Podcasting 101: What Do I Need To Start My Own Podcast?

I get a reasonable amount of technology related questions each week, so I thought it would be a good time to start a regular column.

It can also save me some time, because there’s a lot of people asking the same questions, and I hate to repeat myself.

In this episode, we’re going to cover the hardware, software, and third-party services you’ll need to create your own audio podcast.

Full story inside.

In a future installment I’ll cover exactly how to USE all this gadgetry, but in the meantime, here’s what you’ll need.

A Personal Computer and Recording Software

Sounds funny, but I’ve had people ask me how to get the recordings they’ve made using a digital audio recorder onto the internet… without a computer.

Easy: you don’t.

For audio podcasts, your computer doesn’t have to be a mainframe; most computers made in the last 3-4 years are incredibly well suited for this type of work.

I’m going to suggest Audacity, a FREE piece of software to get you started in podcasting. As long as your computer will run this software, you’re stylin’.

Audacity Download Links/System Requirements

Hard drive space is important, so make sure you have a good deal available. Depending on if you’re multi-tracking, and the equipment you’re using, you may need up to 4GB of space available for a 1 hour podcast episode, although typically, you should only need 1GB for a basic two-host show.

Headphones

It should go without saying, but you’ll want to hear what you’re saying, and have a good representation of what your audience will be hearing. You’ll not only need a set for every host on your ‘cast, but an additional set if you have someone acting as your ‘engineer’.

An engineer would handle all the technical/manual adjustments of your recording session, such as changing recording levels on the fly. Depending on your recording setup, you may also need headphone splitters. If you’re splitting to more than 3 headphones, you’ll want to get an amplified splitter.

I strongly suggest ‘can’ style headphones that completely cover both ears, with a separate volume control for each pair. I’m practically deaf, and a comfortable sound level for me is typically thunderous for other people in the studio.

These are the ‘phones we use at BOMB, being a reasonable balance between cost and quality.

USB headphone/mic combos should ONLY be used as a last resort, and ONLY if you’re podcasting solo. The sound quality is unacceptable, and getting TWO USB setups to work on the same computer is an absolute nightmare.

Microphones

Since I just mentioned it, let’s discuss your microphones.

As a general rule, anything that plugs in via USB or 1/8″ jack (looks like a small headphone plug) is not a good idea. You CAN get it to work, but your results are not going to be stellar.

Depending on your input method (more on this in a moment), your best bet is to have dedicated XLR microphones or 1/4″ jack mics (looks like a BIG headphone plug).

Make sure to have a stand for each mic, or be prepared for a lot of extra noise. Holding a microphone in your hand will always introduce extra creaks, pops, and clicks, and will also keep your sound levels from being consistent.

In the BOMB studio, we use a combination of mics.

ElectroVoice

Radio Shack

Input Method/Mixer

Since we’ve already established that unless you’re podcasting solo, and in dire straits, you should avoid USB and 1/8″ microphones, exactly how do you get the sound into your PC?

Your options, in order of preference:

  • A dedicated USB or Firewire mixer. This is the one we use.
  • A standard mixer, passed through the ‘line-in’ jack on your PC.
  • If you are using a laptop, an external sound card and a mixer used together. Back in the day, we used this one.

With a laptop, you’ll need both a mixer AND an external sound card because laptops almost always only have a mono ‘microphone’ jack, and not a stereo ‘line-in’ jack.

Server Space/Bandwidth

Once you’re recorded your masterpiece, you’ll need a place to store it, and a place to refer potential subscribers. Some servers are free, but have limited storage space and bandwidth usage, other charge for their services.

Some commonly used hosting services:

GoDaddy: Reasonably priced. Customer service can be lacking.

Switchpod: Packages ranging from free to $30 a month.

MyPodcast: Barebones, but free.

Be careful as you join or pay for hosting; some services place limits on where your podcast is available or charge insane overage rates if your program is more popular than you anticipated.

Conclusion

These guidelines are for podcasts that you intend to record in person, alone or with friends. If you’re recording hosts in different locations, the rules change drastically.

More on that in a future installment.

Matt Ellis is a founding member of Bag Of Mad Bastards, co-host of the podcasts Drunken Monkey Tech and B!tch Sl@p, as well as producer on… oh hell, he’s lost count of them. If you have a question about podcasting write him at: matt@bagofmadbastards.com.

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44 Comments

  1. YAY for Charlie the studio cat getting a pic on the site :D

  2. how much free hard drive space do i need to podcast a radio program i’m listening to?

  3. Not entirely sure about the content you’re talking about, if you’re rebroadcasting, there could be some legal complications.

    Regardless of the content, the rule of thumb I use (if I’m using a multi-track recorder) is 500MB per hour, per microphone.

    So a 1 hour show, with 4 hosts (microphones) would be about 2GB in size to record. The final product would be around 12MB – 15MB.

    If you’re recording ‘live’ or only using one mic, you can just call it 500MB per hour to record, and again 12MB – 15MB for the final podcast.

    Hope that helps,
    Matt

  4. I’m Just thinking of Podcasting I do have a mixer and mic. A Pro.2mixer also a reverb.
    I also broadcast on a lowpowered FM radio broadcaster from ramsey 25mw unit.
    I feed the mixer through my pc Audio in and feed music from PC to the mixer as well.
    I’m useing winamp for play back And loding music in to I also want to know if you can
    make money at podcasting for my self. I am out of work and to old to start in the the work forse so I thought that this would be a great way to make some spair money.
    Now what Kind of Podcast can be done? Music was my pashion and some talk but play music from the 40’s to today. What do you think? And maybe vent some of my thoughts on the world would be part of the mix too. I know most Broadcasters are verry quiet about most world things but I’m not. If I had my way I think if I would start podcasting it would be a once a week thing and if people would start listening I could go on more. Thank You Yours Truly Elliott .

    • What kind of podcast can be done? The sky is pretty much the limit, but you did mention one type that gets a little iffy: playing music.

      The recording industry has been insane with filing lawsuits against people for using music without paying for the rights. Unless you plan on paying for the rights, or unless you like to play music from unsigned artists, it’s probably not the best idea. Venting your thoughts on the world? ALWAYS a good idea. That’s the subject of one of our podcasts, and if you can express yourself, getting your point across… it’s very rewarding.

      But I have yet to get the podcasting thing to make money. I’ve been doing it for almost 4 years, and if we’re LUCKY, the podcasts will pay the internet bill.

      The great thing is, your podcast can bring people to your website (like this one). We’ve leveraged the podcasts to get more people to our site, and there’s a number of advertising things you can do to bring in a little money. We’ve recently adopted this model, and I’m happy to report we’re finally breaking even… after FOUR YEARS. Nice thing is, it appears to be growing steadily, and I can see a time in the near future when we can at least earn some ‘beer money’.

      So… there you go.

      Hope that helps you Elliott,
      Matt

  5. With Audacity, I get a delay in playback while recording and I’ve got suggestions to fix it by trying to download newer drivers for my sound card. I can’t find any. They say I need to use the Hardware Playthrough instead of the Software Playthrough to monitor the recording and I guess my sound card is too old or not advanced enough to do it. I was wondering what you guys do? If I get a mixer and an external sound card while using Audacity would that fix the delay? Any suggestions would help a lot.

    -cody

    • A seperate external sound card and mixer would probably make the problem worse, but an external USB or Firewire mixer would likely solve the problem.

      With a USB/FW connected mixer you can monitor everything from the headphone or control room output on the board, meaning there’s NO latency.

      That’s the setup we’re using, and we haven’t had a problem.

      Barring that, I’d go with an internal sound card rather than an external, and make sure it has support for ASIO drivers.

  6. hey can i use garage band to the way Audacity work because i use that all the time and i know lots about it

  7. also can i use like aa 20-30 second thing from a song without being arrested

  8. i have hosted my podcast before with another site , it went sour , and now i am left with nothing , i dont even have the rights to edit the HTML for all the audio , to have it moved from one location to a new hosting site , as you have provided … here is the techie side of what i am about to ask

    with the sites and links you have offered , will i be able to edit , view and even change the HTML , and all aspects of my podcast or am i limited to the dawnting task of only uploading and hoping that my viewers ( listeners ) the epic wait for the .01MBs push i have currently at my location ( Iraq )

    then after that , is it worth it to just pay the 20$ ( USD ) monthly charge to get the audio and have all the ” perks ” of any listed site ?

    after that , what control do or would i have with a listed ( pay for use ) site ?

    i dont want to pester , but here are my links to what i am talking about

    Before : Free site where 100% of my podcast currently are .. but the site went under and Podbean.com just has it and i have contacted them and they have no idea how to release the HTML …. http://www.gcast.com/u/djkilown/main

    now i have been uploading new songs and thanks to Facebook and my page there , i am able to have selected friends listen to the newer music ,

    after about 15mb cap it kinda sucks to host more of my podcast and what i do ( DJ live sets of music ) so i had to use Soundcloud.com , they are free for up to 4 hours of music , which in a way is not bad , but also capped so its bad … and i have 15min songs that take up to 10 hours to upload , so all in all i am stuck , there is alot going on with all this … PLEASE HELP !!!!!

    your reader ,

    Jauhn Schneck
    aka
    Dj Kilown

  9. Thanks for this very straightforward introduction!
    All best

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