Get the answers to your most pressing podcasting questions

Is a podcast right for you and your organization? How much does it cost to get started? Find out here.

This is not an article about how to podcast, choose a microphone or set your audio levels.

This is about the real world of organizational podcasting, answering the most common questions asked by clients and other communicators.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Do I have a voice for podcasting?
The short answer is: Yes. You do not need a “radio” voice to be a podcaster. You do not need an NPR-style delivery. In fact, a slick tone may turn off listeners. Unless you have a serious speech impediment, your voice is totally fine for podcasting. Besides, there is a lot more to podcasting than a warm vocal tone and crystal-clear diction.

Can you research interesting topics? Can you do a good job interviewing people? Can you structure a compelling story? Can you engage your listeners?

Certainly, you can capitalize on your natural abilities by learning how to use your microphone properly and, if necessary, modulate your voice.

What’s the ideal length for a podcast?
This is by far the most popular question I hear from people who want to start a podcast. If you force me to answer this question, I’d say “20–22 minutes,” but honestly, I listen to podcasts that are much longer because I enjoy the content. So, it depends.

Remember that people can stop and start the episode in their podcast player, so length should not truly be an issue. If the content is well produced and meets the audience’s needs, people will listen. If it sounds awful and is poorly organized, no one is going to waste two minutes on it. When you create audio content, you must know what your audience is looking for. Then, fill that need.

How frequently do I have to publish?
There is no magic number, although many successful shows publish on a weekly schedule. The key is consistency: Deliver what you promise your listeners. If you say you’re coming out with a new episode every Monday, stick to the schedule.

Can I use my favorite band’s music in my podcast?
No. Unless you possess a license, you can use only non-copyrighted music in your podcast. I suggest getting royalty-free music from a source like Shockwave Sound.

Do I have to write show notes?
Show notes are the text to accompany your podcast, usually published as a blog post. Should you bother? It takes time to write them, but I believe the benefits outweigh the trouble. Here’s why: When you write show notes about each podcast episode, Google and other search engines will add your content to their vast indexes.

If you are smart when you create the title of your podcast episode and the accompanying show notes, people will find your podcast when they do a search. I get dozens of hits a day when people look for something like “internal podcast best practices.” Until the day when specialized audio search tools are available, writing show notes is still worthwhile.

Show notes are useful for SEO and for your listeners, too. A glance at the notes tells them what the episode is about. If they’re really busy, they may skip ahead to a particular segment. In my own experience, show notes keep me subscribed to certain podcasts. Honestly, I don’t have time to listen to everything, so show notes help me prioritize my listening. If a show doesn’t have notes, I’m more likely to unsubscribe when I don’t have time to listen to several episodes in a row.

In addition, show notes are useful to listeners who may be in the car or on the treadmill enjoying your podcast. Once they’re back at their desks, they can check the show notes for the name of the book or website you’ve mentioned.

Some podcasters take the idea of show notes to the next level, publishing transcripts of their shows. Many of my clients like to order a transcript because it’s the first step towards repurposing and repackaging their audio content for other uses.

Do all of the people on a podcast have to be in the same room?
Back in the early days of podcasting, if we wanted to record someone who was in a different location, we had to rely on the telephone, usually a landline. The quality wasn’t great, but you could get the job done. Then we used recording tools like Pamela or Call Recorder to record Skype calls.

Many podcasters today still do that, or they use programs like Zoom or Zencastr. I’m a fan of Zencastr, although it’s not perfect. It does allow me to record remote guests with relative ease.

What’s the biggest mistake when it comes to producing a podcast?
Other than poor quality audio or nonexistent marketing and promotion of a podcast, I think the biggest mistake you can make is forgetting that your content is audio— meant to be listened to, not read. Always remember that your audience is likely to be listening to your show through earbuds while they are commuting or exercising or walking the dog.

They might miss a word here and there. They might be interrupted, so keep your sentences short.

Don’t hesitate to repeat key points or do a summary at the end.

How long does it take to put a podcast episode together?
It depends. I suggest creating a content calendar for your podcast so there is some logical flow to your episodes. (Of course, if you’re producing a news or current affairs show, you have to cover what’s breaking.) If you know what your objectives are, you shouldn’t have much trouble coming up with topic ideas.

For each individual episode, some planning is involved: booking your guest (if you have one); doing your research; conducting the interview or recording yourself; recording your intro and outro (which I suggest doing after the interview); then editing, mixing and publishing your show. I generally allow one hour of editing time for each 15 minutes of recording time.

Audio that requires noise removal and other treatments will take longer. So, for a typical 20-minute episode, from planning to production (including show notes), you can allow anywhere from three to 10 hours or more. If you’re producing a podcast for a client, you also have to allow for client approvals and re-edits, which can add hours to each episode.

How much does it cost to produce a podcast?
If you use the microphone built into your laptop and free software, creating a podcast costs nothing but your time. If you want to produce a higher-quality show, you’ll need to invest a few hundred dollars in professional hardware and software. Monthly hosting with a reputable service like Libsyn will set you back anywhere from $5–$20 per month for a typical package.

Hiring an audio editor/producer to help you, or a podcasting consultant to oversee the whole process, will obviously cost more. Within my own business, I’ve created a PDF called “Podcasting Scenarios and Costs,” which lists a variety of different types of podcasts, from a CEO broadcast to a group interview, both in person and remote, and outlines a range of fees ranging from $700–$2,000.

Is a podcast right for my organization?
Only you can answer this question. Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to achieve? How will you measure success? These are just a few of the questions you need to answer before even considering a podcast. I will tell you this: I’ve seen a definite uptick in interest in podcasts in the past year.

More and more organizations are producing podcasts for their employees, members, customers or prospects. A decade ago, podcasts were more difficult to produce and hard to find, download and play. Today? Most of us can listen in the car, at the gym, on a train or plane—anywhere at any time. Podcasts have come into their own as a legitimate, mainstream part of the communications mix, and that’s music to this podcaster’s ears.

Donna Papacosta is a speaker, podcaster, instructor and coauthor of The Business of Podcasting. A version of this post first appeared on the Trafcom News Blog.

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