How To Podcast – 2020 Edition

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There continues to be an explosion of interest in podcasting. 

Personally, I can’t think of  better time for a business (or individual) to create valuable audio and video content in a podcast format. In the past years, I’ve had a handful of requests to better understand how I create the Six Pixels of Separation podcast. I answered this question in detail back in 2008 (you can read about it here: How To Podcast) and the again in 2012 (you can read about it here: How To Podcast – 2012 Edition), and I even did one last year (How To Podcast – 2020 Edition). I’ve now posted over 750 episodes of Six Pixels of Separation (every Sunday since May 22nd, 2006) and over seventy episodes of Groove – The No Treble Podcast (a monthly show, where I am slowly trying to build the largest oral history of electric bass players). Along with that, I couldn’t even tell you how many podcasts I’ve been a guest on, but it has got to be in the hundreds (if not close to a thousand).

I’m (still) no professional.

Before digging into the details, let me make one point clear (and, it’s the exact same point I made back in 2008, 2012 and 2019): I don’t think that I have the “right” formula. My show is very “indie,” and it’s created and published with a minimal amount of production. I’m not an audiophile, and I have no special propensity towards audio engineering. I see it as a fun (and different) way to communicate and connect with people. I’m ok with the fact that it’s often raw, flawed and basic. I just like collecting conversations.

Here’s how I podcast (but please keep in mind that I am a huge proponent of doing a lot more pre and post production for maximum efficacy):

I don’t do much to prep for a show. Over the course of the week (in-between episodes), I simply look at my social media feeds for smart people saying and doing smart things (especially those publishing a new business or non-fiction book), and I reach out to those who I think might have something unique to say about a specific topic related to business, management, leadership, and innovation. In the past years, I have pulled away from anyone with a book on marketing (I’m just fatigued on those types of books), and I’ve also not been interested in what I call “101 topics” (content geared towards the “how do I get started in…” genre).

Most of my conversation are recorded over Skype using Ecamm‘s Call Recorder. My hardware used to be much more simple (a USB headset directly into my MacBook Pro), but that changed in the middle of this year. I made a major upgrade by purchasing the Rode RodeCaster Pro (which may be the best piece of computer hardware that I have ever owned – big statement, but true). It is a fully portable podcast recording studio that allows you to do a myriad of things (from multiple mics to Aphex audio processing to bringing in your smartphone via Bluetooth to having audio files accessible on keypads and more). I also love that I can record on-board using a SD card (which ensures that I have a backup). I use the Rode PodMic on the Rode PSA1 studio boom arm. My headphones are Sennheiser (but will soon be upgraded to Sony MDR7506). 

If I have the luxury of having a conversation with someone in-person, I record it on a Zoom H5 (which is a handheld portable digital recording studio). I use two Samson Q2U USB/XLR dynamic microphones for remote recording into the Zoom H5.

Once the audio is recorded, I use Audacity to edit the show. I export that file into WAV format, and then put it into a program called The Levelator to equalize the voice levels of myself and the guest. From there, I import it back into Audacity, and then export the file as a MP3. Once this is done, I bring the file into Apple Music to add the cover artwork and some additional show notes. I use Libsyn to host the podcast.

Sound quality and Skype.

Most people (rightfully) believe that Skype has bad audio quality. Many podcasters swear by SquadCast. I think it depends on how you setup Skype. Here are my Skype recording rules:

  • No wifi. The connections on both sides must be hardwired into the Internet. Wifi causes all kinds of problems.
  • No video. Even if you are only recording audio, close all of the video capabilities. That’s a bandwidth sucker.
  • Good headset. No iPhones, no cheap headsets, no using the onboard mic. If the guest doesn’t have a quality headset/mic or studio quality mic (or access to one), I usually pass on them as a guest.
  • No ringers. I ask that all guests mute all ringers or buzzing that could interfere with the sound quality and flow of the show.
  • Close all software. Only leave Skype open on both computers (yours and your guest’s). All other software must be shut down/off. Software running in the background can cause lagging and CPU usage challenges.
  • No shuffling. I always remind guests to hover over the microphone (about a fist’s distance from the mic) and to keep all shuffling down to a minimum. I like the conversation to sound very warm. 

Because I don’t do any audio editing, the whole show is done live… one take (this makes most podcasters cringe – most do multiple takes, edits, etc…). Once the show is done, I write up the blog posting in MarsEdit and hit the publish button on WordPress (which is my blog/podcast platform of choice).

It works for me.

I’m sure many podcasters weep a little when they hear how I record Six Pixels of Separation – no EQ adjustment, no removal of the “umms” and “ahhs”, and no editing to “tighten it up.” Who knows, maybe somewhere in the next one hundred episodes I’ll catch the audio engineering bug, and break out the more complex audio editing software. But, for right now, I’m still just having fun with it.

Mea culpa.

As I said earlier, my way is, probably, not the most professional way to record a podcast… but it is my way. I’m hoping that my passion, knowledge and insights make up for what’s lacking in professional editing skills and audio quality. I’m also quite sure that as podcasting continues to evolve, the demands to produce a higher quality show (in terms of pure production and audio) will force me to figure out an even newer way to take it to the next level.

Until then, happy podcasting.

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