Are you a postcast listener? Give me input on creating mine

Hey everybody, I’m planning soon-ish to start doing a podcast series based around me interviewing, well, whoever is both (a) someone I think would be interesting and (b) will agree to be interviewed. But I’m not a huge listener of podcasts, so I want people who are to give me input on how to do this.

My biggest questions are how to distribute it. I’m seriously ignorant about what ways people get their podcasts beyond “click the play on the webpage” and “right-click save as, listen to later.” I’ve heard about subscribing to podcasts on iTunes, but have no idea how to make a podcast available for that, and are there other ways people like to get their podcasts?

It would also probably not hurt to have a list of “don’ts.” That is, what things really annoy you about some podcasts that you hope I don’t do? And… honestly, I’m new to this business, I don’t even know what questions to ask. What say the readership?

ETA: My model for what I want to do with this is CFI’s Point of Inquiry and Luke Muehlhauser’s Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot. But the last time I listened to either was when Chris Mooney interview Greta for POI, and I don’t remember when I last listened to either before that.

  • http://www.evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    Simplest solution IMHO (and one I’ve been very satisfied with) is Liberated Syndication (www.libsyn.com). Unmetered bandwidth, which means you pay a fixed monthly rate regardless of how popular your podcast becomes, and fully compatible with iTunes. LibSyn provides the blog, or if you prefer you can use them for hosting only, and use your blog feed as the podcast feed.

    You should definitely have a “click here to download mp3″ on the website, and also a way of playing the audio directly from the page, but technically it’s not a “podcast” unless it has a feed. LibSyn (and other podcast hosting services) will do the whole thing for you with the minimum of fuss.

    You’ll need to submit your podcast feed to iTunes, and for that you’ll need an iTunes account, even though it’s free. Or you could get someone who has an account to submit the feed for you. (Admittedly it’s a while since I did this bit, so it might have changed….)

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaronurbanski aaronurbanski

    I think Libsyn actually takes care of the iTunes stuff for you. It’s definitely the most unified podcast solution, and they will even provide you with a mobile app if you choose that option. If you want to syndicate it yourself, I would say to use WordPress with the Powerpress podcasting plugin, but it’s more work and requires that you provide your own hosting as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaronurbanski aaronurbanski

    Producing a podcast can be a chore when there is a lot of editing involved. Make sure that you are using a couple of pretty good quality mics like Blue enCORE mics or Shures or Sennheisers. One software tool that will save a lot of editing hassle is the Levelator (search Google) which fixes audio levels without using compression. If you need any tips or help, send me an email at urbster1@gmail.com – I listen to a lot of podcasts and I produce my own as well, and I would be glad to help with any audio related questions you have about software or hardware or syndication. Good luck!

  • Robert

    don’t: cheezy music at the beginning.

    do: provide transcriptions if possible. Luke used CastingWords.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Ooh, I love having podcast transcripts, but didn’t know there was an easy way to do them. How good is CastingWords? How much does it cost?

  • http://www.evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    I concur with the Levelator recommendation, though it’s not so good if your recording has significant background noise. Definitely recommended for use with Skype, as it makes both sides of the conversation sound equally loud (plus it’s ridiculously easy to use). Uneven levels can make a podcast interview very difficult to listen to in less than ideal conditions, such as quietly in an office, or via the speakers in a moving car.

    A portable recorder such as a Zoom is convenient (and high quality) for in-person interviews. For editing you can use Audacity (free for Mac and Windows) or GarageBand (supplied with Macs).

    Personally I’m a fan of cheezy music, but YMMV…

  • rusty

    I enjoy your blog and am looking forward to listening to your podcast.
    I’m subscribed to over 30 podcasts as I spend two hours every day travelling to and from work. I subscribe to RSS feeds only and I loathe iTunes so I hope you provide an RSS feed.

  • Patrick

    Other than “produce good content,” here’s all I can come up with:

    Edit your sound. Please, please do it. I don’t want to be unable to understand the words unless I crank up the volume until the static is physically unpleasant. I don’t want one participant to speak at a tiny whisper that I have to amplify, only to have the other participant scream in my ear every time they speak because they were recorded at a higher volume. I don’t know how to edit sound, I just know that some people do it and some people don’t, and the latter are often physically painful to listen to… so I don’t.

    If you can, get a co-host who thinks differently than you do. I don’t mean a theist or anything, just someone with a slightly different perspective. Even if you’re doing interviews, get someone else to do the interview with you, if you can.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Hmmm… I know a little bit about sound editing, and I think getting the volumes right in that way will require recording the two sides of the conversation on separate tracks. Is that right? What software will allow me to do that?

      • http://www.facebook.com/aaronurbanski aaronurbanski

        You will definitely want each person on his/her own track, but the editing will mostly help you edit the content of the podcast together, like if you forget something, but you say it later with the intent of editing it in earlier. Or if you two talk over each other you can delay one of them so you are both heard. Or edit out awkward moments, “uh” moments, etc. Levelator actually takes care of the volumes after the fact. So you don’t need to worry too much about editing volume. In fact, Levelator was actually designed to replace the human labor that goes into editing volume levels. On the other hand, you could edit meticulously but then opt not to use Levelator if you’re already happy with the volume levels (but it takes a lot longer and it’s really just easier to use it).

        I concur with hating iTunes. On the other hand, there is FeedFlipper.net which will take any iTunes feed and make it non-iTunes. Most podcasts do have non-iTunes feeds and that is where iTunes grabs the info.

      • http://www.facebook.com/aaronurbanski aaronurbanski

        As for the software, GarageBand will allow you to record on separate tracks. If you’re up for it, REAPER (http://reaper.fm) is also excellent software you can try fully featured for free, and I find it makes editing a breeze. If you’re on a Mac it would be less work to set up than if you’re on a PC as far as recording inputs onto the right tracks, but either platform is usable (I’m on a PC).

  • 1000 Needles

    Do you listen to Reasonable Doubts? If not, I would highly recommend it.

    They’ve struck a perfect balance of scholarship and humor that makes tedious topics such as counter-apologetics accessible to the average skeptic. If you plan to cover topics as heavy as you do on your blog, this might be an angle worth considering.

    I also think they do an ideal amount of intro, outro, and transition music for a podcast: enough to denote the separate segments, but not so much that you would feel the need to fast-forward through any of it.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to subscribing to your podcast!

  • Jester700

    I prefer podcasts that are efficient. That doesn’t necessarily mean “short”; some of my faves are over an hour. But they have direction and are edited so there isn’t a lot of downtime or relating what folks had for breakfast or “interesting tidbits of Americana” they saw on the way to work. With many podcasts to hear each week, I tend to stop downloading the slow paced ones.

    If you use POI as a guide, IMO you’ll be fine.

  • http://shelter.nu Alexander

    Yeah, I can’t really say much more than if you’re doing roughly what “Conversations from the pale blue dot” did, you’ve hit perfection in my opinion. I don’t care about sound as much as I care about content, but if you can make good content with good sound, then all the better. Luke did a tremendous job, and I was truly honestly really sad when it ended; I loved it to bits, and what was really good was the breadth of people he talked to (including serious believing scholars), and often would just let them talk, and ask follow-up questions rather than try to refute on the spot. (There was an interview on some british Christian radio station between Plantinga and Stephen Law that also set a good premise and format for shows, except for the cheesy music).

    I listen to a few good other podcasts, but I feel a lot of them, albeit good in parts, gets drowned out by a lot of chit-chat (especially shows where there’s more than one host), unrelated stuff, unsubstantiated opinions, what happens next week, what happened last week, and did you see those cat pictures? Oh, and bad humour, or, I should specify, humour that you can tell is only put there because they’re having a podcast (and here Luke’s philosophy series with Alonzo Fyfe is an example of where this is not the right thing to do) and they’re trying to be clever. Don’t be too clever, unless that is your natural state.

    It is better to repeat a shorter but concise sentence twice than it is to utter one long correct but meandering one. Scripted Sagan over unscripted DeGausse Tyson, so to speak.

    Oh, and humility. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I think one of the biggest issues I see with the atheist movement is all the snark that’s floating around. You write in a non-snarky way, and I’m expecting your vocal style to be similar, so I’m not worried here. But as fun as some snark is, it is the mind-killer, the little death that brings total obliteration. You must bend like a weed in the wind. :)

    As an aside, people seem to speak of music a lot here. Within certain parameters, I’m happy to create some music for you to use, royalty-free, copyright-free and all of that. I used to be a musician and music producer, and got stuff lying around, unused, unloved. This could be a theme for the podcast, intermission / breaks, question time (I henceby suggest you have a Q/A section :) ) and ending, so if you’ve got some requests, styles or questions, just shoot.

    Aaaaaaand; I’m excited about the prospect of you doing a podcast!

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Ooh, having someone willing to create intro/outro music would be great!

      (Also… I’m curious what you have in mind when you complain about “snark,” but that’s a side-issue.)

      • http://shelter.nu Alexander

        If you have any likes, wants or directions, I’m sure I can come up with something very quickly, especially if no vocals are fine. I’ve even got access to a full string ensemble if we really want to go over the top … :) (Although I don’t really have *that* much time free, I’ve got two daughters who play violin, so at least something could be done there). What would you like? What is your cup of tea? What music do you like? Synths? Organic sounds? Full of rythm? Slow and serene? Hard and horrible? (had to say that, didn’t I? :) )

        As to snark, I’m referring to writers who are trying to be funny with a splash of biting irony, lots of use of sarcasm (or, as I usually say, sarchasm; the abyss between the giver of humour and the receiver who doesn’t get it), biting tone; all of this leads to overconfidence in thoughts and ideas that are often not translated well into words written out.

        The timely example would be Thunderf00t-gate; if he had responded with less snark and be less self-assure about his stance, and show a smidgen of humility, then he’d still be on FtB, I suspect. Snark is a dangerous tool that is a truly impressive sniper rifle with a master like the much-missed Hitchens, where the snark makes us chuckle at the intelligent twist, makes us respect the overt knowledge of the topic on hand, and puts your opponents in an uncomfortable position when the banalities are exposed with a bite. But, it can be a self-exploding home-made bomb with others, where confidence in fuzzy ideas looks cocky and dumb, where facts are shown to be subjective and misleading, and a rhetoric style that translates badly from speech to written words (the timing of snarky speech is very important; when written, the timing is irrelevant).

        We all attempt snark, because, well, it’s fun, and when done well, is a fantastic tool to both entertain and prove a point. But very few master it.

        Some times I think that the great Hitch did some actual damage to the atheist movement; our respect and awe for the man surely made us all want to be just like (or much like) him (to some degree of “all”), but few of us have the intellect, knowledge and capacity for contrarian positions to pull it off.

        • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

          My memories of the things people are listing as their favorite podcasts is that they have pretty good intro music, “something that sounds kinda like that” would be great. Or: something that sounds like it could be the intro to a piece of classic sci-fi (Star Trek, 2001, or heck a factual popular science program like Cosmos.)

          This is my “person who is ignorant of modern music” attempt to describe what I think would be cool, so it may be useless to you.

          • http://shelter.nu Alexander

            So, “something cool.” Got it. :)

            Ok, thinking on my feet, fat synth with clear melody rather than fuzzy padding, smooth horn backings over a light sparse rythm. You’re primarily taking a philosophical stance, so ethereal in parts without sinking into stereotype, and a pinch of surprise because, well, it’s you.

            I’ve got a couple of hours free tomorrow (Aussie time), so I’ll see what comes out. I’ve got an idea that shouldn’t take too long. Where should I send the result? (I’ll make something short, so around the minute mark, which should be about 2Mb-ish)

          • http://shelter.nu Alexander

            Btw, for a taster of something ancient (stuff I made over 10 years ago), try this link with “Duneish” and “Bekk” as examples closer to pods and jingles ;

            http://www.myspace.com/alexanderjohannesen/music/songs?filter=featured

  • Minus

    Good suggestions so far. Mine would be to emphasize preparation. Spontaneous, off-the-top-of-the-head discussions of current events are just waste of our time.

    I’d suggest that you avoid interviewing other podcasters. Also avoid authors who are promoting their books unless they are really willing to talk about what is in the book rather than tossing out teasers to tempt us into buying the book.

    And humor is fine, but very difficult, few do it well. Irreligiosophy was the only podcast I’ve ever heard that was really funny (well, that and the Bible Geek). Also, on the same subject, puns are not funny and should be avoided at all costs.

    Please make your show available as downloadable MP3 (many of us hate ITunes).

    Follow these simple rules and you should be fine.

    Seriously, I think you will be terrific; I can’t wait to hear the show.

  • http://www.facebook.com/derrick.billings derrickbillings

    Not a distribution tip, but just in general. The Ask An Atheist show up in Washington has said several time to create two or three podcasts when you start and just don’t even expect to distribute them. Accept that they’ll suck, and allow yourself the luxury of learning what works and what doesn’t without having to worry about whether you’ll be getting subscribers or not.

  • http://philosophiadeus.blogspot.com/ Andrés Ruiz

    Podcasts I listen to daily:

    The Philosopher’s Zone (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/)

    Philosophy Bites
    (http://www.philosophybites.com/)

    Unbelievable?
    (http://www.premierradio.org.uk/shows/saturday/unbelievable.aspx)

    And Rationally Speaking.

    Definitely make sure to have an RSS feed for your podcast, that’s how Android Podcast apps allow me to subscribe to them and feed them to me whenever a new one becomes available.

    Tips?

    I prefer conversational podcasts. Luke’s Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot was my favorite; though Philosophy Bites edits down a lot of the content into bite-sized form (obviously) which can itself be a good thing for those looking for quick food for thought for the day.

  • http://philosophiadeus.blogspot.com/ Andrés Ruiz

    Also, a quick aside:

    Just don’t let it become a circle jerk. I loved Luke’s podcast because he’d have apologists and Christian Philosophers on the podcast and he’d have a conversation with them.

    If you’re only interested in interviewing people you agree with then I’m not much interested in listening. If you’re able to get people all over the spectrum the better the podcast will be.

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