This is part of Libsyn’s blog post series, “How To Start a Podcast — Step By Step for Every Kind of Podcast.” Check out the introduction to the series, including levels of podcasts and links to the rest of the series.
If you’re new to podcasting, every aspect feels like you’re drinking from a firehose. 🤯
Taking that first step to plan your podcast can feel incredibly overwhelming.
If you’re feeling that way, this post is for you! We’ve got your back. 😎
We’ll walk through the important questions to answer to give yourself the right foundation for your podcast, no matter what level of podcast you are creating.
Planning can take anywhere from as little as a half hour all the way up to a multi-person planning effort and some expenses for research.
But no matter how much you put into it, it’s worth investing at the start to set yourself up for success. And time put in upfront will save you time later.
Why are you creating a podcast?
There are as many reasons to start a podcast as there are podcasts. You might want to share your knowledge or point of view; you may want to raise the public profile of your business; you could have a story to dramatize through audio; or you and your smartest friends may want to create a weekly discussion about things that are interesting.
Whatever your motivation is, knowing why you’re creating your podcast will help you make decisions in setting up your show, and will help you stay on track once you’ve started.
Take time to write down what your goal is in creating this podcast, including why it’s important to you and what results will let you know that the podcast is successful.
Let’s repeat that again: Take time to write down what your goal is in creating this podcast, including why it’s important to you and what results will let you know that the podcast is successful.
Write it down in a notebook, notes app, white board, sticky note, whatever works for you. The most important part is making sure that you come back to it as often as you need to when you feel that you’re losing your way.
For Level 1 Podcasts (Make It Quick) (here’s what we mean by Level 1), you might be tempted to skip this introspection. But being clear about your motivations can help you keep going when things are difficult. Also think about what energizes and inspires you, and how that ties into your plans for this podcast.
The goal can be as simple as wanting to have a creative outlet, or connecting with your significant others or friends. What matters is that it means something to you.
For Level 2 Podcasts (Polished and Professional) and Level 3 Podcasts (Go Big or Go Home) (here’s what we mean with those levels), it’s all the more important to be clear about what success will look like, to justify the time and money you’ll need to spend.
Here are some often-used success metrics:
- Level 1 and up
- Episode downloads
- Opt-in sign-ups to your mailing list or to receive notification of new episodes
- Feedback and community engagement
- Shares of your links on social media
- Actions taken by your audience (like sending in ideas or questions, filling out surveys)
- Level 2 and 3
- Sponsorship requests or sponsorship revenue
- Merchandise sales
- Direct sales of services or products your organization offers
- Higher visibility and brand awareness through speaking or other industry specific opportunities
You will also want to think about when to evaluate these metrics. When you’re just starting out, you need time to get established. For enterprise/entrepreneurial podcasts like Level 2 and 3, you might need as much as 12 months to see significant results in the measures that matter most to you.
But even from early on, you may see an upward trending line for your key performance measures — enough to let you know you’re on the right track. Iterate, test, and do it again to see what’s driving your successes.
If you plan to monetize your podcast — that is, to earn money from it — check out these links to help you set appropriate expectations as to what to expect in making money from your podcast:
- “What are some good tips for successfully monetizing a podcast?,” Jeff Umbro, Founder and CEO of the Podglomerate https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-good-tips-for-successfully-monetizing-a-podcast/answer/Jeff-Umbro
- One podcaster sharing his growth and monetization for 2019: https://darknetdiaries.com/stats/
- A podcaster who has published his income reports since 2013 😳: https://www.eofire.com/income/
Here are a couple of other perspectives on measuring the return from your podcast:
- For a B2B company: “B2B podcasts: count your meetings, not your downloads,” Yi Jing Fly
- For an entrepreneur: An independent podcaster sharing hard income data on building a business and having a podcast as a major effort to drive brand awareness, as a marketing tool and direct business (Twitter thread)
Who is your audience?
Consider who you’re talking to in your podcast. What’s important to them? What kind of content do you plan to provide them? What will they get from listening? What topics will you cover?
Thinking about what your audience is interested in and matching that to what’s interesting to you allows you to create meaningful content that people look forward to and want to share with others.
Think about how your audience finds out about podcasts and other information. Are there particular publications or websites they read or watch? Which distribution platforms do you anticipate they use?
Does your potential audience have a culture of listening, as in, are they used to consuming audio content, particularly voice content? If not, in addition to telling them about your podcast, you’ll also need to educate them about podcasting. Here is a great article that will give you a lot to think about regarding podcast content and podcast non-listeners: https://blog.pacific-content.com/i-dont-really-listen-to-podcasts-d1bec26b7c5c
For Level 2 and Level 3 Podcasts, consider writing a listener profile that specifies who a typical audience member is. This can be a useful tool for you when you are planning content, thinking of ways to engage your audience and finding out where in the world they might hang out online!
You can also check out current reports on podcast listeners across the U.S. and around the world, including demographics, interests, and listening preferences.
What format will your podcast follow?
Some examples of podcast formats include:
- Interview: questions and answers with one or more guests who have special knowledge, fame, or experience
- Panel: discussion among a group
- Journalism: reporting on news in an area or field
- Fictional storytelling: telling a story, with one or more short pieces in a single episode or with a longer story told over several episodes
- Nonfictional storytelling: audio documentary, typically spread over multiple episodes
- Solo commentary: single person monologue or ad-lib
- Co-hosted show: two or more steady hosts discussing, reporting and analyzing the subject matter of the show
You can often combine formats, either within a single show or across episodes. It can be helpful to focus on a single format at the start, to develop a tone and style.
Did we forget any? Let us know! Tweet at us and use the hashtag #AskLibsyn.
How long should a podcast episode be? How often will you release episodes?
Podcasting takes time: time to prep, to record, to edit, to distribute, to build and maintain an audience. Typically, longer episodes take longer to prep, record, and edit. Be realistic about how much time you’ll be able to devote to creating and maintaining your podcast.
Rule of thumb: Estimate how long you think it will take you to create an episode and triple that time — that’s how long creating an episode really takes. Trust us on this.
The general “wisdom” is that the ideal length for a podcast episode is 22 minutes, with the idea that that is a perfect length to fit within a daily commute or workout at the gym. But research by Libsyn’s own Rob Walch shows that popular podcasts are more often much longer.
Among the top 200 podcasts on Apple Podcasts:
- Average length is 67 minutes
- Median length is 55 minutes
- 40% of top podcasts are 40 minutes or longer
Among the podcasts hosted on Libsyn:
- 84% of shows with over 100,000 downloads are 51 minutes or longer
If you’re unsure how long your episodes should be, experiment, and also consider what your goals for the podcast are. You might start short while you work out your setup and format, then plan a few longer episodes and see what happens.
Review reports on listens to see what is successful. Analytics from Apple Podcasts and Spotify provide you with that type of information. At this point in time, those are the only platforms with enough of a data set to be meaningful.
You can also survey your listeners to get a better understanding of what works for them.
What will be the name of your podcast?
Now that you’ve articulated what the podcast is about, who it’s for, and what format and style you plan, you can come up with a name for it. The name should be memorable and clear, and specific enough to be understandable.
Avoid infringing on anyone’s trademark with your name. Some parody or commentary podcasts are named to reflect their subjects (such as The Talking Dead podcast, which is commentary about the TV show The Walking Dead). You might be able to slide by in a case like that, but be prepared to need to change your show name and all the associated materials if the trademark owner chooses to defend their mark.
Of course you want to be sure there’s not already a show with the name you’re thinking of:
- Search for it on the web
- Search on Podchaser.com
- Search on Apple Podcasts
- Search social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter handles, and hashtags.
No matter what level podcast you’re starting, check if there’s an available domain name to match. The domain name doesn’t need to exactly match the podcast name, but ideally it should be similar and unique. You can search for and register a domain name at any registrar (such as Pair Domains).
If your podcast will be associated with your company or organization, and you already have a domain name registered for that organization, your podcast can use a subdomain of your primary domain. For example, if your company’s website were at www.MyGreatCompany.com, your podcast could use a subdomain name like podcast.MyGreatCompany.com or listen.MyGreatCompany.com. Or you might instead choose to register a separate domain name for your podcast. Which you choose depends on your goals.
What all that means for you is you need to search the directories thoroughly, with combinations of words as well as individual words, and make sure to scroll down through results more than you might on a web search engine.
More tips for planning your podcast:
- “Questions every successful (woman) podcaster must answer before starting,” Elsie Escobar
- “Podcast best practices,” Apple’s Podcast Connect support
- The Podcast Planner https://www.thepodcastplanner.com/
Next Up: Set Up Your Podcast Studio
In the next post in this series, we help you discover where to record your podcast for best audio results.
You can also email [email protected] with the subject line #AskLibsyn 😊.
While you’re at it, check out our free podcasting quick-start webinars, The Feed: The Official Libsyn Podcast, our award-nominated podcast about podcasting, and our amazing podcasting knowledge base designed specially for people like you.