On Podcasting: Tools, Workflow and Resources

Tonight I sat on a panel that discussed podcasting at my local Social Media Club chapter, and had a great time. Along with John Overall and Mike & Cheryl DeWolfe, we offered up tips, tricks, tools and some “how to” material for those in attendance.
One of the takeaways for me: Podcasting sounds harder than it is…or the panelists are pretty darn brilliant. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

In order to help you decide, I’ll give you some fodder on my own podcasting workflow. This includes the hardware I’ve used (and am currently using), some of the practices I’ve put in place to “hack podcasting” and other miscellany that might be of use to you if you’re new to the podcasting realm.

My Hardware

Computer

2007-2011: 15” MacBook Pro (2.4 GHz/4 GB RAM/320 GB hard drive)
2011-current: 11” MacBook Air (1.6 GHz/4 GB RAM/128 GB SSD hard drive)

I almost went with another MacBook Pro thinking I’d need additional power to produce podcasts. Not the case. My MacBook Air handles things admirably.

Microphones

In the past I’ve used a Blue Snowball and Snowflake mic, with the latter going with me on the road and the former staying firmly on my desk or used in a round table setting. But I found the Snowflake too tinny and the Snowball wasnt as rich as I wanted, either. So I did some research and settled on a Samson C01U Podcasting Pack. And it works amazingly well.

It’s a great USB microphone, complete with shock mount (which was missing from my previous setup – although Blue does make one for the Snowball) and adds a lot more depth to my voice. Until I require a better one (which won’t happen until it is warranted because I’m starting to get into the pricier range of microphones now), the C01U more than does the trick.

Headphones

I am currently using some Sennheiser earbuds, but have a variety of headphones I’ve used. I really miss my AKG headphones from back in my campus radio days and will likely pick a pair up once I feel it’s something I absolutely need.

Earbuds definitely aren’t the ideal choice, but I don’t have a decent pair of over-ear headphones at the moment. The ones I do have aren’t very comfortable, which trumps increased sound quality for me at this juncture. After all, I spend 90 minutes each week with the Dyscultured crew and another 2 hours with them on throughout the week for various other shows.

Other

The other bits of hardware I use from time to time include:

  • iPhone 4S: It works far better than you’d think. It’s like having a mic in the field.
  • iPad: Not as versatile as the 4S, but it will work in a pinch if I need it. Often used to record Skype calls using the QuickVoice app.
  • M-Audio AV40 Speakers: Inexpensive and really, really good.
  • Drobo: It’s my backup drive for all of my work, podcasts included. (You do backup everything, right?)

My Software and Workflow

GarageBand

When using GarageBand, I make sure to create a “master template” that all of my ProductiVardy podcasts can slot into. The template includes all stingers (which are essentially audio segment introductions) and the generic intro and outro. Then I remove whatever stingers aren’t being used in the current episode, add in the interviews and other recorded spoken word and save the template file as an episode number file using the highest-quality MP3 levels possible.

I don’t put imagery or show notes in the GarageBand file itself; I’ve got other ways to get that done that save me a ton of time and actually work better for promotional reasons.

Max

Once the MP3 is saved from the GarageBand file, I add it to this free bit of software. Max converts the MP3 to an AIFF file, which is what I need it to be to use the next free bit of software.

The Levelator

The Levelator is pretty amazing. It normalizes the audio of your podcast, which allows the optimal listener experience. I take the “Max’d” AIFF file and drag it into The Levelator’s window and then the normalizing process begins. If there’s one “must-have” piece of software you need in your workflow, The Levelator is it. David Sparks introduced me to it, and I sure do owe him for that.

iTunes

When I’m done normalizing the podcast, I add to my iTunes library, “Create an MP3” of it (located under the “Advanced” tab), add artwork (which can be done by adding it using the “Get Info” option under the “File” tab) and then drag it out of my iTunes library to the desktop. Then, I’m ready to upload.

Skype

I use Skype to connect with those I want to interview for ProductiVardy, and how Dyscultured happens. It’s free, and despite the fact that plenty of folks complain about it, it’s a pretty amazing piece of software.

eCamm Call Recorder for Skype

A plugin that allows you to record Skype calls, both in audio and video format. You can do split-screen recordings, strip out audio and also split audio tracks so that you can deal with your own voice and the voices of those on the other end of the Skype call separately. eCamm Call Recorder for Skype is $19.95, but it’s well worth it. Give the demo a look first before buying.

The Rest

Podbean

This is my podcast host of choice. Podbean is based in Canada, easy to get started with and use – and they take PayPal. I have a podcast feed I create, upload my podcasts to Podbean and then they’re ready to go…almost. There are a variety of pricing plans, starting with everyone’s favourite price: free.

Cyberduck

Cyberduck is what I use to get my podcast to Podbean. It’s free and easy to get a handle on, especially for someone who didn’t really get what FTP was until I needed to know what it was.

Blubrry PowerPress(WordPress plugin)

Blubrry also hosts podcasts, but it’s the PowerPress plugin that really is the killer thing that they offer. There’s so much to like about it – robust stats, category podcasting, iTunes integration, etc, etc, etc – I can’t recommend it enough. I plant the podcast feed given to me by Podbean in here and then I take the BluBrry feed and put it in…

Feedburner

This is still the best place to put your feeds, because it allows you to leave hosts and not worry about having to set your feed up everywhere else again. You take the that Feedburner provides and put it into the different podcast aggregators (iTunes, gPodder, Podcast Alley, Castroller, etc.) and if you ever decide to move to a different podcast host, you only have to change the source feed in your Feedburner account. It’s a one stop shop for feed management.

More Resources

Dan Benjamin’s Podcasting Equipment Guide (2011): A must-read for anyone going into podcasting, be it for hobby or profit.
Creative Commons Podcasting Legal Guide: The legalities of podcast content came up at the panel discussion, so here’s a good place to go to get a bit of an idea on some of what you need to know going in.
How Podcasting Works: From the folks at HowStuffWorks. A good overview.
PAB (formerly known as Podcasters Across Borders): An annual gathering of podcasters from all over North America. Held in June, it’s a great place to go and connect with fellow podcasters of all experience levels.
The Podcasting Project: My internet friend Myke Hurley (of the 70Decibels podcast network) put together a series of episodes on his podcasting tools and workflow. A great resource to have on hand from one of the most passionate podcasters I know.

…so there’s that.

If you’ve got any more questions or suggestions of things I might have missed, let me know in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    Sorry I missed the presentation this evening, I have a few questions if I could:* What do you use for analytics of your listeners?* What’s the typical amount of listeners for podcasts vs blog readers? * Is it financially sustainable/What’s the ROI? (ad revenue?)* Have you tried a vlog/videocast?

    Thanks Mike, from a fellow bro with a Mo,

    –Kris

    • says

      Kris,Sorry for the delay on this…but here ya go:

      1. I use the stats built in to Blubrry, which is a WordPress plugin. It’s a fantastic (and powerful) plugin that can host, easily assist in distributing and track your podcast.

      2. That’s a hard one. Blogs have more SEO power, but can’t be accessed anywhere (i.e.. you can’t read them while driving). I’d say for me, the ratio is 5:1 in favour of blogs. I use the podcast to augment the blog. Others who focus on podcasting more than blogging have a tougher go unless they go all-out — like Dan Benjamin or Leo Laporte have.

      3. I don’t make a lot of money podcasting, but have sold some sponsorships. The lack of visibility makes it tougher to sell. I tend to sell spots on the site and the podcast itself to make it more appealing.

      That said, once you have a template in place for your podcast, a lot of the front end work is done. Sponsorships can be a big return on investment when you get the front end work done. But it’s a challenge.

      4. I have tried video casting, and will again. But it is resource-heavy and I want to do it right this time out. Prior efforts seemed almost thrown together. I’ll do some webisodic stuff with my Eventualism character and see how that goes. For Vardy.me, I think I’ll stick with videos of me speaking at engagements rather than all-out v-casts.

      Hope that helps — and hit me up anytime if you need to know more!

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