Are Podcasts Free? The Hidden Costs of Podcasting

It's hard to imagine that podcasts have been around for almost two decades. They just started gaining popularity like 5 years ago! Interestingly, the most popular podcasting genre is comedy, followed by society & Culture, News, and True Crime. The podcasting industry is rapidly growing, and industry experts estimate that by 2028, it will be worth $94.88 billion. So, if you're considering launching your channel, this is the best time. 

The thought of starting a podcast may get you all fired up and excited about the new adventure. We have, however, realized that most people often face doubt or two. But, the main question they really want to be answered is ‘are podcasts free?’. If you're unsure of how much funds you need to start, let us break it all down for you. By far the biggest podcast listening platform is the podcast app by apple.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Podcast?

Podcasting costs will vary from podcast to podcast. These changes are due to several factors including the hardware you are using, the studio you have, and hosting fees associated with your provider. Most people spend less than $500 to start their show. Once your podcast is hosted there is no additional charge for getting it displayed in the podcast app. You will need to go to all of the major outlets like the podcast app, google podcasts and many more to get indexed by their system. 

There is no standard answer for this question because there are varying factors that determine the overall costs. Before you get started, you need to define the main reason you’re starting the podcast. Are you pursuing it as a hobby or for business? 

The cost implications of both scenarios are very different because the investments required also vary. For instance, if you're podcasting as a hobby, you can easily start your channel on a budget. If, on the other hand, you're looking to monetize your podcast or use it for lead generation, you need to invest in high-quality equipment and branding. You may also need to outsource your podcast transcriptions, in which case the costs will be significantly higher. 

Other factors that determine podcasts costs include:

  • Your target audience: You have to produce content that your listeners will love, so their needs may increase your expenses.
  • Hosting Platform: Depending on your needs, you could either go with a free or paid podcasting platform.
  • Your Preferences: If you prefer using equipment from high-end brands, it could cost you more. 

Ultimately, each podcaster's budget is unique, and you cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach when calculating the overall costs.

What Are the Main Costs Associated With Starting a Podcast? 

There are 2 main types of costs that you'll incur in your podcasting journey: Fixed costs and variable costs. Don't let the starting costs dissuade you, though, because podcasting can be very lucrative. In fact, statistics show that in 2020 alone, there was over $ 842 million podcast advertising revenue generated. This figure is expected to rise to around $2,100 billion by 2023, so what are you waiting for? Get started today!

Fixed Costs

These costs are constant, and they don't change even when you decide to halt your operations. Fixed costs, however, make up a significant chunk of your overall expenditure, so it's critical that you pay more attention to them when you're starting out. 

Here’s what you’ll need to buy when starting your podcast:

  1. Equipment: The success of your podcast begins with the kind of equipment you get. The good news is that most of the items that you require are relatively affordable and easily accessible. You may even have some of the equipment already! For a conventional podcast, you’ll require:
  • A microphone: This is the foundation of your podcast! If you're planning on running a solo podcast, you could go for the Blue Yeti that costs less than $120. It's a USB microphone that guarantees powerful and clear broadcast-quality sound. On the other hand, if you'll be running interview-style podcasts or will have a co-host, you'll need to get multiple microphones. 
  • Interface: Multi-host podcasts require an interface with several inputs and microphones. This is the only way you’ll be able to record two people at the same time. According to multiple reviews, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface is a popular option among podcasters. It comes with dual low-noise balanced outputs that ensure all your audio playbacks are clean.
  • Headphones: They allow you to monitor your podcast as you record. We recommend that you go for hardshell headphones as they suppress sound better. The OneOdio Wired Over-Ear Headphones come highly recommended because they are specifically designed for noise isolation. They also come with 90° swiveling ear cups that allow single-ear monitoring. 
  • SD Card: It's vital that you have backups for your podcast. The storage size you go for should be dependent on your podcasting capabilities. The SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO is a great option, and the best part is that it costs less than $30. 
  • Computer/ laptop: Most computers are fast enough to fulfill your podcasting needs, but if you notice your device is lagging, it's time to get a new one. 
  • Mixers: They are especially important if you have an XLR microphone.

Alternatively, you could get a podcasting equipment bundle that features a live sound card, a voice changer, audio interface, power cable, and microphone. Some of the other accessories that you’ll need include recording & mixing software, internet access, and a table stand for your microphone. I also have a great article for anyone on a budget you can get a full podcast setup for $500

  1. Recording space: If your home is soundproof or quiet enough, you can use it to record your podcasts. Alternatively, you could research podcasting studios around your area. They often charge on an hourly basis and come with all the equipment you need. 
  2. Research and production: Contrary to popular beliefs, it’s impossible to simply start a podcast without conducting research. Which topics are your ideal listeners most interested in? Do you intend on using music? If so, do you have the necessary licenses? You’ll need to get audio editing software, subscriptions to relevant publications, music library licensing, and podcast transcription services
  3. Remote recording tools: If your podcast requires interviewing guests over online platforms, you’ll need to get paid plans such as Zoom ($200 to $320/year) because the basic plans won't be enough. 
  4. Promotion & distribution: This is a critical element of podcasting! You need to market your content so that it reaches more people. The good news is that most marketing platforms work around your budget. There are also highly specific targeting options available that allow you to reach people that would be interested in your podcast. 

More and more people are doing audio recording on mobile devices for ease of use and to drive down the cost of producing a great show. It's important for it to not be too much labor for you as the host but also sound good enough for the listeners. It doesn't matter if it's a variety of topics or a specific niche. The quality and age of podcasts are important. The longer you have been producing a show with great quality the higher likelihood of success.

Variable Costs

The variable costs boil down to you and your time. For instance, you can incur near-zero variable costs if you plan on doing everything yourself: from production to editing. Most people have a cellphone and you can start a podcast right on your phone. On the other hand, it could cost you hundreds of dollars if you have to outsource some of the production processes. Simply put, all costs that involve labor will vary based on who's doing it and the scope of work.

Around 80 million Americans listen to podcasts every week, and some of them are potential listeners. So, get started with what you have. 

When you start recording it's a bit of a process to learn. For each podcast episode, you record there will be a cost associated with them. If you can do the editing yourself there is typically only a cost when you start up and to host your podcast. The hosting service should be around $15 per month. This allows your show to live on the internet so it can be found on the podcast app or other resources. There are plenty of podcast directories you can submit to like Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You record the show and upload the audio recordings to your podcast host. From there it gets disseminated into each podcast directory and then listeners can tune in on their mobile devices.

Is it Possible to Start a Podcast on A Budget?

Yes. Some of the most popular podcasts started in people's homes or as a part-time hustle. It is possible to record-high quality podcasts on a budget, as long as you have the essential equipment. Just get a laptop or desktop computer, microphone, editing, and recording software, and you're good to go. You may need some graphic design services, but you can use royalty-free intro music. The only thing that matters is bonding with your listeners so much that your podcast leaves a lasting impact. The easiest way to figure out how to succeed is to make a list of your favorite podcasts and take notes about what you like. There are thousands of podcasts on the internet but more than likely your audience likes the same things as you. Figure out what your favorite shows are doing right and keep that same vibe. This means podcast intro's outros, sound quality, show type, and more.

Overall it needs to be a great show with a great listening experience and people will come back for every episode. The better the show the more podcasts subscriptions and the larger your audience will become.

How to know your show is doing good when you start?

It's tempting to go overboard when you're getting started, but we'd advise that you take slow but steady steps. Don't try to keep up with professional podcasters at the beginning because you'll just end up buying things that you don't actually need. Currently, there are over 120 million podcast listeners, and you have all it takes to carve a niche for yourself!