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History Podcast Checklist

Jordan Harbour April 8, 2014



History Podcast Checklist

This is Jordan Harbour from the Twilight Histories podcast, and the upcoming Roman Army podcast.

Running a history podcast can be an extremely rewarding thing. Once it’s up and running, it’s pretty straight forward to maintain. The hardest part by far is setting it up.  To make life easier, I’ve made this checklist that I use to create my new show, the Roman Army Podcast.

This checklist will take you from idea to iTunes.

If you’re serious about starting a podcast, I’d also recommend contacting some of the podcasters you listen to. Podcasters are generally pretty friendly (especially those in our group), and I’m sure they’d give you some great tips.

Please note that this is the process I’m using, and it might not work for you. You can definitely launch a show in fewer steps. Please add your ideas in the comments section below. Enjoy and good luck!

Step 1: Develop the Concept

Here are some general questions to ask before you start:

  • Why am I doing this? The answer could be a combination of these:
    • Replace your income
    • Fun hobby
    • Boost your resume
    • Promote a book
    • Meet a community of like-minded people
      • Be able to travel to any major city and know someone
  • How much time am I willing to spend on my shows? Here are some estimates:
    • Average Twilight Histories show: 100+ hours (Deep City took 300+ hours!)
    • Basic 15-20 minute script: 8+ hours
    • Basic recording and editing: 3+ hours
    • Setting up everything to begin: 20-100 hours

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

Step 2: Test the Concept

Once you narrow down your show concept, try writing an introductory show, ie: ‘000 Introduction’. This is your elevator pitch. Make it perhaps just 4-5 minutes. Once you create it, ask for some honest feedback. Ask what people were intrigue by and what they found boring. I’d recommend creating a YouTube video for this. Here’s your checklist:

  • Write a few 3-5 minute scripts
  • Record these
  • Add intro music:
  • Create a graphic:
  • Create a YouTube video with your logo as the visual component
  • Post it in the History Podcasts Facebook group and ask for feedback

Step 3: Build the Website

I should preface this by saying you don’t need to build a website. You could set up a Libsyn account and they do pretty much everything for you. I believe you can make a simple website through them in no time, if you want.

If you’re like me, you want to build a great looking website from scratch. There are a couple paths you could take:

  • Square Space has risen to the top of the pile as an easy to use website creator. You don’t need any prior experience.
  • WordPress is still king of the heap if you know how to build a website from scratch. There’s a sharp learning curve.

There are a couple ways you could go when it comes to hosting your podcast:

  • Libsyn is an excellent option because if you get 5000+ US downloads per episode, you can join their advertising program and make $100-200 for each show
    • You can pop the audio files from your Libsyn account into your website
  • You can self-host through WordPress. I use PodPress for Twilight Histories, which is a free plugin
    • Don’t use a cheap host that only costs $5/month. I did this for TH and once I got over 5000 subscribers it simply couldn’t handle it anymore. I now use a premium service called Media Temple which is $20/month.

Why did I put building a website before creating the shows? It’s because I tried writing all my scripts first, but then got fidgety and wanted to build the Roman Army Podcast website. I like to see things like graphics and websites because it gives me something to rally behind. It also sets a strong commitment to actually follow through.

Last, it’s nice to get all the major technical stuff out of the way. I know when I have a recording ready to launch, I want to put it up right away. I don’t want to have to create the website when I’m ready to launch my podcast.

Step 4: Write 12 Shows

Why 12 shows? Well, you could write only 8, or fewer if you really want to get things going. I chose 12 because I plan to release one show every 10 days, and that will give me 1/3 of a year worth of content. That’s a nice thing to have right out of the gate!

There’s another reason why you want to write a bunch of your shows before you launch: quality control. By your 12th show, you’ll have a much better idea of where you’re heading in the long run. I’ve gone back many, many times and touched up the early shows because the general direction changed.

Giving space to those early writings is really important. I figure the first 3 shows are the most important and will determine if the listener continues on or not. They have to be solid.

One great tip I was given was to listen to my scripts read out. I found a program through Google Chrome that will do this for free. It’s one of those electronic voices, which is somewhat jarring. The important thing is that you can hear all the problems in your scripts very clearly using this program. I’ve made some important edits based on it.

Step 5: Record and Revise

For a microphone, I’d suggest budgeting around $100. I spent quite a bit more and bought a really nice microphone called the Rode Podcaster, but this isn’t necessary. You can get a fine sound from the Blue line of microphones. The important thing is that you want a ‘condenser’ microphone and not a ‘dynamic’. You want a microphone that focuses on the area within the first few inches, and not one that picks up all the sound in the room.

It’s also nice to have a microphone that has a USB connection as this will connect directly to your computer.

There are a few programs you can use to edit:

  • Audacity is free and used by many podcasters. It’s a really old and ugly program.
  • Garageband comes free with an apple. It’s easier to use than Audacity, but it has some really annoying features that makes putting together a complicated show like the Twilight Histories painful. Still, I’ll probably use it for the Roman Army podcast.
  • Adobe Audition is expensive, but you’ll drool over it. It may be overkill for a simple show that requires only a couple tracks.

Once you’ve recorded your shows, make sure they’re perfect–especially those first 3! Don’t be afraid if you have to re-record, or even re-write them. It is a small effort when compared to the massive effect it will have on your show.

Put it this way–you may have the equivalent of a football stadium listening to those shows over their lifetime. Make them perfect.

Step 5: Build the Newsletter

I’ve saved this for near the end because it’s a paid service and it can be put together relatively quickly. You don’t want to be paying for the service when you’re not using it.

Why a newsletter? I haven’t used one properly, but I’ve heard over and over again from marketers that it’s the most important part of an online business (if that’s what interests you). The people who sign up for your newsletter are your biggest fans. You can mobilize them to help you by giving you feedback, leaving product reviews, or spreading the word.

Even if you are making your podcast for the purist of reasons, you may want to create a product down the road, such as an ebook. When you do, wouldn’t it be nice to have a thousand super-fans to send it to?

From what I’ve heard, the trick is to create a free ebook, which you will send new sign-ups as a reward. This is all done automatically. For the Roman Army podcast, I’ve selected a Roman military handbook that is simply perfect. I’m right now editing it and creating a cover. The idea is to add the book to the sign-up form so it’s sent automatically with each new sign up.

There are a number of different newsletter companies to choose from. I’m currently using MailChimp for Twilight Histories, as it’s free. That might be a good way to start, just to have something. I’ll say, I haven’t even added a free ebook. Just having the form sit there has resulted in over 150 submissions.

I’m planning on using something a little more robust for the Roman Army podcast, though. I’ve had AWeber recommended to me. What I like about it is that it has sign up form templates. I don’t know how to make graphical templates on my own so this is perfect.

Step 6: Launch!

The goal at this stage is to get your show up on iTunes. For the Roman Army podcast, I’m planning on launching the 4 minute introductory show, along with the first 3 regular shows. After that, I’ll post the shows every 10 days.

With Twilight Histories, I self-hosted using a WordPress site and PodPress. This gave me all the control, but it also gave me all the headaches. For the Roman Army podcast, I’m planning to use Libsyn, which at the time of writing is $15/month.

The real attraction of Libsyn is (as mentioned earlier) the advertising program. I wrote Libsyn and asked them how it worked. Here is their response:

Thanks for contacting us.
Per your questions.
First we make no promises on Advertising.  That said – If your show after 4 weeks is getting over 5,000 US downloads per episode – then we would be able to present your show to the advertisers we work with.
Based on 5,000 downloads you would be looking at a potential of $112.50 per episode we would get an ad for you.  Most ad campaigns will have a pre-defined cap per episode.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.


I’m not going to add advertising for quite a while, but I want to make sure the show is set up for it. If I self-host, I’ll have to find advertisers on my own. I don’t want to do that. With Libsyn, they’ll find the advertisers for me so I can focus on podcasting.

So basically, the plan is to do as follows:

  • set up a Libsyn account
  • add the intro and first 3 shows
  • add these shows to the website
  • flick the switch and tell Libsyn to send them to iTunes

Bob’s your uncle.

Step 7: Promote

You want to get your show ranking nicely in iTunes’ ‘New and Noteworthy’ so it gets some traction. That first little while is really important. If it does well in ‘New and Noteworthy’, chances are it will enter the ranks of iTunes’ ‘What’s Hot’ list. If the show doesn’t make it on the ‘What’s Hot’ list, it will be a struggle. It will take time and effort.

My plan for the Roman Army podcast is to do a lot of promotion to get it there. Here’s my post-launch promotion checklist:

  • Create Roman Army Twitter and FB pages
  • History Podcasters:
    • Create a profile
    • pilot show release
    • Jordan Harbour meets Mike Duncan (edited version)
    • Collage submission
    • FB post
  • Twilight Histories promotion
    • pilot show
    • FB page announcement
    • Newsletter announcement
    • Twitter announcement
  • Facebook:
    • History Podcasts FB group announcement
    • post in a bunch of other pages and groups
  • Google+
    • TH, RA, personal posts

And that’s it!

I hope this helps. Podcasting is truly is a rewarding hobby, and the proof is that me and so many other podcasters have devoted so much time to it. If you are truly passionate about getting one started, you’re going to find a whole community waiting for you and you’ll meet some great friends. It’s a lot of fun.

If you need any help or advice, let one of us know. Don’t feel intimidated as we’re all just regular people who share a common hobby.

Please leave a comment below.

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