Taking their name from the Apple iPod, podcasts have continued to thrive after smartphones largely replaced the popular music players. The downloadable audio shows have become a favorite source of entertainment and education in the car, at the gym and at home.
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What Is a Podcast and How Do They Work?
A podcast is a recorded audio series, somewhat similar to a regular radio show, that you can download over the internet to your smartphone, tablet, smart speaker or computer. You can access podcasts through popular audio software including iTunes, Spotify and various specialized podcast players where you can search for the name of a podcast you want or browse by genre, such as comedy, music, science or true crime.
Podcast creators publish chronological lists of their episodes that player software can understand, and many podcast tools can be configured to automatically sync the latest episodes of your favorite podcasts to your device. When you want to listen, you queue up the episodes and listen to them through your device's built-in speaker, earphones or an external speaker. Keep in mind that because podcasts don't air on the traditional radio, they might contain vulgar language or other content that you may not want to play in public or in front of certain people.
Some podcasts are created or hosted by celebrities, such as comedians, authors and actors. Traditional radio stations put out podcasts, and amateurs or people new to audio production also create podcasts. Most podcasts are free downloads, although some encourage fans to donate money or subscribe for access to additional material.
How to Start a Podcast
Starting a podcast is relatively easy. You start by determining the subject of the podcast and deciding what kind of discussions and other audio you want to feature. You come up with a name for your podcast, a basic logo, information about who you are, and other marketing information you can share.
Take a look at information for podcast creators produced by Apple, Spotify and other big podcast distributors to make sure your podcast meets their content standards before you get too far along.
If you're planning to interview people or have guests on your podcast, you may want to contact them with a rough idea of what you're planning and see if they're willing to participate. If you plan to play music or other content created by someone else, you need to have permission to use it. It is a good idea to put together a few rough scripts for your first podcast episodes and rehearse before you go live.
What Do You Need to Start a Podcast?
You may be able to create a podcast using equipment you already have. You can certainly record a podcast using the built-in microphone on your computer and smartphone, assuming you have a quiet place, but you might prefer to use higher quality equipment if you have access to it.
You are likely to need a way to edit the sound you record. You can do this with a variety of free or paid programs for your computer or your smartphone, so research one that meets your needs.
To share your podcast, you need a hosting service to put it online. The company takes the MP3 or other audio files that you generate and puts them online where your listeners and directory services can find them. Many podcast hosting services also generate a feed, indexing your podcast episodes for others to find. Different services offer different plans at different prices, with features that include information about who's listening to your podcast and the ability to upload varying amounts of content per month, so find one that's right for you.
After you upload your first episodes, register with the podcast directories so people can find your podcast. Each directory has information about how to do this, often by submitting the address of the feed generated by your host.
How Much Money Can You Make From a Podcast?
While many podcasts are free and don't attempt to earn revenue, other podcasts make money in a variety of ways.
Some charge for content that's only available to paid subscribers, and popular ones using this model can make tens of thousands of dollars per month from subscription fees. Some ask for donations and receive them from loyal subscribers.
Many feature advertising. The U.S. podcast industry as a whole was estimated to have taken in roughly $314 million in ad revenue in 2017. In some cases, podcast hosts introduce featured products and brands, similar to traditional radio. Naturally, podcasts that are popular command more ad money than podcasts with limited audiences, with advertisers often paying based on the number of listeners a podcast has.
Some podcast creators use their podcasts to promote other businesses or creative endeavors. For example, comedians and musicians can use podcasts to promote their tours. Writers can use podcasts to promote their books and magazine articles, and other professionals from graphic designers to dentists can use podcasts about their subjects to support their work.
Even if you don't make much money from your podcast, it can still be a worthwhile business venture if it helps you promote yourself and your other activities.
Others use podcasts to connect or reconnect with a passionate community of listeners, whether they are people who share their taste in art or literature, people interested in the same cooking techniques, or people from their religion or ethnic group.