Screenshot iTunes New & Noteworthy podcastsI’m planning a new podcasting show and in the process I’ve been reflecting on my podcasting journey so far, which has included a few starts and a few stops. With a few lessons learned along the way.

Some key lessons have been:

  1. The focus of your show must fascinate you
  2. You don’t need elaborate gear to get started
  3. Join a community of podcasters
  4. Get the sequence of actions right at the outset
  5. Get a good hosting service

1. The focus of your show must fascinate you

Creating and maintaining a podcast show takes work and discipline.

So take time to choose a topic that fascinates you and will, as far as you can tell, still fascinate and intrigue you when you are at Episode 3100 and later.

If you choose a topic just because you think it will make you money directly or indirectly but your heart is not in it, you will be making a rod for your own back.

And your show will probably join the ghostly ranks of failed podcast shows that seemed like a good idea at the time but did not last the distance.

But if you do choose a subject or focus you like but later realise that you have become bored with it, there is no need to stop podcasting. I’ve gained practical experience from each of my past podcasting endeavours and I’ll be using that experience to make sure my next show is better planned and more successfully delivered.

2. You don’t need elaborate gear to get started

Some years ago I attended a workshop on podcasting, at a conference in Las Vegas. According to what the experts there had to say, I would have needed to budget at least $2,000 to get started. It wasn’t in my budget and I was not convinced that it would have been necessary anyway.

Right now I have a setup that links to either my laptop or my smartphone and the extra cost of gear over and above those two items is under $150. That includes an excellent, professional standard microphone for less than $100.

I would not object to having a more elaborate setup, with state of the art equipment. But right now I don’t need it.

And for how to get good, reliable information about podcastng gear, see the next point in this post.

3. Join a community of podcasters

Podcasters community on Google PlusOne of the best things I’ve done as a podcaster is to join the Podcasters Community on Google Plus. It’s a very well run group. The members include acknowledged leaders in the field and I’ve found people there to be amazingly generous in providing helpful advice and tips. It’s also spam-free.

I learn something new every time I log on.

And harking back to the previous point in this post, there is a dedicated discussion thread just about podcasting gear.

4. Get the sequence of actions right at the outset

If your podcast is just to explore a hobby, the way you go about setting it up might not matter a lot to you, although there are things that you can do to help you gain a bigger and more attentive audience.

But if your intention is to podcast for business, it pays to do some research and planning. Otherwise you can find yourself doing some backing and filling.

iTunes logoFor example, I wish I had known more, when I launched my most recent podcast show, about the ideal process for getting a show on iTunes. There is a sequence of steps that can optimize your prospects of being noticed and having people subscribe.

There are the basic technical steps that Apple sets out.

Then there are the steps the pros know about but are not obvious to podcasting newbies.

For example, a good aim is to get your show onto iTunes early on, so as to have a better chance of getting included in its New & Noteworthy list. However, I heard one expert podcaster say that you should have more than one episode recorded before you do that, so that when people download your podcast they will get a better sample of your work: from recollection, the number was 5 or 6, but no doubt you need to take account of the frequency of your episodes. This is the sort of issue that you can get guidance on from a good podcaster community.

(Update May 2016 about iTunes New & Noteworthy. From a discussion on the Podcasters Community on Google Plus, I am now less exercised about the point of arranging your launch so as to have a higher hope of getting on New & Noteworthy. It seems it’s a bit more of a lottery than I’d thought and the effort may not pay off in numbers of subscribers. Do your own research on this.)

5. Get a good hosting service

It’s worth spending some time checking out hosting services for your podcast. You can use a service that provides a web presence for your show or you might just want space to host your files and have a self-hosted website of your own (I know, more learning curve for some, but this is one worth doing and not very costly) for the online public presence.

There is no shortage of hosting services on offer. A couple that stand out for me are Libsyn and Blubrry. I am currently using Libsyn: it is a good service and economical (Update May 2016: I have switched to Blubrry – no criticism of Libsyn in that, just that the combination of my needs and Blubrry’s particular framing of offerings and price suited me better). Amazon s3 is also recommended by some, but with Libsyn and Blubrry you have fixed costs, whereas with Amazon s3, while it is very economical at first glance, if you get a lot of downloads there is some risk of it costing you more than you had anticipated or budgeted for.

I’m also looking now at Spreaker – economical, and there is a community. Again there are some tricks to the trade, as explained by Mike Russell in this post.

Podcaster Lisa Hartwell has a good, succinct post on hosting options.

Do you have any tips for people getting started with podcasting? Please share.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).