For the last couple of years, I've been making a weekly podcast called Startup to Last with my friend Rick. As much as I enjoy making the podcast, I really don't want to spend any more time on it than is absolutely necessary. After a lot of trial and error, I've gotten the entire process streamlined so that it only takes about 10 minutes of my time (aside from the time we're actually recording) per episode, and the total cost is $39/month. This article explains the process.
Here are the tools we use:
- Zencastr ($20/month) for recording the audio and mixing it to sound good.
- Audacity (free) for editing the podcast, adding the intro music, etc.
- Transistor ($19/month) for hosting the podcast.
- Each person needs a decent mic. The "good enough" mics start around $60, but you can spend a lot more than that if you're an audio nerd. If you want your podcast to sound professional, you should definitely avoid using webcam mics, airpods, etc.
Step 1: Record the audio
Recording audio isn't as simple as it seems, especially when everyone isn't in the same room. Sure, you could just record a Zoom call, but the audio quality for everyone except the host will be pretty bad because it's recording at the quality that can stream over the internet. Or you could have everyone record a file locally on their computer and stitch it together later, but that takes a lot of time, and you run the risk that one of the files might not record correctly.
This is what Zencastr is for. Zencastr records audio for each person locally, and then after the recording is done, it uploads everything and combines it together in a single track. This way you get the quality of local recording, and the convenience of a Zoom call. It's a win-win!
Step 2: Mix/Produce the audio
When you're recording audio from multiple sources, you normally need to mix it a bit to make sure the levels are good. For example, maybe one person's mic is louder than the other person's. If you want to do this manually using a sound editing tool, it can be a bit tedious getting everything right.
Thankfully, Zencastr does this automatically. After you're done recording, you can just press the "produce your podcast" button. It will combine the tracks together, get the levels right, and automatically sync the file to Dropbox so you have a backup copy. In my experience, you don't need to do anything extra to make the audio sound good.
Step 3: Edit the podcast
Some podcasts require a ton of editing. For example, maybe you're interviewing someone and you want to edit it down to only include the good parts. Or maybe you want to remove the "umms" and "uhhhs". If that's the case, you might want to use a more sophisticated tool than Audacity. But my podcast is meant to be a true representation of a conversation between two friends, so we don't bother with that. Unless there's a major fuck-up when we're recording, I don't edit the main conversation at all.
But that doesn't mean there's no editing. Our episodes normally have three sections:
- A teaser at the beginning saying what topic(s) we discussed this week. I record this quickly in Zencastr right after we finish recording the episode.
- The intro music + voice-over introducing the hosts. This is the same for every episode, so I have a pre-recorded audio file I re-use for each episode.
- The main audio for the episode. This is about an hour of conversation between Rick and me.
To be honest, Audacity kind of sucks. It's clunky and poorly designed, but it's free, and since my needs are so simple, it gets the job done. I just import the three audio files into Audacity, move them around so it flows from teaser to intro music to main audio. Then I export to an mp3 file.
Step 4: Publish the podcast
Once I have the final audio file from Audacity, I upload it to Transistor. I also write show notes which are normally just the items we discussed in a bullet list. We used to put a lot more effort into making the show notes really comprehensive (we tested having full transcriptions, writing up a blog post about each episode, etc.) but it wasn't worth the effort. By and large, nobody was reading the show notes, and it didn't seem to hurt anything when we reduced it to a simple bullet list.
That's the whole process. It used to take me a bit longer as I was getting used to the workflow and experimenting with things, but now that I've got it down, it seriously only takes about 10 minutes per episode. Sure, it's not the most polished podcast out there, but I think it sounds about 90% as good as really professional podcasts, and since this is just a hobby, I'm happy with to make the tradeoff. If you're interested in podcasting but don't want a major commitment, I encourage you to try this approach.