If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, I’m going to tell you right now that it’s no easy task. Think Master’s Degree but not nearly as enjoyable. That’s not to say you shouldn’t start one because it can (and better be) fun but it takes a LOT more time than you think it will.
What not to expect: This is not a step-by-step guide on how to create a podcast. I have no interest in working that hard….
So here we go. A weekly journal of all the fun and ugliness that only creating the Podcast Gumbo podcast can bring. I want you to know the good and the bad. This show, especially when starting, will have plenty of warts. Hopefully reading about them will help you.
I take no responsibility for any psychiatric help you may require for this peek into my cerebral cortex.
Note: I will update this article on a weekly basis, usually on Tuesdays. So bookmark this page if you think this is even remotely helpful as you consider creating your own podcast.
Table of Contents
- Podweek 1 (1/7/20) – And So It Begins
- Podweek 2 (1/14/20) – ‘Launch to Learn’
- Podweek 3 (1/21/20) – K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sh*thead
- Podweek 4 (1/28/20) – “Your show is great. I love it.”
- Podweek 5 (2/4/20) – Dressed For (Un)Success
- Podweek 6 (2/11/20) – It’s YOUR Podcast
- Podweek 7 (2/18/20) – My Gear
Podweek 1 (1/7/20)
And So It Begins
Way back in mid-2018, I was lucky enough to have met Julie Shapiro, Executive Producer of Radiotopia at the Podcast Garage. I had a bunch of podcast ideas spinning around my addled brain and she simply told me that I needed to choose an idea that I loved. Honestly, I expected something more valuable and thought-provoking from someone so important in the podcast community. It took a long time for it to seep through the deaf stonewall known as my skull that it was the best piece of advice I have ever gotten. At least podcasting-wise. Nothing really can top this life-changing tip.
Those two things are too essential to bundle with other information so that’s all you’re getting this week.
This Week’s Podcast Gumbo Episode – National Fruitcake Toss Day
Podweek 2 (1/14/20)
‘Launch to Learn’
It’s only week two and I’m giving you an inspirational quote. I promise to minimize them throughout the year.
I read that quote somewhere recently and it hit home. You see, I spent a year and a half learning all about podcasts. I’ve even given feedback to podcasters starting their podcasts. (You can ask them whether I had anything valuable to say.) My over-confidence was stunning.
As I prepared to drop the trailer, complete panic set in as I went through the process.
- Do I need a trailer?
- Do I want/need a tracking feed like Chartable or Podtrac?
- Who do I tell beside my dog?
- Do I need to own my RSS feed?
- How long will it take for my show to show up in Apple, Google, Spotify, and other platforms?
- What’s the best color to use for my show art?
- Who is going to cook for me while I spend endless amounts of time scratching my head figuring out answers?
The worst part was that those are just 7 questions that I hadn’t thought much about or didn’t even know to worry about. So many others came up. Technical. Marketing. Website. Social Media. It felt like I was picking a 2005 health insurance plan but way worse.
As a solo creator, you realize that you can’t possibly know everything at launch but more importantly, the only true way to learn is to launch. Your podcast won’t be perfect but then again, it never will be – you will always be wanting to make it better. At least I hope you do. So launch it and just plug away.
Lastly, DM if you want to know what legal substances I take for helping my imposter syndrome. It’s bad.
Improvements – a) Added audio cues this week (starting with National Popcorn Day). Even though the podcast is short, I felt the need to give listeners little cues that a new segment was starting. b) Thanks to RadioPublic advice, I’ve added a How to Listen page on this website.
Helpful Resource of the Week – Want to start a podcast? Read this first.
This Week’s Podcast Gumbo Episode – National Rubber Ducky Day
Podweek 3 (1/21/20)
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sh*thead)
As I’ve mentioned previously, my show was languishing in my head for over a year. And then it all came together quickly and in a semi-unexpected way.
I was at the 2019 Third Coast Conference and not knowing what particular session I wanted to go to, I took a flyer on a mentoring session. Not the first thing I thought I would be attending at an audio festival.
As it turned out, I sat next to Brad Turner, a senior producer for the On Something podcast. Brad and I had met a couple of times previously but on this occasion, the facilitators made us tell the person next to us some goals we had and that person would mentor us. As I explained my convoluted idea to Brad, he said to keep it simple. (He kindly left off the sh*thead part.)
So I went back to the drawing board. How could I keep my podcast simple? I honestly don’t remember all the bad ideas I flushed away. One half-baked idea that I half-executed as a test was to have non-podcasting friends suggest National Days for me to research. And then I thought I would allow random people call a voicemail number and leave me audio. These ideas are not as simple as you would expect.
Then it hit me. Have my podcasting friends challenge me and send me audio. They had the ability to send me good audio and they would instantly get over a million new listeners to their show within 1Q20 because my show would be that popular. They help me. I help them. Win-win.
Improvements – I never thought I would add music to my short show but after playing around with audio cues, I realized there is a need. So while you won’t hear this improvement for a couple of weeks, it’s something I’m working on.
Helpful Resource of the Week – Podcasting 101 from PRX and Google
This Week’s Podcast Gumbo Episode – National Popcorn Day
Podweek 4 (1/28/20)
“Your show is great. I love it.”
You would think that’s kinda nice to hear, right? Don’t we all want people making us feel all warm and fuzzy? Not always.
As my friend Lori was excitedly creating the trailer for her Mementos podcast, she was asking various people for feedback. Of course, I jumped at the chance to tell her that it was subpar and make her cry. Somehow, it makes me feel superior when I can do that.
But she shoved that right back in my face and thanked me. You see, she had asked some co-workers and they all told her how great it was. But that wasn’t what she needed. Her trailer (at that point), needed to get better. Two weeks later, she came out with her fantastic trailer. I’m not saying that it was all because of me but coincidence? I think not.
There’s probably going to be a running theme in all of these diary entries. If you haven’t figured it out, it’s that you need people to succeed. (And no, not just those faceless downloaders.) I have been lucky to have met and ultimately lean on so many great people for help that I respect. This is not to say that you don’t ask your friends who are going to be nice and supportive. Just make sure you know what you need and ask for feedback from people that are best suited to give it to you to make your podcast better.
Improvements – I’ve got my intro music nailed down. Now working on updating the audio cues and the outro. I’m going to release them all at the same time so you won’t hear them yet.
Helpful Resource of the Week – How to do loudness: the LUFS and LKFS FAQ for podcasters
This Week’s Podcast Gumbo Episode – National Opposite Day
Podweek 5 (2/4/20)
Dressed For (Un)Success
For many podcasters, we have a limited budget. Some have no budget. So a nice sound studio is umm, not an option. Luckily, many of us have a decent free option – a clothes closet. The reason is that if you’re in a room filled with cute, cuddly soft clothes and a decent door, you can a) minimize the amount of ambient noise your mic will pick up and b) your voice won’t be bouncing all over the place.
For the first five episodes of Podcast Gumbo, I’ve recorded in the closet you see pictured above. I’m pretty happy with the results. I haven’t had to do any fixing in post-production because I’ve been able to control the sound exceptionally well. It also sounds reasonably warm using an inexpensive mic. (Important note – right outside the closet, I have two sketchily-sealed windows that face a busy highway. Trucks and cars are not my friends. )
But as you can see, it’s no walk-in closet. I’m jammed in there. I can barely close the door. And that, I’m beginning to realize, is a problem.
In my quest to improve my delivery, mainly to make me sound more natural, I’m hindered by being crammed into a tiny closet. As a podcaster, you are always trying to improve your delivery. For me, it’s unnatural and I’m a long way from feeling comfortable behind a mic. I don’t flail my arms around like a crazy person while I talk, but I also don’t usually sit in a closet talking to myself either. (At least on most days.)
So there’s the problem. I’ve got to figure out how to get good sounding audio that also sounds natural. On the cheap.
I’ve talked to multiple people about this. I’ve heard lots of interesting tips and tricks. Stand up. Practice numerous times before hitting the record button. Put a picture of someone in front of me so it seems like I am talking to them.
As I continue to put out my weekly episodes, this will always be at the forefront of issues. I hope this gets better sooner than later.
All that said, another huge issue I’m committed to this month is my marketing. Sure, 13 downloads per episode are nice but that’s not going to cut it much longer.
So much to learn and do.
Improvements – a) There’s been a lot of talk about podcast privacy issues lately. In my show notes, I’ve added information about my use of Chartable and a link to their privacy statement. b) There’s a good chance I will have my music done by the February 11th episode. YES!
Helpful Resource of the Week – Most shows ask for ratings and reviews to help increase exposure. This is an informative and entertaining Darknet Diaries episode that explains whether it helps or not.
This Week’s Podcast Gumbo Episode – National Create a Vacuum Day
Podweek 6 (2/11/20)
It’s YOUR Podcast
I never thought I would be writing about this topic. Call me ignorant.
Because national days are pretty much set in stone, if I’m not lazy, I can get way ahead of my episodes. I don’t have to wait to plan out a year’s worth of episodes. In a future post, I’m going to share my planning schedule with you. (I can sense the excitement already!)
One of the key issues I thought about when creating my show was how I could make it sustainable. How could I keep friction to a minimum? Keeping it short was critical. Not having to rely on a co-host’s schedule was also important.
Since you’ve listened to an episode of my show (don’t dare say you haven’t!), you’ll know that I include a 15ish-second piece of audio from my friend asking me about a national day. They also recommend one of their favorite podcast episodes. It’s not a big ask. At least not in my mind.
This week, my guest never sent me their audio. Given that I am always in the mindset of being consistent, I was left scrambling to find another guest. Trust me when I say that due to other unforeseen circumstances, I seriously thought of bailing on this week’s episode. Nobody would really care. Except me.
So I scrambled. Thanks to my friend Jenna Spinelle, one of the hosts of the Democracy Works podcast, I was bailed out of a tough spot.
So what is this entry about? When I think about it, it’s about two things.
- Your podcast is YOUR podcast. You can’t expect any guest to put as much importance on it as you do, no matter how small their role is. Your schedule is not their schedule. A friend of mine interviews people and the gripe is that scheduling guests is the worst part of creating the show.
- Have a backup plan. I know what Mr. Kim says but your sanity needs one. I didn’t have one and it was miserable even though it worked out well in the end.
For transparency’s sake, I now have all my guests confirmed through 3/25 AND I have most of their audio as well. If you’re a guest and reading this post, SEND ME YOUR AUDIO OR NO MORE CUTE EMOJI’S FROM ME.
As sucky as it was to have to scramble, this was a great lesson learned.
On a side note, I went down a LUFS rabbit hole this past week. Stay tuned. I also had a dream last night that people were giving me feedback on my show and it was hurtful. I have never been so happy to wake up at 4am.
Improvements – Listen to that music! It’s 98% done but in the spirit of progress over perfection, I wanted to release it now. I’ll make minor tweaks in the future. Make #JimMakesAwesomeMusic go viral.
Helpful Resource of the Week – I’ve been a part of the Bello Collective community for about a year and I love it. This is their Podcasting 101 resource.
Podcast Gumbo Episode – National Make a Friend Day
I purposely held back on this information as it is so secondary to everything else I’ve talked about. It’s about gear. Specifically, my gear.
It’s honestly cringeworthy to join some Facebook groups or subreddits and have to sift through all the SAME questions. What mic should I use? What’s the best hosting plan? What editing software should I edit with? I had to stop visiting most of those resources because it was so painful.
I refuse to add yet another answer that is going to confuse you. All I can tell you is what I use. The whole point of this is for you to know what I use and if you listen to my podcast, knowing what the results are.
Microphone: Samson Q2U. When I started to consider making a podcast, I knew I needed a mic. (Say, duh!) I had borrowed a friend’s Blue Yeti. I tried Apple Earbuds. After doing some research, I bought this Samson because it was low-cost and had gotten decent reviews. It was comparable to the Audio-Technica ATR2100 that so many people like. I got mine on sale for $40 which is about half the price of the ATR2100. It has a foam filter and a mini-stand in the kit. Weirdly, I’m trying not to drool over the soon to be released Samson Q9U.
Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M30x. First of all, get yourself a real set of headphones. They don’t have to be super-expensive. These are about $70 but someone gave them to me. This is a story I will share at a later time.
Audio Production Facility: My closet. Is it perfect? No. Is it sufficient? You tell me. I wrote about it in Podweek 5.
Podcast Hosting: Captivate. Is it the best? I have no idea. It’s relatively new so there’s a risk. The price is decent but certainly far from the cheapest. I could take the safe way out and go with one of the big names. The reason why I chose Captivate? Mark Asquith. End of story. It would take a lengthy post to help you understand why it was important for me to support Mark and his company. Maybe one day I will write that post.
Editing Software: Hindenburg. I trialed so many pieces of software. When I was dabbling a year ago, I even tried using Final Cut Pro 7, which I used as a video editor many years ago. I have looked at Audacity, Reaper, GarageBand. I didn’t trial Adobe Audition because I didn’t want that ongoing monthly cost. Pro Tools and Logic were scratched due to cost. I continued to come back to Hindenburg because, for me, it has a very simple interface that belies its power.
Post Production Plugins iZotope RX 7 Standard. I have it but I haven’t learned it so I have yet to use it on my files yet. But that may be coming soon. (See Issues below.)
Other Post Production: Auphonic. Due to some things that have just cropped up, I may stop using Auphonic. If your audio is lengthy and the levels are all over the place, I would recommend trialing this software.
ID Tagging: – ID Tag Editor. I am anal and want my files to be tagged appropriately. It’s very debatable on whether it matters but it only takes 5 minutes for me to do it so I do it. If it took longer, I would probably not bother. There’s a chance I can do this in Hindenburg so this may be going away as well.
Issues – Someone I trust said that he could hear a hiss through my audio. I don’t hear it so I have to do some digging. I also felt like last week’s episode had a lot of mouth clicks. I just loaded iZotope RX 7 on my laptop and need to do some research.
Improvements – a) It was very smartly suggested that I have an easy way to read this ever-lengthening article so I put in a table of contents. Not everything is about the technical aspect of the podcast. b) I’ve set up a template in Hindenburg to save a little time creating my podcast. Every little bit helps.
Helpful Resource of the Week – Tweet: If you were given $1000 to spend on your podcast, what would you get? That second answer by Martha Lawton is the only answer. It’s costly to attend events but the benefit of meeting people in the industry is invaluable. The seminars are secondary.
Podcast Gumbo Episode – National Make a Friend Day
Coming around February 25th.