What Is a Podcast? How it Works and How to Get Started 🎙️

  • Design & Creative
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

What is a podcast? Discover how this medium can revolutionize your business communication and brand recognition.

New media has opened up countless ways to promote your brand and establish thought leadership. It’s time to tune your business antenna to a new frequency.

Once synonymous with tech-savvy subcultures, podcasting has emerged as a powerful tool for connecting and communicating. With audiences in the millions, podcasting provides an intimate conduit for business owners and content creators to share their stories. 

But what is a podcast, exactly? This comprehensive guide examines the ins and outs of podcasting, from the different types of podcasts to how a good podcast can supercharge your business. Tune in and take notes.

What is a podcast? 👂 

Podcasts are digital audio shows that users download or stream online. They represent an exciting frontier in digital media, merging imagination and information into a new form of content. 

First coined in the early 2000s, the term “podcast” combines the words “iPod” and “broadcast.” With roots tracing back to 1980s talk radio, podcasts bridge the gap between traditional entertainment and the digital revolution.  

Although some video podcasts exist, most are audio-based, enabling listeners to multitask while they tune in. From successful business owners to independent creators with a distinct niche, many leverage the podcast’s power to convey their ideas, stories, and expertise. The format defies the structure of traditional radio to offer an intimate and accessible experience.  

Podcast facts 🎤 

As we dive deeper into podcasting, let’s go over the medium's unique characteristics. These features underscore why podcasts have exploded so quickly in popularity and how they’re revolutionizing digital content as we know it:

  • Variable length: Unlike traditional radio or TV shows, podcasts can be any length, from a few minutes to several hours. Factors such as the host’s style, the format, and the content influence the length.
  • Accessible at any time: Podcasts aren’t tied to a live broadcasting schedule; this on-demand nature gives listeners the flexibility to tune in anytime. Pause, rewind, or skip segments to experience podcasts on your own terms. 
  • Various formats: From narrative storytelling to solo commentary to roundtable discussions, podcast formats vary. This diversity and experimentation keeps the content fresh and exciting. 
  • Niche topics: Podcasting suits an incredibly diverse range of issues. Quantum physics, obscure movies, personal finance tips, mental health — the list of potential podcast topics knows no bounds.  

How do podcasts work? 🔊 

Podcasts work through syndication. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the gist in simple terms: After a creator adds a new episode to their hosting platform, it gets sent out (or “syndicated”) to various podcast directories via an RSS feed. An RSS feed contains details about the podcast and its episodes, which it passes to the podcast directory.  

Listeners use podcast apps and websites to access podcast directories. From there, they choose their favorite podcasts to stream or download.  

Here are three popular podcast hosting platforms:

  • Libsyn: One of the oldest and most respected podcast hosting sites, Liberated Syndication (Libsyn) offers a range of plans tailored for everyone from beginners to professional podcasters. The platform includes easy-to-use publishing, distribution, and audience statistic tools.
  • Buzzsprout: Buzzsprout is a comprehensive and user-friendly podcast-hosting app. It provides promotion tools, a free podcast website for beginners, custom embed players, and seamless publishing to all major podcast directories.
  • Anchor: Anchor is a free podcast hosting platform owned by Spotify. It offers unlimited hosting, simple creation tools, and great opportunities to monetize your content. 

And here are a few podcast directories you may have heard of:  

  • Apple Podcasts: Formerly part of iTunes, Apple Podcasts is home to millions of podcasts spanning nearly as many topics. Apple Podcast is available on all Apple devices, making it a key player for widespread discoverability. 
  • Spotify: Popular music streaming platform Spotify has entered the world of podcast directories. With its intuitive interface, listeners can easily discover, stream, and download their favorite podcasts. 
  • Google Podcasts: Part of the Google suite, Google Podcasts provides quick and easy access to podcasts of all shapes and sizes, and it syncs across devices.  

The benefits of making a podcast 👍 

Creating a podcast is about building community, showcasing expertise, and landing new opportunities through your content. Podcasting has many benefits for Independents and businesses alike, from sharing your message to promoting products and services.  

Here are a few more advantages to making a podcast:

  • Personal connections: Podcasts are ideal for intimate communication, as spoken word fosters personal connections and trust with audiences. This is beneficial for businesses seeking a stronger brand image.
  • Thought leadership: You can establish yourself or your business as a thought leader by providing valuable information and insights into your industry. This recognition builds your reputation and credibility, potentially attracting new opportunities and partnerships.
  • Reach: Podcasts are easily accessible, allowing people from all over the world to listen in. Directories like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts make it even easier to reach a global audience. 
  • Skill development: Research, confident speaking, and audio editing are all required skills for podcasting, making it excellent for personal and professional skill development. 
  • Monetization: You can make great money if your podcast gains a following. From sponsorships and advertising to selling related products, podcasting provides numerous potential revenue sources. 

Types of podcasts 🗣️ 

Podcasts come in countless forms — who knew? The versatility of podcasting can’t be understated; each format lends its own flair to the industry landscape. Podcasters can choose the most suitable style for their content and audience.

Here are six common podcast types: 

  1. Conversational podcasts: Evocative of traditional radio shows, conversational podcasts are often interviews or casual discussions. The conversation takes place between the host and guests or co-hosts.
  2. Monologue podcasts: These solo-hosted podcasts offer unscripted content on all kinds of topics. Not working alongside a co-host or guest makes this format easy to schedule and ideal for audience growth. 
  3. Non-fiction storytelling podcasts: These podcasts narrate real-life events in an exciting and engaging way. “Serial” is a podcast name many are familiar with; it’s widely regarded as one of the best investigative journalism shows.
  4. Fictional podcasts: Also known as theatrical podcasts, these scripted podcasts tell fictional stories as standalone episodes or over a series. This niche format lends a creative edge to podcasting.
  5. Repurposed podcasts: These podcasts transform existing content, such as blog posts and articles, into audio. They make written content more accessible for audience members who prefer listening. 
  6. Hybrid podcasts: You don’t have to stick to one format when you create a podcast; hybrid podcasts mix it up. For example, a podcast that’s typically conversational may occasionally offer monologue episodes.

Podcast equipment 🎛️ 

If you’re researching how to start a podcast, you can’t ignore the podcast equipment. Starting your podcasting journey can be intimidating, but the right tools make it simple. These essential pieces of podcasting equipment are worth investing in:

  • Microphone. A high-quality microphone is vital for podcasting. A USB microphone is a popular, affordable choice for beginners, but XLR mics offer advanced sound quality. 
  • Headphones. Grab a pair of closed-back headphones to monitor your audio while recording. These headphones prevent sound leakage for a more precise preview.
  • Audio recording and editing software. You need appropriate recording software and editing software, as well as an audio interface, to polish your episodes. Various free and paid audio editing programs exist, including GarageBand, Adobe Audition, and Audacity.
  • Additional podcasting equipment. In addition to mics, headphones, and software, consider purchasing a boom arm, pop filter, XLR video camera (if you plan to publish videos), and a digital camera to shoot cover art.

Broadcast your business on Contra 📡

For Independent podcasters, the commission-free Contra platform is the perfect place to manage and promote your freelance services.

If you’d like to create a podcast for your business or brand, let Contra match you with the perfect music engineer or audio engineer to help bring your vision to life. For small business tips and tricks, browse our blog or join our Slack community.

9 Podcast Recording Software Options for Any Budget 🎙️

Interested in podcasting but not sure where to begin? Share your voice with the world with help from this guide to podcast recording software.
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