Here Are All of the Secrets I Probably Shouldn't Be Giving Away About How to Debut a Successful Podcast

The first time I heard a podcast I was immediately jealous. I want one! But how?
Publish date:
July 12, 2013
podcast, iTunes, How-To

Well believe it or not, you can create one, too. Of course, it does help to have an audiophile friend in your pocket, because I know if I didn't have one, it would probably have been another two years until I launched mine. Still, you can absolutely do it, and I'm probably not supposed to reveal tricks of the trade, but that's HOW I DO.

If there is one thing you take away from this it's that I hope you subscribe to my podcast and that I love you very much.

Additionally! Here are all the inside secrets I learned from launching my podcast today:

1. Figure out what you really want to do. And be honest about your strengths.

When I first starting thinking about doing a podcast, I talked to several friends who could be my potential co-hosts. Why? Because I know how I am when I don't have someone to play off of, and honestly: I go way in my head. I overthink. I try. (Trying is deadly.) But if I have a friend to chat with and make jokes with in a natural, having a blast format, then I am IN.

Interestingly, after realizing a few friends just didn't have the time (Mark Ebner, Sam Lansky), I was talking about it just in small talk with my friend Graham Smith. It turned out he had been wanting to do a podcast for a long time, and since he was a musician with a lot of audio experience, he made my life a million times easier. It's not to say you can't do it if you don't have a sound guy on board, but if you're a perfectionist like me, it definitely helps.

In terms of the figuring out WHAT to do, I also bandied around a couple ideas. Would it be funny to make fun of my at-times maddeningly solipsistic nature by instead of interviewing celebs, asking THEM for advice? Maybe. Might be hard to pull off. What about a topical "Chelsea Lately" type format? Seems a bit played at this point, and better left to a roundtable of talking heads, I think. One thing I know I am really good at though is being uncomfortably raw and honest.

In turn, this has made me a pretty good interviewer over the years. When I am myself willing to reveal potentially embarrassing or shameful anecdotes -- putting that darkness out into the light, as I like to say -- it sure as well makes other people just as willing to do so. It's human nature. So I played on that: With the idea that I would focus on media, sex, culture and call it "News Whore." Also a play on News Corp., media whore and because my most famous story involved a gigolo. There's my brand. Got it.

2. Figure out how much time you have to devote and see if you can realistically do this, and if you can: Start planning.

For me, since I'm not having to do the audio component, there isn't a whole lot of time involved since many of the folks I'm chatting with -- my first guest Colin Quinn, my second guest Wayne Federman, upcoming guests Taylor Negron, Sara Benincasa, Jessica Delfino, Bonnie McFarlane -- I would be just as likely to spend an hour with joking around anyway. So it's kind of the perfect storm. I can capture the magic of those hangouts without completely killing my social life. In a way, it's capturing the organically awesome parts springing from my social life -- which can be the best kind of creative project of all.

If you decide this is something you can commit to, then commit to it. Record three or four and see if you'll have time to do regularly. I've heard a few stories about people starting a podcast, taking a break and then losing the thousands of regular listeners they had accumulated -- and having to start all over. Don't do that. Do it when you really have time -- and really want to -- do it. It shouldn't be a chore. If it is, it will probably sound that way in what you record: stressy and not very relaxing to listen to. That's why I like podcasts in the first place. When I listen to Marc Maron's "WTF," it feels like I'm there listening to him and his famous friends get deep and personal and crack each other up. That's a good podcast.

3. Figure out what you need, equipment wise.

Here is the super-secret recommended equipment list that is much beloved across the podcast-o-sphere for people who are truly in the know. Ready?

This will enable you to have up to four people on at once (depending of how many mics you have), or you can have 2-3 people plus an iPad/iPhone to play audio clips, etc.

  • PreSonus Audio Interface
  • Microphones - Shure SM58s (These mics will give you excellent sound at a fraction of the price of radio mics. The link also comes with the mic cable and a windscreen to cut down on the breath hitting the mic, especially on words that start with P Mic Stands This is all about preference,but a gooseneck stand gives you some flexibility.)
  • Laptop with GarageBand

4. Get yourself a Libsyn account, then upload your podcast to the iTunes directory.

There are a couple of other articles out there that probably explain better than I do some of the details on this process, but the main thing I would recommend is double-checking every stage along the way. It's modern life. Sometimes glitches happen and you definitely don't want to be the person who is promoting something that isn't even live on iTunes yet.

5. Form yourself a team of people to help promote socially.

I've got two ace interns on the job for me (Ashley and Biz), and I even did a Google Hangout with them last night to practice telling my ever-so-casually-brought-up-if-I-needed-to-bring-up-some-anecdotes anecdotes. That was actually a really good takeaway I got from talking to a few different managers before preparing to do radio this morning. When you do a big show like "Opie and Anthony" really what it's all about is telling a good story. Sure, be able to riff. But come prepared as if you've already done a pre-interview the way you would with Letterman or one of the super-overproduced talk shows. Force yourself to do that high-level prep work so that there is no chance of you choking and thereby you can just have fun and enjoy it. Oh, but that's kind of unrelated advice to getting your team socially. But good advice nonetheless.

The other part I love about having a team you are working with is that it makes it more fun. I am a deeply social person -- and also a deeply workaholic person. Sometimes the workaholism leads me to not get enough interaction socially and then I find myself suddenly blue. That's the last thing you need when you are trying to promote an endeavor like a podcast. It needs to be fun! Otherwise it's just not worth it. The work suffers and you become overwhelmed and bitter. Don't do that!

To prepare, I used the mailing list provider to put my email groups together (it's cheap and wonky, but I just don't have enough mailing list needs to use AWeber-- even though it is far superior). And I had a list of other people not on there to also email one by one.

So far following this plan is actually paying off!

I was hoping to crack the Top 200 in the "comedy" category of podcasts on iTunes -- and awesomely, I just hit the Top 50! Right now, I'm at #26!

You can totally kill this too if you want. The great thing about podcasts is that they allow everyone to let their talents shine. Which is another piece of advice: There are a million things you could do a podcast about. And you can do it on your own, or you can use a network like I'm doing with RiotCast. Of course, the team behind the network didn't immediately say, "Yes! Whatever you want, Mandy!" I had to submit my demo with Colin Quinn before they decided it was a go. There are a lot of podcast networks out there nowadays so if you'd rather be part of a group -- where they have advertising bundled and you don't have to do too much work in terms of getting sponsorship -- there are a lot of routes to go: Earwolf, Nerdist, Adam Carolla's network, hell, you could even start one.

That's all I got. Any questions? I'll do my best to answer, but I may need to ask for the help of my cohorts!


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