How to publish a podcast on the cheap in 4 steps with lots of compromises
Here is my current podcast workflow, and it should work well enough for most basic shows:
If your podcast is conversational, record the audio from Skype using a recorder app. I use Callnote Pro, which costs $10 a year. There are free or less expensive options, but I’ve been using it for years and it works for me. Otherwise, talk into literally any speaker. If you have a phone from this decade, it’ll probably sound passable.
- Edit the audio in Audacity, a free app on Windows, or Garageband, a free app built into Macs.
- Upload the audio to two places: Soundcloud and Mixcloud. Keep the file backed up somewhere (I use Onedrive, but there are lots of options).
- Tell people on Twitter and Facebook to listen to the audio on Mixcloud.
That’s it. It’s the simplest workflow I’ve ever seen for podcasts, and it costs next to nothing. If you’re trying to get into podcasts but a) don’t really know what you’re doing, and b) don’t really want to sink any money into it, this is all you really have to do.
But there are compromises. If you don’t care about those, stop reading and go make some shows. But the next few sections of this blog will go into detail on that.
###Setup Time on Soundcloud
Obviously you’ll need to setup accounts at Soundcloud and Mixcloudd. Both are pretty quick, but one aspect that will take some time is setting up an RSS feed at Soundcloud. This is the thing that makes your audio a podcast. Otherwise, you’re just posting audio to the web.
###Wait, why is RSS important?
A bunch of audio files does not automatically become a podcast until an RSS enclosure is used. By allowing a file to be embedded in a post on a blog, listeners can subscribe and download the enclosure to a device. Depending on the app they use, the listener can see what episodes they’ve listened to, download older episodes than the first one, share episodes with others, etc.
###Why I don’t only use Soundcloud
The most important thing to remember about Soundcloud is that it’s only free for a certain amount of time. The site gives you a bucket of about three hours. That bucket is reusable, so you can delete old episodes and then upload new ones. If you want this setup to be simpler, simply pay Soundcloud some money and they’ll give you more storage. I’m not, which is why I also use Mixcloud.
Mixcloud’s primary purpose is mixtapes. Ideally, you record a DJ set and upload it and then people can hear your presumably sweet mixes. But Mixcloud is fine with your podcast episode existing there, and there are no fees or upload limits. If you’re wondering why I don’t just use Mixcloud, well, they didn’t have one major limitation: they don’t offer RSS feeds, which basically means you can’t actually use them to make a real podcast. So I treat Mixcloud as an archive for older episodes.
###My previous podcast workflows
I’m absolutely what you’d call a consumer podcaster. None of my shows have ever had more than a thousand listeners, and most don’t break a hundred. I mostly podcast for myself and my friends, so I’ve never tried to turn it into a business. This is entirely for fun.
I’ve been recording and distributing podcasts for ten years, and I’ve had three different workflows during that time. From 2006-2009, I used iWeb, which was an app that used to come built into every Mac. With a dot.mac account, you got a certain amount of storage you could fill up with iWeb pages. One of iWeb’s features was a simple drag-and-drop attachment format for it’s (very limited) blog page, which let you put audio files (or images, or PDFs) in the blog. When rendered in RSS, this file would become the “episode” that podcast apps could download.
Dot.mac/MobileMe was $100 a year. It wasn’t terribly expensive, but it didn’t actually give you a ton of space, and I ran out. So I went looking for a better solution, and found one with an unlimited hosting server plan.
This is where it became a business for a little while. I set up something called the Gredunza Podcast Network. I charged as little as I could and invited other podcasters to host their shows on my network. This was the most complicated option I’ve ever used, as I needed to setup a custom Wordpress install for every show. It was a lot of work, and anyone can tell you that maintaining more than a dozen Wordpress installs on a custom server is more work (and money) than is worth the trouble. In 2013, I shut down the network, because the time and cash commitment was too much.
All of my podcasts ended up on Squarespace, which is probably the simplest solution out there today. In addition to all the really great stuff a Squarespace site offers, their podcast implementation is incredibly easy. If you are fine with $10 a month for a website, don’t bother with anything else and just use them. You might have to pay a little more for the unlimited storage options if you have a lot of episodes, but that’s it.
But earlier this year I decided to pare down my recurring online billings. I was not using Squarespace to its potential, so I built a blog on Github (where you’re reading this), and moved my podcasts to Mixcloud and Soundcloud. It’s slightly more work than Squarespace, but it saved me $130 a year.
###No podcast setup is perfect
Depending on how you want to go, podcasts require either a lot of time or a lot of money, and sometimes both. You really can’t make them happen for no money or time, so be prepared to shell out at least one of those things. It’s still a blast, though, and I’m looking forward to making more.