website for you, or create a simple website on WordPress or a simple to use platform like SquareSpace (who is not sponsoring this episode in any way shape or form).
Primary and Secondary Show Categories
Your Podcast Host will have a drop-down list for you to choose from here, but if you want to plan ahead of time, here is a link to Apple’s list of current categories. Pick your category according to all the planning you’ve done so far. If it doesn’t fit into a perfect category, don’t worry too much. Just pick with what works best.
Explicit Rating (Yes or No?)
Will you drop f-bombs on your show or keep it clean? It’s the Internet. You can say whatever you f*****g want. But whether or not you choose to bleep that word or not will ultimately guide a lot about your show. What I have found in all my years of podcasting is that people are open to self-censoring if the expectation from the outset is that you’re a “PG” or “PG-13” show. If your ultimate goal is for this to be a business development tool, my recommendation is to mind the language. Limiting language, has, in my experience, helped to make sure the content stays focused and professional.
If you are producing for entertainment, then I leave that up to you. You’ve done the research on your audience, and if you think they’ll be okay with it, then don’t let me guilt you into self-censoring your content.
Again, refer to all the planning you’ve done so far, pick from what we’ve built. In general, you need 5 to 10 keywords. Apple has stopped indexing these, so it’s less important than it used to be, but still worth putting in for your show.
That’s the core of what you need for your “Podcast Information” to get the show online. Of course, you’ll also need episode information to get your trailer up, so we’ll jump into the details of what you’ll need there as well.
This is where things get really complicated and ugly with podcasting. Every podcast directory interprets the <description> tag in your RSS feed differently. This, in turn, means that the information you create for an episode will look different depending on what directory you’re on.
For example, if you have a show in Transistor, they very kindly break out the Episode Summary, which uses the <itunes:summary> tag, from the Full Description & Show Notes, which uses the <description> tag.
This is great because Apple reads the episode summary (<itunes:summary> tag)as basic text. No HTML formatting included. Therefore embedded links disappear.
Within the Full Description & Show Notes, Apple reads that information separately as formatted text, and it includes that as the description for the show that you see within the app itself. This does include embedded links and any simple formatting (bold, underline, italics) you want to include.
But Spotify reads this information completely differently. From Transistor, it appears that they strip some of the links and formatting on some shows, but not for others.
In contrast to this, Podbean and Omny both only have one field to fill in for the episode description, and it includes all the formatted text you need for a show… in the places that accept formatted text. For places that accept the <itunes:summary> tag, it simply copies what’s in the <description> tag… meaning that your formatting in those places will be unformatted even if they need bullet points, etc.
So what I’m saying is that it can get really confusing. What matters here is that you optimize each episode description for the top podcast players (Apple & Spotify). This may take some trial and error to get the formatting right on your part, but below are a few notes on what I’ve found that works well… for now… until Apple, Spotify, or your podcast host sneezes and everything changes again.
- Make sure your episode description is in both the Episode Summary & “Full Description & Show Notes” if you’re posting to Transistor. Since they’re shown in different places it’ll ensure your summary is showing up properly.
- If you want to include timestamps for show notes, use parenthesis around the numbers like this: (1:23). On Spotify, this will allow the listener to jump directly to that timestamp.
- Avoid embedding URLs. Some players just don’t play nice, and leaving the URL long will allow people to highlight the text & copy/paste it into a browser.
- Keep everything simple. Don’t overdo it on content writing, and make things as easy to read here as possible.
These challenges are also the case for having a dedicated blog post per episode. That way, regardless of what the podcast host and directory decide to do with your content, you’ll have final creative control over it. A web post can also be a great place to add additional visual elements to your episode, and even post transcripts.
To Transcribe or Not Transcribe?
Speaking of transcripts, I know a lot of people want to know whether or not they should include these with their show. In general, I think it’s a good practice for accessibility. There are some people out there that love you but won’t ever listen to your podcast either because they don’t know how to listen or just don’t like the format. A transcript helps bridge this gap for those people. In addition, being an audio-only source, a transcript allows your podcast to be accessible to the hearing impaired, and it’s always good to make your content as accessible as possible.
Transcripts are also a great SEO tool. Here’s why: you’re going to be talking for at least 30 minutes to an hour with every show if you’re doing an interview podcast. The average spoken word per minute is around 150. Therefore you’re generating 4,500 to 9,000 words for a blog post in that time span. That’s some solid content for your website! If you want to do a quick transcript, I recommend Descript since it’s also a fantastic editing tool for beginners as I noted in our last episode/post/issue. Rev also does well if you’re looking for a human element. Just make sure your show isn’t too technical, as I’ve learned their transcriptionists are not the best with tech terminology.
Once you’ve got all that together and ready to go, we just need one final thing: Podcast Art.
Podcast Art can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to execute on podcast art, I recommend just getting an account with Canva. They have some great templates on there that you can choose from. Beyond that, you could look at a service like 99 Designs to take care of your design needs, or just hire a graphic designer if you don’t already have one. It all comes down to budget.
As for the design specs, you need a square image for your podcast. It should be EXACTLY 3,000 x 3,000 pixels or Apple won’t accept it. I’ve run into the same problem submitting apps to the Apple App store. Be precise, or it won’t work.
Also, keep the content simple and clear. Remember people will see this as a tiny square on their phone in most cases, so design with visibility in mind. You might also want to create an alternate design so that you can have a version with the episode title. This is recommended, but certainly not required. Finally, leave the bottom 15% of the graphic (450px High) free of any important text as it gets frequently hidden by podcast players.
- Now that we’ve walked through the pre-launch checklist, we’re ready for the final countdown. Let’s make sure we’ve got everything in order:
- Podcast Information – Filled out on the Podcast Host
- Art – Designed & uploaded
- Audio – Mastered in MP3 & uploaded for the trailer
Once all those are good to go, you need to post your trailer!
Congratulations! We have liftoff!
But don’t get too excited. We’re not done yet. This is a two-stage rocket, and we’ve just completed the first stage. We have an RSS feed where we can point to podcast directories. That’s definitely a great first step for podcasting-kind, but not the last one.
Next, we need to register your show on all those podcast directories. This will take some time, and it’s one of the reasons that the podcast launch is a multi-stage process. Apple can take 3-5 business days to register your show. So we need to start with them. Get an Apple ID, and then get on Podcast Connect and register your RSS feed. From here, I advise following your podcast host’s set of recommended podcast directories. I’ll also include a list of my top 10 recommended podcast directories as well. These directories are the ones I recommend based on industry analysis and the size of their audiences.
Top 10 Podcast Directories
- Apple Podcasts
- iHeart Radio
- Google Podcasts
- Podcast Addict
- Pocket Casts
I think if you get your show in those top 10 directories, you are at a “safe spot” for starting your show. As it turns out, many other hosts pull from Apple’s directory. For instance, Overcast will add your show automatically once it’s indexed on Apple Podcasts. Many other podcast directories do this, too. So don’t think “registering your show everywhere” means you’re going to need 30+ logins… but I do encourage you to register everywhere your audience is. Having an account gives you access to advertising opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and data that you would otherwise never see. So register everywhere you can using that list from Podnews, but if you only want to do my recommended list, you’ll be more than fine.
Once all the registrations complete, we are officially in orbit. At this phase, you can start to promote your show on social media, and let everyone know you have a podcast. Because, remember, Podcasting is “opposite fight club.” The first rule of podcasting is that you tell everyone about your podcast. The second rule of podcasting is that you tell everyone about podcasts. From here on out, it’s all about promoting your show and producing new episodes!
This brings me to your homework.
For your homework, you need to get your show launched as we’ve discussed! Once that’s up, your show is live and you will have officially completed launching your podcast.
Congratulations. I’m proud of you for sticking with this.
And that brings us to the end of the “How to Start a Podcast” series. It’s been quite an adventure, and I hope you’ve learned a lot. As you’ve seen, there’s a lot to learn! If you have any questions on getting your show launched or podcast production, my team at HumblePod is ready to help. You can reach out to me by email here or by filling out the contact form.