My Podcasting Setup

"Podcasting Setup"

I've been doing podcasting for a little over three years now. Two and a half years running an internal podcast at Amazon and half a year of running FolkStories, the public version of what I was doing internally (long form conversations with great people).

In the course of running these podcasts, many listeners have reached out expressing interest in doing their own podcast. The following is a summary of my process and setup. It's written in Q&A format and represent the most common questions I get about podcasting.

  1. How did the idea for the podcast originate?

    • I like podcasts and noticed that there were a lot of great people around me that I wanted to talk to. I used to do journalism in college and discovered then that as long as you do your research and can show people that you're not wasting their time, you can talk to pretty much anyone. And so I started a podcast - to give me an excuse to talk to people I was interested in
  2. Did you have experience with podcasts before getting involved with this one?

    • Nope. I do have experience interviewing people from doing journalism but no prior experience releasing audio content
  3. Talk to me about your platform.

    • Platform is based off Middleman, a static site generator. The site is a fork of the turing-incomplete podcast
  4. Can people download episodes directly to their smartphone without being on the Amazon network? What apps does it use to play the episode on a smartphone/tablet? (This was relevant at Amazon because it was an internal podcast)

    • People cannot download episodes to their smartphones directly due to security rules about internal content. As a workaround, I've created a mailing list and send a highly compressed version of the podcast as an email attachment (Android/iOS native email is an approved app at Amazon). Since this is just an mp3, it will play on the default music player in a smartphone/tablet.
  5. Who comes up with the content?

    • I come up with content based on what I've been able to research about the subject, both from publicly available sources and interviewing people close to my subject
  6. How/where do you record it?

    • This is up to my guest and whatever is most convenient to them. It ends up being either:
      • my guest's office
      • my downtown recording studio
      • remotely via Zencastr
  7. What equipment do you use?

  8. How much time do you spend planning? Recording? Editing?

    • It took me a while before I had a consistent process. It still varies by episode but today, it hovers around the following:
      • 2h prep and research
      • 1h recording
      • 1.5h editing
      • 0.5h publishing
  9. How do you edit your podcasts?

    • Audacity for playback and basic processing
    • LAME for mp3 encoding
    • SoX for additional audio processing
    • S3 and Cloudfront for hosting and distribution
  10. How many people are involved in the production of the podcast?

    • Just me
  11. How many episodes did you record before you published your first podcast? How far ahead do you work? What’s the cadence?

    • Originally, I recorded just one before publishing my first and then worked to book guests weekly. I usually try to do one guest every two weeks and can have anywhere between 0-3 guests in the backlog at any given time.
  12. Do you have a corporate/executive sponsor? What is their role?

    • Nope
  13. Top resources you have used to skill up?

    • Listening to FreshAir, Ezra Klein and Tim Ferris podcast
  14. Top tips for getting started? What should we avoid?

    • The biggest issue I see with people getting started is the getting started part. The first episode you do doesn't need to be studio quality (I cringe at the first episode I did because of the bad audio and my own inexperience). As long as the content is interesting, it's enough that people will forgive all sorts of shortcomings. You also don't need a professional setup. I used my iPhone for my first episode. For my second episode, I got a yeti mike. I did my first dozen interviews with this setup. Also, watch out for conversational norms that don't work well in a podcast (eg. confirming what the other person said - breaks the flow for people listening).
  15. What LP’s do you believe assist you in making your podcast a success?

    • learn and be curious, genuinely interested, dive into weeds, and ask follow up questions
    • earn trust, show people that I'm not wasting time and have done my homework
    • deliver results, try to deliver on a consistent cadence
  16. What does it take to create a really great podcast?

    • I'll let you know when that happens :) I think it depends on the podcast but to do what I do, it has been curiosity of people and enjoyment of the conversation
  17. What would you say makes a podcast successful?

    • If it makes you happy
    • Bringing value to at least one person
  18. How do you keep your podcast passion going over time? (How to avoid podfading)

    • Being able to enjoy the process without over-indexing on the results
  19. What is one podcasting myth you’d like to bust right here, right now?

    • It doesn't take much to get started (I used my phone to record my first episode)


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