Podcasts are among the oldest types of syndicated content on the web. Yet the format remains a popular choice among content producers looking to connect with a wide audience. Audio podcasts were the norm for many years, but video has taken the podcasting world to new heights.
In this article, I’ll to walk you through the steps necessary to ensure your video podcast gets off to a great start. We’ll cover everything from conception to technical set up, promotion, and monetization. Every podcast is different, but this guide should help you navigate your way through the process and hopefully spark some broadcasting inspiration.
1. Choose a Topic You’re Passionate About
Before you hit record, it’s a good idea to give serious thought to why you’re starting this podcast in the first place. And don’t take this step lightly! Starting a podcast takes a lot of hard work (maybe more than you think). Not everybody is cut out for it. But we’ll assume that you are.
A good starting point is to figure out which topic you can talk about naturally and endlessly. Your true passion. We all have one. What’s yours? A good measure is to do a test show with no notes or preparation whatsoever. Can you fill 30 to 60 minutes just talking about your topic off the top of your head and make it interesting? Good! You found your topic.
Now, search iTunes for other podcasts in your niche. Did you choose a crowded niche with many existing podcasts? Try to think of ways to differentiate your show from theirs. For example, you can choose a sub-niche with a more targeted audience.
2. Brand Your Podcast
Now that you’ve chosen your topic, it’s time to start crafting your podcast. Just like creating products or services, your podcast is its own brand. Branding your podcast starts with choosing a good name.
Pick something that is both memorable and speaks to your topic/audience. It’s my opinion that direct, descriptive names work better than abstract or overly creative names. Before you can hook your audience with your killer smile and groundbreaking content, you’ll need them to tune in. That’s why your podcast name needs to jump out and grab them. Remember that much of your audience will be discovering your podcast via iTunes or Google search. So it’s a good idea to include a keyword or two within your show’s name.
Next, you’ll need a logo. For a podcast, it’s important to come up with an attention grabbing logo and a show image for your iTunes listing. Again, it’s about crafting your brand to stand out in iTunes podcast search results.
3. Format and Structure
Will this be an audio or video podcast? It’s my belief that video podcasts have an easier time gaining traction with an audience simply because they are more personal. Aside from offering valuable content, you’re selling your personality, and video is the most effective and authentic way to do that. It’s a good idea to offer an audio-only version of the podcast for those who prefer to listen and don’t want to download bulky video files.
Now we need to structure the show. Let’s start with your schedule. Once a week? Once a month? Whatever schedule you choose, be sure to keep it consistent. A quick way to lose audience members is to release a show four weeks in a row, then go on hiatus for several months. People appreciate a regular schedule, and even a regular day of the week.
Finally, you need to choose your show length. Break it down into segments and allot a certain amount of time to each segment. I believe 30 to 50 minutes is a good length for an episode as it’s long enough to pack in quality, in-depth conversation, and short enough to fit within the typical work commute. Some prefer quick episodes of under 20 minutes each. Again, consistency is key. You don’t want to set your audience’s expectation for 45 minute episodes, then do a 15 minute episode.
4. Plan Your Content
Now it’s time to map out the most important aspect of your podcast, the content. Podcasts are no exception to the adage ‘content is king.’ Your topics, conversation flow, personality, and overall engagement are what will ultimately determine the success of your podcast.
It’s a good idea to keep a running list of show topics. As soon as an idea strikes, note it down and plan it for an upcoming show. One way my co-host Dave and I come up with topics is to simply recognize when we stumble upon a great topic for a show. We’ll be having a spontaneous chat, talking shop about freelancing and web design, when suddenly it’s apparent we’ve hit on something interesting and relevant for the show. Write it down.
Some podcasts break each episode into segments. If your niche is somehow tied to current events, it may be a good idea to cover news topics as part of your show. Perhaps a guest interview is a main component in your format. Plan for each of these segments and keep in mind the timing and flow of each.
Finally, it’s beneficial to think about some kind of script for your show. This will be different for everyone. My preference is to have a few sentences written out beforehand to use as the introduction to the show; something to get it off to a strong start and introduce the topic and guest properly. The rest of the show’s topics are planned using short bullet lists indicating which points I want to hit on.
The idea is to make sure I’m covering what I want to cover, while keeping the delivery natural and somewhat improvised. Again, it’s up to you to find the right balance.
5. Record, Broadcast, and Edit Your Podcast
Now on to some of the technical aspects for creating a video podcast. Surprisingly, there are quite a few tools needed to piece together a working podcast. Here are the ones we use:
Blue Yeti USB Condensor Microphone — I strongly recommend investing in a quality microphone. It will drastically improve the audio quality of your show. The Yeti USB mic is reasonably priced and it delivers great sound.
Skype — All of our shows start with a Skype video chat. Now that Skype 5 includes the ability to have video conference calls, it’s a perfect choice for having a three-way conversation. Plus, the sheer popularity of Skype makes it easy on our guests who are already comfortable using the platform for online conversation.
ScreenFlow — This is a great app for recording and editing screencasts. It’s easy to use and packs in powerful editing features.
Blip.tv — With the finished recording edited and exported, it’s time to put it up on the web and submit it to the iTunes podcast directory. Luckily, Blip.tv makes all of this very easy. Plus it’s got great reporting tools to check the popularity and reach of your podcast.
BoinxTV — BoinxTV serves as our virtual control room, allowing us to produce a live web broadcast for our show. It has features to allow for quick switching between cameras and screens and other visual effects like captions and transitions.
Justin.tv or UStream — Both are viable options for when you want to broadcast live on the web. We feed our output from BoinxTV into one of these services to fire up the live show. We then embed the video and chat room right on our website for the audience to participate live.
CamTwist — This little utility allows us to route the video feed between BoinxTV and Justin.tv or UStream.
Audio Hijack Pro — This fun little app is used to route the audio from Skype into BoinxTV. Be sure to check out the psychedelic sound effects you can apply in the process!
Skype Call Recorder — This plugin for Skype adds functionality to let you record a Skype call. This can be useful if you’re only interested in making a recorded podcast (not broadcasting live). Plus, it comes packaged with handy utilities for splitting a conversation into individual movie files, and stripping an MP3 audio file from your movie file.
6. Grow Your Audience
With your podcast created and released to the world, now comes the hard part: promoting your podcast and growing your audience.
I’m a believer that if you focus your efforts on creating the most interesting and engaging content possible, you will naturally attract an audience and grow a community around your work. But there are a few things you can do to help move things forward:
- Have a solid website. Something professional, clean and simple. The focus is your podcast, so let the design of your site support that. I recommend going with a quality, premium WordPress theme to get up and running quickly.
- Build community around your podcast. Encourage your audience to participate in your live chat (if you have one). Ask for feedback, conduct surveys and polls, keep a close eye on your podcast’s analytics (via blip.tv). Know which topics garner the most interest from your audience and let your audience help shape the direction of your podcast.
- Sharing is great. Ratings are better. As with any web content, social media integration is a must for your podcast to help your audience spread the word faster. If your podcast is largely distributed via iTunes, you’ll want to encourage subscribers to rate and review your podcast to help boost its standing within the iTunes directory. This is one of the best ways for your audience to help you get discovered.
7. Monetize Your Podcast
Just like starting a blog, starting a podcast should be about quality, authentic content first and monetization second. You can’t have the latter without the former. That said, there are several methods to monetize your podcast which are worth considering:
- Try to sell advertising placements on your show. Just like advertising on a blog, this requires a significant audience in order to bring in real revenue. It also runs the risk of turning off your audience who may not want to hear plugs in between quality content.
- A more viable approach, and one that may be more lucrative, is to simply build your personal brand using your podcast as the medium. Hosting a podcast — particularly a video podcast — is a great way share your personality and let your ideas shine. Today’s wisdom dictates that promoting your personal brand can translate into building a prosperous business. Just watch any video by Gary Vaynerchuk and I think you’ll agree.