Writing blogs is a very popular hobby. For some, it is a career. They a good way to express your thoughts and feelings to the larger world. According to one source, as of January 2016, there are about 450 million blogs active. [1] People who want to get noticed will have a difficult time breaking through the all the clutter. That does not mean starting a new one is useless, but the reality is you are unlikely to gain a large following.

So let's compare that to a podcast. Compared to the number of blogs, there are only an estimated 185,000. [2] Podcasts are rapidly gaining new listeners, thanks to the efforts of National Public Radio and other podcasters. Shows like "This American Life", "The Ted Radio Hour", and "Serial" are growing ever-larger audiences. This media received an important boost in recognition when U.S. President Barrack Obama appeared on Mark Maron's show "WTF" in 2015. It media has passed its infancy but is still early in the growth curve. Starting your show now will help you grow with the entire industry.

What Do You Need To Start

To write a blog, you only need a computer to compose your thoughts and send them to a server like Blogger or WordPress. Podcasting has a few additional requirements. Some of these are tangible items, but the most important are conceptual. Like a blog, they require a commitment. Readers want regular and consistent content. They expect the same from a podcast. However, recording and publishing a show takes a little more time.

Many podcasters start committed and consistent, only to realize running the show is more effort than expected. (I am describing myself here. My show has been on hiatus for 8 months as of January 2016.) When the producer has a concrete reason for doing the show, it is easy to find the time to keep publishing. Your reason may be to use the show as publicity for a product or service. Alternatively, possibly you can address an important issue that only you can adequately cover. However, the motivation to keep creating can diminish when the producer loses that initial excitement.

Before you go any further, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

  • Who is the ideal listener?
  • Why are they listening to you?
  • What problem are you solving?

When you know the answers to those questions, you will have an idea if this is right for you. Those answers will also help you decide the next questions about the show format.

  • Will it be a solo or team effort?
  • Are you going to do a monologue or conduct interviews? 
  • Are you going to be a daily, weekly, every other week show?

When you have those questions answered, you have most of the intangible, conceptual needs met. Now you need to have the necessary equipment and resources. These can be broken into “Need to Have” and “Nice to Have”. I’ll discuss each and give the approximate costs. (Costs are accurate as of January 2016.)

My Recording Studio
Credit: Photo by Trevor LaRene, 2015

                                                                   My recording studio.

Need To Haves

A podcast must connect to a website for the best results and consistency. Most listing services want a dedicated website. That means you will need to find a domain for your site. There are many services that will sell you a domain. Some of those services will also host your website. You can shop around for good prices. Most ".com" domains will cost about $15 a year. I would suggest paying the extra privacy fee (usually $10-20 per year) to help protect your personal privacy.

Then you need a host. This can be the same service that sold you the domain. Personally, I buy my domains through GoDaddy but use InMotionHosting to host my sites. There are many hosting services, but I cannot comment on the quality of any others. A service that offers 24/7 tech support is a basic requirement. This has variable costs, but most start at $5-10 per month.

Lastly, you need a website. If you are unfamiliar with web design, building your own can be a long process. I would recommend contacting a freelance web designer. You can find one at UpWork or Freelancer. That will cost between $100-200. The money you spend will give you a better product and save you untold hours trying to build your own. (Again, I speak of myself here. I saved money, but lost many days.)

Those are the minimum requirements. Assuming you pay $100 for the website, and shop around for good prices on everything else, you are looking at a total first-year cost of $185 - $255. Your annual costs beginning with your second year will be $85 - $155. However, as with any hobby, you can always add additional gadgets that are nice to have. 

Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone
Amazon Price: $80.00 $49.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 16, 2016)
The best all-around microphone to start with.

Nice to Haves

You need a way to record your voice. Most laptop computers and tablets have a built-in microphone. While it will record your voice, it will not be as clean as a dedicated microphone. Mikes designed for the home user have a wide price range. You could record with a simple $15 headset mike, or use a condenser mike like the $100 Blue Yeti. A very good option is the Audio-Technica ATR 2100, which costs less than $50 on Amazon. This is a dynamic mike. That means it only picks up sounds from directly in front of the mike. Position it directly in front of your mouth for good results. This mike also has a simple USB connection that will plug into your computer. You do not need a special mixing board. With a dynamic mike, you can record in any quiet room. (I record in my dining room.)

A condenser mike needs a sound-controlled environment. It will pull in sounds from all around it. It will pick up sounds that you will not notice until you listen to the recording. You probably should start with a dynamic mike. Please spend an extra $1-2 for a foam mitt that fits over it. It acts as a "pop-filter" and softens the "p" sounds when you talk.

If you are going to run an interview-based show, you need a way to call your guests. Skype offers a very good service. You can talk to people around the world for free. However, you need the ability to record the phone call. I started with a free app. When I lost an entire interview, I paid for a recording program. Pamela Professional for Skype slips right onto Skype. It allows you to record in stereo, with each participant in the call on a separate track. Audio mistakes will happen. Your guest could cough into the mike, or you bump yours. With Pamela, it is easy to isolate just the sounds you want to remove. Pamela Professional was a one-time charge of $29.

Speaking of editing, Audacity is the free software I use. It can handle anything I need. There are other services that are available for purchase, but I do not feel it necessary to pay for a program. Of course, you do not need to edit your show. In fact, some shows make it a point of not editing to make the conversation sound more natural. I lightly edit my shows, to remove those coughs or mike bumps. Extensive editing takes time, and time is one factor you need to consider at the very beginning.

You can learn to podcast through simple trial-and-error. However, that can be painfully slow. An alternative is to enroll in on the many online courses, such as Meron Bareket's Podcast Starter Kit. Podcasting courses are designed to make you effective and efficient. This is especially important if you want to have the potential of earning an income from your show.

To go professional and earn income from your show, you will need to consider promotion on social media. Facebook and Twitter have their roles in promoting your shows, but there are more. Consider using LinkedIn, Google+ or Instagram. Using Canva or ShareAsImage, you can create images for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can use Periscope as another way to connect with your audience. Lastly, you could video record yourself as you create your show, simultaneously creating dual-steam content.

Those are the basic costs in equipment and resources. The largest cost is time and only you can measure that.