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An In-Depth Guide To Launching Your Own Podcast

Podcasting has experienced a renaissance in the last couple of years. According to RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million, up from 25 million five years ago.

Suffice it to say, now is a great time to start a podcast. It’s an authentic and intimate way to demonstrate authority in your niche and to grow your client base.

I recently started my first podcast1, Agencies Drinking Beer, with my cofounder, Kevin Springer. When starting out, I was a bit lost with the technical logistics of actually setting up the podcast; figuring out the best approach required a lot of searching and digging.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

I want to make all of that easier for you. Here, in one place, is all of the best advice, information and resources I can offer you. This way, you can spend less time on the technical side of setting up your podcast and more time creating killer content.

Ready to start? Let’s go!

Plan Your Podcast Link

While this article focuses on the technical aspects of getting a podcast online, we should quickly cover the basics of starting a successful podcast.

Pick a Target Link

As with any content marketing5 endeavor, start with identifying your audience and creating personas6. Your podcast should target one distinct niche and not try to appeal to everyone.

Listen to other podcasts7 in your niche to get an idea of what’s out there and what you can offer that’s different. A ton of web design podcasts are out there; so, if your goal is to talk about web design, think about how you can approach it in a way that no one else is doing.

Form a Structure Link

Decide on the length of the show, whether you’ll have interviews, how often you’ll publish episodes, what day of the week you’ll release them and so on. In most cases, there is no right or wrong way to do it. I’ve listened to podcasts that are 15 minutes each and some that are two hours long. Just pick what works for you and stick to it as consistently as possible.

Plan Your Content Link

While heavily scripted podcasts can come across as stiff and robotic, planning your topics is still a good idea, especially if you’ll be interviewing guests. I schedule our episodes using a Google Docs spreadsheet, and I use Evernote8 to store notes, questions and topics for each episode. More recently, I’ve also been sending guests an email outlining the questions I plan to ask, to guide the discussion.

Add the Polish Link

Create a theme song in Garageband or buy a stock theme from somewhere like AudioJungle9. Music will add a lot of energy to your show and make it feel polished and professional.

What Makes A Good Podcast? Link

An entire article could be written about this — in fact, many articles out there discuss what makes a good podcast10 — but I will mention some things I’ve learned in the four months I’ve been doing it.

Be Real Link

You don’t need to have the golden voice of a professional radio announcer, and people won’t care if you stumble or make mistakes — that will just make you sound more authentic and human. Whatever you do, don’t read from a script. Speak from the heart and say what you’re really feeling.

Be Passionate Link

If your podcast revolves around a subject that you love to talk about, then creating new content each week will not be hard. Your passion will shine through, and people will pick up on that. In my podcast I talk about building great agencies because it’s a topic I enjoy discussing with agency owners. I also like beer.

Be Focused Link

It’s hard to market an episode where you bounce from topic to topic and go on long, rambling digressions. A few off-topic excursions are fine if they are entertaining, but have a clear direction in mind for each episode. If for nothing else, that will make it easier to package and promote later. Preparing bullet points to have in front of you will help guide the discussion.

Really Listen to the Other Person Link

This seems obvious, but it’s tricky in practice. If you are thinking about what you’re going to say next while your guest is speaking, later you’ll listen to the recording and kick yourself for missing out on great conversational opportunities because you weren’t really listening to what the other person was saying.

My advice is not to overthink it. Recording something is better than obsessing over getting it perfect and not recording anything. Your first episode isn’t going to be as good as your 10th or 50th, but accept this fact, lay down some tracks and move on.

Ready to record? Let’s make sure you’ve got the right tools in place.

Record Your Podcast Link

A simple set-up11
Laptop, microphone and headphone. A simple set-up. (View large version12)

Hardware Link

The hardware required to record a podcast is actually pretty simple.

  • We use a Macbook Pro with an external hard drive (since clips quickly eat up storage space). Mind you, any PC with an audio input can be used.
  • A proper microphone was the first thing we purchased, and after some research we found a fantastic product at a great price point, Blue Microphones’ Snowball iCE. It’s a simple plug-and-play USB mic with a sturdy swivel tripod stand. We require two of these because we have two hosts on the show, and we also purchased a USB hub to plug into.
  • Headphones are a necessity, and they must be ones that do not have a microphone built in, so that they don’t pick up unwanted sounds. We use Rocketfish’s headphones hub for two.

Software Link

  • Skype is a good choice if interviews are an important part of your podcast. Skype is free and ubiquitous, and the sound quality is decent. Keep in mind that if your Internet connection is slow, you may find occasional distortion or delays, which can sap the flow of your interview. Plugging your laptop directly into your Internet connection will help, especially if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network.
  • We found Ecamm’s Call Recorder13 to be the easiest way to record calls in Skype. The one-time fee of $29.95 is well worth it. It also has video recording capabilities if you need that.
  • After we’re done an interview, we import the Ecamm file (which is automatically exported as a MOV file) into GarageBand, and from there we record our introduction and conclusion and add our sound effects and music. GarageBand has a podcast setting, which makes editing a breeze.

Note: When recording with a remote guest, if at all possible, ask them to record their own audio separately and send it to you as an MP3. The quality will generally be much higher than if you record through Skype; and this way, if your recording fails, you’ll have a backup.

From there, we mix it down to a M4A file and upload it to our web server via FTP. (Of course, you may choose MP3, which is perfectly all right.)

Configure Your Website Link

If you’re new to podcasting, you might be surprised to learn that Apple doesn’t directly host podcasts, and it doesn’t offer any tracking data to tell you how many downloads each episodes get. It’s all on you.

Third-party services, such as Libsyn14, will host your podcast for you, generate an RSS feed and give you download metrics. Call me a control freak, but I want total control over my publishing and don’t want to rely on a third-party service for it.

According to the “king of podcasting,” Paul Colligan, you should:

  • own the domain name of your podcast,
  • bankroll the hosting of your podcast,
  • own the RSS feed of your podcast,
  • own your podcast copyright.

Set Up a New Blog Channel in Your CMS Link

For a content management system (CMS), I use Craft15, but you could publish your podcast using WordPress16, ExpressionEngine17, Drupal18 or any other CMS that lets you define your own fields and output them on the page however you want.

Below is what a blog post in Craft looks like for one of my podcast episodes. I’ve set up basic fields for the headline, teaser, main image and content. For the audio file, I simply insert the name of the file and specify in the template the directory in which to look for the M4A file.

A blog post in Craft19
A blog post in Craft.(View large version20)

You could do this differently and directly upload the file through your CMS. But at 40 to 50 MB per episode, uploading is easier via FTP than in a web browser.

Set Up Fields to Output the RSS Page Link

Next, you’ll want to set up fields specifically for your RSS feed that iTunes and FeedBurner will display (more on submitting your feed later). Here are the fields you’ll need:

  • Episode title
    Make this separate from the headline used on your blog. Most podcasts contain a short code to go in the title. This looks good on iTunes but may not be what you want on your blog.
  • Subtitle
    This will appear as the description on the iTunes podcast web page.
  • Summary
    This will appear as the description when someone is subscribed to your podcast in iTunes.
  • Length
    Find the length of the episode, and insert the time here (for example, 45:15).
  • File size
    To get the file size accurate, right-click on your audio file and look at the size in bytes. Remove the commas and paste in the size. It should look something like 56288430.
Get the file size accurate21
Get the file size accurate. (View large version22)

In Craft, I created a new tab to list all of my iTunes fields, so that they’re organized together and separate from my other content.

A new tab to list all iTunes fields23
A new tab to list all iTunes fields. (View large version24)

Notice how this content will appear in iTunes:

Content in iTunes25
Content in iTunes. (View large version26)

On the front end of the website, I designed a simple blog-style page for each podcast episode that outputs the headline, introductory paragraph and audio player with iTunes and RSS links. Below that is an image for the episode and the written article.

An image for the episode and the written article27
An image for the episode and the written article. (View large version28)

For the audio player, we use audio.js29, a simple JavaScript file that uses HTML5’s audio tag, with a Flash fallback for old browsers. The UI is great, and configuration is simple.


Steps for Installing audio.js Link

Put audio.js, player-graphics.gif and audiojs.swf in the same folder.

Include the audio.js file:

<script src="images-in-article//audiojs/audio.min.js"></script>

Initialize audio.js:

<script> {
    var as = audiojs.createAll();

Now, you can use the audio element wherever you’d like in the HTML:

<audio src="images-in-article//mp3/juicy.mp3" preload="auto" />

OK, now that your CMS and front end are set up, it’s time to generate the RSS feed.

Generate The RSS Feed Link

Apple has an extensive article30 showing all of the different nodes to add to your RSS feed. But after digging, I’ve come up with a basic template that should work for most people’s needs:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<rss version="2.0" xmlns:itunes="">
    <itunes:image href="" />
    <itunes:category text="Business">
      <itunes:category text="Management &amp; Marketing"/>
    <!- Here's where you’ll want to loop through your CMS entries -->
      <itunes:image href="" />
      <enclosure url="" length="" type="audio/mpeg" />
    <!- end loop -->

Note that you won’t be linking directly to the audio file. Rather, you’ll be linking to This is important for tracking downloads. Trust me on this for now — I’ll explain more in a subsequent step.

Below is what the RSS feed template looks like filled out with static and dynamic content within my Craft template:

Complete RSS feed31
Complete RSS feed. (View large version32)

You can download my own RSS template33 to customize to your own needs.

Finally, once you’ve finished coding your RSS feed, submit it to Feed Validator34 to ensure it has no errors. Do this even if you’re sure it’s valid. At one point, I wondered why my podcast was behaving strangely in iTunes, and it came down to an invalid feed, which Feed Validator helped me fix.

Feed Validator35
Feed Validator. (View large version36)

Submit the Feed to FeedBurner Link

Not everyone will want to subscribe to your podcast through iTunes or email. To let people more easily subscribe to your podcast using their own RSS reader or a third-party podcast subscription app, using FeedBurner37 is best.

First, submit a new feed and check off the “podcaster” option:


Once you do that, it will read your feed and generate a unique URL. This is the URL you should be linking to when advertising your RSS feed on your website. It will look something like what’s below when users click the link, which is a bit more friendly than sending them to a pure XML page.

(View large version39)

Submit To iTunes Link

Of course, you’ll want to submit your podcast to iTunes to reap the benefits of the free exposure that Apple offers. (That being said, don’t ignore other platforms, such as Pocket Casts40 and TuneIn41.)

Before you submit it, design a beautiful cover to stand out in the iTunes store. This cover is comparable to an app’s icon in the App Store, but you have a slightly larger canvas to work with. Design it at 1400×1400px. It will appear smaller than that in most places your listeners will see it, so keep it simple, bold and free of small text.

I remember thinking I could get away with including my logo and some text in the cover, but this is how it appeared in the iTunes store:


I removed the Proposify logo and text because it couldn’t easily be read.


Ready to submit to Apple? Go to your iTunes app, click on “Podcasts,” and to the right you’ll see a link to submit a podcast.

(View large version43)

Click on the button, and it will ask you to submit the feed.

(View large version45)

It will return a message if you’ve missed filling in any fields. Once everything is correct, iTunes will notify you within a couple of days that your podcast has been approved and will email you a link to your podcast on the iTunes website. It may take a bit longer to show up in the iTunes app.

Seeing your very own podcast in the iTunes store is a pretty magical experience!

(View large version47)

At this point (and probably long before), you should be announcing your podcast to the world.

  • Email your list of subscribers.
  • Ask all of your friends and colleagues to share it with their contacts.
  • Post it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
  • Don’t stop.

Nathan Barry’s article “How to Launch Anything48” might help.

Launch With At Least Three Episodes Link

The “New and Noteworthy” section of the iTunes store offers you much needed exposure, especially in those critical six to eight weeks following the launch. iTunes has an algorithm that looks at a number of different factors to determine whether to push you higher up in the “New and Noteworthy” section. One factor you can affect directly is the number of downloads.

What if you haven’t yet built up a huge audience? Simply put, launch with more episodes. The more episodes you launch with, the more likely you’ll get more downloads per subscriber, meaning you’re more likely to get bumped to the top.

Consistently releasing new episodes on schedule is important, so put one or two months’ worth of episodes on reserve in case an interview falls through, you get sick or you can’t release a new episode for some other reason. Of course, this may be impractical if you are newsjacking or discussing some other time-sensitive topic.

Track Downloads With Google Analytics Link

This is the last piece of the puzzle, and I was shocked at how few resources exist to do something as relatively simple as tracking downloads.

Apple doesn’t offer any tracking whatsoever. There are third-party apps, such as Lisbyn49, Podtrac50 and Blubrry51, but, as mentioned, many require you to host your audio files with them and to use their CMS and RSS feed. Not what us control freaks want!

If you aren’t overly concerned with getting paid sponsorship of your podcast, tracking downloads yourself is actually much easier by combining a bit of PHP with Google Analytics events.

I came across a free script from Chris Van Patten, Downloadalytics52, which allows you to track downloads as an event in Google Analytics.

Here are the steps for installing it:

  1. Download the Server Side Google Analytics53 PHP script from Dan Cameron.
  2. Download Downloadalytics54.
  3. Upload both PHP files (ss-ga.class.php and downloads.php) to the root directory of your website.

Leave the Server Side Google Analytics file alone, and open downloads.php. You’ll need to change three things:

  • the website’s URL (;
  • the Google Analytics property ID (for example, UA-1234567-1), which you can find in Google Analytics;
  • the type of audio file to track (I use M4A, but you could use MP4, MP3 or something else).
(View large version56)

Remember earlier when we pointed our RSS feed to download.php?url=, instead of just the basic path to the file? We did that so that Downloadalytics can properly track downloads in Google Analytics.

If you’re using an audio player on your blog, be sure to also point to downloads.php, instead of the basic file path. For example, your blog post should link like this:

<audio src="" preload="auto"></audio>

Not like this:

<audio src="" preload="auto">

After a day of tracking, log into Google Analytics. Navigate to “Behavior” → “Events” → “Overview.”

You’ll notice a new event category, named “Downloads,” which Downloadalytics has generated.

(View large version58)

Click on the event category, and you can add it to your dashboard to more easily track by episode.

(View large version60)

Conclusion Link

Hopefully, you’ve found this to be a useful and comprehensive guide to launching your very own podcast. I’m only 10 episodes in at the time of writing, but so far I’ve found the experience to be a great way to build a closer relationship with my customers and fans. It’s a lot of work, and discipline is required to record week after week, even when you aren’t in the mood, but the reward is more than worth the effort.

So, tell me, when do you plan to launch your podcast?

(ah, ml, al)

Footnotes Link

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Kyle Racki is the CEO and co-founder of Proposify, software that helps web design agencies and freelancers streamline their proposals and win more clients. He is dad to two beautiful boys, a karaoke superstar, freed cultist, and Batman enthusiast.

  1. 1

    And please use Auphonic right from the start. Your listeners will thank you for a real good audio quality. And your web server will like the much smaller audio files.

  2. 2

    We’ve done extensive testing with Downloadalytics and concluded that it doesn’t report correct data. If you don’t have many episode downloads, perhaps the web server and script could do fine, but downloads would grind to a halt when we release new episodes and it’s messing with the stats. While running Downloadalytics, we also monitored the stats via Podtrac and SoundCloud (where we currently host our files), and it was clear that Downloadalytics didn’t catch it all.

  3. 3

    Nice work :)

  4. 4

    I can vouch for the Snowball mic mentioned in the article. I bought one of them and they are just amazing! I also recommend getting a pop filter to make sure your hard consonants are mellowed a bit :)

  5. 5


    July 14, 2015 1:23 pm

    Quite interesting read…. Thanks for posting it!!!

  6. 6

    Didn’t know that about Downloadalytics but thanks for reporting it. In general I find all analytics (Google Analytics, KISSmetrics) are off by some degree and to not put too much faith in them, but Downloadalytics gives me at least some basic understanding of which episodes are more popular than others.

    @Daniel Pataki
    Completely agree about the pop filter. It really would improve the sound quality.

  7. 7

    Great article! I’m very interested in hosting a podcast soon — this information will be very helpful. I appreciate that you were so thorough. I’ll follow up with another comment once my site is up and running to let you know how it goes. Thanks!!

  8. 9

    Zbig Pieciul

    July 15, 2015 2:49 pm

    GarageBand has a podcast setting? That’s no longer true I’m afraid…

  9. 10

    Use Podtrac (free) for your analytics; link to your MP3 file via their tracker, and you’ll be able to track every download (be it via iTunes or listeners via the web). Simple and free!

  10. 11

    Johan Benjaminsson

    July 23, 2015 9:24 am

    A good alternative if running WordPress is to use the Podlove plugin together with Auphonic (as previously mentioned). Podlove is open source and tracks downloads without forcing you to use someone else’s RSS or servers.

    Relying on Feedburner when you are a control freak is a bit shaky. It looks like something from the 90s and haven’t been updated for a while. If google do a “Google Reader”-move i’m sure they will give you notice to do a 301 but i’d rather have full control over my RSS from the start. Podlove offers a subscribe button so you don’t need Feedburner for that. It looks more professional with your own RSS URL too.

  11. 12

    Wow, such a thorough article. Thanks!

    Question: what ‘usb hub’ are you plugging your mikes into? I have a Snowball mike, but I get this low static when I record, which I read online can be corrected by redirecting the mike through a usb hub that plugs into the wall (from the photo it looks like yours does this). I’ve tried tracking this sort of usb hub down, but I haven’t had any luck! Any guidance appreciated!

  12. 13

    I’ve been thinking about launching a podcast for some time, but I had no idea how to start. This post will help me a lot. I have just one question: what about accessibility issues? Having a text transcript seems like the right thing to do, if you want to reach deaf people, but it also sounds like a loooot of work! What is your opinion on this?

    • 14

      Transcriptions are alright, and you could probably find someone on 5iver or Elance to do it for cheap, but IMO they are long and boring to read. We write an article for every post that pulls out the main points but isn’t a word-for-word transcription. It’s cheaper/easier to produce and more enjoyable to read.

  13. 15

    Hi Kyle,

    Great research and very thorough information for an intermediary user.

    I have had podcasts in the past and have also established podcasts for a number of clients. Quite frankly, I find the production aspect to be somewhat of a hassle and encourage clients to begin simple (USB headset, computer, record).

    Further, it is disappointing that for the mere 10 years that podcasting has been in the mainstream, we still have not advanced in the following areas:

    1). We are still beholden to use iTunes – Absolutely terrible interface, difficult to use, and completely unfriendly platform for podcasting/podcasters. Other than visibility, iTunes is utterly worthless.

    We need an all-in-one solution that can host, provide stats, allow us to promote our shows, and provide revenue options (Similar to Google’s Youtube). Ideally, this platform should be free (Like Youtube), so that show creators can test their podcasts while providing content for the network.

    2). Limited hosting options – Libsyn is not customer service friendly and also has an outdated player, user interface.

    3). Limited choice of production software – Audacity requires too much of your hard drive space and it is somewhat difficult to use for the beginner. An online solution is needed, just plugin your mic (s), record, and edit – all online from any computer or any location.

    4). An alternative to Microsoft’s Skype – which for some reason does not allow call recording (The only thing this app might be of good use, requires another solution to record). Ideally, another opportunity for an all-in-one solution that records online (Note: Many of the new conference call services provide online meeting rooms – I suggest this option to clients).

    5). Reliable analytics software.

    6). Industry Standard for Advertisers / Sponsors.

    7). No clear, viable business model with a clear path to revenue. There needs to be more discussion about how to turn a podcast into a business (It’s still largely unknown if this is even a possibility).

    Otherwise, aside from the lack of progress/innovation in the podcasting space, this is great guide that will be useful to many and possibly serve as a catalyst for better tools & modern solutions.

  14. 16

    Hi Kyle,

    Thanks for the detailed post with step by step instructions. I followed these steps exactly as mentioned to launch my UX podcast

    It wouldn’t have been as easy had it not been for this post. I wanted to add in a few comments for people who might run into the same issues:

    – RSS feed was by far the most challenging part – so thanks for the template. It’s actually pretty simple to get it done on wordpress but the feed had a few validation errors. The feed validator was extremely useful. It was missing `rel = “self”` line which I borrowed from another podcast’s RSS. Also, the time format I used wasn’t correct. It has to be something similar to HH:MM:SS for duration ( I had MM.SS which didn’t work), otherwise the validator would throw an error.

    – One more thing I learned was that the RSS needn’t be perfect first time around when you are submitting to itunes. By perfect, I mean the format in which you want to add content. It still has to be valid but you can play around with your notes and other embedded content. You can always make changes to it. It usually shows up in itunes within 24 hours.

    – Submitting to stitcher, pocketcasts, tune in, overcast was all easy once you get it in itunes and have a valid feed. Some of them require an email to be sent and take a max of 5 days to turn around. It’s hard to know where people are listening to podcasts on.

    – Itunes has a clean or explicit flag, which had me really concerned. But turns out these are just labels so if you have any swear words in the conversation, you just mark it as explicit. There is no penalty for it being explicit – which I wasn’t very sure of originally.

    – Asking for feedback is really hard, especially on niche topics such as user experience. So I personally scouted a few candidates through twitter, certain slack channels and reddit to ask them to give it a listen before I went public with the podcast. It really helped to get their feedback and tune it before going full blast with marketing.

    – Your idea of a blog post for each episode is a great way to market the podcast itself. It’s also a cheaper and more valuable alternative to CC, like you had mentioned in another comment.

    All in all, thanks a ton for the detailed post and sharing your RSS template.


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