I have listened to podcasts for a long time. It is the medium that I get most of my learning inspiration from. I have written about my enthusiasm for podcasts here and here. Equally as long I have wanted to start a podcast but have been too… (insert excuse here). At the end of last year, I decided to stop with the excuses and start with the doing. The podcasts that I enjoy the most tend to have great banter between two hosts or an interviewer and interviewee so I set out to find a co-host. Dean Pearman and I had been exchanging great professional banter for quite some time (most of it in GIF form!) and so I asked Dean if he would co-host a podcast all about education and technology called Design and Play.
When Dean and I started recording the Design and Play podcast, we had no clue where to start. I had been collating articles and workflows that people had shared but we were total amateurs. From my reading and my experience working with media, I knew that having great audio was the key (D’uh!) but how do you achieve that when you physically aren’t in the same room. I hope this post sheds a little light on the workflow that we have developed to make Design and Play come to life.
All of our planning is done in OneNote. We set out episode guides with information about who is doing what during the show (welcome, guest intro and outro, etc…), a list of key topics/questions that we wish to explore and a collection of resources and links to dive into as well as to share in the show notes. In our first few episodes, we were a little overzealous and tried to cram in too many topics but in the last few episodes, we have worked off two or three key areas and allowed time for the conversation to percolate. We constantly refer to this during the podcast recording but as you can hear during the show, we sometimes let the conversation go where it needs to go. We also have a permanent fortnightly booking in our calendars to record the podcast. We have found fortnightly to be a really manageable time to live our own lives, work, source guests, record, produce and then share the content socially. I would love to record every week but sustainability is a much more important focus for us at the moment.
I use a Rode Podcaster mike as my microphone of choice. I borrowed this from the library at work and find the sound to be fantastic. It is a USB mike so works brilliantly for recording straight into my computer. Speaking to our AV guy at work on ways to improve sound and he gave me a windsock to stop the popping and limit the heavy breathing during the recording. I record straight into my MacBook Air and compile everything on Garageband. We originally used Garageband as the sole recording tool but found some limitations. Dean and I use Skype during the process to connect with each other and our guests. After the audio in our first episode wasn’t as rich as we would like (Dean was stuck in a well), we did some research and landed on a great tool called eCamm Recorder for Skype. When we start a Skype call, the eCamm recorder window pops up. With a little adjustment of the audio settings, we are set up and ready to go. The reason I like the eCamm recorder so much is that it saves all recordings in an easy to access archive but more importantly, it allows you to export the recording as separate tracks. I’ll touch on this a little more when I discuss post production. Dean and I both use bucket headphones to listen to each other. We also try to find quiet spaces to record although if you listen carefully to the recordings, this isn’t always achieved. We also record a back up track using Garageband of our own audio. This is to prevent crashing and the loss of lots of hard work.
The eCamm recordings are then dropped into Garageband and because they are on split tracks, I can adjust the audio levels to bring up the volume of each speaker. This allows the podcast to have balance and for the user to have a pleasant listening experience. The intro is prerecorded using music from www.bensound.com which is a fantastic site for (some) royalty free music. The post production phase takes a little while because there have been episodes with technical difficulty and so sometimes we need to split and cut tracks to edit out certain parts. To ensure quality, I make sure to listen to the track a few times which is time consuming just due to the fact that our episodes tend to run for 45-50 minutes. Once the episode is finished, it is exported as a Mp3 and saved to a shared Dropbox folder. This allows both Dean and I to listen to the complete podcast before it is uploaded. It does feel odd listening to yourself podcast but we want to make sure that the audio is of a high quality. From here, the file is uploaded to our Podbean site. We chose Podbean as a site as it is a site dedicated to Podcast hosting. As we were in the prototyping phase of the podcast, we wanted to be as agile with our solutions as possible. It meant that we also didn’t need to build a website initially. We do plan to do this and to blog to further unpack some of the episodes but for the start-up phase of the podcast, we wanted a site that could handle the hosting of the podcast, the RSS feed generation and the integration with iTunes. Podbean does all of this and as we move to our own website, we can still tap into Podbean to host the podcasts and simply embed the episodes on our site. The iTunes integration with Podbean make it really easy to manage the episode description, shownotes and iTunes specific requirements such as language, authors, etc…
iTunes, SoundCloud, and Stitcher
Each of the spaces we make our podcast available have varying requirements to upload content. For iTunes, I simply followed the instructions found here and signed into PodcastsConnect. For every new episode, I simply refresh the RSS feed (there’s a link that I click in Podcasts Connect) and wait for an hour or so and the episode is live and available on iTunes. For Stitcher I had to sign up for an account which required a little waiting but it automatically updates now once the RSS feed is updated. SoundCloud is a little more manual and we are still operating with the free account, which unfortunately only has an hour upload limit. This means that old episodes are now not available. Podbean is fantastic because the analytics allow us to see where our listeners are from and how they are accessing our episodes. This really allows us to know where to target efforts to continue to promote the show.
Once an episode is live, we promote it via Twitter and LinkedIn. We have a Design and Play Twitter handle and this allows us to keep the word spreading.
The podcast is completely a love job. We love discussing topics of interest and have been overwhelmed with the response from people. We are still very much amateurs and I hope this workflow motivates you to get that podcast you’ve always wanted to start off the ground. Happy to connect and share to talk through any details.