How to Create a Podcast that’s Scary Good

Graphic reading "Scary Good Podcaster" with picture of Jim Harold and an eerie night sky over ragged Libsyn turquoise.

Jim Harold in a suit and tie. Jim is smart and confident looking.Creating a podcast is, for some, the dream of making a living doing something you love. It can feel so lofty and elusive … it’s scary. For Jim Harold, it is a reality that changed his life. His desire to create a podcast started with a sneaking suspicion that he needed to get behind the mic. 

Jim Harold created The Paranormal Podcast, his first scary podcast on Libsyn in 2005. Since then, he’s introduced a number of spooky podcasts including his most popular, Jim Harold’s Campfire. He’s bootstrapped his company, Jim Harold Media LLC, into a profitable media firm and has written five books. And, he says it is all “because I decided to create a podcast.”

Harold started with what he called, “a $50 headset and a crappy Windows computer,” but continued to iterate and improve over the years to reach “a nice middle-class level of success.” Jim’s a humble guy. His podcast, Jim Harold’s Campfire, is in the top 5% of podcasts on Listen Notes AND he quit his day job to podcast. 

How did he do it? From sneaking suspicion to scary podcast …  here’s his journey. 

 

What chilling changes resulted from creating a podcast?

Podcasting changed my life and made my career.

I began podcasting in 2005 out of frustration. I had gone to school for broadcasting, but ended up working in media on the business side, never in front of the mic … this always bothered me. In my 30s, I felt I had lost the opportunity to pursue my dream career, but I thought I’d try this podcast.

The paranormal has been a lifelong interest for me going back to watching “In Search Of” as a kid, so it was a natural subject for a show. Luckily, I am still fascinated by it today. I really do believe SOMETHING is out there. What is it? I know enough to know that I don’t know. If that makes sense. I decided to create a podcast.

Seventeen years later, I am a published author, business owner, and full-time content creator. 

Logo for Jim Harold's Spooky Studio reading "Your Home for the Paranormal, Spooky Since 2005"

Being a full-time content creator is challenging, but an incredible opportunity to do what I love for a living and to explore a topic that utterly fascinates me.

When I went to school in the 90s for broadcasting, you were at the mercy of station owners, program directors, etc., to get an opportunity.

If I had gone to a station pitching my show back in the 2000s, they would have laughed at me or, at best, tried to have sold me block time for thousands of dollars to have the privilege to air my show at horrible hours reaching an audience limited to a small geographic area. It would have been a “grave” mistake!

Now I produce some of the top-rated paranormal-oriented podcasts in the world … podcasting has meant everything to me professionally. It saved me.

 

What scary podcast is your most popular?

Cover art for Jim Harrold's Campfire, True Ghost Stories and More. Black and white icon with devilish looking flams spurting from two crossed logs.

By far, it is Jim Harold’s Campfire. It is a show I started in 2009 and it is basically ordinary people sharing the extraordinary stories of the supernatural. It has grown to 90 minutes every week and our listeners love hearing people like themselves share strange stories about ghosts, UFOs, cryptic creatures, and weird experiences that defy categorization … what I call “headscratchers.” This show made my professional podcasting career possible. There is something primal about the Campfire. I had no idea what I’d created when I started it, a bit of a happy accident. I kind of stumbled into the success of a lifetime, for me, at least 

 

What terrifyingly honest truths should new podcasters know?

Don’t podcast just to make money; you could probably do a lot better selling cars or real estate. BUT, if you love doing it, love the topic, and think you could make a business of it (but that’s not the sole motivation),…I say go for it. 

Look at people who have transformed their careers and lives via podcasting. Typically, it takes a LONG time if you are not some type of star going in. I still believe if you produce good stuff then you will be found and grow.

Honestly, I still don’t believe the shows have reached their full potential; I still have room to grow.

Creating a podcast worked for me because it was a unique mix of my interests, abilities, and passions. I do it all and I truly enjoy the different aspects of owning and running a boutique media company. I am the host, editor, producer, ad sales rep, tech guy, chief cook, and bottlewasher. I’m not the best at any single function by any means, but my mediocrity at all of them has served me well over the years (ha!).

Also, podcasting as a hobby (which it essentially was for me for the first few years) is a very honorable and rewarding pursuit as well!

Most shows won’t immediately “hit,” but if you super-serve a niche, you can make an impact, no bones about it.

My wicked-good tips?

  • CARE ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE
  • Produce every week
  • Super serve a niche
  • Produce great content
  • Be yourself
  • Maximize your sound quality through technique, not by necessarily having thousands of dollars worth of equipment
  • Educate yourself constantly.

Don’t be intimidated by the tech. Other than my outdated broadcast training, everything I have learned technically to create a podcast — produce and distribute the shows — I taught myself. The podcast equipment support is all out there and that is so much more true now than when I started out back in the day. Today, answers to problems abound!

 

What processes keep you creating scary podcasts?

Podcasting, like my process, has evolved — here is what I am using now to publish.

  • Podcast Hardware — Mac Studio computer, Neumann TLM-103, Rodecaster Pro II, Ultima Mic Arm, Mogami mic cables (these are more important than you think … expensive, but NO HUM, my friends, NO hum)
  • Podcast Software — Adobe Audition, Descript Sound Studio (sometimes if the sound needs extra TLC), Auphonic
  • Podcast Interview Recording  — I connect through Zoom and record on my Rodecaster Pro II. I have not found a better combination that works well with my calendaring system that allows me to conduct the number of interviews I do (15-20 per week).
  • Podcast Services Libsyn — I cannot overstate how great Libsyn has been. I continue to use them for all of my free podcast media needs. Plus, I host my Spooky Studio App, featuring my Paranormal Plus Club, with Libsyn. Moving my premium offering over to them in 2017 was a big inflection point for the company and I am grateful for their service and continued opportunities.

Libsyn’s ability to facilitate a combination of multiple podcast monetization revenue streams, from podcast subscription revenue, podcast advertising, and then other efforts like books and events has been critical. 

And, you can’t go wrong with Libsyn’s podcast plans — uptime is excellent.

I remember talking to the founders when the company first started (the two Daves) and I really admire what Libsyn has done for podcasters.

 

The future of scary podcasts isn’t spooky at all

It’s amazing to see how far the equipment and services have come. When I first created a podcast I had a really underpowered computer, a slow DSL connection, a USB headset, free editing software, and a Libsyn account.

I started by taking what little equipment I had, making it sound the best it could, and then using the proceeds from my efforts to fund my upgrades. So, slowly over time, I upgraded my technique and my equipment.

If you have an internet connection, a Libsyn account, a computer, and a passion for doing an audio podcast, there is no reason not to get started today.

How about it guys? Are you interested in the paranormal? You REALLY need to check out Jim’s programs over at jimharold.com

Keep having those scary-big dreams, start with the things you love, create a podcast and don’t look back … but if you do and see a shadowy figure, give Jim a call.

You know what else we brewed up? This live stream with Jim, who shares some frighteningly good podcasting advice witch you’ll definitely want to watch!

 

 

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