It’s a bit over four years now since Chris Weston indulged me with a request to work together on a podcast. Having been involved with student radio in my university days (a really valuable introduction into audio production which helped massively), there had been an itch to be scratched.
170-something episodes, 100-something guests and a wonderful community of people now hovering around it, WB-40 has been a joy.
Every so often people ask for some advice about how they might do something similar themselves. This blog isn’t a “Can’t help you” to those sorts of requests, more a starting point for others. We’re not perfect, we’re not wonderfully produced, and our audience is small if perfectly formed. But there’s always things to learn.
A couple of years ago Chris and I reverse engineered what we had done and produced a planning canvas that you can download here:
So first off, why do you want to do a podcast. There are a lot of podcasts out there. There are only so many minutes in a day that someone can listen.
Often it’s “content marketing” that’s the answer to this question, but that in turn leads to the question “Who is the audience”. With WB-40 our purpose was really to “see what happens”, but over the years we’ve refined it a bit to being about helping our audience (mostly senior-ish technology people) to understand answers to the question “What do you need to do to be a technology leader these days?”. As a result we’re often talking to people who wouldn’t be on your average technology podcast.
When you’ve got an idea about why you might want to do it, who you want to speak to, and what it is you are looking to explore, it’s then time to think about what the show might look like.
In terms of format, who will present, what will the tone of voice be like and what might make up regular features. WB-40 as evolved as we have gone and we now have a structure where we have some consistency each week (a review of the week, the main bones of the week’s show, a look ahead to the week ahead). Having a pair of presenters is a really, really good idea. I would never have been able to do this without Chris or he without me.
We have also got into a rhythm with guests and now rather than standalone interviews, mostly have a guest joining us for the whole show each week. This has been aided by lockdown, and we also mainly record on a Monday evening “as live”.
If you are going to talk to other people, who might they be and, also, how might they help to spread word about the show?
Finally, how often and for how long will you produce the show. We run weekly, at about 40 minutes (although often a bit longer). Now we have a habit, it’s actually not too bad to do weekly. The main thing is that our format lends to not having too much editing to do so we can get the whole thing done in an evening.
A podcast needs to be published. There are services like Anchor.fm around, but we just use WordPress.com with a business plan, and publish there. You can register your show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and so on once you have hosting arranged, but Anchor and the like automate a lot of that.
We’re not that fussed about measurement because we’re not looking for a big audience, but we keep an eye on Podtrac.com and also the file download stats on WordPress. Each show gets around 400-500 downloads, which suits us fine.
The unexpected benefit of WB-40 has been the (WhatsApp now Signal) community that has emerged alongside the show. It’s one of the most supportive online places I know and has been a godsend since lockdown.
When I’m asked for advice, usually the first thing is “what kit do we need?”. I’ve intentionally left that bit to last, because if you don’t know the other stuff then kit is probably the last of your worries.
To record we use an online product called Squadcast which uses whizzy tech in Chrome on a PC or Mac to get rid of any buffering gaps. Chris and I both have reasonable mics and headphones, but the guests have whatever the guests have.
If you want a decent, cheap mic, then you won’t go far wrong with a Marantz kit like this. I use Marantz mics, but with a USB soundcard that I also use for music production.
To edit I use Audacity, an open source product that does the business. When I get the audio from Squadcast I Normalize, Amplify to maximum level and then use the Compressor filter.
If something goes wrong during a recording I will edit, but for the most part our shows run out as they were recorded – I’ve not got the patience for editing out every “um” and “err”. But there’s a neat trick in Audacity where you can truncate silences, and that I do do automatically to takes pauses of more than half a second down to half a second.
After that it’s a matter of exporting as an MP3, and then uploading to the WordPress site for publishing. Usually the whole recording, editing and publishing is done in about 2 1/2 hours, but we’ve definitely got into a groove with it after four years.