Podcasts are enjoying a bit of a boom time, as radio shows, stand-up comics, websites and more rush to get their own audio episodes out into the world. If you want to carve out your own niche in the market, then it's not too difficult - and here's what you're going to need.
While podcasts can be video-based as well as audio-based, for this article we're going to focus on audio-only for the sake of simplicity. Read on for the full guide to getting started in podcasting - just remember to thank T3 somewhere near the start of your first episode.
Somewhere to record
You can record a podcast anywhere you like, but most people won't be interested in a scratchy, low-quality audio recording that has traffic noise in the background.
The quieter and more soundproofed the room you record in the better - if you're really serious about building a podcast empire then you can build your own recording studio or rent out some studio space.
That's not to say you can't record outside or in a normal room but the space makes a difference to the final quality as well as the equipment you're using.
If you're up for doing some DIY soundproofing in a room in your house, there are plenty of options - pick a room with thick walls, for a start. From green glue compound sandwiched between sheets of plywood, to acoustic foam panels, it really depends how much time and money you've got to spare.
If you're a casual podcaster then you probably don't want to spend ages setting up a home studio - a quiet corner far from windows and other sounds would do fine.
The microphone you use for your recording is perhaps the most important link in your podcast producing chain as far as end quality is concerned. USB models that plug straight into your computer are more convenient and cheaper, but you can usually get better quality from a standalone analogue mic, in which case you need another device to convert the recordings into digital format.
There are a whole host of microphones to choose from and we don't have space to give you a full buyer's guide here - some online research (check user and professional reviews) should point you in the right direction.
The Blue Microphones Yeti range give you the convenience of a USB microphone for a reasonably affordable price, while the Samson Meteor is smaller and cheaper.
A little higher in price and quality you have the likes of the Rode NT1-A and the Sontronics STC-2 - you're getting excellent, professional-level audio quality at a price that still comes in under £200 (just don't forget the right adapter to connect them to your computer).
You can use pretty much any Windows or Mac machine to save and edit your recordings, because audio editing doesn't demand much in the way of processing power (certainly not as much as video editing). You will need a good application for making edits and adding in music, which brings us on to...
As a free, intuitive package, it's difficult to beat Audacity for audio recording and editing - it's available for Mac, Windows and even Linux, and pretty much everyone who's ever used it ends up recommending it.
Make sure the right device is selected as the audio input, and you're ready to hit the big red record button and get going. Cuts and pastes can be managed from the toolbar and by clicking and dragging with the mouse.
There are a ton of useful features in Audacity, such as the option to remove background noise and change the overall volume of a recording, and if you need some pointers then there's plenty of help on the official Audacity website.
If you prefer you can use a more comprehensive audio recording package - like Pro Tools from Avid - but for most casual users Audacity will do just fine (and costs nothing).
While we're mainly focusing on hardware and software for this guide, you should give some thought to the content and scripting of your shows. It pays to have at least some idea of which direction an episode is going to go in, particularly if you're chatting with guests on the show.
Uploading your episodes
You've bought your expensive microphone, you've mastered Audacity, and you've edited your first podcast into decent shape. The final step is getting the podcast somewhere where people can actually listen to it.
While there are a lot of places you can upload audio on the web, only a few are geared towards podcasters.
SoundCloud is a great option for the beginner and the free package can get you up and running, while Libsyn is one of the best and oldest names in the business, though there's no free plan to take advantage of.
PodOmatic is another impressive service aimed specifically at independent podcasters - there are some paid-for features, but most people will be able to make do with the free service, at least to begin with.
You can submit your podcast to iTunes for free as well, though it needs to be hosted somewhere suitable first (see above).
With that done you can watch the audience numbers rack up. If you're planning to build up a serious following, then regular podcasts are key - and good quality podcasts of course. You also need to make sure your new venture is adequately promoted, so you'd better start working on that Facebook page.