We got a bunch of questions from a listener (Hey Greg!) about podcasting, so in this episode we're talking about our podcasting process.
What is a Podcast?
1:47 A podcast is an RSS feed (XML data) that you host somewhere that people can subscribe to. Podcast RSS feeds have a few extra pieces of data in them, including a link to an audio file (MP3) and special tags for iTunes.
3:20 If you want to have your own podcast, you need to create an RSS feed for it. You could write your own, but there are lots of services that will handle creating and modifying the feed for you.
4:10 After you have an RSS feed, you submit it to Apple though the iTunes store, and they validate it and if everything is good, your show will be included in the iTunes directory where people can find, subscribe and download your episodes.
4:43 We talk over Google Hangouts, but before we record, we turn off bandwidth hogging applications or services (Dropbox, Google Drive, web cams, backup services) to increase the call quality.
5:26 You can also use Skype or FaceTime to chat, but you'll need some way to talk in real time. We don't record in the same room, mostly because we all live in different locations, but also because recording in the same place can cause audio issues in the recording. If you have two people recording in the same room, you'll hear echo in their tracks if they aren't using the same computer and microphone to record, and if they are, you won't get as good sound quality as if each person were using their own mic. So it's actually easier to record in separate places.
8:24 If you want to hear the difference in sound quality, check out Episode 33 (Post-Mortems). We were all in the same room using the same mic when we recorded that episode, and it just doesn't sound as good as when we each have our own mic.
Record Audio Tracks with Quicktime for Higher Quality
9:08 We don't record the audio from the Google Hangout, we open up Quicktime on our Macs and record a track "locally", which gives us separate individual tracks. If you go this route (and you should), make sure you select the highest quality audio settings and the right microphone input before you record. You could also use Garageband or Audacity to record a local track, if you prefer.
Putting the Audio Files Together
9:52 Editing is something you could do yourself, but we have a professional podcast editor, Aaron Dowd, put those tracks together along with the intro and outro. He also does editing, mixing and mastering before sending us the final MP3 file. He also does the show notes for the episodes. This saves us time and he does a better job with editing and mixing than we could.
Hosting the MP3 Files
11:28 After we get the audio back from Aaron, and then we have to host the file somewhere. Many smaller podcasts host the file on the same server as their website, but there are better options for hosting.
11:56 We use Amazon S3 for hosting our MP3 files, and if you wanted to get really fancy, you could put Cloud Front in front of that so your users get faster downloads in their specific location. Amazon S3 is tailer-made for delivering large files so you won't put any additional load on your website server.
13:20 After we upload the file to Amazon S3, we set permissions so that anyone can access or download it. Submitting your RSS feed address to iTunes means that iTunes "watches" your feed, so as soon as we publish the episode in our WordPress site, a new entry gets added to the feed and the next time time someone opens their podcast app, they'll see the new episode there, ready for downloading.
Analytics for Podcasts
14:25 You might be interested in learning about how many people listen to each episode of your show, and there are a few ways to get stats for your podcast. There are custom logging features for Amazon S3, so you could write some code to access that information for S3. That's the complicated way to do, though.
15:47 We pay for premium stats features through our Power Press WordPress plugin. Power Press uses a URL redirect to count hits to our MP3 link. However, we do know from previous experience that iTunes caches their files, so you probably aren't getting 100% accuracy with those download numbers.
18:17 For Shoptalk Show, we host our files through Simplecast, which gives us various stats through their system. Simplecast is also an all-in-one hosting solution for podcasts, so if you are interested in started a podcast, check it out.
19:17 We need more specific stats for Shoptalk because we sell ads, and we need numbers to show to advertisers. We aren't doing CodePen Radio to make money, we just enjoy doing it. It's fun to talk to each other and learn things about the business and share what we've learned with our community.
Choosing a Topic Each Week
23:15 We pick a theme each week to help guide the conversation and keep us on track, but we don't spend a ton of time preparing for each episode. We have an open Github issue where we keep topics that we want to cover.
24:50 We do get feedback from people on Twitter saying that they appreciate that we stay on topic, and this is why choosing a theme each week in advance is valuable. When you pick a topic, prepare for it, and stay on topic, you're showing that you're respecting the listeners time by not going off the rails.
27:30 The main thing you need to buy is a microphone. Chris uses a Rode Podcaster USB mic, and he's really happy with it, and Tim and Alex use Audio Technica and Shure microphone, respectively. If you want a more in depth guide to gear, Aaron did a whole podcast episode about gear that you can check out.
Show Notes and Transcriptions
30:14 We mostly rely on what Aaron sends us, sometimes making a few changes, but it's common wisdom that if you do a podcast, you should have show notes.
Note from Aaron: I'm going to break the fourth wall here and say that you should at least provide listeners with a description of the topic(s) that you discussed in the episode, along with links to anything you mention. I think that providing extremely detailed show notes is valuable to your listeners, and I did an episode about show notes and writing that you can listen to if you want to learn more.
31:19 It's a good idea to get your show transcribed so that people with hearing disabilities can read the transcript and get value from your shows. For the Shoptalk Show, we use Pham Transcription Services.
Podcasting Takes Time
33:04 Podcast is always going to take time, so if you're short on time, look for ways to outsource the work. It's extremely difficult to make a living from podcasting, but like blogging, it has many benefits.
We hope you've enjoyed this inside look at our podcast process. If you have any additional questions, please leave them in the comments!
- Best RSS Reader
- How to Record an Audio Track with Quicktime or Audacity (screencast)
- The Podcast Dude
- Bluberry PowerPress (WordPress Plugin)
- How to Submit a Podcast to iTunes
- Hosting Podcast Files with Amazon S3
- CodePen Radio - Post Mortem
- ShopTalk Show
- GitHub Issues
- Podcasting Equipment Guide
- Pham Transcription Services