Episode 0: How to Start a Podcast

Thanks to tools like Zoom and iPhones, starting a podcast has never been more accessible. Comedians and Headgum podcasters Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld share their advice on what to consider as a new podcaster.

illustrated versions of jake hurwitz on the left and amir blumenfeld on the right with the text episode 0 next to their head
Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld, of "Jake and Amir" fame, are the co-Creative Chief Officers of Headgum and co-hosts of the comedy advice podcast "If I Were You."

Our new blog series, “Episode 0,” comes from the perspectives of two creators who have been in the business for a long time: Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld. The comedy duo rose to internet fame on CollegeHumor with their popular series “Jake and Amir.” Today, they’re co-Creative Chief Officers of Headgum and co-hosts of the comedy advice podcast “If I Were You.”

With their expertise in creating funny and memorable content for podcasts and beyond, Jake and Amir were the perfect people to ask, “How do you start a podcast?” If you’re interested in starting your own podcast, you’ll find tips, tricks, and stories in this interview, moderated by Connie Chen, senior content marketing manager.

Why did you guys decide to start a podcast together and what was the initial brainstorming process like?

Amir: We wanted to create a new show that was unscripted and untethered to CollegeHumor, where we worked at the time.

Jake: And I remember the thought being — what is something that we can talk on and on about forever, that we wouldn't feel like we were out of our depth? It turned out we weren't experts at anything except being ourselves, so we had to make an advice show called “If I Were You,” because that's unimpeachable. No one could find fault in that.

Any tips for first timers as they're trying to figure out what they want to talk about in their podcast?

J: I think finding something that makes you feel animated and engaged, because if you don't feel those things, then your audience is going to know that you're faking it or that you don't care. So the first step is finding something that you're passionate about. For me and Amir, we were passionate about doing bits and laughing with each other and advice was our way in there. It also helps to look for a co-host that brings something to the table that you don't. Someone that you can play well against. Like I'm well-spoken, quick-witted, articulate, kind of interesting, and Amir's the opposite of all of that.

C: That makes sense to bring on a co-host and have someone to bounce off of, but on the flip side, aren’t there risks as well? Are there ever times when you guys clash?

A: But the clashes are entertaining, too. It’s a win-win.

J: Yeah, those are the risks. You really have to be sure about the person that you tie your cart to.

C: So it hasn't escalated too much so far?

J: You've just seen the extent of it.

A: That's as angry as I get.

J: Yeah, that was our biggest fight we've ever had.

C: That is all recorded and captured on camera.

J: Don't release this.

All podcasts spark with a passion. Think about the topics you can never stop talking about, and if applicable, the people you love having these conversations with.

When you first started recording, were there any mishaps or lessons learned surrounding equipment, editing, or ad reads?

A: Oh yeah. I mean, we didn't know what microphones to use. We didn't know how to edit it, so it would not be too quiet and then too loud. We didn't know how to travel with any gear. We didn't know anything really, so it was just a bunch of trial and error and learning how to do all this stuff.

C: Big question, any mic recommendations?

A: Ever since we started using the Shure SM7Bs, we haven't looked back. If you can afford it, that one's pretty good. I’ve also heard good things about the SM58, which many venues use as a standard microphone.

J: iPhone microphones are also getting better and better. So at the very least, if you already have an iPhone, don't waste your money on getting something like a Blue Yeti.

A: Even Zoom recording is good enough.

Though high-quality microphones certainly help make your podcast sound better, don’t feel pressured to invest right away. Thanks to rapidly improving tech, you can definitely get started with the basics: your phone and Zoom. It’s more important to start, and start fast, rather than agonize over which tech to buy.

How has the cover art for “If I Were You” evolved over time? What are your tips for approaching the visual representation of your podcast?

A: The first one was made by my brother who's a graphic designer. We kept that one for about six and a half years, which was probably too long, because we changed the way we look. Then recently we asked Dave Kloc, an amazing poster artist who's very overqualified to make podcast art, to make our podcast art, and that's the one we use now.

I think we always wanted an illustrated portrait of our faces. The first one was kind of rudimentary and silly and a little bit abstract. And then the second one is almost hyper-stylized to look like Renaissance art, but it's really just the two of us holding microphones and trophies.

J: The important thing we learned is that your cover art can look cool when you're looking at it on your full screen, but most people are seeing it at the size of your actual thumbnail on their phone. The art has to be readable when it's very, very small.

It’s okay for your cover art to change. Again, start with what you can and revisit and evolve as you go along. No matter what, remember that your art is going to be very scaled down — don’t have a design that’s heavy on intricate details.

What are some unsexy realities of podcasting that newcomers should know about?

J: One thing is that it's a weekly commitment. Having that consistent episode drop is the way that you're going to keep your subscribers. So there are times when it's Sunday night and we have to record something for the next day, and podcasting is the last thing that I want to be doing. But I know that I have to. Being on board for what you're getting yourself into, I think, is an important step in the process.

A: Post production is probably the least sexy part. Cutting, editing, making things sound good.

J: I also don’t love all the cords. There's cords everywhere, all the time. Your Zoom cord, your mic cord, your dongle for the SD card.

A: The SD card gets full, you need a new SD card. You need to label your SD card, so you remember which SD card is your SD card. Don't take an SD card from the office, they need the SD card. Have you seen the SD card?

Do you ever deal with burnout? Going back to the idea of commitment, how do you stay motivated to record consistently?

J: It’s never happened for me.

A: I get excited at the thought of a thousand more episodes. My appetite for podcasting is insatiable.

J: At this point you have to be a superhuman to have not experienced burnout. So I think we just deal with it like anybody else, by finding outlets that are not podcasting. I have hobbies that enrich my life and friendships that make me feel good. Podcasting is a grind, but it’s also really fun. So keeping things in perspective is helpful.

A: It also helps to record three or four episodes one week, then you could take two or three weeks off so you can replenish your brain.

It’s going to be hard sometimes, but stick to a schedule and commit to consistent episode releases as much as possible. Also take the time to figure out your unique balance and how podcasting fits into your life. Lastly, get organized from the beginning. There are lots of moving parts in podcasting, both physical and digital.

How did you go about marketing and promoting the show when it launched?

A: We had a website, Facebook, Soundcloud.

J: Additionally, we had built a fan base from our time at CollegeHumor, so we had tens of thousands of followers on Twitter. Once we created “If I Were You,” we pushed it to all kinds of platforms where people were following us for “Jake and Amir” videos and said, "Oh, check this thing out. It's adjacent."

I think people liked it because it was the first time after we'd been doing characters in CollegeHumor videos for like five or six years that people could hear our actual personalities and bits. At this point we've been doing the podcast so long that it's not novel anymore, but it was at the time.

For those of you who don’t have dedicated CollegeHumor fans, we made a podcast marketing playbook with our top tips for reaching more listeners.

What is the best advice that you can give to new podcasters?

A: Choose a topic that interests you to no end, because you're going to be talking about it every week for years and years and years potentially.

J: Get your audio quality right, because listeners will decide to test out a new show and if one thing is wrong — if they don't like that first three seconds — they’re not going to continue. Make sure that it sounds really good, because people are looking for a reason to stop listening to a new podcast so they can check out a different one. As long as it sounds great, then the content will be the second part that you have to worry about.

Have any other burning questions about podcasting you’d like Jake and Amir to answer? Let us know at hello@gumball.fm.