I produce three podcasts. What started as just a little bit more than a hobby has developed into a few platforms that serve a variety of interests; each unique from the other, but all related in that they are all about business and business goings-on.
The longest-running podcast that I produce is “The Outliers Inn” with its first session released on November 18th, 2015. Inspired by “Car Talk”, The Outliers Inn is a podcast where respectful irreverence and self-deprecating humor is the order of the day! It’s a place where we can be a lot less serious about ourselves, what we do, what our businesses do, and the manner in which they do it. The Outliers Inn is always serving up juicy morsels, treats, and tidbits – but you have to bring your own legal beverage of choice.
The next podcast that I launched is “State of Readiness”. It was a spin-off from my book of the same title. Its format is as a “fireside chat” between a leader (in industry or otherwise) who had lessons to share. I would act as the interviewer and ask a series of open-ended questions which allowed the guest to share their wisdom in a casual and engaging manner. The first episode was released on June 1st, 208 and featured Brent Gleeson who was a Navy SEAL and had just released his book, “Taking Point”.
The last podcast to be launched is Supercharged Supply Chain. It was conceived during the disruptions and deficiencies in Supply Chains and Logistics that became apparent as COVID started to be less of a concern and people started to engage in commerce. It was launched in October of 2020, but never reached a cadence that would sustain it (more on why this is important a bit later in the article). The last episode (as of this writing) was December of 2021. I am hoping to re-invigorate it one way or another for 2023.
Over the last year or so, several people have asked for my guidance in starting their own podcast or have just mused about the idea. So I thought I would write this article as a guide for those who are contemplating the launch of a podcast and to offer some tips and guidance.
Start with the Why
In a tip of the hat to Simon Sinek; Why do you want to produce a podcast? This is the first and most important question you need to answer before you launch your podcast. You are about to embark on a project that is going to be a significant time-suck (budget three hours per episode) and is planned to span several years (at least). You need to clearly understand why you want to produce a podcast before you begin investing the considerable amount of time, energy, emotion, and cash to see it through.
What is the plan?
Next; What is the theme of the podcast? Something that will bind each of the episodes to one another. What is the specific subject matter you wish to discuss? Is it industry-oriented? Business? Politics? Health? Travel? It’s best to pick a lane and stick to it early on because this will go to building an audience later.
Speaking of which; Who is your intended audience? This is the third most important question to ask. When you have produced your podcast, when it is real, who would you like to have listen to it? This is important to determine because it will influence many of your down-stream decisions. For instance, if you are going to have guests, who might they be? How will you reach-out to them to invite them on the podcast? How will you prepare them?
I made mention above of the considerable time commitment necessary, so you need to determine; How often are you going to produce an episode? There are many people who started podcasts during the COVID pandemic and I can understand why, it’s because they had a lot of extra time on their hands, were stuck at home, and it was something to do. These people were producing weekly podcasts (sometimes more often). But they stopped when they could go back to work in a meaningful way. It’s a pity, because some of them were good.
Pro-Tip: Sustainability is important. Therefore, I recommend that you produce one episode per month. It shouldn’t be a crushing demand on your schedule and the predictability of the cadence of their being published will help to establish a following. Even if you record two sessions in a month, you can keep one in reserve for a month when you don’t have time. Sure, at first your offering might look as thin as it is, but after a year you will have twelve episodes.
The next and last major consideration; Have you thought about monetization? People can generate some real revenue from the viewership of their podcasts and there are two real paths to monetization;
- Viewership. The “riches” realized from viewership are reserved for the dedicated podcasters who work full-time at producing and promoting their podcasts – it’s their job. These are the podcasters who gain sponsorships and earn commissions from the advertisements played by the hosting sites. The podcasts they produce will appeal to a wider audience than the typical podcaster; think sports, politics, the entertainment industry, and so on.
- Thought Leadership. The monetization of most podcasts will be indirect and will not be directly tied to the podcast itself. Rather, the podcast will be another vehicle in establishing the person producing the podcast as a thought leader of their discipline and will be additive to their; website/blog, engagement in social media, and other efforts to get their thoughts in front of those to whom those thoughts will resonate and generate opportunities.
This is the go/no-go decision point. Have you adequately and thoroughly answered the above five questions? If the above is not fully sorted, stop. Figure it out before you go further.
What do you need?
Next let’s discuss the actual production of the podcast and here I will share the various technologies that will need to be considered.
Podcast Name and Tagline; It has to be short, snappy, and descriptive of the theme. Try not to get too fancy with alternative spellings. You will want people to easily find you (it will be hard enough to find you with all the competition). And try to get a name where the URL is available (even if you have to use “-” between the words like I had to with “state-of-readiness”.
And you will want a short tagline or introductory sentence that describes what the podcast is all about (the theme) and what the audience can expect. For instance, the tagline for The Outliers Inn is; Welcome to The Outliers Inn; a podcast where respectful irreverence and self-deprecating humor is the order of the day! It’s a place where we can be a lot less serious about ourselves, what we do, what our businesses do, and the manner in which they do it. The Outliers Inn is always serving up juicy morsels, treats, and tidbits – but you have to bring your own legal beverage of choice.
Disclaimer-1: The technologies listed below are based on my experience and I do not guarantee that any of them will be suitable for your purpose. Furthermore, none of the companies that are referenced have paid any compensation, in any form, to the author of this article or any of the platforms on which this article might appear (but we are willing to talk – wink).
Disclaimer-2; Keep in mind that models of hardware and versions of software are changing all the time and a year from now this list will (probably) be very different. So be sure to do your own research before purchasing any equipment so you can be sure to get the latest and greatest.
Outfitting the Studio; Where are you going to produce your podcast? It can be anywhere, really. You must make accommodation for the circumstances that might exist wherever it is you decide to record. Obviously, recording in a quiet room offers the most control over the circumstances while recording out in the wild offers the least.
Pro-Tip; Don’t cheap-out on the equipment for your production. You want to make sure the image you put in front of your audience is a quality image. You should budget $1,000 for the audio, video, lighting, and editing solutions plus recording and hosting.
Generally speaking, I find the audio and video quality of most mobile devices are inadequate for recording a professional, studio-based, podcast (but are getting better all the time).
Computer; Make sure it is powerful enough to process the video. Having a GPU will help.
Camera; I am a fan of the Logitech family of webcams and find their Logitech Capture software to be a great enhancer. However, if you use Logitech Capture, be sure to have a high-speed computer otherwise there might be synchronization issues between the video and audio and your production will look like a kung-fu movie.
- Logitech C930e; 1080P at 30fps, USB-A/3.0
- Logitech StreamCam; 1080p at 60fps vertical or horizontal video, USB-C
- Logitech Brio 4K Webcam; 4K/1080p/720p at 60fps USB-A/3.0 and USB-C
Microphone; When it comes to microphones, I am a fan of the Yeti family of microphones. Since I have guests on my podcasts, I am not a fan of the microphones that have “mic gain control” as I find that I have to do a lot more work in post-production to get the audio levels between all the guests normalized. It seems that most microphones are set for a standard(ish) gain and post-production editing is easier. My preference is the Blue Yeti Nano Premium USB Microphone.
Earphones; This is largely a personal choice. I use wired, over the ear, earbuds. You can use whatever makes you comfortable.
Pro-Tip: I do not recommend a headset if you are using a virtual background. The video gets confused in areas between your head and the headset leading to a grey gap which detracts from the video. Also, if you are audio-only, a headset is fine.
Lighting; If you are going to produce a video podcast, make sure the lighting is proper. If you (or your guest) don’t wear glasses, then a single light-ring (12”+) for each of you should be satisfactory. If you (or your guest) wear glasses, then a 2-point system will be best with the lights set at 45-degrees to the left and right of the nose of the guest(s) wearing glasses.
- Switti RGB Video Light, Full Color Studio Photography Lighting Kit, 50W LED Panel Light with Softbox, 552 LEDs/CRI 97+, 2600K-10000K/0-360 Adjustable Colors/9 Kinds of The Scene Lights
- Neewer 2 Packs 660 PRO RGB Led Video Light with APP Control Softbox Kit; 360°Full Color, 50W Video Lighting, 660 LED’s/CRI 97+, 3200K-5600K
Backgrounds; Whether you are going to use a real or virtual background, make sure it is not too distracting (keep you and the guests as the focal points) but also not too plain (don’t make it look like you are in prison). This means you don’t want to use “blur” for your virtual background. If the subject is someone or something other than yourself, make sure to give ample room for your subject (perhaps use the rule of thirds or shoot over the shoulder or other techniques).
- Greenscreen; Greenscreens used to be necessary (I have both a retractable and a portable), but the technology has evolved enough that I find them unnecessary (at least if using Zoom or Microsoft Teams). So I would recommend against purchasing one for your podcast.
Recording the podcast; There are several services that will satisfy the recording of your podcast. The two I would recommend are Zoom (which I use) or Microsoft Teams. Both services will record and produce a video file which can be further edited.
Editing the podcast; I have been using Wondershare Filmora to edit my video podcasts for the past few years. It is incredibly powerful and easy to use and it takes me about as long to create my final product as the length of the podcast itself. You can also precipitate out an audio-only track from your edited video (as stand-alone audio or in addition to the video).
Pro-Tip: Create a “teaser” that is less than 30 seconds for promoting on social media, but be sure to embed a link to the full version.
Hosting the podcast; Based on my experience, far fewer people view and subscribe to the video version of my podcast than the audio version. I believe it’s because my podcasts are run long (between 30min-60min). A video podcast requires are persons attention in front of the screen whereas an audio podcast can play in the background. Therefore, if you are going to do a video podcast, make sure to also produce an audio version of the podcast.
- Audio; For the audio version of my podcasts, I use Libsyn as the host. From this host, I can feed my podcast (State of Readiness as an example) to all the other distribution platforms including (but not limited to); Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeart, Castbox, RSS-Feed, , and any other distribution network you wish.
- Video; For the video version of my podcasts, I use Vimeo as the primary host (because I believe it best supports podcasts) and YouTube as a secondary host (although YouTube gets more traffic).
Website/Blog; As shared at the beginning of this article, I believe it is necessary (but not required) to have a website that aggregates all of your podcasts and builds the story around them. It could be dedicated solely to the podcast (like The Outliers Inn), it could be a hybrid of podcast and industry news related to the podcast (like Supercharged Supply Chain), or it can be an extension of some other platform (like State of Readiness is to the book).
Promotion; Admittedly (perhaps shockingly), I am not very good at promoting my podcasts and building an audience with them. Rather, they reinforce an already established story and I share them directly to some of my social media platforms and include the latest (with links to the rest) in the Operational Excellence by Design monthly eNewsletter.
There are a few reasons for this;
- I have many podcasts across three platforms, and I need an automated way of building the audience that are not labor intensive. I use eClincher to auto-distribute my content, but this does not seem to achieve the results I would like. Of course, I don’t have time to tend to the engagement that is reported either.
- I don’t create and share the “teasers” across social media for the podcasts that I have produced as I should (again, this is a time issue).
- Basically, if I were to sum-up the root-causes of the problem; it’s time and it’s me.
So why do I keep producing them?
Eventually, the “root causes” will be sorted. And when they are, I will have a flood of content that will be broadcast and an audience that will be built far beyond what it is today.
Pro-Tip: I do get solicitations almost every single day from someone professing to be an “expert” in podcast promotion (similar to those who profess to be experts in “SEO”). But when I press them to detail the deliverables I should expect for the monies invested, they respond with nothing hard and fast – especially when I require the audience be located within North America and Europe. I will update this if I ever find a plausible solution for creating audience automagically, tangibly, and affordably.
That being said, the podcasts are professional in their presentation, the content is solid, there is a following (even in its nascent state), and there is additive value in increasing the mass and gravity I have for me and my “superpowers”.
For me, my podcasts are fun to produce. If it were not fun, I would not do it.
Crucially, because I set a sustainable pace of one per month per podcast (a commitment of 10 hours on average), the time involved is not crushing. I could not add a fourth. And my prediction is, if you become overly ambitious and try to produce more frequently, pretty soon you will find it is no longer fun and you will stop producing them.
And although I have a face for radio and will never be directly rewarded monetarily in any significant way, there is additive value for me for increasing the awareness of me and my thoughts to those who might be interested in the value I can bring to their business endeavors and themselves.
About the Author
Paris is an international expert in the field of Operational Excellence, organizational design, strategy design and deployment, and helping companies become high-performance organizations. His vehicles for change include being the Founder of; the XONITEK Group of Companies; the Operational Excellence Society; and the Readiness Institute.