Teaching Transformations Podcast Episode 9: Podcast About Podcasts

Teaching Transformations

Podcast About Podcasts

In this week’s episode, the fellas discuss Tim’s past podcasts and the steps it takes to realize when it’s time to move on from one. Tune in for their tips and tricks on starting a podcast for beginners!

The Teaching Transformations Podcast. Join Tim Desmond Ryan Wooley as they help teachers in their late forties or fifties to design a post-academic life.

Seize the Day!

Transcript:

Tim  0:01  

Welcome to Teaching Transformations: Designing Your Post-Career Life with Tim Desmond and Ryan Wooley.

Ryan  0:12  

So, did you get your run in today?

Tim  0:14  

I did. Today was a nice running day.

Ryan  0:18  

You get it in every day, don’t you?

Tim  0:21  

I do. Yeah, it’s changed a little bit. I was going every other day. I was running forty miles a week which was the equivalent of three half marathons a week, and I started getting heart palpitations. I did a little research on it, and extreme endurance exercise can trigger heart palpitations. At age fifty, I was like, I’m not gonna push the envelope on that., so I really pulled back on the running. Now I’m doing about fifteen to sixteen miles a week, and I’m doing that over five days.

Ryan  1:03  

Okay. That sounds reasonable.

Tim  1:06  

It is. What it works out to is a thirty minute run on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and a twenty minute run on Tuesday and Thursday.

Ryan  1:15  

I started back again a couple days ago. 

Tim  1:17  

Oh, did you? 

Ryan  1:18  

Gosh, my first day, I seriously thought I was gonna die. It was so bad. It’s been so long, and I used to be able to go for like months and months without running and then just hop right into a four mile run, but oh, it was brutal.

Tim  1:38  

Yeah. I mean, the first couple weeks for me anyways, it’s been about a year since I started running, and I remember those first couple of weeks of March 2020. I was hurting. I couldn’t run for a minute straight. I could go for about thirty, thirty-five seconds, then I had to walk.

Ryan  1:56  

Well, mine were definitely run walks. Do you listen to stuff while you run?

Tim  2:04  

I listen to music. I can’t listen to podcasts. When I run, I need that motivation, so I have a few playlists that I’ve made on Spotify. I’ve tapped into some of the workout playlists that they have. Sometimes I just do artist radio and kind of keep it fresh and unexpected, but yeah, I definitely listen to music. What about you?

Ryan  2:29  

A little bit of both. I do like the spoken word a lot. I kind of go between podcasts, books, and music. More the spoken word I would say in recent years than music when I’m running.

Tim  2:47  

Like Henry Rollins screaming in your ear? Not that kind of spoken word? 

Ryan  2:53  

No, not like that. I don’t find time to really read, so that’s my time just to consume, you know?

Tim  3:07  

That’s a great carrot. It’s been a great carrot for me because I don’t really have the luxury of having dedicated music listening time the way I did when I was a teenager. I tell myself, okay, you get to jam out but only if you’re running or only if you’re exercising. I love that, and I did that at the gym, too. I did it with Netflix at the gym. I was like, you can binge for all those thirty minutes here on the machine. It’s guilt free. 

Ryan  3:38  

Well, that same carrot works with books and stuff. You get to a point in your book and you’re like, I got to put this down now, but I look forward to getting back to it in the next round.

Tim  3:50  

Yeah. It’s a very powerful, positive motivator I found that works in many instances.

Ryan  4:00  

So, today’s topic is going to be a little meta. I want us to talk about podcasts–our podcast and about just the whole topic in general. I want to start with a really open ended question just because I love throwing these kinds of questions at you. What do you know about podcasts?

Tim  4:30  

Oh my, I am the butt of the joke in my industry. Everyone’s always like, how many podcasts does J. Thorn have? I don’t know, two dozen, three? In fact, on The Creative Pad, my friend Joanna just cracked a joke. She’s had the same podcast since 2010 or 2009, and she’s like yeah, J Thorn’s been podcasting as long but not on the same show. I think it’s safe to say I know a little bit about podcasting, and I even dug up some stats. I don’t know if you want to get into that or not, but I have some personal podcasting stats I can share.

Ryan  5:06  

Yeah, just go ahead.

Tim  5:09  

My first podcast episode was May 22, 2014. That was called The Horror Writers Podcast, and it’s still up, and it’s god awful. I can barely listen to it. Since then, and this is through the end of 2020, I had either recorded or produced 868 episodes. By the end of 2021, I will have broken 1000 episodes, and that includes a ten-month hiatus where I didn’t podcast at all, so basically six years of podcasting. It’ll be seven years at about 1000 episodes.

Ryan  5:51  

Wow. 

Tim  5:52  

Yeah, it’s kind of nuts.

Ryan  5:56  

That’s a lot. What drew you to this medium?

Tim  6:03  

Well, I’ve always enjoyed talk radio. I’m a total nerd–sports talk radio, news talk radio. I don’t know if I told the story in this podcast, but one of my favorite talk radio shows used to be Click and Clack. Did you ever listen to Click and Clack? 

Ryan  6:22  

Oh, yeah, definitely.

Tim  6:24  

Love those guys, right. It was a call-in radio show about auto mechanics, but that’s not what the show is. The guys gave advice like relationship advice and money advice. They were just like these two blue collar mechanics out of Boston, and they had this radio show, and I used to listen to that all the time. I always really had an interest in talk radio, and I met my buddy, Jim Kukral, here in Cleveland in, I guess it would have been 2013 or 2014. It was several years after I moved to the area. Podcasting was sort of in its second wave. We’re kind of in a third wave right now. It was in its second wave then, and he said, man, you need to be the horror guy. You need to do a podcast. As a teacher, standing in front of a group of people and talking was easy. You know, that’s one of the advantages we have of being teachers is like the thing that scares people the most, we do it every day as public speaking. I thought, okay, well just put a microphone in front of me and do that, so that’s kind of where the genesis came from.

Ryan  7:31  

Walk me through the different podcasts that you’ve done. So, that horror podcast, how long did that last?

Tim  7:38  

How long is this episode gonna be again? Alright, so I saw my stats up. The Horror Writers Podcast went for seventy-seven episodes, and most of these are weekly, so that gives you some sense. We’re talking about fifty to a year roughly, so The Horror Writers Podcast was about seventy-seven episodes. I’ve had some one-off, like limited series ones. I had one called Dark Arts Theater which was heavy metal, and I did thirty-five episodes of that. I had The Intronaut which was me talking about being an introvert. I did exactly a hundred episodes of that. I had one called Gen X Rockin Talk which was both a podcast and radio show on WJCU, and you were on that podcast. That radio show did about forty-five of those. I did The Writer’s Well with Rachel Heron. We did 190 episodes of that. I did The Career Author with Zack, and we did 214 episodes of that. Standalone Consequences of Rock I did with my old drummer from Threefold Law and my son, and we did ten of those. Writers, Ink. is now up to seventy-some episodes, and that’s what I’m currently doing with JD Barker. We’re on our ninth, I think recording episode right now, and I’m on six or seven with The Author Success Mastermind podcast which I’m doing with my friend Chris. The ones that are current ones that are running are this one, Writers, Ink., and The Author Success Mastermind.

Ryan  9:10  

How much time do you spend each week recording?

Tim  9:14  

I dedicate almost an entire workday to just podcasts. That doesn’t include interviews. Writers, Ink. is an interview format podcast, and those interviews obviously have to take place whenever I can interview people. Including the interview itself, like the prep time and the interview, you’re talking about four to five hours per episode, so I try not to schedule more than one interview per week for Writers, Ink. We’re really ahead, like we’re booked all the way out until December with interviews, but all the other ones I do on Thursday, and that usually includes the recording. I do a little bit of post production, and then I have to kind of set the table for my kids who are my production assistants. Brady does a lot of the show notes and the post production of Writers, Ink., and Brenna is going to be doing it for this podcast, but if you look at my five day workweek, a full day is dedicated just to podcasting.

Ryan  10:16  

And why the weekly interval?

Tim  10:19  

That is what’s bared out over time as to be the sweet spot, and I think it’s more the sweet spot for listeners than it is for podcasters. I dabbled with a daily podcast, and there are very successful daily podcasts, but I think those tend to wear people out unless they’re very specific. Like if it’s a news podcast, that’s something people can listen to on a daily basis. Otherwise, the data suggests that weekly is the sweet spot, daily is too much. Once a month, you’re not staying on people’s radar, so weekly is really ideal. You’ll find it, like if you just do a very casual glance at iTunes or your podcast feed, you’ll see most of those are probably weekly episodes.

Ryan  11:09  

Well, there’s a lot of competition now for our ears, and it seems like if you’re more frequent, people probably would get lost in the shuffle. They want room for other podcasts, I would assume.

Tim  11:26  

Yeah. There’s some interesting statistics around listenership, and all of it has an asterisk next to it because the landscape is shifting so quickly. I mean, the pandemic accelerated a lot of podcasts habits on both sides, both the production and the consumption, and it hasn’t returned to where it was because people’s habits have permanently changed. Commuting was a big part of podcasting. A lot of people listen to podcasts during commutes. Well, a lot of people don’t haven’t had commutes, and some people aren’t gonna have commutes again, so it’s really shifting behaviors. It’s a really interesting time to be in podcasting. It’s definitely having a resurgence. It’s definitely the third wave, and it’s an exciting time to be in podcasting. It’s a good time to start if you’re thinking about it.

Ryan  12:19  

I was just looking up some stats last night, and I got these from a website called podcastinsights.com. They pulled a lot of this stuff from Nielsen. I think these are from Nielsen studies. According to this data, or these data… I always hate that because I think it’s technically these data. There are over around two million podcasts right now. There are forty-seven million episodes as of March 2021, so that’s pretty current data. Just to highlight the growth over the past couple of years, in 2018, there were only about 550,000 podcasts. So, what is that, a 75% increase in just a couple of years? It definitely suggests that listenership is on the rise. 37% or 104 million people listened to a podcast in the last month. That was up from 32% in 2019. sixty-eight million people listen to podcasts weekly. That’s 24% of the population. Sixteen million people in the US are avid podcast fans. Here, I like these two. Podcast listeners subscribed to an average of six shows in the last week, and podcast listeners listen to an average of seven different shows per week, up from five in 2017. That kind of supports that idea of what you were saying about going weekly, but also in some ways, you have to leave room for people to take in other content because I think they would ignore you probably if you just went every day, right?

Tim  14:28  

Yeah. There’s a historical anecdote that I like to use when talking about podcasting which is, you can sound really clever if you go to a cocktail party and say, do you know why cars are as wide as they are? Why are cars like, I don’t what is, six feet or whatever? And people are like, oh, I don’t know why. Well, that was because the Romans built these roads, and they built them wide enough for their chariots. Then they’re like, that’s not as exciting. You think there’s some really deep reasoning behind it, right? Basically what they’re saying is Roman chariots made grooves with their carriages. Things just build on that behavior, and there’s no magic, and podcasting is the same way. I think that there isn’t anything magical about a weekly episode, but it’s the ruts that the Romans made in the 1950s when television shows came out or even weekly radio shows back in the 30s. Weekly was sort of the format for entertainment, and podcasting is just riding those rails. There isn’t anything special about weekly.

Ryan  15:48  

Wow, it says here that comedy is the most popular genre, followed by education and news. Does that surprise you?

Tim  15:57  

Not at all. I mean, if you think about it, comedians have been microphone masters for a long time. They’re funny, and I think people want to laugh, so I’m not surprised at that at all. I am surprised that entertainment isn’t considered a category. I guess comedy is a form of entertainment, but I know when you’re talking about education and news, that doesn’t necessarily take into account entertainment podcasts that are about movies or television shows or pop culture or something like that.

Ryan  16:32  

I wonder if they’re lumping those into education.

Tim  16:34  

Maybe. Could be, yeah.

Ryan  16:38  

What podcasts do you consume or have you consumed?

Tim  16:43  

I’m a bit of a junkie. I’m pulling up my phone right now, and I know no one else can see this video, but like, I don’t know if you can see how many I have.

Ryan  16:52  

Geez, there’s like 300 boxes there.

Tim  16:54  

Yeah, I have probably thirty to forty podcasts that I have in my podcasting app. Now, here’s the thing. You might think this is nuts. I listened to almost all of them on 3x.

Ryan  17:11  

Yep, I’ve heard about this.

Tim  17:14  

I’ve trained myself now, I started gradually bumping the listening speed up. Now I’m to the point where I can listen to a podcast at 3x and still understand what’s being said because the apps are really good. It doesn’t change the pitch, it’s just faster. Back in the old days, change the pitch, and it was like listening to the Chipmunks talking, but it’s not like that now. The other thing is, I let myself off the hook in that if I see an episode of a show that I subscribe to but the episode doesn’t grab me or I start listening and it’s not relevant, I allow myself to skip it, so I don’t listen to every single episode of every single show.

Ryan  17:53  

I think this is why you left your teaching job. You just wanted more time to listen to podcasts. 

Tim  18:03  

Most days, you know, because I’m self employed, and no one’s in the house, most days I have an earbud in. All of those little minutes, like when I’m going downstairs to make a cup of coffee, I’m listening to a podcast. It’s not as though I need to create the time, I’m just utilizing time when I would normally not be doing anything, and I’m here listening to podcasts.

Ryan  18:29  

I like that whole 3x deal because we can apply that to just my voice on our podcast. The one thing I hate is when I listen to our podcast, I sound so slow, so this is for the listeners out there who might be being driven crazy by this. I’m working on it.

Tim  18:49  

They probably already have it on 2x.

Ryan  18:51  

Well, maybe they’ll selectively just speed me up, but you have a lot more experience, so hey, I’m working on it.

Tim  18:59  

That’s right. You’re just building that muscle.

Ryan  19:04  

When I read that thing about comedy, it’s funny because my top podcast right now is Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.

Tim  19:13  

Yeah, you sent that to me. I haven’t listened to that podcast yet, but I’ve heard about it.

Ryan  19:17  

Yeah, I like his style. I like his humor. It’s mostly him interviewing people, and I mean, it’s one famous person after another, and I don’t need a lot of that. I do like the guests that he picks, and his conversations are pretty down to earth. They’re pretty real conversations which is why I relate to that podcast, but I don’t need to be constantly feeding myself information about famous people.

Tim  19:56  

It’s funny you mentioned that because my favorite sort of pleasure podcast right now is Smartlace, and that is Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes, and they interview famous people like Paul McCartney. I don’t really care about famous people, but they’re really funny, and the conversations they have with these people are not what you’re gonna hear on like Entertainment Tonight or whatever the equivalent of that is, I’m so out of touch. I like that comedy, too, so it’s funny that Conan’s is like that, too.

Ryan  20:35  

Well, I mean, famous people are people too, and I like people’s stories, so that’s really the draw. I just think it’d be interesting to have a show with just these stories of real people. Like, do you have to be famous to tell an interesting story? I think there’s a podcast out there in whatever genre that is, for sure. I like a lot of entrepreneurship type podcasts. I’ve listened to a lot of episodes of How I Built This. Startup was a big one for me when that came out, and then that led me to a lot of the other Gimlet shows. Startup was a podcast about the startup of a podcast company which became Gimlet, and then they started a bunch of shows, and that was fun to listen to. I lost interest after a while. I think that’s what happens, and I think that can be on either side of the fence either as a consumer or a producer. I mean, you know, just listening to your list of podcasts, those all just ran through life, and I assume at some point, you just decided, okay, I think this has served its purpose, and I’m ready to move on. Is that hard? 

Tim  22:00  

No, because in the podcasts that I’ve stopped doing with co-hosts, we both came to that conclusion at almost the same time. The best example, or one of the examples is with Zack in The Career Author. We did, I don’t know, 214 episodes. There’s only so many episodes. We could talk about, how do you get a good cover design? Or, what’s the best Amazon category you should be in? There’s only so many times you can talk about that, and there was a period in the last few months where we were really struggling to come up with topics for the show. Then at one point, we were like, should we keep doing this? We kind of said all we needed to say. That happened to me with The Intronaut by myself. I just got to a point where I’m like, okay, I’ve talked about a hundred things that I care about, I’m kind of done. I’ve said that, and I think it’s really healthy to go into that. I love Joanna, but her show’s an outlier. There just aren’t many podcasts that run eleven years because it’s just really hard to sustain that and to find something to talk about. Now, it’s an interview format, so she interviews people, and that’s different.  That changes all the time. Even still, I think you need to go into a podcast with the understanding that at some point, it’s gonna run its course, and that’s okay. That’s just part of the natural evolution of it.

Ryan  23:39  

I’m kind of picturing it like it’s a book that you’re writing in episodes or chapters. Eventually, the book is finished, and it’s time to go write another book. I don’t know if that analogy works at all. 

Tim  23:51  

Yeah, I think it does. I really, I really do. It’s heavily dependent on format. We have a shelf life, this has a shelf life. We’re gonna get to a point where we’re gonna be like, okay, we’ve kind of exhausted the things that we want to talk about. If we were a news podcast, we could go on indefinitely. There’s no limitation on that. If we were doing interviews, and we were doing interviews across industries, that could go on, but even the interview format. For Writers, Ink, we’re up to seventy-some episodes, and we’re doing great, and we’re interviewing really interesting people. At a certain point, either myself or JD or both of us are like, we’re tired of talking to authors or even writers, generally speaking. I can only ask the question so many times of like, what time of day do you write? It’s format dependent, but I think for the majority of podcasters, it’s good to go in just realizing that there is going to be an endpoint, and you’ll feel it.

Ryan  24:59  

Yeah. I’m looking at my list again, and there are a lot of different formats in here. Planet Money was one I listened to for a long time, but then there’s some like Serial, S Town, Dirty John. I mean, these were stories that were told episodically. Tim Ferriss was on my list for a while. Do you know if his is still active? I don’t know if he’s even still doing his.

Tim  25:23  

Oh, yeah, he’s in my queue. I listen to him and James Altucher almost every week, although Ferriss has kind of drifted into more of like the psychedelics for treatment of PTSD, and I have no interest in any of that, so any of those episodes, I normally skip.

Ryan  25:49  

Nerdist. It’s no longer called that. I think it’s been rebranded actually a number of years ago. Id10t, I listened to that for a while. I don’t know if that’s still around.

Tim  26:00  

I think it is.

Ryan  26:04  

Well, it makes sense that you have something to say, and eventually you say it, and then you move on. I mean, you know, that’s kind of the way it should work. I don’t think the goal should be to make it last for longer than it needs to.

Tim  26:23  

Right. I think The Finance Space is a good example. I’ve listened to a lot of entrepreneurship and finance podcasts, and one of my favorites is with Choose a Fi. Choose a Fi is financial independence, and I’ve been listening to Choose a Fi since the beginning. That’s been three or four years, and I still love the guys. I think it’s a great movement. They’re just recycling the same thing. They’re talking about your emergency fund and investing in mutual funds and your fine number, and there’s only so many times I can hear that. It’s no fault to them, it’s just that cycle. I think The Finance Space is a good example. Whatever you’re into, let’s say it’s real estate, once you’ve got a handle on the real estate basics and you’re doing it do you really need the podcast anymore?

Ryan  27:27  

Yeah, it’d be like going back to the same 101 class again after you’ve mastered something, right. This is really for the listeners, can you explain how this podcast fits into the larger scheme of things for us?

Tim  27:48  

That’s a great question because we don’t know yet. It’s a bit of a work in progress. I’m a big fan of Brian Clark. I’m enrolled in his unemployment initiative, unemployable initiative, and we’ve talked about him a few times on the show. He started Copyblogger and built Rainmaker, and he’s now doing Further and Unemployable. He was one of the original internet gurus, the content marketers, and what I like about what Brian is talking about, who’s also our age, which is interesting, is this idea of building an audience instead of a product. Most entrepreneurs and myself included, I’m so guilty of this, we rush out, we build something, and then we try and find an audience to sell it to. Nine times out of ten, that’s gonna fail because you don’t know what the audience wants. You’re building what you want to build, but that’s not necessarily what an audience needs. Brian’s approach is to build a minimally viable audience. Seth Godin talks about this a lot about finding ten people who will tell ten other people about what you’re doing. The way I envisioned it, and and I know you’re a little newer to this, so I don’t know if we necessarily share this vision or not, but what I see the vision for the podcast is, it’s going to allow us to start building an audience who will then tell us what they want from us, which might be nothing. I think that’s a real possibility. I don’t think that’s the case, I have signals that tell me otherwise, but it could be. The podcast gives us a way to build an audience. We’re not investing a ton of money, we’re not taking on venture capital, we’re not bootstrapping with our own life savings to do this. We’re investing our time once a week, and we’re gonna see what happens, so I don’t know exactly what role this podcast is going to fill for us. I can tell you historically, what a podcast has done for me, is it has built that audience, and a small percentage of those people then asked me for things. You know, The Career Author, a very small percentage of the people who listen to The Career Author bought retreats and came on Authors on a Train and did that stuff with Zack. Now with my mastermind stuff, it’s a very small percentage, but the podcast is the proving ground for that. I try to counsel people now, like if you’re starting a podcast, monetization should not even be on the table. You should be using it to build an audience and then finding out number one, does that audience have a pants on fire problem that you can solve? If they do, are they telling you the solutions? Then you can build that. That’s where the monetization comes in. It’s not about being a professional podcaster and just having people write your check.

Ryan  30:59  

Yeah. I’ve had to really adjust to that because like you said earlier, I think this is episode nine now in terms of the number we’ve recorded, and we haven’t even started publishing them yet. I mean, that’s what I want to get into this and our process a little bit, but we don’t know really where it’s headed, and I’m okay with all that because I enjoy these conversations with you. I don’t begrudge that. I feel like I don’t need this to turn into anything, it could just be okay. We had a lot of fun conversations that we recorded, and a few people listened, and that’d be fine with me. When I think about it relative to like investing time into something that might pay off in some way, I have no idea. It feels really weird to sort of spend a lot of time on something and just not know where it’s headed. It’s a little unnerving, I have to say.

Tim  32:07  

Welcome to my world, man. This is what every writer, every novelist, goes through every time they sit down to write a book. That’s even worse because you imagine you could spend six, nine, twelve months writing a novel, and you have no idea if anyone is going to be at all interested. Statistically, Pareto principle, two books are gonna make 90% of your royalties out of ten. Two books out of ten, which means eight out of ten. You’re going to spend all this time and money with no audience, and no one’s going to care even when it’s done. I think for me, the corollary between podcasting and writing novels is so close that I’m like, of course we don’t have an audience yet. We haven’t published yet. The difference is we’re not investing at the same level as I do when I read a novel which is months or years before you know if there’s any interest.

Ryan  33:08  

Well, explain a little bit about why we’ve banked episodes before we’ve started publishing because I’m really following your lead on a lot of this. I know you’ve just learned that this is the way to do things, so can you just talk a little bit about that?

Tim  33:26  

Yeah, there are a couple reasons for it. The one I don’t know if it matters anymore, and the other one certainly does. A few years ago, the advice was you don’t want to launch a podcast with one episode because if someone’s really into it, you want to give them a little bit of a binge experience. You want to have them be able to go somewhere else, so if you just put out one episode, and they really like it, now they have to wait a week. You’re kind of dampening some of that initial enthusiasm. The idea is, and again, this was advice that came out years ago, somebody said that if you release seven episodes at one time and people really enjoy it, you have a better chance of hitting new and noteworthy on iTunes which I think is total bullshit. I think they’re gatekeepers at Apple, and they decide who goes on new and noteworthy. I’ve had podcasts on that that have no correlation to downloads or listens or anything. It was like, oh, somebody likes that, and they stick it on the new and noteworthy page. That’s the reason I think is probably not valid. I still think it’s good to, we haven’t done it yet, but we’re gonna launch for three episodes. It’s a bit of hedging our bets there, and then like, okay, if people really like episode one, they can binge two and three, and then number four will come a week later. We don’t have to bank as many as seven, but we’re also not coming out of the gate with one. That’s one reason. The second reason is just more of a logistics thing. Something I’ve learned over doing 168 podcast episodes is you need a little bit of buffer, you need to be able to produce in a way that’s manageable and fun. The way that you do that is you give yourself a little space. We probably give ourselves more space than we need, but that’s better than not enough. Right now, we’re recording episode nine. We don’t have an episode out yet. We’re going to publish with three which means we have about a six week buffer. There’s a six week delay roughly between the time we record and the time listeners hear the episodes which means if one of us takes a vacation or one of us gets sick or something comes up, we’re not scrambling. We’re like, okay, we got a little bit of a buffer there. More personally, I am terrible with deadlines. I know some people find deadlines very motivating. I find them crippling. If I come up against a deadline, my anxiety rears up and I panic. I think it’s why I don’t procrastinate because the amount of anxiety that creates within me is not worth it. For me, personally, whether I’m doing podcast episodes with other people or by myself, I give myself a personal buffer space. We record The Writers, Ink. on Thursday, and that episode doesn’t air until Monday which means if something goes wrong, we still have Friday, and if something really goes wrong, we still have the weekend. I would not want to be in a situation where we’re recording on Thursday and publishing on Thursday or even Friday morning, so part of it’s my workflow. I think part of it too, is just learning that things will come up. Technical problems will occur, guests will not show up, apps will fail, cars will break down. There are any number of things that come up, so you will have a buffer going. I would say that’s true whether you’re podcasting or writing blog posts or writing short stories like I am right now, giving yourself a little bit of a buffer is just nice insurance.

Ryan  37:08  

For anyone who wants to start a podcast, what do they need?

Tim  37:14  

The first thing they need is they need to fill up their podcast app with dozens of, I’m being a little cheeky, facetious. Yeah, they don’t need to fill it up, but like if you heard podcasting is awesome so you want to start podcasting, that’s the wrong thing to do. I think you have to start as a fan. If you’re like, this podcasting thing is interesting, start listening to them. I would say take at least a couple months of listening to weekly podcasts, several. Listen to solo episodes, listen to long form, serialized fiction, listen to interviews, listen to news clip podcasts, like get a sense of what’s out there. That is the best thing you can possibly do. I give that advice to novelists, too. I say don’t just sit down and start writing a vampire romance. Go read Twilight and go read Vampire Diaries and be familiar with what the expectations are because that’s how you’re going to know what an audience wants, so the first thing that you should do is absolutely become a podcast addict yourself.

Ryan  38:22  

Okay, so let’s say you’ve been listening for a while, you like it, you’ve thought about starting one for a long time. What equipment do you need? What apps? I mean, how do you get it off the ground? I think for somebody who’s never done it I’ve had the luxury of sort of following your lead because you’ve done so many. I thought about doing podcasts for a long time before this, and it seems daunting. I don’t even know where to start. What would we tell people?

Tim  38:57  

There are a lot of resources out there. I can’t think of any off the top of my head that I could cite directly on the episode, but that being said, there’s a couple things you have to keep in mind. People used to say, if you just have a phone, you can start a podcast. That’s a terrible idea. Technically, you can do it like you can record a podcast on your phone. If you have Anchor.fm which is who we used to distribute, you can get the Anchor FM app on your phone, you can record into the app and distribute the episode from your phone. You never have to leave your phone which is a terrible idea, right? It sounds great, but the problem is, in today’s media, people will forgive shitty video. They will not forgive shitty audio. You will lose listeners. There’s something about the listening experience. If it’s not optimal, people will stop listening, and I’ve found that personally. I can verify that. Yes, you can start a podcast on your phone, but I would not recommend it. I think what you would need to do first gear-wise, you basically need a decent USB podcasting microphone. We’re using a little more semi-pro microphones, but you could grab a Yeti snowball, for example. It’s just a $40 mic, and you plug it. It’s a USB mic, you plug it in, you’re good to go. That’s at least hitting a baseline minimum for audio quality. Then, there are free programs that you can record for your podcasts. If you’re doing an interview podcast, you could record it over Zoom. I’m hitting the bare minimum, like these are not recommendations. Zoom audio quality is not great, but I’m talking about just getting started. You can get a USB mic, you can hop on Zoom with a friend, and Zoom will kick you out an mp3 file, and you can upload that to your podcast distributor of choice, so the barrier to entry is pretty low. As far as technically, you can even record with Zoom offline. If you have the Zoom app, you can still record an mp3 file. The only other thing you would need is a form of distribution, so there are a lot of companies now. Transistor FM, Lipson, Acast, we go with Anchor.fm because it’s 100% free, and they’re owned by Spotify, and we feel like Spotify is making a real play in the podcasting space. Again, if you’re talking about the bare minimum, you can open up an Anchor.fm account for free, and you take that mp3 file that you got from Zoom, and you upload it to Anchor and type in your information, and you hit publish. You’ve got a podcast. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that, but the key is that the audio quality has to hit sort of a baseline standard.

Ryan  42:00  

I put a lot of stock in that. I’m sitting on probably $300 worth of gear here. My mic was probably a $200 mic, and then I think this audio interface that takes the sound into the computer is probably another hundred-ish. Then I have a pair of headphones, and to me, that in terms of gear that does it. I think it’s as good as I need it to be until I go.

Tim  42:32  

It’s better than 95% of the podcasters that are out there right now. I hear podcasts with people recording on their laptop built in microphone, and it makes me cringe.

Ryan  42:44  

Yeah. I felt like it was a splurge to spend that much money on this equipment, but at the same time, I felt like it was worth it for me because the quality is important. So, we use this app called Squadcast. You and I are sitting in our homes, respective homes, at the moment. I’m actually surprised my dogs haven’t barked yet because I think this is the first one I’ve recorded from home, and I just assumed that was going to happen at some point, but we’re doing this over a web connection through Squadcast. I think one of its benefits is that it kind of enforces higher quality audio. I tried a microphone at first and it kind of rejected it. It was like, that’s not good enough for us. 

Tim  43:47  

Yeah, I mean, we’re not going to get into the weeds technically, but you get an mp3 or mp4 file from the Zoom. It might be 128k bitrate, it’s highly compressed, it’s not ideal. Squadcast records in CD quality 44.1 16 bit WAV files, so if you know anything about audio technology, you’ll know there’s a tremendous difference in fidelity between those two formats. Again, you don’t have to start with Squadcast, but if you’re looking about getting the best audio quality there, there’s some great tools out there. Now, the way Squadcast records is they record locally on each side, whereas you get buffering on Zoom because it’s recording on a centralized cloud based server, but Squadcast is recording each of our individual tracks on our local computers and then mixes those together behind the scenes, so we don’t get any sort of buffering or internet connectivity issues. Again, it’s the next level thing, but Squa cast is very affordable. I mean, we’re talking $10 or $20 a month. To get really high quality professional sounding audio, it doesn’t require a lot of money these days, not the way it did fifteen or twenty years ago.

Ryan  45:05  

Yeah. Once you get a good recording, I mean, you spend twelve, fourteen hours editing and mixing our episodes, right?

Tim  45:14  

Something like that. Well, fourteen hours or minutes, one of the two. It’s pretty streamlined. With something like Squadcast, you get individual tracks, so you can easily bump the fader up or down to kind of level things out, you trim off the front and back because I don’t do any in-episode editing. I don’t do that for any of my podcasts. I know there’s some podcasters who will sit down and edit out every arm and arm and space. There’s software that does that, and I hate all of that. I hate that approach because it’s unnatural. I want to listen to a conversation, and when people have conversations, they talk over each other and they stutter and they make mistakes. That’s normal. I don’t want a robotic sounding voice in my ear.

Ryan  46:00  

That’s Gimlet’s thing, too. They advertise highly crafted podcasts, they spend a lot of time on production, and it works for them. I wouldn’t say it sounds unnatural, but there’s a whole team of people doing that. In whole, there’s a lot of expense in making it work that way and a lot of time.

Tim  46:31  

That’s a scripted podcast, this is unscripted. I think that’s the difference, too. I’ve done scripted podcasts. Consequences of Rock was scripted. I went down to the Tri-C campus at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s archive. For every episode, I spent two or three days in the stacks taking notes. I did four or five revisions of the script. I sent it to my editor, I sent it to my co-host, and then I would take that script into the WJC studios, and I recorded it. Then he sat down and went through an audio engineer, editing everything out. There are no plosives, there are no arms because I was performing to a script, and I think that’s totally different. In that case, yes, it should be polished and really nice sounding, but if it’s unscripted, and it’s just casual conversation between two people, I don’t like removing all those natural imperfections.

Ryan  47:31  

I think we should consider removing my arms. I’m just gonna put that out there.

Tim  47:38  

That all comes back to listening. The more you listen, the less you’ll say it. That’s just how it goes.

Ryan  47:47  

Yeah because of embarrassment.

Tim  47:49  

Well, you know, whatever it takes. I had a mentor when I was student teaching who videotaped me, and this was early 90s. It was like quite an ordeal to get a video camera set up in a classroom, and kids are like, what is that? He videotaped me, and some of the most humiliating moments of my early teaching career was watching myself. He didn’t even have to say anything, like he would just show me the video, and I was like, okay, I get it. The same thing with podcasting. No one has to tell you what you need to improve upon, you can hear it. That’s the end of that episode.

Tim  48:33  

Thanks for listening. Go to teachingtransformations.com and get instant access to Transformations, the free weekly email with the best personally curated resources to help those in their late 40s or 50s to design a post-career life.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Links:

2021 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research From Mar 2021) – https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/ 

Transformations – The free weekly email with the best personally curated resources to help teachers in their late forties or fifties to design a post-academic life. – https://teachingtransformations.com/ 

Teaching Transformations Podcast – https://teachingtransformations.com/podcast/ 

Intro and outro music by Penthouses. “Come to Ohio” from The Weatherman album available on most music platforms.

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