Episode 7 – Full transcript
How do you grab people’s attention from the first word and can I keep you listening to this episode.
Richard: What a week!
I followed the Gimlet Academy course on podcasting. The idea is set. I’m pretty sure that this idea’s going to work. The problem now is how to find the time to do it.
This week then I’ve been trying to work out how to make a hit podcast like NPR, but while also holding down a full time, intense, day job…
And I think I found a few answers which I’m going to share with you now.
Hello and welcome to Can I Make A Hit Podcast.
Last year. I almost quit podcasting for good after several failed attempts, but I decided to give it one more go. I’m trying to find out whether someone with a full time job and a laptop can still make a hit podcast, which rivals the big production companies. I’m documenting the journey in this podcast and sharing what I learn.
I’m updating Instagram and Twitter as well at @hitpodcast2020 that’s @hitpodcast2020, almost daily with the tips I learn, in almost real time.
Hello again. If you missed the way I worked out my podcast idea, then do have a listen back to the last episode. I’ve been going through the Gimlet Academy podcast on Spotify, one of the big production companies for podcasts and they have an excellent course which I talked about before. So if you want to find out all the details about that, have a listen to the previous episode.
So this week started with the podcast idea. Now, Gimlet talk about the need to get guests and multiple edits to make a show that is really going to engage people and take you to a much higher level than a straight interview show.
But if you’re a full time production company, this is going to be easy, right? And this kept going round in my head.
You know, how can “I” possibly do it? How can I do all this editing? How can I reach out to all these guests if I’ve also got what’s pretty intense at the moment… a full time job. And I’m trying to do this in my spare time and evenings like I’m sure, many independent podcasters are trying to do. How can we honestly emulate what Gimlet say you need to do to make a hit podcast if you’re in that situation, like a normal person who isn’t doing it full time who isn’t working in podcast production full time.
Now when I was in broadcasting, I was a news editor and a journalist, and one of the things that we learnt in commercial broadcasting compared to public broadcasting is that we had to be a lot more efficient.
So in the UK we have a major national broadcaster I’m sure you’ve heard of called the BBC, and then we have an ITN who are commercial news organization that rival it. But the budgets are completely different, so we had to learn to be incredibly efficient. So the BBC journalists would be producing like one package a day, package as in a sort of radio report to go out on the air. We were producing three of them per hour!
So we had to find efficiency savings and ways of editing things together really fast, and I think that whole learning experience I went through will help to actually overcome a lot of the barriers that we’re going to have here.
So what are these barriers?
As I say, first of all, I’ve got to think about getting hold of multiple guests. It’s obviously going to be a lot harder than reaching out to one guest. I can’t just go online and say, look, does anyone know about horse racing? You know? Because then I got to get 10 guests who know about horse racing. And then once I’ve got that audio, so instead of editing, say, 30 minutes or one hour of raw audio from a conversation with them. I’m going to have 10 guests. So that’s 10 hours of audio.
So how am I honestly going to turn 10 X times the amount of content and work into something that is actually manageable.
How do we overcome this pretty obvious extra workload?
One of the first things I noticed with the NPR/Serial and “This American Life”, S-town type podcast is a lot of it is done on location and it would be wonderful to be able to just go and sit in Alabama for a couple of weeks and follow a story and get bits of audio here and there. Obviously, that’s not possible if you’ve got a full time job. So a lot of these interviews are going to have to be done over the internet for speed. That’s kind of a given, I think compared to what Gimlet and NPR do.
The next question then is how do you get 10 times as many guests since just organizing one can be, to put it bluntly, an absolute pain in the ass when you get all the to and fro of trying to find the times that you can actually meet up.
When I used to work in a newsroom, for example, when one of the shifts I used to do, you would start at 11 o’clock in the morning. And you would start looking at the stories of the day and you would look at, who’s been commenting on the stories, who are some of the experts who are making the noise, who’s appeared on other news programs as well, and also you would then start digging around in your own contacts book and you’d try and find people that could talk about an issue in a good way.
But the big advantage you had with that was generally you had these people in the contacts book already, and when you rang them up, you could say, “hi, my name is Richard I’m from this station”, which they would instantly recognize and think, “Oh yeah that’s big”. Would you like to come on and talk about X? But the fact that you’re calling from that big outlet means that you’ve got some credibility already. You you’re reaching a lot of people, but if you are, and this is my concern with reaching 10 times as many guests. If you’re saying that I’m coming from a podcast, which has got currently no listeners, why should anyone bother taking the time to appear on your program?
I can reach out to friends. I can reach out to contacts. I can reach out to Facebook groups. I can search news articles in the same way as I used to when I was a journalist looking for people, website, Instagram accounts, and things like that but it’s not going to be as easy as coming from someone that has got that credibility already.
So I’m going to document that whole process because I think there’s going to be an awful lot to learn about how to get guests on board, that number of guests that you need and cutting down the production time on it.
I don’t know whether you ever heard a podcast called the mystery show, which was one that was being released by Gimlet, and it was a weekly program where the reporter in it would actually go out and investigate something that couldn’t be solved on the internet. But the problem was each week they’d have to go somewhere and try and find some information and they either got lucky or didn’t but they still had to release an episode . There was a huge amount of travel time involved.
And then you’ve got a massive amount of editing on top of that.
So even with a full time job of that reporter, they were still going to be up against it and perhaps that’s why that program dropped.
So that’s a few of the problems. I think that are inherent in this Gimlet approach however successful it sounds like this approach is going to be and I’m certainly not knocking it. I’m not saying, look, this is too hard. I think there are some real and serious roadblocks that do need to be got over, but I think it is possible. If I stick with that original commercial news approach to this and say, how can we make it more efficient?
But there is certainly a lot more involved in making an NPR style show.
So how can we start this process? I sat down and I started thinking, okay, well, this is, this is going to be a lot of work. How can we actually make it more efficient.
Well, the first one is the editing process. I don’t know about you, but for me, I love interviewing people. I love researching. I love finding people and discussing and hearing about new stories, but the actual sitting down and cutting up at audio I find painfully boring and I’m pretty sure that anyone listeneing to this podcast now has probably spent many hours doing audio editing. If not, it is tedious, it’s slow and it’s boring. You have got to be paid well to enjoy it.
I love tools like Audacity, which are completely free, but they still use an approach to editing that I used in newsrooms 15 years ago. Recently, I discovered Descript, I’ve mentioned it before. It’s a new style of editing program. It is not cheap. It’s $10 per month and the other features I’m going to mention in a moment, which I think could help a lot too, almost doubles that price, but what I like about it is it’s an audio editor that works like a word processor.
So you see the transcript on the screen. The words that you actually want to go through. If you want to find a word to to get rid of it, you just highlight that word and click the delete key, like a word processor. No more endless, shifting, backwards and forwards, and listening to sound waves to try and find that bit that you were trying to edit out.
It’s there. You click it, delete it. So it massively speeds up the editing process.
Remember, it’s efficiency. I really want to get here.
By the way, I’m not being sponsored to say this I’m forking out every penny of this subscription myself to test this stuff. I wish it was being sponsored. So going back to the idea of the NPR podcast and the style of, of having multiple guests, we need to grab clips from lots of different people. Now that normally means sifting through long interviews to find a clip that someone said.
Now in the old days you wrote down the time that they said it roughly, and then you’d have to scroll through your audio file to find where they did that, but now, let’s say I’ve got 10 different audio files in different transcripts. I can go straight into it. Look for the bit they said in the words and copy and paste it into my main script.
It certainly works in my experiments, but now it’s time like everything to put it into practice and see if it really does work, but I think in theory, this could massively speed up the ability to produce something like an NPR style podcasts at home, and that’s the goal.
but there’s also one more tool, which I hinted out a second ago that I think is really interesting. And I tried it last night. Imagine you recorded your voice track for your podcast, and you said “yesterday” instead of “today”, or you said “40 years ago” instead of “10 years ago”.
And then when he went to listen back to it, I was like, Oh no, what did I do there? What if you could repair that?
I’m not going to say which order they’re in. Have a listen to see if you can work out on both of those two.
It was 40 years ago that it happened. It was ten years ago that it happened.
When I thought about the idea yesterday, I didn’t know what to do. When I thought about the idea today , I didn’t know what to do.
So what it’s done there is to synthesize my voice to repair the error. I didn’t say the words, the second time. It is not perfect by a long way, and you can hear that, but I make these sort of smaller errors all the time.
Now I forked out a pretty high 99 us dollars to try this for a year on top of the standard Descript subscription. I don’t know if it’s worth it yet. They’re developing all the time and had a really good chat with one of the people from the system last night, but the potential of it I think is enormous. I will, of course include links to Descript and this Overdub thing in the show notes as well.
So what’s next? Well, I need to work on my story for my podcast idea, and it’s not just about saying, “Oh, it’s about getting older and feeling young again”. I mean, it’s so vague. It doesn’t help at all. Gimlet make it very clear that a story is a structured and planned thing, but when it’s done well, it’s addictive and people can’t stop listening.
I hope you found this episode interesting. There are certainly a lot of challenges to making this style a podcast, but I think a lot of them can be overcome with tools like the ones I’ve just been mentioning.
Don’t forget to follow on social media for my almost daily updates. You can find it at @hitpodcast2020, so it’s all one word, @hitpodcast2020 on Twitter and on Instagram. It’s also on Facebook as well and on the website at http://www.CanIMakeAHitPodcast.com? It’s literally all one word. http://www.CanIMakeAHitPodcast.com?
There’s a lot of advice out there saying you can still make a hit podcast in the 2020s that rivals the big production companies. If that’s right, then you and I could be making one by the end of this year. But you said,