Posts Tagged ‘podcasting’

Learning to Podcast From the Best

by Noah Lugeons

My first podcasting love was “The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe”.  My wife bought me the iPod for Christmas and I got bored listening to music with it after about three days.  I figured I might as well learn something on my commute so I tried to put a college curriculum in there.  I downloaded one history podcast, one philosophy podcast, a psychology one, a podcast about literature, a podcast about film technique and, of course, one on general science.

The last one is the only one of that original batch that I still listen to and it’s the show that I credit with changing podcasting from a way to kill time on a commute to my primary form of entertainment (and eventually my primary hobby).  I’ve said before that I’ve been an atheist as long as I can remember, but I haven’t always been a skeptic and I largely credit that program with cementing a transformation that made me both a skeptic and a passionate lover of science.  In my mid-thirties no less.

So when I heard that Dr. Steven Novella was going to be teaming up with George Hrab (also a podcaster of some repute) to conduct a podcasting workshop in NYC this year, I couldn’t get to a computer fast enough.  To be honest, I think I’d have paid $25 just to eavesdrop on these two guys having conversation over lunch, so the workshop seemed like a steal.

Well, I went yesterday afternoon and I can say that it did not disappoint.  The two presenters boast more than 700 episodes combined and have more combined years podcasting than there are total years in the history of podcasting.  They’ve seen the entire medium change several times over and have managed to stay consistently relevant throughout, even when the world of podcasting started drawing the multi-billion dollar entertainment conglomerates.

My only complaint was that the workshop wasn’t long enough.  I’m sure that I could have teased 35 hours of good advice out of those guys so an hour and forty-five minutes seemed like a tease.  To be fair, I should note that it was only scheduled to go an hour and fifteen, so we did get some bonus-workshop.

Upon reflection, I really wish that I’d attended this thing about 7 episodes ago, as they covered a lot of the things I’ve already learned the hard way.  But they also helped to alert me to some issues that I’ve got coming down the road and a few mistakes I just haven’t made yet.

I was also delighted to see that Dr. Novella and I use the same type of mixer.  I’m not sure why I’m so tickled by that, but I am.

Anyway, not much to share here, but I wanted to make sure everyone knows that even when I’m on vacation, I’m still hard at work finding ways to make the show better.

Going Weekly

March 30, 2013 4 comments

by Noah Lugeons

It’s not a decision I came to lightly, but it was one that seemed inevitable from the start.

I was careful when starting this podcast to avoid biting off more than I could chew.  When we made our first false start years ago, we were trying to produce an hour long, weekly show and I quickly became overwhelmed with all the work that went into it.  So much so, in fact, that we never got the show off the ground.

Granted, there was a lot more wrong the first time around than just shooting for a high level of content.  We also lacked the right equipment, didn’t know how to process sound and had no clue how to produce a podcast.

So when we chose to reboot it, I spent a few months learning the technical stuff before we got going. I also opted to do so with a “dipping-a-toe-in-the-water” approach, starting with a 30 minute, biweekly show.  The last thing I wanted to do was to produce a few subpar episodes and throw in the towel like we did before.  I didn’t really know how hard it would be to fit it in around the rest of my life and I didn’t want to risk promising more than I could deliver.

But truth be told, it was always our intention to eventually make it a weekly show.  I told my wife when we started that I’d give it five episodes and, depending on the response, we’d move it up to once a week.  I arbitrarily picked the number 1000 and said that if we had 1000 downloads after 5 episodes I’d double our schedule.

I’m not really sure where that number came from.  I had no idea what to expect, I had no idea what was typical and I had no idea what was possible, but I figured if we had 200 people willing to listen after 5 episodes, it was worth my while to keep putting a significant portion of my time into it.

Turns out that I massively low-balled the guesstimate.  We had 1000 downloads after 2 episodes and by the time episode 6 was ready to drop we were well over 12,000.  What’s more, the feedback we were getting was almost universally positive and the predominant theme in the feedback was “more please”.

The request came in a number of ways.  Many people feel obligated to dance around the subject a bit when they’re asking somebody who gives them something for free to give them more, but others are far more direct.  Contrast commenter EDT who says, “I’d take more episodes if more were there for the taking” with PyrOphelia’s more forceful approach, “damnit, get off your lazy ass and give me more!”

For the record, when you’re telling someone that you so enjoy their creative endeavor that you wish they’d do twice as much, you don’t have to pussy-foot around it.  I’m flattered and I’m sure I speak for most podcasters when I say that.

Obviously, doubling our workload is an intimidating prospect.  There are plenty of podcasters out there producing a lot more than 30 minutes a week so it’s clearly not unobtainable, but it will require a lot more effort and a little more sacrifice.  My fear, of course, is that the quality of the show could suffer if we find ourselves overtaxed.

We’ve committed to doing the next ten episodes on a weekly schedule, but we do reserve the right to return to a biweekly schedule if we feel that the show is suffering.  I’d much rather give you 30 great minutes once every two weeks than give you a pretty good 30 minutes every week.

That being said, up to this point we’ve been constantly bumping segments and shoring up diatribes just to make room for what we have.  I have a skit we wrote for episode 3 that I’m hoping to squeeze into the end of episode 7.  Heath and I recorded a bit for episode 4 that’s still sitting on my hard drive waiting for a spare 4 minutes in an upcoming episode.  I’ve got interviews lined up for episodes in June and July.  Every week we have to shave three of four good minutes off the program to make the 30 minute limit.

In other words, we’re already producing more content than we’re using without even trying to.  Something tells me we’ll get used to this weekly schedule pretty quickly.

The Scathing Atheist: Now With 367% More Knobs

March 26, 2013 1 comment

by Noah Lugeons

It’s amazing how fast a hobby can turn into a passion. And it’s also amazing how expensive that transformation can be. My wife inadvertently started this podcast by buying me a mic and a MIDI player for Christmas. I got a bonus at the end of the year and I immediately sunk it into some more mics and a mixer. My birthday came around a few months later and I hinted around about this great digital recorder I wanted. Now my tax refund is in hand and I’m off to buy… wait for it… more audio equipment.

Seems crazy to buy a new new mixer when my old new mixer still has that new new mixer smell, but I needed something that would allow for 4 XLR inputs and the first one I bought only took 2. And of course, if I’m gonna have a mixer with 4 XLR inputs, I better also get a few more microphones so that I actually have something to plug into them…

And, of course, between the new 10 track mixer, the old 4 track mixer, my new digital recorder and Heath’s soon to be new digital recorder, we could actually handle 10 XLR inputs (plus 2 guitars, a keyboard, an effects processor and two stereo condenser mics) so to really get the most out of all these knobs, I’m gonna have to buy a lot more shit.

So if you hear a future episode where it seems like I’ve jam-packed everyone I know into a single panel discussion, it probably means that I’m trying to justify all the crap I’ve purchased.  And if you ever hear me introduce more than 10 people in one segment, it means that I’ve gone too far with this audio-equipment hording compulsion and you have my permission to intervene.

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