How to start your own podcast: 'Being Trans' showrunner tells us how it's done
Jessica Cordova Kramer is the CEO and co-founder of award-winning podcast network Lemonada Media. She is also the executive producer of one Lemonada’s new shows Being Trans, a podcast that uses a bold new reality-style format to follow the lives of four trans people in Los Angeles.
“We started Being Trans, because it’s one of the most misunderstood and complex issues of our time and there was a massive interest from our audience,” says Cordova Kramer, “in particular feeling and learning something that was unlike their own personal experience and knowing that they were oftentimes parenting children who were having complex gender questions or friends or family members.”
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For Cordova Kramer, podcasting is a powerful medium for shows like Being Trans. It can travel with you throughout your day, there’s no camera involved (which allows people to open up), and the path to producing a story that feels urgent is much easier than say, making a documentary. Lastly, the intimacy of audio allows the listener to immersive themselves in someone else’s world.
If you’ve been bitten by the podcast bug, you know this wholeheartedly. But it can be daunting to get started. Don’t worry, Cordova Kramer has some ideas. Since co-founding Lemonada with Stephanie Wittels Wachs in 2019, the network has produced 22 shows, so it’s safe to say Cordova Kramer knows what she’s talking about. Here’s her advice on how to start a podcast.
1. Know that your voice matters.
Nowadays it seems like everyone has a podcast. But Cordova Kramer doesn’t think that’s a bad thing.
“Everyone says there’s too many podcasts, but there are not too many podcasts. There’s no such thing as too much content,” says Cordova Kramer. “Your weird quirky thing is probably someone else’s weird, quirky thing. So if you’re passionate about it, go do it.”
2. You don’t actually need much to get started
It can be intimidating if you’ve seen veteran podcasters recording in a state-of-the-art studio, but these days you don’t need fancy equipment to make a professional-sounding podcast. “There’s products out there like SoundCloud and Zencastr that are really easy and accessible,” says Cordova Kramer. “And you can do right from your laptop and talk to someone who’s across the globe without tons of expensive equipment just to get a proof of concept going.”
“There’s just lots of ways you can get into the game pretty quickly.”
Once you get your podcast off the ground, you can think about investing in nice equipment. If it’s a simple talk show format you might not ever need more than a computer and editing software. “There’s just lots of ways you can get into the game pretty quickly.”
3. Keep the scope manageable.
Don’t mistake getting into the game quickly for overcommitting to a new project that hasn’t been tested yet. “I always tell people to try it first and see if it has legs for a weekly podcast.” Cordova Kramer suggests making six episodes and see how it goes. You might find that a weekly pace is too demanding, or get to episode five and realize you have nothing left to talk about.
“If you get to episode five, and you’re like, ‘Man, I could talk about this for the rest of my life,’ great, do it,” says Cordova Kramer. “But set yourself up for success and not ‘I am going to do this podcast for the rest of eternity,’ because you don’t know what it’s gonna feel like.”
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4. Monetize from the beginning.
So you survived making six episodes and you want to keep going. That’s only half the battle, because now you have to get your podcast out there. “See if you can partner with someone who’s interested in the same message that you are and see if you can offset the costs of the equipment and distributing it in some way,” says Cordova Kramer.
“It may not be a big moneymaker from the start, but thinking about how you might monetize it, or at least offset costs early can help it feel more sustainable over time.”
5. Invest in marketing.
In order to monetize, you need to market your podcast, but in order to market your podcast, you need money. Basically monetization and marketing need simultaneous attention, so it’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg situation. But instead of marketing/monetization as competing factors, think about them as part of the bigger objective which is getting people to listen to your podcast.
“We really think about the entire experience that someone might have discovering the show,” says Cordova Kramer. “We think about the art, does it make sense? Does the title make sense? Is it going to tell people what the show is about? When they click the art? Does the description make sense? Does it pull them in? What problems is it solving for people? Or what interest is it piquing for people?”
“We really think about the entire experience that someone might have discovering the show.”
Other aspects to think about are episode descriptions for SEO and how to categorize the podcast for discovery. If you have a comedy podcast, the comedy category is notoriously competitive, so maybe put it in arts where it can be found more easily.
6. Think strategically about promotion timing.
Once you’ve established a rock-solid brand identity you can promote your show through channels that align with your interests. Cordova Kramer says to take advantage of promo tools on platforms like Apple and Spotify that are “wonderful and are really looking for interesting, diverse content.”
She also recommends thinking about thematic times of the year. “If you have a Filipino food podcast, for example, Asian American History Month is a great time to try to get some promotion,” says Cordova Kramer. “That’s in May, so you want to start in March or February to get some interest in your show.”
“Someone who already listens to podcasts is the most likely person to go and listen to a new podcast.”
Another way to promote your show is through cross promotion with similar podcasts. Cordova Kramer says it could be anything from a casual shout-out to an ad-swap, which is a more formal agreement to play each other’s trailer or excerpt.
Cross promotion is super effective and is something that Cordova Kramer still uses today, because “audio converts to audio,” she says. “Someone who already listens to podcasts is the most likely person to go and listen to a new podcast.”
7. Find your people.
The beauty of podcasts is that there are always going to be people who connect with your weird idea and those are the ones that you need to seek out. “Find your people, think about your your core listener and go out from there. And just don’t be discouraged. It’s a really nice medium, and it’s it’s very forgiving.”
There are tons of great resources to support you in your podcast journey. Here are some of Cordova Kramer’s favorites:
Recording and streaming platforms
Communities and newsletters
Monthly reports of top 100 podcasts