​How to podcast, Part 1: Getting started

If you're ready to start your own online show, here's what you should know before you start buying things.

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It takes an idea, a mic, and some know how to put together a podcast. Eric Franklin/CNET

Editors' Note, May 16, 2014: Date of upcoming part two changed to May 23.

If you've seen CNET's shows or other online programs, you might have the itch to create your own podcast. So what happens if you have no idea where to start? Don't worry -- we've got you covered. This series will explain what it takes to start a podcast from inception to publication. Let's get to it.

What is a podcast?

The term podcast traditionally refers to an audio or video program that can be subscribed to and is downloadable. The name comes from a mix of iPod and broadcasting, although that name is a bit misleading as you've never needed an Apple-branded iPod to listen or view a podcast. It might just be simpler to think of a podcast as an online program.

Why do your own?

In the bad old days, if you wanted to voice your opinion in audio or video, you'd have to somehow get yourself on a radio or television. The Internet and low-cost equipment democratized the ability to produce your own program. If you've got the urge to have your opinions heard or want to alert people to the most amazing news they've never heard, podcasting might be the way to go.

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The top podcasts on iTunes Screenshot by Iyaz Akhtar

What should you talk about?

The best advice for beginners is if you are going to do a program, make the topic something you are passionate about. That being said, podcasting has been around for a while, so there are a lot of different programs that have come and gone over the years that may have already covered the topic you're super-excited to cover.

Alternatively, you can find a niche that is underserved. This is the basis of all of those different channels on cable, right? If there's a show you want to see that no one seems to be doing, there is a chance that you might be able to find an audience.

Research stage

At this point, you'll want to do some research as to what's in the podcast world right now. A quick and dirty way to check what's out there is by firing up iTunes and heading to the podcast section. iTunes is not a comprehensive resource, but it can give you a general idea as to what shows are out there. Take a look around the different sections and see what's hot now and do a few searches to see if your topic is already taken.

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Seeing if "AmazingShow" is available on Twitter, Facebook, and more. Screenshot by Iyaz Akhtar

If you find that the topic you want to cover is already taken, you don't have to let that stop you if that's the topic you're passionate about. A unique voice and point of view can make a show stand out against the masses. You could even take the opportunity to listen to other shows to craft your program's focus so it isn't a clone of other programs.

Once you've got your idea for your show hammered out, it's time to come up with a name for your show. These days, you'll want a show title that is findable online and unique. For example, you would never want to name your show something like "404" as a Google search yields an error code and area code.

Double check to see if your show name isn't already taken by doing a search online with your show name idea. Branding is relatively important as well, as you'll want to have a social media presence on sites like Twitter and Facebook. A service like NameChk.com will search over 100 services to see if a name is taken. Also do a quick search on your favorite domain registrar to see if you can get an easy URL to go along with your show.

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We'll delve into more advanced podcasting considerations -- like whether it's necessary to buy an expensive sound mixer -- in part 2 of this series. Eric Franklin/CNET

What's next?

Once you've got all this stuff done, it's time to start recording a program. But what equipment should you get? We'll address that in the next part of the series coming up on Friday, May 23.

 

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