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Entries in Podcasting (8)

Wednesday
Jan112012

Guest on Nonprofit Radio January 13th at 1 PM

I'll be a guest on Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio talking about Podcasting for nonprofilts. 

Join me - you'll be able to listen live or grab the podcast next week.

Friday
Aug052011

Mixlr Adds Support for SoundCloud, AudioBoo, MixCloud and Dropbox 

Mixlr, the company that brought the simplicity of web video streaming to audio, has just announced integration with the biggest audio sharing services on the web.

You'll now be able to export your captured live streams to SoundCloud, AudioBoo, MixCloud and Dropbox. (OK, Dropbox isn't just an audio sharing service, but being able to export to Dropbox makes for a nice, simple production workflow.)

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun142011

New iOS Podcasting Workflow

Since I began podcasting in 2006, I've been using a variety of methods to record audio, both in the studio and remotely.

I use Macs exclusively and my experiments have included full simultaneous multi-track recording in Garageband using a Firewire mixer, to simply using a conference phone and a pocket recorder to capture phone interviews.

I finally settled upon Audio HiJack Pro for both local and remote recording as the software enables me to capture both sides of a Skype conversation in a single audio file.

This setup worked great for years with only minor hiccups. Finally, a few weeks ago, I had some weirdness occur in this setup and I lost an entire 90-minute episode.

For whatever reason, the Skype connection dropped. We immediately reconnected and everything sounded fine during recording. However, when I played the file back, the audio coming from the studio mics from that point forward was completely garbled. (My caller sounded fine, which was even more strange.)

Sure, we had a good conversation - in fact, it would have been a great episode -  but I wasted everyone's time by not having a better solution for monitoring the audio.

Fixing It

To say that I have a few gadgets in my studio would be a gross understatement so I decided to take stock of my gear and pull together a simple, reliable method for capturing local and remote audio.

Here's the result.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan292010

Consumer Attitudes on Podcast Advertising

Thursday
May142009

The Strategies and Tactics of Show Prep

Unlike Kris and Betsy, for most of us, life isn't show prep. It's actually real work.

I have some basic concepts that I consider during show prep, production and post-production.

  • I want to minimize post-production. It's a time suck and some people can really get obsessive about it (ahem...). You want to produce the best media possible, but if it's only one of many things you do every day (like me) you want to have to do as little as possible.
  • It needs to be easy to collaborate with others. I have three co-hosts and a number of guests at any given time. People need to be able contribute topics that they feel are worth discussing while learning what others may want to talk about.
  • It needs to be easy for remote participants while maintaining sound quality. Chia-Lin now lives in the Bay Area, so she no longer participates in studio. I need to accommodate her as well as any guests we may have.

With that in mind, here's an overview of the process I use to produce the On Digital Media podcast. Yes, it goes beyond just show prep, but James Andrews asked my about me gear, etc. so I decided to post it all here.

Collection

We typically record on Thursday evenings. Since it's a topical, current events-based show, we have to collect stories that have occurred throughout the week. And, since there are four of us (with the occassional guest) we need a way to collaborate on the story list.

We used to use Delicious to collect stories but since Steve and I do so much of our reading on our iPhones, bookmarking in Delicious just wasn't practical. Nowadays we star items in Google Reader. I prefer to use Shared Items in Google Reader - if it's worth sharing, chances are it's worth discussing.

That process works great for things we find in RSS feeds, but that's not convenient when we find something on a web page. For that, I've recently started using Twine. I've created a Twine called "Digital Media" where I publish interesting stories using the Twine bookmarklet. I also get the added benefit of sharing the item via Twitter.

Organization

Once we've collected a group of stories that are worth discussing, we have to organize them. For this, we use a Google Docs. Usually Steve or I will create a Google Doc and share it with the episode participants.

I usually drop a short script in at the top so I remember to introduce the show, tell people where to subscribe, introduce my co-hosts and guests and allow each of them to get in their plugs.

Headlines, slugs and sometimes entire articles are copied into the Google Doc and loosely organized by topic. On the evening of the show, I will sort the stories for improved flow and better segues.

That said, we don't discuss every item - sometimes we go deep into a particular topic and run out of time. Other times, it's good to have extra items since you never know when it might be interesting to segue into something else in the story list.

Keep in mind - Google Docs allows multiple simultaneous editors. That means we can edit the show notes and every participant can see them in real-time. It works beautifully.

Gear

After doing this for nearly three years, I've pretty much got the gear set up for our weekly(-ish) use without having to touch much.

Studio 1A

Studio 1A is my home office, in the attic (hence, the "A"). On my desk I have an Alesis Multimix Firewire 8, though rarely use the Firewire interface these days. I keep things simple and jack-in to my MacBook using a USB capture card running from the analog I/O ports on the mixer. (It's the USB encoder/decoder that came with my Logitech Premium Notebook Headset.

For microphones, I have a few mic stands and a variety of condenser mics: a couple of MXL 990's, a Kel-Audio HM-1, an AKF Perception 100 along with a few others. Ken needs a pop filter as he has a difficult time remembering to keep a safe distance from the mic. ;)

Headphones are available to everyone. I bought some inexpensive over-the-ear headphones at Radio Shack which are collapsible and can be transported easily. Since over-the-ear headphones can get really hot really fast, I like to use my Shure SE110's in the summer months. (I'm going to upgrade to the SE310K's soon as they have improved bass response.)

Remote Participants

For Chia-Lin and other remote participants I use Skype on my MacBook. Chia-Lin connects to the Studio using a Skype-to-Skype connection. If you have a suitable amount of bandwidth, you can't beat the sound quality of Skype. If I have other guests calling in who do not have Skype, I will call them at a number they specify using SkypeOut. The quality isn't as good as good as a Skype-to-Skype connection, but it doesn't require me to purchase a digital hybrid coupler, which can be expensive.

Recording Live

Right now we use TalkShoe for our live shows. Downloading TalkShow Pro allows me to control my chat room, mute listeners and take questions live from the audience. For this, I also use SkypeOut to call the TalkShoe phone number. There's a VOIP interface that is intended to offer better voice quality, but I haven't had the opportunity to try it.

I still record the shows locally on my Mac even though TalkShoe is recording everything on their central servers. (I'm a belt and suspenders kind of guy when it come to recording: you never know when something can go wrong so it's good to have multiple recorders rolling.)

I'm expermimenting with a Shoutcast server for better live sound quality. Will post something on that soon.

Post Production

I run everything through the Levelator, edit in Fission, lay it out with music, intros and outros in GarageBand and edit ID3 metadata using iTunes. I currently publish to a Wordpress blog using PodPress, but that will change. More on my workflow here.

Any questions? Comments? Tips? Post them in the comments.

Wednesday
Apr222009

How to Create Great Media at Conferences and Events

Conferences and other events can be great opportunities to connect with thought leaders in your industry and create buzz around your attendance while you're there.

One way to do this is to capture audio and video interviews with influentials while you're there and post them in your blog, web site, podcast or on YouTube and other sites that share and distribute digital media. However, you shouldn't just show up with a microphone or camera and hope that people will stop by to be interviewed.


After producing dozens of events like this, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my successes and failures. This guide just scratches the surface, but I hope you find it a good primer. 

Get a Booth

A "booth" or exhibit space is typically 10' x 10' but if you're just planning to record interviews, it doesn't have to be that large - just enough for two tall chairs ("bar stool" height) and your microphones and cameras. In fact, you don't even have to get a standalone exhibit space. Many conferences will offer small, "pre-built" conference booths that are comingled with other small companies - all you have to do is show up.

With that said, be clear about your goals: If you are using the interviews as a means to generate interest in your booth so that you can engage prospects for your product or service, be sure to spring for the 10' x 10' space (or larger, if you can afford it).

Why take any space at all? Simple: Presence. You want people to see your brand and what you're discussing while there and hopefully attract audience, potential interview candidates and prospects for your business (if applicable).

Regardless of the size of your space, spend the money to produce some good graphics that you can use consistently. A "banner stand" is a good tool for this. They are cheap and can function as a good backdrop for photos and video. If you need larger graphics, you can purchase multiple banner stands that, when next to each other, create the illusion of a large, nearly seamless background.

I've used Skyline's "Exalt" system to great effect.

From Skyline.com:

"Exalt is the ultimate banner stand. It features a slender base, bold fabric graphics and converts from linear to curved with the simple flick of levers. A single unit with soft case weighs only about 12 lbs. (6 kg)."


As you can see, the panels can be used together as a backdrop for a 10' x 10' booth or individually, if you design them with that in mind.

Broadcast Live

Delivering the interview as a podcast or as an embedded on-demand video is great, but people respond well to the concept of "real-time." It creates a sense of urgency to your interview request and presents the interview to the "real-time web". There are a number of services that enable you to do this cheaply or for free. For video, you can use Ustream.tv, Kyte, Qik and others. For audio, you can use TalkShoe or a Shoutcast server.

Keep in mind, you've just increased your costs dramatically. An ethernet connection at a conference can cost thousands of dollars. Even a standard telephone line can cost a few hundred dollars (and that may not even include toll charges). However, it can be well worth the expense if you plan ahead and secure good guests.

When you're done broadcasting, you can package everything up for podcast delivery at a later time. Be sure that you are able to download the audio or video from the broadcasting service that you're using as you may want to syndicate it using your existing podcast feed, if you have one. Also stay away from services that may make ridiculous claims of ownership to your content. It's your hard work, don't give up ownership to anyone unless it's advantageous to both parties.

Schedule Interviews in Advance

See if you can find out in advance who will be attending the conference or event. Reach out to everyone in your network using email and all your social media tools (twitter, facebook, friendfeed, etc.).

Another way is to contact the event organizer and ask for an attendee list. Many will be reluctant to share this list, but it will help your cause if you explain to the organizer what you'll be doing and ask ONLY for names and titles - not contact information. This diminishes any appearance of impropriety on your part and you can always find a way to reach these folks once you have the list. Of course, it will really help if you get a booth or exhibit space. (see above)

Next, prepare your target guest list. Who would make an all-star line-up for your series of interviews? Reach out to every potential guest in your network and on the attendee list, but also see who might be in their respective networks. Reaching out by telephone is the most personal method but if you're pressed for time, email will work.

Prepare an email to be sent to potential guests but be sure to address each one individually and personalize it before you send it. Nothing says "I'm trawling for guests," like an impersonal mass email.

NOTE: Keep egos in mind here.There may be people whom you may use as a conduit to reach your ultimate interview target that may be insulted that you didn't ask them to participate. Tread lightly.

Rights

Let your guests know upfront that you'll be asking them to sign a release to allow you to use the content as you see fit. Unless you're a media company, you won't likely be generating revenue directly from these recordings but you should still be sure that you have the right to use them in a reasonable manner. You can find a release online, but you may want to have your attorney review it before using it.

Post Your Schedule Online

As soon as you secure your first couple of guests, post your interview schedule online - ideally, on your blog. (You are blogging, right?) Post the link to the schedule on twitter, bookmark it in delicious.com, digg it, etc. Re-post it to twitter each time you make a change to the schedule. When you add or reschedule a guest, be sure to mention the guests name in your tweet - your guest will enjoy the exposure and it will be a good attractor for you and your efforts. If you have a booth #, be sure to include wherever you can as it will likely be listed in the program guide that attendees receive when they arrive at the event.

I like to post these types of things in the FaceBook Events application and invite everyone in my network to attend. Even if they don't RSVP, you will have at least had an opportunity to expose them to what you're doing. If it's a professional event, you can do the same thing in LinkedIn.

For an added lift in exposure, list each guest interview as a separate event. People might not be interested in every guest that you've scheduled, but one of your guests may entice them to tune in to your live broadcast from their desks or stop by your booth to hear them speak. The only challenge with this is that guests reschedule or sometimes cancel and you'll have to update your FaceBook Events. Only you can decide if you want to do this or if you have the capacity to coordinate all of it.

This is a good time to touch on the subject of logistics: Regardless of your goals for the event, don't ever work alone. At a minimum, you should have someone ensuring that your gear is functioning properly and that guests are arriving on time. It also doesn't hurt to have a third person walking the show floor and grab guests for open slots or invite attendees to come listen.

Post Your Schedule at the Event

Posting your schedule isn't just show prep - it's an ongoing effort throughout the event, especially as your guests reschedule or don't show (see below). At a minimum, have a dry-erase board with your interview schedule for all to see. If you can, create a self-running, looping presentation using Apple Keynote or Microsoft PowerPoint with your schedule. In addition to the schedule, you can post pictures of your guests, their bios and their affiliation.

A word on scheduling:

Guess what? You're going to have guests that don't show up. They may have forgotten, they may have had business to attend to or they may have been snagged for an interview with a major media outlet. Don't take it personally. It happens to everyone.

However, here are some tips to ensure that your guests show up:

  • Have their email addresses handy
    Most business people carry BlackBerries or iPhones and will be checking their email at the event. Send them an email one hour before their scheduled appearance.
  • Get their cell phone numbers
    I like to text my guests and hour before their scheduled appearance, then again fifteen minutes before. If they aren't there five minutes before they're scheduled, call them.  At that point, you've done all you can. If they don't show, take a break and get a snack.

Be Loud

Your interviews will only be interesting to passers by if they can hear them. Bring a small PA system with you so that you and your guests can be heard across the aisle of the exhibit hall floor. Any louder than that and you might raise the ire of the adjacent exhibitors.

I've used the Califone PresentationPro 300 PLUS with great success. Placing it on the floor and in front of you helps prevent feeding back or echoes in your recording.

Go for Groups

If one guest is good, three may be better - especially if some of them are known to be opinionated and vocal. If you have the space and appropriate gear, invite three guests to participate in a panel discussion with you as the host/moderator.

Again, this increases costs dramatically. You'll need to have headsets and microphones for each of them and if you're shooting video, you may need to widen your shot or even add a second camera. That said, three experts discussing a subject which they find themselves passionate about can make for a great draw of crowds - and great media to distribute later.

Allow Questions

If you're able, reserve a microphone at the event for the audience to ask questions. It makes it much more engaging to passers-by knowing that they can initiate a dialogue with your experts and can help keep the conversation flowing. If you're using a live streaming application, be sure to activate the chat room so that people tuning in can ask questions from afar.

Encourage inquisitors to state their name, title and affiliation. A little self-promotion always greases the proverbial wheels.

Give Away Something Cool

Yeah, drawings and giveaways are standard fare at conferences and events but you can use them in conjunction with your media creation efforts to really increase visits to your booth and your live stream. Selection of the giveaway is dependent on your budget and what your company produces in its core business. Since you're producing digital media, you can give away something digital media-related - an iPod or iPhone is always a great gadget to get people excited. Regardless of what you select, the process should be the same:

 

  • Tell everyone that you're going to give it away during one of the live broadcasts/recordings and that one of your guests will perform the deed.
  • Give away two of them - one for the folks participating in your live stream and one for the folks at the event.
  • Provide a mechanism for people to enter the drawing. Email works for the online participants and of course, a good ol' business card will work for the folks at the event. You can also get a badge scanner that has the ability to select a random winner designed for just these sorts of things.
  • Produce a large sign announcing the giveaway and have it perpetually visible at your booth.
  • Post a similar message in all your online event listings.
  • Always give it away on the last day of the conference. Do it randomly so that people have an incentive to stop by the booth or listen online throughout the last day.

 

Do you have any other tips? Post them in the comments.

Tuesday
Oct072008

Interview on ShoeMoney.com

I was interviewed by Jeremy Schoemaker of ShoeMoney.com at BlogWorld Expo on behalf of BlogTalkRadio.


Original post here. Some good comments.

Wednesday
Jan242007

My Podcast Workflow Sucks

Yes, even with the new toys I've gotten recently, I'm becoming frustrated by my podcast workflow. Sometimes it's due to the limitations of my software, other times it's my inability to let go of some of the details.

Here's the laborious process I go through each week when producing On Digital Media:

First, I bookmark items of interest in a del.icio.us account. Our panel of digital media geeks reviews them (hopefully before we record) and makes suggestions.

When everyone arrives at Studio 1A ("A" stands for "Attic", which is the location of my home office) ;) we usually have a glass of wine and some takeout, then review the list of stories. Someone takes notes while I set everyone's levels and connect the backup recorder. (My Zoom H4 Handy Recorder)

Recording primarily takes place in Garageband. Last December I discovered that Garageband will do simultaneous multi-track recording of up to 8 tracks. I use it with my Alesis MultiMix 8 Firewire Mixer and it works great.

Once we've got levels set and have decided upon the list of topics to cover, I record the intro. When I'm happy with it we'll start recording the episode.

Everything's fine up until this point. It's post production that gets to be cumbersome.

First, I'll drop music into the intro and outro, along with the standard disclaimer at the end. Then, I'll try to remove the "ums" and "ahs" from where the music beds are.

Next, I'll export the audio to iTunes. Because there are usually 4-5 active tracks, each with vocal processing, the mixdown and export can take up to 20 minutes, depending on the length of the audio.

TIP: if you "Export to Disk" in the highest possible quality, it can only be saved as an M4a file. However, if you "Send to iTunes" it arrives in the iTunes library as an uncompressed AIFF file.

Now, this is where my work ethic gets in my way. I'll import the file into Audacity and proceed to clean it up. That means removing everyone's "ums", "ahs", "youknows", and occasional inappropriate language or comments. (Hey, it happens.)

This takes forever as I need to review the entire 45-60 minute show in real-time and make edits. While I'm doing this, I'm also writing the show notes. This is usually the best time to do it since I'm able to get the timeline of the topics correct.

When I'm satisfied with all the edits, I'll export the project as a WAV file. This takes about 10 minutes on my MacBook.

Still more to do.

I'll launch the miraculous Levalator from GigaVox Media. I can't say enough about this application. If you produce a podcast, go get it. Now. It usually takes The Levelator about 10 minutes to process a 60 minute show on my MacBook.

When that process is complete, I'll encode the WAV file to MP3 using the LAME encoder in Max. (The iTunes MP3 encoder just isn't as robust.)

When that's completed, I have to wait for the (roughly) 58 MB file to upload at a painful 46 Kbps. (I cannot wait for my Verizon FiOS service!)

While that's happening, I usually embed the appropriate links into the show notes.

Finally, after the file is uploaded and PodPress has automagically identified the file size and duration, I'll post the show in WordPress, manually ping FeedBurner then manually kick off a download in iTunes to make sure everything's working. Then I'll go to bed.

All in, post production can take up to 4 hours, including the time it takes to upload and encode.

How can I improve this? Probably in a few ways:

1) Become a better speaker on-mic. If I were more mindful of my vocal patterns, I could probably reduce my "ums" and "ahs". Of course, I would also have to convince my co-hosts to do the same and that's probably not going to happen. (After all, this is a casual endeavor.) Doing this however, would allow me to go from AIFF to Levelator to MP3 without having to edit the file.

2) In the absence of #1, I could just deal with the imperfections. I really doubt that I'll lower my standards in this area, so...

I guess I'm stuck with my sucky workflow, unless someone has a better idea.