If you’ve ever considered starting a podcast, now’s the time. Currently, around 80 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, and the demand for new content has never been higher. And as the interest in podcasts has risen, the number of resources available to people looking to learn or hone the craft has too.
There is a wealth of online courses, step-by-step training programs, and even podcasts that will teach you how to start a podcast. Some will give you an overview of basic podcast production, and others focus on more specialized topics like interviewing, recording and editing, and sound design. If you know you’re in it for the long haul, you can also enroll in membership programs that get you long-term access to educational videos and supportive communities of podcasters.
6 podcast training courses to help you master the craft
With all those options, finding the right podcast training for you can be overwhelming. Here are a few programs that my colleague and Descript Production Specialist Kevin O’Connell thinks are worth your time (and, when applicable, your money):
Salt Graduate Certificate in Documentary Studies
According to Kevin, the Salt Graduate Certificate Program in Documentary Studies at Maine College of Art and Design is the premier program for podcasting. It’s an intensive, 15-week program offered by an accredited educational institution that’s geared toward those who are serious about a career in radio, podcasting, or short film. Students walk away having learned to identify and report compelling stories, conduct interviews, and edit audio in ProTools. They’ll also have a graduate-level certificate along with the experience and network they’ll need to navigate the industry and land jobs. But be aware that this university-level program has a university-level price tag: It costs between $11,000 and $12,000, depending on the year.
Google Podcasts Creator Program by PRX
The Public Radio Exchange, or PRX, is a non-profit public media company and one of the top 10 podcast networks in the United States. You probably know them from podcasts like This American Life, Song Exploder, and Ted Talks Daily. PRX also offers a number of training programs, the most prestigious of which is the Google Podcasts creator program. “It’s pretty competitive,” Kevin says, “but it’s a really awesome program with a lot of funding that goes to each creator or team.” The 20-week course, which is free, is aimed at current podcasters who want to take their shows to the next level. Participants will work on perfecting their long-term development and business strategies. PRX also offers a podcast accelerator that focuses on educational podcasts for young children, a 12-week intensive for journalists at nonprofit news agencies, and other programs.
Captivate Growth Labs
Captivate is a podcast hosting platform made by podcasters for podcasters. In addition to all the tools and analytics it provides to podcasts on its platform, Captivate also offers a ton of educational resources at no additional charge to all hosting customers. There’s a step-by-step guide that will teach you how to launch your podcast as well as video courses and workshops that cover individual topics related to marketing, promotion, audience growth, monetization, brand development, and other essentials for growing your podcast. Users also have access to the Captivate community, where they can get feedback from fellow podcasters and participate in growth challenges.
Kevin highly recommends the five-episode Gimlet Academy podcast on how to make podcasts. Hosted by Gimlet Media co-founder Alex Blumberg, Gimlet Academy won’t tell you which microphone to buy or which hosting service to use — instead, it’s about the craft of storytelling for a podcast. You’ll learn how to find compelling ideas, book interesting interviews, and build good stories from your recordings. The series uses examples from Gimlet podcasts like Reply All and Mogul to illustrate its points and is adapted from training audio for Gimlet employees.
Pat Flynn, host of the wildly successful Smart Passive Income podcast, also runs a few podcasting courses that include the essential Power-Up Podcasting. The program is designed to walk you through starting a podcast and covers planning, recording, editing, the equipment and services you’ll need, launch strategies, and more. There are also resources for when your podcast starts growing, including information on advanced audio production, business development, and monetization. At almost $800, the course is pricey, but the fee provides lifetime access to both the educational materials and a private Facebook group where you can bounce ideas off of other members. Best of all, Flynn updates the course materials regularly and hosts weekly live Q&A sessions on the Facebook group.
How to Start a Podcast by Buzzsprout
Like Captivate, Buzzsprout is a podcast hosting platform that provides podcasters with data and analytics. Early in the pandemic, the company created a free podcasting course that includes everything you need to know to launch your first podcast. The eight-module course will help you conceptualize your show, select your equipment and software, record and edit an episode, create artwork and write show notes, and get listed on podcast hosting platforms like Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
Learn how to podcast by listening to podcasts
A training course can be really helpful for some podcasters, but Kevin doesn’t believe it's the best route for everyone. “I think it's more important for beginners to listen to podcasts that they respect or that are successful to see what it is they're doing right,” he says. “It's really helpful just to listen and understand what the industry standards of sound design or sound quality or format are and start to analyze different shows.”
He suggests that beginners listen to a few episodes of a number of different shows and notice details: What’s the show format? What works? What doesn’t? If you’re looking for inspiration, a few of Kevin’s personal favorites include California Love from LAist Studios, which is an audio memoir about growing up in Los Angeles; The Habitat from Gimlet about habitat managers across the country; The Daily for a great daily news show; The Cut for excellent cultural commentary; and Articles of Interest, which covers the history and background of fashion in an interesting way.
Do you have what it takes?
Kevin says that once you get started in podcasting, you’re going to need a lot of resilience and self-discipline. “You want to be able to release a show and produce many episodes consistently and have it fit well into your life and the expectations that you have for yourself and your creation,” Kevin says.
That ability to persevere is going to come up constantly, and a podcast training course can be a good way to keep technical issues from getting in your way. If your training course includes a network or community, that can help you form connections that will also keep you accountable to your project.
“I think building community is really important for podcasters,” Kevin says. “[It] will allow you to get honest feedback from other audio creators".
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