Credit: Image by literalis.net on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Podcasting is ten years old this year, with journalist Ben Hammersley widely credited for coming up with the term back in 2004.

Since then, it has proven itself to be a thriving medium and a hotbed of innovation, used by everyone from big news organisations to individual journalists.

The strength of podcasts is the niche – knowing that you're serving a small group of people really well.Jon Moonie, From The Rookery End
However, building up a successful podcast takes time, perseverance, a clear set of goals and a knowledge of who your audience is.

Journalism.co.uk asked four podcasters for their tips on starting out.

Know your audience - and be niche

Podcast consultant Viv Oyolu, who produces a regular series interviewing women entrepreneurs, said: "Really understand why you are setting up the podcast - that lays the foundation. Who is going to listen to it? If you don't do that, what happens is you get halfway through your podcast and you're wondering: what next?"

Jon Moonie, who produces a monthly podcast on Watford FC called 'From The Rookery End', said podcasts are ideal for specialist topics. "The strength of podcasts is the niche – knowing that you're serving a small group of people really well. Sport lends itself well because everyone has an opinion on sport."

Don't be too ambitious or spend too long preparing

It's quite humanising to have a bit of rubbish in your back-catalogue just to remind yourself that you have actually got better.Helen Zaltzman, Answer Me This
Helen Zaltzman is the co-founder of the Sony award-winning Answer Me This podcast, which has just marked its 300th episode. She told Journalism.co.uk: "Quite a rookie error is to think you have to have everything decided before you start the show, and it has to be really sophisticated and arty.

"Some of the ideas are so complicated and ambitious that they won't be able to execute them without a big production team and a big budget and a lot of time," she said.

"Probably the best thing is to think: there's no better day than today, I'm just going to start it. It's quite humanising to have a bit of rubbish in your back-catalogue just to remind yourself that you have actually got better."

Colin Gray, whose consultancy The Podcast Host helps people set up their own shows, agreed: "What I encourage new podcasters to do is start off really simple. Make yourself an aim for the first 10 episodes to record with nothing more complicated than a headset mic.

"Don't worry about music or fancy additions, just be open, honest, transparent – speaking for 20 minutes, once a week for 10 weeks and see where that takes you."

Set a rhythm and stick to it

People underestimate what it takes to create a decent-sounding show.Colin Gray, The Podcast Host
Zaltzman said podcasters need a lot of motivation. "It's not particularly fun as a hobby. If you just left it until you felt like it, you wouldn't make a podcast very often," she said.

"At the beginning we were quite disciplined, we said it's going to come out every Thursday and that weekly deadline meant we had to get better.

"The lessons sunk in a lot quicker because of the repetition," said Zaltzman, "but I think if we hadn't had the schedule, it would have just fallen by the wayside. We pushed it very hard."

Gray added: "The general conventional wisdom is the more regular you are, the better. Weekly is a good standard to aim for, but I know plenty of podcasts that are only released ever two weeks or every month.

"People underestimate what it takes to create a decent-sounding show. Say you take half an hour to record a show, you've then got maybe another half an hour to do some editing," he said.

"The bit that people forget are the show notes. There's definitely a good bit of time that goes into it."

Get the tone right

Moonie, who records his podcast with two friends in a pub, said news journalists are used to structuring a story, but "it's when you turn it into a conversation where it sometimes can fall over".

"The greatest radio shows are the ones that have characters," he said, "and that's what people connect with."

Don't worry too much about technology

Gray said equipment should come last, but most people tend to think of it first when planning to start podcasting.

"They always jump straight into buying a microphone and a mixer and then just start recording things," he said, "and only think about who they're speaking to, what their message is and what the aims of the show are towards the end."

When the time comes to invest in some equipment, Gray recommended the Samson Q2U microphone, and, for on-location interviews, the Zoom H2N portable recorder.

Don't think it will be an instant money-maker

Seven years after launch, Answer Me This has a big enough audience to generate revenue. Zaltzman said: "We sell our old episodes for 79p each. We thought: that's the price of a song on iTunes, it's not an unreasonable price to pay for a half-hour track.

"We've been sponsored by SquareSpace.com for the past year," she added, "and that's made a tremendous different to our income."

Anybody going into podcasting thinking they will make money has a long journey.Viv Oyolu, podcast consultant
But it's not as easy as it sounds. Gray said: "Probably the most common way (of making money) is using the podcast as a referral for a service.

"Other ways are advertising and sponsorship, quite a few podcasts make money through that avenue. It's not the easiest because you need to get up to really high figures before you can justify that."

And Oyolu had this warning: "Podcasting is not for money-making. It is for getting your presence out there.

"Other things will come out of having a podcast, you might meet people who say they want to do business with you," she said.

"You have to have lots of downloads – 10,000 to 15,000 – before people will want to sponsor your show. I think anybody going into podcasting thinking they will make money has a long journey."

Moonie agreed that the benefits to running the podcast are not monetary: "The massive benefit is I've got to meet people. The three of us just like meeting up and meeting some footballers, that's what it's all about."

Enjoy yourself

Zaltzman, who runs a quarterly meet-up for podcasters to share and discuss ideas and advice, said: "This is the best time there's ever been to be a podcaster.

"It's a really great medium, it's so democratic. It's very cheap to make, so much cheaper than radio and TV.

"I'm really excited that now it's possible to be a podcaster for a living," she added. "There's no one between you and the audience - there are no filters."

Successful podcasting is the topic of this Journalism.co.uk podcast

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