All of the podcasting statistics point to the continued growth in the industry. More and more businesses and entrepreneurs are launching podcasts. Whether you are planning a new podcast or want to grow your current one, I created this list to both simplify the selection process for you but also to let you know of the possibility that exists regarding the various podcasting tools that exist for you to leverage.
The truth is, chances are you can get overwhelmed sometimes when it comes to podcasting. After all, the more complex something is, the more moving parts you have to manage. Files, guests, and editing your content all take a lot of time, both for you and your staff. Technical issues aren’t good either, because they can really get in the way of your other operations. To help you, I’ve rounded up a list of what I think are the best tools for podcasting. Hope it is helpful.
Recording Your Voice
This is the most important tool that you will ever need, because it all starts with your voice and how you choose to record it. I am no audiophile or audio expert like some podcasters are, so I expect that every podcaster will have their own preference here.
I do have my own podcast, Maximize Your Social Influence, so I can share with you my own experience podcasting now for several years. And I share this with you so that you don’t overthink this.
You see, I started out recording my podcast through the Voice app on my iPhone. At that time, the maximum time limit of a recording was 8 minutes, and thus the 8-minute format for my earliest podcasts were formed. You might think that recording a podcast episode on your smartphone is crazy, but this is the exact approach that Anchor.fm, who has been acquired by Spotify, encourages through their app. It is the ultimate in no-excuses simplicity.
You also have to remember that after you record a podcast you are either going to mix in your intro and outro yourself OR send it to a podcast editor who will do their best to “clean up” your sound. However, bad audio in means bad audio out, so if you can invest in better quality, it goes without saying that you should.
This is partially why I invested in my first dedicated podcast recorder, a small and portable Sony IC recorder that I could also use to record business meetings. This was a $50 upgrade from my iPhone, but I don’t think it was of the quality of audio that I should have.
More recently I purchased a $99 Blue Yeti Nano microphone which I have been happy with. This is a USB microphone which plugs into my MacBook Pro from which I record podcast episodes using one of the apps I will detail below. However, there have been instances of some infrequent noise that have occurred either through the USB connection itself or due to the fact that you are recording audio on a machine for which it was not intended for.
While I still use my Blue Yeti Nano for interviews, online meetings, webinars, et. al. I most recently purchased a dedicated recorder for when I do solo recordings where I don’t need to use my computer. This recorder is a $90 Tascam DR-05X.
You can spend a lot more on recording equipment, but if you are just starting out especially, you shouldn’t need to invest more than $100 in how you record your audio. On the other hand, over time, you will spend a lot of time or money editing your audio, so the higher quality microphone you buy, the more efficient it may become over time. However, for most beginner podcasters, I do believe the $100 rule remains true.
Audio File Hosting
So, you recorded and edited down your audio. What next?
No matter how many audio files you have to share, you’ll need somewhere that people can download them. And hosting them on your own server isn’t always practical, nor is it economical for the average user. Here are some great hosting options that occur outside of your own website who can help automatically syndicate your podcast to the leading podcast networks:
How’d you like to record and post your first podcasts for free? Anchor is an easy way to produce those early podcasts. Purchased by Spotify in 2019, Anchor.fm is a bare-bones program for your smartphone. For most users, the biggest advantage is simplicity. Just download the program, and press the button. Your phone’s mic will pick up the sound of your voice, and turn it into an audio file that can be published practically at the push of a button. Keep in mind that the options for audio editing are severely limited. There are also options to monetize your podcast, such as adding advertising and asking listeners for donations. What’s the catch? Anchor gets to advertise themselves on your podcast for free.
Anchor is the only option that includes a recording app. All other solutions below assume that you will record your audio file externally and then import your file into their website through manual upload.
If you don’t mind paying a little money to publish your podcast (or you’ve outgrown free services), Libsyn is a great choice. Plans start as low as $5 per month, and increase in price based on the features and storage space you need. Libsyn allows publishing the podcast on any platform you want to. They also will create and manage a custom app for your show. Best of all, Libsyn is one of the oldest podcast hosts still in operation, and they have the capacity to grow with your show.
Ask most podcasting pros and they will say go with Libsyn as they really are the default podcast host provider. When I had someone set up my podcast, it was no different and I was setup on Libsyn. However, because Libsyn is so old and established, so is its user interface. I had to hire someone to walk me through how to manually manage my podcast there, which is ultimately why I decided last year to move my podcast to a new host…
Want to try out podcasting for cheap, and not worry about having to change hosts later? Podbean is another podcasting host that’s been in business for a long time. But unlike Libsyn, they offer a free tier of service. So you can make a few episodes, host them for free, and see if they take off. I like the fact that if you find a podcast idea doesn’t get off the ground, you’re only out the production costs if you chose the free version of Podbean. Like Libsyn, they also offer a custom application and support for podcasts of any size. Their paid subscriptions start at $9 per month. Also, they’ll help you monetize your podcast with a variety of methods, including a built-in patron program that allows listeners to pledge a set monthly amount. Of course, advertising services are offered as well.
Want to include music in your podcast? Think you’re the most amazing DJ to not be discovered yet? If so, then Soundcloud is a great hosting option. Although this service is mainly for music, spoken-word podcasts are welcome here too. Unlike the other hosting types, though, Soundcloud requires listeners to have an account to download material. People will also need to search for your content in order to find it, meaning you need to create awareness elsewhere. With that said, Soundcloud does allow creators to distribute content on other distribution channels, including YouTube.
I saved the best for last. I moved from Libsyn to Buzzsprout to last year and could not be happier. Very easy to use user interface, reasonable pricing plans, and advanced analytics regardless of your pricing tier all lead to a great product. Add on that Buzzsprout has an extremely helpful 10,000 member-strong podcasting community on Facebook and also comped its customers that were lucky enough to respond in time to attend Podfest earlier this year in Orlando, Florida and you can see why I am so passionate about recommending them to you.
I began my podcast as a solo show with only me, myself, and I recording shows. Over time I have included strategic interviews to the point where half of my episodes are interviews with insightful guests. On the other hands, most podcasts that I see are primarily interview-based.
If you plan on interviewing others, you’ll want to use some sort of scheduling tool. Keeping track of who is supposed to appear on your show and when can be tough. And, you have to make sure that every episode has either a guest or a planned program.
In this category, I only recommend one platform who I think are the default.
One great way to ensure there’s no confusion on when a guest should appear is by using Calendly. For simple scheduling with no need to integrate calendars across platforms, the free version may be adequate. However, for more features, there are several premium plans available. Paid-for features include an ability to connect the calendar to your blog, and you can use Calendly to collect payments. This is great if you’re using your podcast to promote a knowledge-based service. As an added bonus, if you set the system up properly then your guests can actually choose a good meeting time based on their availability. The program will even adjust for time zones.
Remote Interview Tools
Let’s be honest: people love interviews. But if you interview people who live across the country, or even halfway around the world, you probably will want to do most of those interviews remotely. Fortunately, there are some tools out there to help make it easier.
Note that while not included explicitly, you could also use Zoom, Skype or Google Meet. However if you have been using these free tools, you should understand their paid counterparts that were made more specifically for podcasting or have additional benefits to podcasters.
As an alternative to old-fashioned recorded phone calls, SquadCast allows you to talk with your guest from anywhere without the resulting audio problems. In essence, SquadCast works by recording the phone call from BOTH sides of the conversation. Just ask your guest to join a conversation link, then chat like they normally would on any VoIP service. The call is recorded, and both sides are placed in the cloud. Later, you use audio editing software to mix the two sides of the conversation together. Keep in mind though, this is a paid service.
Want to interview more than one person at a time? How about going on Facebook or YouTube Live? If that’s more your speed, then give Streamyard a try. It works from your browser, so all you and your guests need are a computer with webcam and mic. Link your destination video streaming service, have everyone log into the link provided, and launch. Basic service is free, but for a monthly fee you can add your own branding and a few other privileges.
I currently use Streamyard for my podcast interviews because I have the ability to record a video as well as livestream on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. should I want to. However, Streamyard was made more for livestreaming so I am beginning to question its audio quality and plan on giving SquadCast a shot to see the difference.
Both Squadcast and Streamyard have the same weakness: their postproduction and customization options in-app are severely limited. But there’s another option that, while costing $20 per month for a premium account, has great built-in audio editing features. Zencastr is an excellent choice for those who want near-studio-quality audio for a lower price than studio time. This program records each individual in the conversation, and sends you a separate audio file. Then you can use their integrated editing tools or your own editing software to fit everything together. I also like the fact that the VoIP service is built-in.
Audio Editing Programs
If you’re like most podcasters, just getting recordings isn’t going to cut it. After all, not using any audio editing tools means you only have the sound of your voice, and anything you were able to add during the recording itself. In most cases, you’ll want one of these audio editing programs, unless you plan on hiring a podcast editor, which is what I would recommend:
How does “free” sound to you? Audacity is a comprehensive audio editor that’s both free and open source. No strings are attached, because the developers aren’t trying to make money, ever. Editing features include the standard removal of background noise, such as pops and hisses, as well as splicing different tracks together. As Techradar points out, there are also a lot of advanced tools, as well. Overall, this is great software for beginners and more advanced users alike.
How does Artificial Intelligence sound for audio editing? Just a few years ago, the technology didn’t exist but now it’s possible with Auphonic. Upload your audio files, and most of the balancing, static removal, and encoding are done by algorithms. Even better, they’ll upload your content directly to your audio hosting service so you don’t have to. Keep in mind, though, that mixing isn’t a task this program can handle. That’s because Auphonic can only work with one track at a time. If you have multiple tracks for the same podcast, you’ll need to use another program to put them together. Auphonic is really a final polish before that podcast episode goes live. The first two hours each month are free.
Own a Mac or other Apple device? If so, you can use Garage band, a free Apple-only audio editing program. This program was designed to make audio editing, and even music composition itself, accessible to everyone. It’s known for being easy to use, and in modern versions even makes collaboration a snap. All types of audio can be edited with this, including podcasts. Of course, that assumes you have the right type of device, because it isn’t available for Windows or Android. A professional version called Logic Pro is also available for purchase.
Want to make your podcast available in written form? Even if you normally don’t do this, you might decide that transcription is advantageous in a few situations. For example, a guest interview might be extra special, or create special value transformed into a blog. For those occasions where transforming the spoken word into writing is necessary, here are some services that can help you.
Below are two paid and high quality options, but also know that there are a number of low-cost AI options on the horizon such as Otter.ai that are becoming popular. The downside is that for every 1% of accuracy you lose, you spend your precious time editing…
If you’re on a tight deadline, Rev is a great service to use. Shorter audio tracks can be returned to you in 12 hours or less, though longer ones do have a greater turn around time. In that case, Rev gives you the option to have your audio broken into blocks for different transcriptionists to work on. Your piece is put back together at the end. They charge a flat rate of $1 per audio minute, with minimal extra fees if you need additions such as time stamps inserted. As a rule, the accuracy rate is very high. Another option they’ve started offering recently is an AI-based automatic transcription program. This costs only 10 cents per minute, but the accuracy isn’t guaranteed so Rev recommends you hand-check it afterwards. An added plus: Rev also offers closed captioning for video files, and translation services.
For those who can wait a bit longer for delivery, Scribie is a good option as well. Their rates start at only 80 cents per audio minute, and they have a different process that can take up to 36 hours for short files. In return for your patience, they promise a 99% accuracy rate, since the transcript goes through more quality controls. There’s also a browser-based editing feature that you can use after delivery. Like Rev, there’s an automated service at 10 cents a minute. Scribie does interviews really well, and you can even record the interview directly into Scribie’s interface.
Audio Clip Creation (for Social Media)
Want to promote your podcast in social media or include podcasts as part of your content marketing strategy? Then you’ll want to create audio clips from your podcasts. This works to market your programs similarly to movie previews: potential customers listen to a teaser portion and decide if they want to buy (or download) the rest of it. But these audio clips have to be separated from the rest of the program somehow. Here are some options:
Originally developed just for podcasters, Headliner is an excellent way to make promotional audio clips. Not only can you use it to make clips, but it’s also an excellent tool for making videos, as well. They let you add all kinds of “extras” to your audio and video files and the program was built for social media distribution. Best of all, some features are automatic.
Want to use your podcasts as a really dynamic marketing tool? Wavve was developed for marketers by a content marketer who decided to go into the tech industry. Unlike Headliner though, it’s assumed that you want to turn that audio clip into a video. This program adds animated graphic frames, links, emojis and other goodies to turn audio into video. It also supports links, so you can use that video not only to promote the podcast itself, but also drive traffic to your website. Best of all, it’s easy to use.
So there you have it. Podcasting and all of its options can sometimes be very confusing, but I am hoping that my experience and advice on podcasting tools can help you on your journey.
If you can’t get enough of podcasts, you’ll want to check out my list of recommended social media marketing podcasts.
What’s your favorite podcasting tool? Let us know in the comments below.
Learn more about the basics of podcasting in this great infographic from Castos.com