Apple Silently Adds Support for Let’s Encrypt Certificates on Podcast Feeds

FeedPress has had SSL support for RSS feeds and hosted podcast media since June 2016. Let’s Encrypt is an open source certificate authority that has been adopted by millions and provides easy access for companies like us to issue free SSL certificates to every customer.

An obstacle podcasters have had since Let’s Encrypt’s introduction is that iTunes Podcast Connect would reject feeds using their SSL certificates. The reason for this is because the iTunes Java Root Store was old and didn’t recognize Let’s Encrypt as a valid certificate authority.

This week we were alerted that the folks at iTunes had silently updated their infrastructure to support Let’s Encrypt. FeedPress has tested compatibility and is pleased to confirm that you can now submit podcast feeds to iTunes using Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates. As of the publication date of this blog post, Apple has yet to update their FAQ on official support for Let’s Encrypt.

Please refer to our tutorial below to learn how to enable HTTPS on podcast feeds:

http://support.feed.press/article/113-enabling-ssl-on-hosted-feedpress-feeds

Conclusion

Note that although SSL is a feature that is available in FeedPress, it’s not a compatibility requirement for iTunes at the moment. If you don’t feel comfortable turning it on, we recommend leaving it off until Apple provides a cut off date when it must be enabled.

Podcast Publisher: Specify Publish Date And Time in Your Posts

Available today on our Podcast Publishing system, you can specify a publish date and time on posts. This was a requested feature and is something we wanted to get into v1 of the podcast publisher system but didn’t get to.

Customers requested this as it’s an expected feature in a CMS, but also because it’s handy when you migrate from other hosting services and need to re-create your posts and preserve the original publishing date and time.

Selecting a publish date and time

date and time fields

The new date picker

date picker

Updates to File Storage

Several months ago we increased the provisioned file storage from 250MB to 400MB for all customers. Today we made a tweak to File Storage to include a status that reflects whether or not that file is attached to a post. For example, if you have a draft post with an uploaded file, the file will say “Draft.” If you have a post that’s been published, the status of the file will reflect “Published.”

podcast file storage status

Publish your own podcast

You remember that feeling of delight you experienced when you first tried ice cream as a kid. That’s what podcasting on FeedPress feels like. Publish your own podcast today on a 14-day trial and experience delight once again.

High-Pass Filtering: Getting Rid of Undesirable Low Frequencies

I care deeply about the level of production that goes into each podcast that I make. My production chain begins with using the best microphones I can afford and ends with carefully edited and mastered audio that is suitable for consumption by the listener. I enumerate my production chain below and how it flows to the final product:

  • Microphones
  • Outboard processing (compressors)
  • Mixer
  • Computer
  • Recording software
  • Editing
  • Mastering
  • Upload to the web

Disturbing frequencies you don’t want

A common problem in podcasts produced by the inexperienced is an abundance of undesirable low-end frequency. For example: excessive bottom end that’s audibly disturbing when people hit their microphones, slam their arms on a desk, or a car drives by with its subwoofer blaring. If you record in a noisy environment, this amplifies certain problematic frequencies. Short of recording in an acoustically treated room away from the noise of the outside world, you can’t completely get rid of all undesired frequencies. You can of course minimize the impact or “energy” of the problem.

If you have a dynamic or condenser microphone with an XLR connector, there’s a good chance you will find a switch on it that is a bass roll-off (sometimes referred to as HP or High-Pass). The characteristics of the bass roll-off implementation can vary from microphone to microphone. Consult the manual from the manufacturer to get the details on how they implemented a bass roll-off.

XLR cable

What frequencies should I filter?

A High-Pass filter, as the name suggests, allows high frequencies to pass through whilst unwanted low frequencies (below the threshold you specify) are removed.

For spoken word, I typically filter below 100Hz as you really don’t need frequencies below that. Most of the frequencies that live below 100Hz too easily creep into a recording, some are avoidable if you have poor microphone technique and bad habits, others may be out of your control (as described earlier). In the illustrated example below, the microphone I use is a Shure SM7B. At the rear, there are two switches: one provides a presence boost, the other a bass roll-off. Audio engineers will tell you filtering closest to the source is best. I would agree, but in some scenarios, you’ll find the bass roll-off too aggressive.

Shure SM7B

The SM7B is a fantastic microphone, but I don’t roll-off on the microphone because the filtering slope begins at around 200Hz. There are some lower frequencies in a male voice that I like to retain around 150Hz). Other dynamic microphones more commonly roll-off at around 100Hz or even 80z. There are other microphones that offer granular controls such as the Sennheiser MD-421 that have multiple bass roll-off options. If you don’t filter at the source, there are 3 other options: filter at the mixer level if you have the luxury of owning one, filter at the preamp/channel strip, or in software.

dbx 286s

Rolling off bass in software

My primary recording software is Adobe Audition. The example below applies to other popular software packages such as: Avid Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, GarageBand, or Audacity. Plugins are little software programs that can be inserted into an individual audio track to apply a particular desired effect such as: dynamic processing (compression), reverb, delays, equalization, and more. To filter out low frequencies, insert an EQ plugin into the problematic audio track.

Enable the HP button and specify a value for the filter. Note that I set mine to 100Hz.

Note: If you prefer, you can filter all tracks at once, and how you do that is by inserting the same EQ plugin on your “Master Bus” track. The Master Bus is a stereo bus that sums all of the individual audio tracks together.

Parametric EQ

You’ll notice in the screenshot below that below the “Frequency” option, there is “Gain” setting, which defaults to 24dB/Oct. This setting tells the filter by how much gain should it attenuate from the signal in db (decibel as the unit of measurement for the intensity of sound). In other words, how aggressively should it cut out the frequencies. The “Oct” stands for octave. In musical terms, an octave is described as follows:

A series of eight notes occupying the interval between (and including) two notes–one having twice or half the frequency of vibration of the other.

To put this all together, my High-Pass filter will filter out frequencies at 100Hz or lower and will cut them on a relatively aggressive slope of 24db per octave.

HP filter

Coda

You now have an understanding of problematic frequencies that you want to remove from your podcast audio, how to remove them, and what exactly is going on from a technical perspective behind the scenes.

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.

Booking Guests for Your Podcast

Last Monday I took the day off for Canadian Thanksgiving while Maxime held the fort. Today I’m speaking to you about booking guests to interview on your podcast.

If interviewing is something you enjoy but you’re having a hard time finding guests or are unsure of how to approach people, I’ll elucidate on some things you will be doing. There’s no easy way around going out there and chasing the people who you want to interview, however I’ll give you some pointers so you don’t feel lost or make mistakes you will regret.

Where do you start? Make a list

Instead of going week to week scrambling for ideas of who you should approach and then trying to contact them, write a list of as many people as you can think of that you want to interview. The more the better. It doesn’t matter what tools you use for keeping track of the guests you want to contact, just make sure that fill it with as much helpful information as possible.

Spreadsheets work well for financial data but they also work well tracking who you want to talk to. In a spreadsheet, my suggestion is to create columns that include the following headings:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Website
  • Phone
  • Skype
  • Social
  • First attempt (the date you contacted)
  • Second attempt (the date you contacted)
  • Booked

This will be your database to keep tabs on your prospects.

One thing you will discover is that people have preferred contact methods. Some like email over phone or Skype to give one example. Make a note of which communication method your prospect prefers. I like to colour code the preferred contact method so I can refer back to that later.

Reach out to people

You have a list ready and now will begin scouring the web and social media for contact information. This is not difficult but will require time and effort on your part. The hard part will be getting your prospective guests to respond and agree to the interview.

Use social media

Social media is ubiquitous. As of June 2016, Facebook reported on average 1.13 billion daily active users and 1.03 billion mobile daily active users. For the same month, Twitter reported 313 million active users of which 82% accessed the service from a mobile device. There’s a good chance you will find someone to talk to on either of these outlets.

My personal experience is most low to mid level “celebrities” (I use that loosely) are pretty receptive to speaking with people about what they do. It also gives them a platform to further plug their creative work.

Twitter: Begin with an @ reply and see if you can ask for an interview (you only have 140 characters to do that). Give them some time to reply. If you don’t hear back from them within a week, try a DM (Direct Message) and see if that goes through (this depends on the recipients privacy settings. DMs now have a 10,000 character limit, so make sure to briefly explain why you want to interview them and let them know you’re open to whatever communication method they prefer.

If you don’t hear back within 2 weeks, try tweeting them again. Keep in mind that people are busy. Depending on how many followers they have, they may not even notice your inquiries (my observation is that becomes an increasing issue for 10,000+ followers).

Facebook: It’s an excellent platform without some of the character limitations of Twitter. Creative people (I’ll lump writers, actors, musicians, makers into that term) often use a business page to showcase what they make. Begin by writing a message on their page (seen publicly) and ask them if they would be open to an interview. Remember to mention what it’s for and that you’re flexible to their preferred communication method. Brevity is key (don’t ramble on).

Email

Email, yes email, is still an effective means of communication for an overwhelming majority of people. If social media efforts led nowhere, check for a link to their website from their social profile and see if there’s an email address or contact form. I recall many times where my prospects responded first over email rather than social.

Checklist of things to mention

  • Why you want to interview the individual (your podcast about “x”)
  • You can arrange to communicate via email, phone, Skype or whatever works best for them.
  • Give them an idea of how long you need them (I always say it will around an hour at most)
  • If they agree to the interview, be flexible and work around their schedule to book a time

Coda

In the coming weeks I’ll be delving into building on your interviewing skills. Hopefully this will provide some valuable information so you can book your own interviews. Please remember that when both parties have agreed and the place, date, and time, you should create a calendar event and also write down in your spreadsheet that the booking was successful. In the aforementioned section regarding making multiple attempts at contacting people, you should not give up if you don’t hear back. If you’ve made a couple of attempts, you can always come back to them later and move on to the next person. Some people are incredibly difficult to reach, but persistence is key. If it takes six months to book your favourite guest, then so be it.