Improving Your Podcast Interview

Last week I wrote about booking guests for your podcast. Today I’m going to address interviewing performance. There are two types of interviews that I’ll elaborate on and why they’re different.

In journalism school you learn how to conduct interviews. You must prepare, including getting as much background information as possible about your guest as well as having a deep understanding of the subject matter for discussion. Research and preparedness is critical, irrespective of the transmission medium: radio or podcast. My favourite interviewers are ones that engender an environment of safety and comfort. A skilled interviewer will be able to elicit the most interesting responses from the subject.

Research your guests

Knowing your subject is conducive to a better interview for both parties. By collecting as much background information as possible, you will be more confident during the interview. Spending the time to take interest in learning about the subject will make your guest feel more comfortable with you. It’s never about you, so act selflessly.

Write down critical topics to discuss

Preparing questions in written format is not something I use during interviews, but I do write down the critical topics for discussion and order them appropriately. The reason why I won’t write questions down is because I don’t want to read them, which makes the interview sound scripted and unnatural. My goal is for the listener to feel like a fly on the wall in a private conversation. If I can do that, I have done my job.

Look for something interesting to delve deeper

If you’re asking the right kinds of questions, the flow of the conversation should naturally progress and lead from one interesting topic to another. You should use reflective listening techniques to focus on what the other person is saying. Reflective listening is different from active listening and is described as follows:

Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker’s idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. It attempts to “reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back to the client”. Reflective listening is a more specific strategy than the more general methods of active listening. It arose from Carl Rogers’ school of client-centred therapy in counselling theory. Empathy is at the centre of Rogers’ approach.

When your subject mentions something intriguing, don’t just let the moment pass. Ask them to tell you more about it. This can often lead into new, interesting, and unexpected territory.

Coda

You can only improve your interviewing skills and level of comfort by conducting many interviews. If you haven’t interviewed before and don’t know where to start, ask a friend if you could use them as a test subject. Make sure you record the interview and listen back to it so you can critique your own performance.

Creating A Podcast Recording Workflow

Whether you host one podcast or ten, having an organized workflow to streamline your production is highly recommended. I’m going to share some tips that I’ve found useful and hopefully you can take away something of value.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years (in addition to become a more proficient editor) is how to become efficient with respect to recording and production. Let’s start with setting up your recording environment (production techniques will be covered at a later time).

In the illustrated examples below, I’ll be discussing Adobe Audition, but the same concept can be applied to other popular Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) such as Pro Tools.

Create recording templates

When I schedule a day and time for all co-hosts to come together, I don’t want to waste time creating a session from scratch. What does a session entail? Depending on the podcast, it can include individual tracks for each host and guest as well as incidental music and opening/closing themes. Creating tracks, assigning inputs and outputs, setting levels and session sample rate/bit depth are the last things I want to deal with. This is why I automate this with templates.

In Adobe Audition, I begin by creating the ideal session for recording and then export it as a template. It’s important to note that if you include things like music or any audio, those also get saved with your template so you don’t have to import them again (this is a nice time saver).

You can start by creating a new multi-track session and then add as many tracks as you need. I highly recommend arming the applicable tracks for recording, assigning the correct inputs (where you’re recording from), and making sure you’ve imported any incidental music/fx that you need available. Make sure to set comfortable levels for your music so that they don’t overshadow your co-hosts or guests.

To create a new multi-track session on Mac you can use the keyboard shortcut of command + N. You’ll be presented with a dialog window to select some basic properties for your session, such as the name, sample rate, and bit depth. For spoken word, I always record at 16-bit/44.1 (anything higher is unnecessary for podcasts).

In the screenshot below, you can see in the drop down menu I have some templates already created for a few different podcasts (each with unique properties).

Select multi-track session

I highly recommend not wasting additional CPU and storage resources, so select 16-bit/44.1 and then create your session.

In the illustrated screenshot below, you will see what a prepared session template looks like for one of my podcasts. Two of the tracks are already record-enabled so that all I need to do is hit record and begin talking. Pretty handy, eh? Note my music track is also included with some fade automation written to the track. This will always be consistent for every recording session (another time saver).

Multi-track session info

Once you’re satisfied with the way you’ve configured your podcast session, you’re ready to export the template.

Session template

In Adobe Audition CC, go to File > Export > Session as Template. You will need to give it a name, as illustrated below. Note the preference to include markers and meta data. Don’t forget to check this option if you have additional data you want saved (recommended).

Save session as template

Export template

Coda

In future articles I’ll share other podcast related production workflows, but hopefully this gives you a taste at just one possibility waiting to streamline your recording session.

Try podcasting on FeedPress

Publishing and uploading podcasts is simple and efficient with FeedPress. Try our new publishing tools on a commitment free 14-day trial and get started today.

Tips for Podcasting on A Schedule

Last week on Monday’s blog I touched on some tips for writing on a reliable schedule, including some observations and experiences I’ve had from trying to do the same thing here at FeedPress. Today I’m sticking to this topic of building good habits but will cover how I do this for making podcasts.
I’ve been podcasting for quite a number of years but haven’t always been as reliable and punctual as I am today. When you venture out into the world of recording podcasts for the first time, there can be numerous obstacles in front of you: self-doubt, uncertainty about what topics to discuss, and nervousness about reaching out to people you want to interview. The list goes on. Fortunately these are all solvable problems. A combination of a couple of challenges, including general things happening in your life, can derail you from publishing on a consistent schedule.

Unless you’re a well-known celebrity, TV or radio personality, building an audience can be a real struggle in the beginning. The amount of podcasters that become major successes that manage to build revenue streams from advertising are small. Do not let this deter you. Building a loyal and engaged audience is difficult but not impossible. If you have something interesting and can carry a conversation, just showing up to do the damn show is a big deal.

I publish all of my podcasts on a weekly basis, as do plenty of other podcasts. Releasing weekly is generally thought of as good practice and an excellent place to start. I recommend it. Unless you’re Serial and can afford to release bi-monthly, I strongly suggest aiming for one episode per week. You should pick a release day and stick with this as well. My observations from how listeners react to unreliable schedules is that it builds uncertainty which can lead to frustration. On a positive note, if you have frustrated listeners, at least that means they love your podcast enough to complain about it.

Some of my podcasts are unscripted, informal, and off the cuff. Others are require a lot of preparation with respect to writing scripts or collecting links to articles of relevance to discuss. Releasing on time and on schedule requires some level of preparation and planning, but it’s not a big deal as long as you have a solid workflow with the right tools to aid you.

The tools

In my example, I’ll speak to how all of the hosts at Hologram Radio–my network–prepare. For communication, we use Slack to chat with each other. We have separate channels for each podcast to keep things sane and a special “pitches” channel to discuss new show concepts.

Slack channels

In one case for a technology podcast I co-host, we discuss and analyze news that’s happening in various industries. Each of us will post links to articles of interest into our Slack channel and we use those for reference when it comes time to record.

There are some scripts that I refer to for my podcasts, such as reading an intro/outro or ad reads, as well as story related scripts. I write everything using Markdown, a popular syntax that spits out HTML. Markdown is wonderful because it’s ubiquitous and is written in plain text documents that can open on any system. I store copies of these scripts in Dropbox but also create snippets of text that get posted in Slack and then pinned as a means of easily referencing them in our communication platform of choice (see illustrated example below).

Slack pinned snippet

Planning for uncertainty

All hosts on my network have other projects and jobs and consider podcasting a very satisfying and fun hobby. As this is the case, planning is required with respect to making sure we can all get episodes out on a consistent basis. I used to be terrible at this and I have improved greatly over the years.

Unless the podcast you’re doing discusses topics that are time sensitive (such as a news podcast), recording multiple episodes and staggering the release can really free up your mind from concerning yourself on whether you can cobble together a podcast with all of your other hosts. Scheduling posts to automatically go out at a later date can easily be done with WordPress.

If you have co-hosts and even guests, you need to work with everyone’s schedule. This can be trying at times, so consider doubling or tripling up on some episodes and bank those for a rainy day. Sometimes life gets in the way, so when the day comes that something urgent prevents you from being able to record, you’ll have an episode of your podcast ready to go.

Try hosting your podcast at FeedPress

I host all of my podcasts here at FeedPress (naturally). If you’re considering starting a podcast, make sure to check out our commitment free 14-day trial to get started. We provide you with all of the tools you need to easily write a post, add your show notes, upload your podcast and publish it to iTunes.

Writing on A Regular Schedule

If you’ve been reading our blog since June, you may have noticed we’ve been sticking to a more reliable schedule of publishing an article every Monday. I set out to change our mindset here at FeedPress because I was starting to feel not only bad about going for long stretches of time with no updates. Before writing on a regular basis, sometimes I wouldn’t post anything on the blog for 4-6 months until we had some new feature to announce.

Keeping quite whilst working on feature development can give the false impression of stagnation, which is the antithesis of what FeedPress is about. We are about continuous improvement. Improvements based on not only things we want to see ourselves, but things that our customers ask of us directly via our support channels. The last thing we want is to give the impression that we are resting on our laurels.

Every week I think about what I want to talk about on our Monday morning blog post. Some weeks I have plenty of ideas and other weeks not so much. I must admit, writing on a regular basis can be challenging when you’re juggling work related tasks and every day life. One thing I’ve found helpful is to make notes about topics and put them into Trello, which is what we use here at FeedPress for organizing and planning development. Trello is wonderfully flexible tool that can be used by anyone. It can be adapted easily to any kind of workflow, from project and product management to sales and marketing, to sky’s the limit.

Trello

I like many writers occasionally get stuck and end up staring at a blinking cursor. This still happens to me from time to time, but what I’ve found that helps is to always start with writing a headline first. In fact, I’ve often found if I can write a stellar headline, that can lead to the words for the opening paragraph to flow more easily.

Instead of trying to write a post in WordPress and stare at a distracting environment, I now start by adding cards in Trello with a headline of the proposed article. If you haven’t used Trello, a card is simply an entry where you write a title and then some content in the body to describe whatever it is you want to accomplish. In the screenshot above, you’ll see the first card has a due date to it. I always attach a due date to the card so I can be reminded of when it must be done but also so I can hold myself accountable. Attaching due dates to tasks is crucial and I’ve discovered over the years that accountability to oneself is paramount to getting anything done.

Writing on a regular basis is not easy but the dividends are worth it. As a writer you only improve by doing more writing and as often as possible. There’s a sense of accomplishment and a fulfilling nature to writing on a regular basis and on a set day and time. From a business perspective, publishing compelling content builds a loyal readership, drives website traffic, and if done properly, can engage your audience in a meaningful way. For example, when you post articles to social media, make the effort to reply to people who take the time to get in touch.

I’m interested in hearing if any of our readers write on a regular schedule. Do you write daily, weekly, monthly? Do you find that getting up and sitting down in front of your computer or pad of paper at a specific time puts you into a groove? Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook and let us know.

Why You Should Leave FeedBurner

If you’re still on the languishing FeedBurner, you should seriously consider switching away from it. Both Maxime and I used to use it for many years, even before Google acquired the product. It was once a good way to keep track of your RSS subscribers, albeit with some frustrating limitations. When Google acquired it, like many of you, we hoped it would be overhauled–sadly, this never happened. The years rolled by and FeedBurner became stagnant, and at times, even less reliable under Google’s ownership.

Sustainability

In 2012 we built and launched a replacement for FeedBurner, which in 2016, has become so much more than just an RSS analytics tool. We’ve since added podcast analytics, podcast hosting, email newsletters, SSL encryption, and countless of other little niceties that add up to a well polished product. One of our top priorities with FeedPress was to not only build an accurate analytics service for bloggers and podcasters, but also allow our customers complete ownership of their RSS feeds.

Who wants to have a feed URL that has someone else’s brand identity attached to it? It’s a principle of ours that you should be able to completely brand and retain ownership of your RSS feeds, which is why we made Custom Hostnames a feature since day one. We blogged about it last week if you’d like to read more on why this is important, but to summarize, we allow you to attach your own domain name to FeedPress so that we don’t appear anywhere in your feed. This is a free feature available to all FeedPress customers.

FeedBurner may be free, but free comes at a cost. Support is non-existent, so if you run into an issue or need help, you can’t talk to a human being behind the service to get an answer and are left to a user to user support forum. I come from a customer service background and deeply care about how people use FeedPress, so support is at the top of my list of things we need to get absolutely right. Whenever you have a question about FeedPress, be it a problem you need to workout, or general feedback, there’s a human being waiting to answer you.

Feature development is something we’re working on year over year. Since I spend quite a lot of time answering support emails and talking to customers, I see firsthand what kind of features people are looking for and where we could do better. A lot of our development is user driven, so listening to what you have to say is crucial if we want to improve FeedPress.

Everything we do to make FeedPress better and keep our support to a high degree of quality comes from the fact that we charge for our service. FeedPress is profitable and you have shown us that you value what we have to offer by renewing your subscription ever year (and we thank you for that). We’re proud that we can continue to build on this foundation. In fact, we have some incredible features planned that we know podcasters are going to love. Subscribe to our blog to stay up-to-date on what’s going on.

More features you love

Analytics continues to be a core foundation that we spend a lot of time on. Earlier this year, we launched Geolocation for bloggers and podcasters. You can now see where in the world your readers are subscribing to your feed or where listeners are downloading your podcasts from. As it’s always been, the way we can provide this data is completely anonymous as we’re just dealing with a combination of IP addresses, and user agents coming from RSS reader and podcast apps.

Geolocation

SSL all the things! SSL or Secure Socket Layer is a means of encrypting communication that we use on the Internet. With Google beginning to favour websites that are encrypted, we released optional SSL support which you enable for your feeds.

SSL

Podcast hosting can get expensive on some services. When we launched it back in March 2015, we added enough free storage for most people to upload 4 podcasts per month of a reasonable bitrate (64 kbps). To beat what we did in 2016, we dramatically increased podcast storage for all customers from 250MB to 400MB, which is more than enough to upload 4 high bit rate podcasts per month, or more. To give you an idea, I have room to spare every month and upload 4 episodes that are each 192 kbps stereo MP3 files!

Social networking

We provide better integration with social networks over what FeedBurner offers, including:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Buffer
  • App.net

In addition these networks, we offer a few nerdy features you can take advantage of, such as adding variables to customize how your posts look when they go out. For example, you can add a full excerpt variable so that posts that publish to Facebook display your hand written excerpts. You can check these out right now in your FeedPress account!

Social networking variables

Data portability and integrations

Locking down a user’s data to a specific platform and making it difficult to get it is a non starter for us. We’ve made FeedPress easy to leave, should you ever want to. We also provide simple integration with third-party services such as Dropbox, so you can export daily backups of your analytics in plain text files, which will be readable now and into the far future. Plain text is one of those universal formats that will always be readable, no matter what operating system you use. I can read a text file from 1985 if I wanted to, so having backups of your data is a good thing.

We also integrate with third party email services such as Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor, so if you want to use FeedPress for analytics but wish to send your published articles to one of these newsletter services, it’s very easy to do that.

Other noteworthy features

  • Link click/open tracking
  • RSS to email newsletters(with customizable templates)
  • A new reporting date picker, which has handy presets for frequent date ranges you want to look at, but also provides custom ranges you can select yourself

Automatic migration away from FeedBurner

No one likes having to move from one service to another, typically because it involves a lot of work and things can go wrong if you’re not careful. If you’re still on the fence, rest assured with a couple of clicks, you can move all of your data from FeedBurner, including your RSS feeds and any subscribers/newsletters you had.

To get started, click “Migrate from FeedBurner” on your dashboard to get started. We’ll import all of your data and even take care of the feed redirections for you, that way your subscribers don’t have to do anything. Most importantly, you won’t lose all of those subscribers you worked so hard to get over the years.

Have questions? Get in touch with us!

If you want to hit us up with any questions before you make your move away from FeedBurner, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.