With Podcast Movement starting up this weekend, I took some to step back and look at the workflow that I’ve used to deliver podcasts on a regular basis over the past six years. Sure, it has evolved over that period of time, but there are some tactics and tools that I’ve used throughout the help me podcast productively.
Right now I’m working regularly on one podcast, but I’ve created a framework that essentially would allow me to add another podcast fairly easily. I’ve been co-hosting Mikes on Mics (soon to become Workflowing) for two and a half years alongside Michael Schechter and some of the approaches I take for that podcast were formed back when I was working on my first ever podcast — based on my productivity parody work — as well as what I produced for Work Awesome and co-produced for Dyscultured. The other show I’m co-hosting on an irregular basis is Talking is Dead with my good friend Anthony Marco (who hosts a slew of podcasts and will also be at Podcast Movement this weekend).
I’m going to break down this guide into four components:
The first thing I’ve done when working on a podcast is to make sure that I’ve got the right delivery methods in place. In the past I’ve used services like Podbean, Buzzsprout, and the more commonly known Libsyn for hosting. I don’t want to have to fiddle with metadata and iTunes recognition on my own, so I use one of these services in order to make it as easy as possible on my end. I don’t need to concern myself with this for the show I co-host for 5by5, but I do for any new efforts. What SoundCloud has to offer now for podcasters intrigues me, so I may explore that option when the times comes.
But before I do that, I need to design cover art for the show and so on. I grab the image requirements from the various podcast aggregators and then find or create an image. Once I have that file ready, I put it in Acorn and then scale and crop as needed. I have saved cropping presets for each of the artwork requirements in Acorn before, so doing this is not too taxing. (As with anything, doing that “front end work” may slow you down at first but will speed up things later on.)
Since most of the shows I’ve hosted have had an interview or guest component of some sort, I access Google Calendar and create a new calendar under the Productivityist banner that I can use for guest bookings. I then head to ScheduleOnce and create a service or booking page that allows guests to simply pick three possible times to be interviewed. I choose one of those times and then we’re all set to go. Doing this removes the back-and-forth of email, and also shows an air of real professionalism when setting up guests.
ScheduleOnce has been a big timesaver for me over the past few months. I started using it when I launched Productivityist Coaching in order to expedite the booking process, and has done that in spades. If you’re looking for a scheduling service, I strongly recommend ScheduleOnce.
I also have an Evernote notebook dedicated to the active shows I’m running. For Mikes on Mics, Schechter and I created a note we use to update our bookings. We create a checklist and add relevant links where needed so that we have some kind of guiding document for the discussion. I can now follow the same strategy for any future podcasts I develop because it’s familiar and it works. No need to reinvent the wheel.
All of this pre-production allows me to have as much preparation as possible going into the conversation. That kind of due diligence allows me to go into the recording more relaxed and informed with what I want to touch on over the course of the discussion…and what I don’t.
As with film or theatre, the actual production of the podcast itself is the shortest time period. Mikes on Mics generally runs anywhere from 35-50 minutes nowadays, and all of the pre-production work goes into making sure that when we finally hit the record button that we’re as ready as we can be.
For the longest time, I simply used Call Recorder to record the Skype calls we used to connect with each other for the broadcast. Call Recorder is a great choice because it allows you to keep the tracks locally and split them into two tracks (one for your end, one for all other callers) using its built-in conversion tools when you need to do so. You can also record video with this piece of software, which is great if you want to deliver a video podcast as well as an audio version. Call Recorder is Mac only, but there are some Windows options like IMCapture and Pamela that will do the trick.
Sometimes Skype has warbling on the call, and that’s when recording a backup is worthwhile. I use QuickTime to do this, but there are also other ways to do so. On the Mac, Piezo and Audio Hijack Pro can accomplish this as well. While I haven’t had to do this on Windows, Audacity is worth exploring for this feature – as well as for post-production needs. You’ll want to ask the person on the other end of the Skype call to record their own audio as well. That way if the call drops or your initial version (say, with Call Recorder) doesn’t work then you haven’t wasted the other person’s time…or your own.
When the recording session is done, you can ask the other callers (be they guests or co-hosts) to send you their files via Dropbox or some other large file sending service. I prefer Dropbox because then I can grab them quickly and download them into my own Dropbox folder and place them where I want them to go. Once you’ve got all of the files, you’re ready to start post-production so that you can get the podcast ready for publishing.
This aspect of podcasting does take a while, and at first it will take at least as long as your pre-production work.
The first thing you’ll need to do is create an audio project that you can use to edit the podcast in. I use Garageband because it is simple to use, pretty powerful, and came with my Mac. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the newest version of the application, but I also haven’t played with some of the newer features to see what is causing me the friction I’m having. Case in point: I used to be able to directly drag each track of the newly-split call recording directly into Garageband as an .MOV file and slide it up and down the project at will. Now I can drag them in but cannot move them. Frustrating. But instead of looking for a solution within the app, I’ve simply converted the .MOV files to .MP3 files and dragged them into the project afterward. This allows me to move the tracks freely along the timeline.
If you’re on a Windows machine, your best bet when starting out is Audacity. I haven’t used it very much in recent years, but I know you can create a Master Episode Template with it as I do in Garageband. The Master Episode Template for Mikes on Mics contains the show’s intro and outro. I save the project as “Mikes on Mics – MASTER” and then simply duplicate it every time I need to create a project for the latest episode. That way I’m not adding the theme song in every single time I create a new episode, saving time and energy in the process.
During the post-production process, I have to look at two things before I let Schechter know that we can publish the show:
- Editing: I need to fully edit the show. That means adding in any sponsor spots (if needed) both at the beginning and at a natural point during the show. Going forward, we plan to do the ad spots during the show recording itself, but in the past I’ve found a good break in the action to insert the ad spot and it’s worked decently so far.
- Conversion: I save the finished project and then export it to disk as an .AIFF file. Why .AIFF? Because then I can drop the finished product into an app called The Levelator to make sure that improves the overall sound of the show. (The Levelator is no longer being developed, but it still works fine on my MacBook Air running OS X Mavericks, so there’s that.) Then I’ll drag the newly-enhanced .AIFF file into iTunes, convert it to an MP3 file, and drop it into a shared Dropbox folder that Schechter can access.
While I’m editing and getting the podcast sounding good, Schechter is working on the episode’s show notes. We try to keep them short for Mikes on Mics, which makes it a bit easier for him. If you want to deliver more in-depth show notes, then do so. But if you’re using Safari as your web browser, you’ll want to grab TabLinks, a creation of Brett Terpstra’s. Here’s what TabLinks does:
“[TabLinks] copies the link information for every tab open in Safari, and outputs them as a list based on a user-defined template.”
Using this handy extension for show notes makes assembling them that much faster. In fact, since I do show notes when Schechter’s not able to, I make sure I use Safari to compile them just so I can use Brett’s tremendous little tool.
Schechter and I tend to use Messages to communicate back and forth at this juncture, as he sends me the ideas he has for a title and the brief bit of text that is also part of the show notes. Once we’ve agreed on a title and the show notes are approved, Schechter goes into the 5by5 website and schedules the podcast to go live on Friday.
Then we repeat much of the process – everything but the majority of the pre-production – the very next week.
The Tools of The Trade
If you want to make a podcast efficiently, then the above workflow will really help you out with that. But if you want to do it efficiently and effectively – which is the true meaning of podcasting productivity – then you’re going to want to get some decent tools for the job.
Here is a list of the equipment I’ve used in the past, and am currently using to podcast regularly:
- Blue Yeti Pro: This is the microphone I’m currently using. The big difference between it and the Blue Yeti is that it has an XLR output, which means that if I eventually pick up a mixer to use in my podcasting workflow then the Blue Yeti Pro can be part of that workflow. It’s a great microphone.
- Blue Spark Digital: This was the microphone I used up until about three months ago. I was drawn to this microphone because of its ability to record on my iPad and iPhone as well as my Mac. Funny thing is that I never wound up using it on my mobile devices. I’ve picked up a Rode SmartLav for recordings that I want to do on the road, but haven’t added anything else to the mix so I can have others record with me while I’m on the go.
- Samson C01U: Before the Blue microphones, this was my podcasting mic. Samson makes some great microphones (I love the look of the Meteor) and if you’re just getting started then they are both affordable and deliver quality results.
I’ve strived to build a podcasting production framework that is as simple as possible and can scale well over time. In addition, by building templates and using tools like Evernote and Dropbox I’ve created a workflow that seems very obvious to me with every single episode I create – either on my own or with a partner.
Whether you’re new to podcasting or simply want to fill in some of the gaps in your workflow, I believe that following this guide will help you boost your podcasting productivity, which will last longer than any single podcast you create.