How to Start a Podcast in South Africa on a Budget

So you’re a South African who wants to start a podcast but you don’t want to break the bank doing it? You’ve clicked the right link. My name is Bob Perfect and I’m the host of The Almost Perfect Podcast. I’ve been hosting it since 2018 as well as co-hosting several other podcasts over the years. I’ve made an embarrassing number of mistakes and googled countless guides and articles so you don’t have to.

With podcasting technology becoming increasingly affordable, almost anyone can start a podcast. And they have. Since 2018, podcast growth has exploded- with 17000 new podcasts started every week in 2020. That’s a lot of podcasts. How many of them are South African though? How many of them are showcasing our stories from our people? Nowhere near enough. From a South African perspective, there’s still plenty of room for new podcasts. That is where this post comes in. In this blog post, I am going to teach you how to start your own podcast for relatively cheap and give you some tips about what equipment you’ll need, where to host your episodes online, and which software will make editing easier, so you can go about creating podcasts that resonate with your fellow South Africans. Here’s how to start a podcast in South Africa on a budget.

How much does it cost to start a podcast in South Africa?

In theory, you could start a podcast in South Africa completely for free. In practice, you’re gonna need equipment, software, and data. But, if you hustle your WiFi from your neighbours or coffee shops and have a midrange cell phone, you can totally start a podcast for free tomorrow. Just download Anchor on your phone and you’re good to go. Anchor is the Spotify-owned podcasting platform that lets you record and upload podcasts from your phone, completely for free. It’s a bit basic, but it gets the job done.

Now, if you want a podcast that sounds good and that people actually listen to, that’s gonna take a bit of effort and knowledge that you probably don’t already have. Why else would you be reading this guide? Hopefully, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to start a new podcast by the end of this. I’ll let you know the cheapest way I know to do something, the way I do it, and what I’d do if I had more money to work with.

So, how much does it cost to start a podcast in South Africa? Well, what’s your budget?

What equipment do I need to start a podcast?

Equipment is your biggest upfront expense in podcasting but also the best investment you’ll make. Now, I don’t recommend going out and buying a top of the range kit before you’ve even planned your first episode, but no amount of editing can fix a bad recording. I’ve learned this the hard way. So once you know this is something you really want to do, try to build your equipment up bit by bit. At the very least, you’re going to need a good microphone and some sort of recording device or audio interface.

Cheapest option:

Just use your phone. If you have a laptop, you probably have an onboard mic you can use.

The headsets provided with phones are often good enough if you record in a tight space. Many of my guests have used them when we do remote recordings and they usually turn out ok. It’s not ideal, but it’ll work. When starting, your focus should be learning the ropes of podcasting and getting some experience under your belt before worrying about getting perfect sound. Trust me, nobody is going to listen to your first few episodes so just use what you have and build from there.

Your next best option is to use a gaming headset or get a cheap USB mic, but you do get what you pay for and there can be compatibility issues. If you’re looking to record multiple people in the same room, look for an omnidirectional mic specifically as they pick up sound from all directions. Here’s a useful guide on the difference between omnidirectional and cardioid mics.

What I use:

Zoom H5 Field Recorder (R3900 on special), Shure SM58 microphone (R1600), Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB microphone (R1400), 2x mic stands (R800), and whatever headphones I have lying around.

The Zoom recorder and two mic setup is great for one-on-one in-person interviews and is super portable. It runs off AA batteries and an SD card. The Zoom can also be used as an audio interface for recording on your computer. The versatility and portability make it the most important piece of equipment I’ve bought specifically for podcasting.

I originally bought 2x ATR2100-USB mics because I thought that them being both USB and XLR would make my life easier- it didn’t. Windows is weird with USB mics and you’ll have to download additional software to get it sounding right. You also can’t record two USB mics at the same time without some sort of audio interface, as far as my experience goes. That’s why I got the Zoom, so I could run two mics at the same time and not deal with compatibility issues. Then one of the ATR’s just stopped working, so I got a Shure SM58. The SM58 is a legendary live performance mic that will survive the apocalypse along with the roaches. I’ve seen those mics being dragged on the floor through sweat, blood, and broken beer bottles. There are better sounding podcasting mics but none that I know of can compare in terms of durability. Plus, I can use it for live gigs. Here’s a guide to microphones that covers the most popular mics in podcasting today.

One important thing that I don’t use that you might want to look into is getting a mixer/preamp. My recordings can sound a little noisy, but I can usually fix that with “noise reduction” in post prodution. Also, good headphones are obviously preferable when podcasting, but since your audience will likely be listening through their cellphone earphones, they’re lower down on my priority list. Oh, and I should probably have pop filters but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

What I would use if I had more money:

The RØDECasterPro (+/-R18000) is an audio interface and mixer that has everything you could want for podcasting. With four microphone inputs, eight sound pads for playing sound effects or background music, “studio-grade” preamps for powerful audio processing, smartphone and Bluetooth integration, and a relatively compact form, it’s kinda perfect.

If I was looking to go with a USB mic, the RØDE Podcaster (+/- R4000) would be high on the list, but the duality of the Shure MV7 (+/- R5200) having both USB and XLR makes it the next bit of equipment I’m looking to invest in. That and the fact that every podcaster who uses one recommends it. It’s become the gold standard since replacing the Shure SM7B at the top of the Shure podcasting range. Oh, and it comes with an app that helps to auto-level, which is super useful.

Between the RØDECasterPro and a couple of MV7s, I’m not sure I’d need to buy any other podcasting equipment except some decent headphones.

What software should I use to edit my podcast?

If you want your podcast to sound the absolute best it can, you’re going to spend a LOT of time editing. This means you’re going to want to use editing software that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out. Thankfully, there are decent free options for both Mac and PC.

Cheapest options:

For PC, Audacity is the one. Mac users, you probably already know about GarageBand. Both are free and have many plug-ins and add-ons to utilise as you learn more about editing. I started with Audacity and found it to do a perfectly good job after watching a bunch of tutorials. Youtube is your friend when it comes to learning how to edit.

This playlist by Buzzsprout should teach you everything you need to know to get started editing podcasts with Audacity.

What I use:

Hindenburg Journalist Pro (R5699). Hindenburg is fantastic and has made editing podcasts an absolute breeze. The smooth and responsive interface, and automated tools that it has built-in, make it well worth the money. Processes that took time and effort with Audacity are done with a click of a button on Hindenburg. Hindenburg is something to look into if you’ve been podcasting for a few months and know you want to do it for the long term. Dropping R6k on software that you only use a handful of times is painful.  You can use a free 30-Day Trial, but you’re probably going to want to buy the software after trying it out. I know I did.

Once again, Buzzsprout have a useful tutorial for those of you looking to learn the Hindenburg ropes.

What I would use if I had the money:

Hindenburg Journalist Pro. It ain’t cheap but once you’ve decided that podcasting is something you’ll be doing for a while, I think Hindenburg gives you everything you need to make the editing process as smooth as possible. I really can’t explain just how much easier editing is using Hindenburg. I’m yet to see any other software that caters specifically to podcasting in such an easy-to-use package. They do offer rental options so you could try it for a year at R1799, or you can keep an eye on their social media as they occasionally offer massive discounts.

What software should I use for remote recording?

While I traditionally record my podcasts in person, the pandemic saw me trying out a variety of different remote recording apps as we adapted to doing the interviews via the internet.

The most popular software for remote recording is Skype although Zoom might have overtaken them during the lockdown. They’re both mostly free with the option to pay but you won’t need to. The thing is, the pandemic also saw several apps that better facilitated remote recording coming to the forefront. Both Skype and Zoom require you to convert a video file to audio, which can be a hassle, and neither are known for their sound quality.

Cheapest option:

If you’re on a computer, Zencastr is a fantastic in-browser remote recording app that you can use for free as long as you keep it to under 8 hours a month. You can have up to four people recording at the same time and it saves the recording locally before uploading it at the end. This means that if your internet is unstable you’ll still have the full recordings from every participant. Various plans offer automated post-production and increased recording time. One thing to note though, this will chow your data. And your guest’s data.

Riverside also looks promising but has limited free options and seems more geared towards video.

If you’re using your phone, Anchor offers up to 5 people on a recording with their “Record With Friends” feature and has a few useful post-production options for a mobile app.

What I use:

Zencastr. It’s (mostly) free, it works well, and my guests have all found it easy to use. I’m not sure I could ask for much more.

What I’d use if I had the money:

Zencastr. Sometimes the cheapest option is the best. Zencastr also offers video recordings and have regularly made useful updates. I imagine their auto-mastering is useful for people who don’t want to do that in post themselves, but I prefer to have more control on that front. Zencastr gets my vote unless someone can convince me in the comments that I should be using something else.

Here’s a useful video that takes you through the various features of Zencastr and shows you what it’s capable of.

What podcast hosting service should I use?

Now that you have everything you need to record the first episode of your podcast, you’re going to need somewhere to host it. With the many options out there, choosing a podcast hosting service may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be.

Most modern podcasting platforms have built-in integration with Apple Podcasts and Spotify so you don’t need to submit your RSS feed manually unless you’re the type of person who wants full control over every step of the process. If that’s you, this guide to submitting your podcast to the top channels should be helpful. Honestly though, just go with one of the big names that you hear on other podcasts and you’ll be happy.

Cheapest option:

Anchor. I know many free podcasting platforms are popping up these days but I’ve been using Anchor for three years and it’s done everything I’ve needed it to. Uploading is simple, you can do basic edits and add-ons like pre and post-roll adverts, and they handle the distribution to other platforms. It’s an all-in-one free podcasting shop and the ability to use it on mobile and desktop is super useful.

If you want to go with a local podcasting host and don’t plan on making more than 50 episodes check out Iono.

Here’s how to get started with Anchor for free:

What I use:

As I said above, Anchor suits me just fine at the moment. I might upgrade to another platform if I ever want to get more comprehensive stats but since I’m not paying anything, I don’t mind getting just the basics.

What I would use if I had more money:

There are actually quite a few decent options when it comes to podcast hosts. I’d probably move to Iono, Libsyn, or Podbean if I had to make a change. Iono is South African based and offer very competitive pricing, Libsyn is one of the oldest and most trusted names in podcasting, and Podbean is super popular and also seems like great value for money. All of them have monetization options which means they can sell ads for you, although I’m not sure if Libsyn and Podbean’s monetisation is open to South Africans. I know with Anchor you have to be American to qualify for their monetization plan. On the cheap end, you’re looking at R85 pm with Iono, $5 pm with Libsyn, and $9 pm with Podbean. Iono’s most expensive offering is their “Radio” package at R580 pm, Libsyn tops out at $40 pm, and Podbean has a $100 pm package for those of you looking to launch an entire podcast network. If you have a service you’d recommend instead, please let me know in the comments?

Your Podcasting Journey Begins.

So with all of that knowledge dropped on you, you should have a pretty decent idea of what you’ll need to start a podcast in South Africa for cheap. Like with most things though, podcasting is something that takes time to get good at and to understand all the different parts involved. I definitely don’t consider myself an expert which is why I chose to rather just share my personal experiences. Hopefully, this helps get you started. If you have any questions on how to start a podcast in South Africa, please feel free to ask them in the comments. I’ll try to answer you in the comments and in future blog posts.

Header image by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash.

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