How to record a podcast guest remotely

Can I Make a Hit Podcast - Podcast logo

Episode 10 – Full transcript


  2. Zencastr
  3. CleanFeed
  4. Audacity
  5. Gimlet Academy podcast

Full transcript

Episode 10

You certainly go on a journey when you try to make a podcast the right way.

I’ve got the idea.

I’ve been following the course.

The next stage is to get the guests.

But I’ve been struggling with distractions, struggling to find the answers to key questions about podcasting, and most importantly, I’ve been trying to work out how to get studio quality interviews with guests when I can’t actually get them in a studio or even visit them. I’m going to explain what I’ve found to deal with all these problems over the next few minutes.

Richard: 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.

So this week, my main focus has been on how to record guests, and over the next few minutes, I’m going to take you over what I found the platforms that I tried, and also let you hear some of the audio that I came up with in my tests as well.

I’m going to ask you a question first though. I was sitting in my car today driving somewhere and listen to a podcast as always, and as I listened to it there was something about that show that triggered off an idea in my mind. All of a sudden I anxiously pulled over and I started furiously typing notes about this new podcast idea.

I think I was there for like 15 minutes, trying to type with one finger on my phone with enough accuracy to actually have any hope of ever reading it back. Because there was something about this idea. It would market itself. It would engage people and it would potentially could be the next big podcast concept.

And you probably think I’m going to share that idea with you right now, but no. Well not yet. The problem is I have found that I get these ideas all the time and I’m sure you can relate to that and most of them turn out to be absolute rubbish!

As I’ve learned more about what makes a hit show, I’ve started to see patterns, which make me question the idea that I’ve already got and I keep coming up with these new ideas. For example, why do people have guests on their shows? Why did they have them on podcasts?

Sure, because they make great good guests, especially if they’re used to talking already on their own shows, but also because it allows you to reach their audience and market your show to them. Let’s be honest. This is one of the big benefits of doing guests based interview shows you get to market to each other.

So the very nature of the podcast I make is going to make it more marketable. So let me put it another way. My concept, doesn’t involve interviewing people who have got their own shows, but if I can’t reach other people’s audiences, then how am I going to get the show out there?

What I obviously then need is word of mouth marketing, so how do I gear up my content to be inherently shareable ? Why will people want to share the content that I make, particularly on social media?

You know what I found last week was that people share content if it shares their views, perspective and opinions through the proxy of someone else’s voice. In this case as a podcaster, through my voice or through your voice, if you’re doing it.

I think it’s more complex than just that simple statement.

But I’m going to try these things out to try and gear up my podcasts so that it is more marketable, more sharable I’m not quite sure how I’ve got a few ideas so far, but I will, of course tell you how I do it, and of course, whether it succeeds or spectacularly fails on this podcast.

I think the conclusion I come to though is that podcasting is a bit like dating. You’ve got to try a whole series of them until we fall in love with one that really does work for you and for your audience and it’s successful.

And on the subject of relationships, something that someone asked me this week on social media. Thank you for the question by the way was do I personally work for Spotify? Well, I will let you know in a few moments time plus also some thoughts on how to approach reading up about how to make a hit podcast because I keep going down this rabbit hole, where there is just so much information out there.

Any way more than that in a second, but first, there is a big glaring problem.

Like you, I suspect I do not have the time or the money to go out and interview guests, which is what the Gimlet Academy course has been talking about, about getting good tape, getting good guests that can tell great stories.

If you don’t know what I mean by “the course” then have a listen to the previous episodes . Its the Gimlet Academy course on Spotify.

For example, unlike national public radio, I, don’t have time to go to Alabama on the off chance of meeting someone and getting great content.

For all independents like me, that means “remote interviews”, but how, how can I get studio quality interviews when I can’t sit in a studio or go face to face with the guests?

So my aim this week was to find some software that would allow me to do that. I’ve posted about it on social media. I’ve talked about the different platforms during the week. If you want to have a look back at that @hitpodcast2020, that’s @hitpodcast2020 on Instagram and on Twitter, and it’s well hidden on Facebook, cause you have to pay for advertising on there. So have a look on Twitter or Instagram.

Richard: So what I want is a reliable system, a high quality system, free ideally, and staggeringly easy to use for guests because if it’s hard youre going to spend hours trying to connect.

At first I thought just use Skype like I used to in the old days, but it’s always been that sort of tinny audio quality, so it did a bit of Googling, and I found that there are now many products out there with varying features, and also one of the features I wanted was free because who are we kidding the editing software that I’m using cost a lot, and if you’re an independent like me, we don’t want to be spending any more money because we’re not making any money to do it.

So it didn’t take long to find these main contenders. I started off with zoom and right now we’ve got this covid-19 virus going on, and so many people are using Zoom for video conferencing and the great thing about that is it guests are probably also more familiar with using Zoom, so hopefully they will find it less of a challenge.

You can get free up to 40 minutes with multiple guests, but if you’re doing one on one, you can get a long, long time. Plus, the most important thing is that you can record the audio and in fact, you can actually record it separately on two separate audio tracks. I will let you hear about the sound quality in just a second. It is not studio quality and it does still have this sort of tinny compressed sound to it, but I’ll let you compare it in a second. I didn’t find there was any dropout, but I think like all these platforms, I would use something like Audacity or Garage Band on the Mac to make sure that I was recording a backup, but it works really well. You just click record it does the job, save it, finished.

The next one I had to look at was Zencastr.

Now this records the audio locally on your computer, but the big difference here is that it’s not a recording of the sound that went through the system like Zoom, it’s actually a clean recording of what was heard on your guest’s end and your end. So it’s not that compressed sound that went through the internet, but the actual raw sound quality that was heard on their end. The only downside is the fact that it is only audio, which I talk about more in a second. You can get eight hours per month for free up to two guests. It is quite pricey though at $20 per month, considering that my editing software, which does autotranscripts and a lot, lot more is only $10 a month, but it saves in high quality MP3, but the first problem I found was I couldn’t connect the audio.

So The laptop I was using for my simulated guest was absolutely having none of it. I couldn’t hear anything. The thing is, I don’t think that was actually a Zencastrs fault, but the Windows sound drivers, which cause so many problems that I found over the years, and once it was working, I recorded a test broadcast, which went fine.

It gave me two audio tracks, which you can download to your machine. You do have to be a little bit careful and the fact that you make sure you download it before you shut the browser window otherwise you lose everything. There was also no over-modding warning and what I mean by that is that when I’m recording and it’s too loud, it clips and so you get this awful sort of broken up sound.

and then finally I tried a system called CleanFeed, which I found incredibly simple to use and it works instantly straight away. Completely free, and I liked the way that you can download your audio also as you’re going along. Which gives you, I think a bit more confidence.

So that’s a summary of the three things I and I don’t want to do now is play the different quality of audio to you so you can decide which you think is best and just to give you an idea of what I did was I set up a laptop in another room to simulate being a guest and first of all I put it on my knee and then I lifted it up to my chest and you can hear the difference as I play the different bits there. So here we go.

Okay. So now we’re on zoom, and this is going to get the ability to talk via video chat as well as get the audio as well. So I’m recording this in the blue Yeti, first of all, to see how that sounds.

Now I’m on my guest laptop holding it up to my chest. Again, holding it nice and clear, close to me. I can hit the difference by my waist.

And now for Zencaster, but this was only recorded on the laptop.

test-episode_recording-1_2020-05-10–t02-35-07pm–liz: So this is me speaking with a laptop on my knee. It’s obviously the volume is pretty low. It needs to boost up quite a bit to get that matched up. Um, I’m going to hold it a little bit closer to me now. Just so on my chest, so I’m going to try and speak at this sort of level and just to see how it sounding on this.

Richard: And finally on Cleanfeed

So this is me recording on my volume now, and this is coming through on the blue Yeti microphone. So this is my normal sort of volume coming through like that. So now I’m going to go across to the laptop.

What I can see here is I’m not talking into the laptop and I’m actually got the laptop up at my chest height as I tried with Zencaster. .

Richard: So overall, in terms of sound quality, I would say that CleanFeed wins hands down and it’s free!

The problem is you can’t see your guest, and I think a key part of interviewing As I said earlier, is being able to see when someone’s about to say an amazing story, which perhaps were a little bit of encouragement will come out and create some amazing audio.

So then what I did was I actually tried Zoom and muted the sound on Zoom and tried it with CleanFeed so that CleanFeed could do the audio and Zoom would do the video. But no combination I tried seemed to work well. I got an echo. I got weird sounds.

So then I tried Zencaster and I used the Zencaster setting to disabled voice over IP, and I think what that does is it blocks out recording this “over internet” sound, and it worked beautifully.

Look, I’m not an expert on these settings, so if you know about a better one, do let me know, but these are the conclusions that I’ve come to so far.

There are two remaining problems now I’m using a blue Yeti, high quality microphone , as I speak to you, and I was using it in those tests too. But they are obviously not going to be, and the quality from the laptop mic is, as you heard, pretty poor.

It was vastly improved when using an earbud set of headphones with a microphone built in, so it’s sort of, you know, mobile phone type headphones once that you put in your ear that have a little microphone on the side, but can you expect your guests to buy a microphone. Its going to be a bit of a challenge probably.

Sso the most important thing I found was to make sure that you get your guests to talk as close to the microphone as possible, and if that means they have to bend over to that tiny little awful mic on the laptops, so be it because the sound quality massively improved when I tried it on the very low quality microphone on my laptop.

and then the second big problem is this one, and that’s getting a guest set up. It can be a job, particularly if they have got tech fear, or just trying to get him through some of the basic stuff, and I saw on the Zencastr site, that they had done a video to help guests get themselves set up, and it starts off with, like, you have been invited to appear in a podcast. This is how to do it.

It wasn’t quite what I would want to share with people, so I’m actually gonna record my own. You’ve heard of the sort of personal welcome videos, while I’m going to record a video of myself, showing my guests how to set up, but also really welcome them to the show and thank them for appearing on it, and hopefully that’ll help to create a bit more of a connection with my guests as well. I will share that video with you. Of course, once it’s done too.

So my choice to go ahead with this project is going to be Zencaster and Zoom combined together with Audacity recording a backup. I may also try to record the backup with Descript, which has the added advantage of automatically transcribing in real time as we actually speak, but I’m a little bit cautious of that after a few crashes before.

Zencastr, as I say is a bit expensive, $20 per month, but you do get eight hours free. I suppose if you are making a show like this one whereby it’s going to be multiple guests in a short period of time, it may be worth me buying one month to get those extra features on there.

So we’re nearly ready. The idea is set. The story outline is clear. The technical side is in place. next week it’s time to start finding the guests, but not just any guests, because I need the right guests.

This I suspect is going to be a big process, and I’m, of course, going to report on every step of the way on social media and in next week’s show, but before I wrap up, there are two more observations I wanted to make this week.

When you live in the UK like me, if the sun comes out, right? You go outside quick as it may not appear again, this year. I am not kidding. But it is hard to move a studio outside, right.

So I was sitting in the garden the other day with the laptop on my knee, and I thought I’d research a few more things on podcasting and social media after the last weeks show.

And I sat down for what was it about 10 minutes I thought it would take to read this article and two hours later my eyes lifted from the screen because once again, I had gone down a rabbit hole of information, because there’s just simply too many articles out there promising the solution to your question on how to make the perfect hit podcast and all the different aspects of it.

And when you see a link in one article, you tend to just click on it and go on to the next. The problem is most of these articles I found are long and they’re vague and they don’t really add a lot of content. Occasionally you’ll find a corker and I bookmark it straight away, but a lot of it is very vague stuff.

But the problem is here is that while you’re reading about all this stuff, you’re not actually making a podcast and it was in exasperation that I actually picked up my phone that day, and if you follow my social media as I say, you’ll have seen that I recorded a video and the thought that was in my head was it’s this, this quite simple, right?

” if you spend too long reading about how to make it a hit podcast, you are never actually going to make one!”

And this was what I was saying to myself because it was crazy. There I had spent two hours reading about stuff and not really gaining much information, whereas I could actually been out there doing it for real.

You know, It’s true, you might miss a key detail that will make a difference. I could gather all these notes together and gradually make the perfect guide but never actually get started doing it. so I’m going to give up on all this extra reading and stay far more focused on what I actually need to do, but yes, I’m going to make more mistakes, I think I have to take this attitude of being prepared to fail and embrace that. The lessons I learn trying and failing perhaps with this first series are going to be far more powerful and far more useful for propelling me forward for success with the next one than anything I can read or months I could spend reading and not actually doing.

So I’m going to limit myself to I think three links when I read an article, no more following from there.

and finally I got a really friendly direct message this week asking if I work for Spotify? The answer is, Nope! I don’t. I actually worked for someone completely different. Who knows maybe one day. Um, I just found the Gimlet Academy podcast which appears only on Spotify to be one of the clearest explanations of how to make a great podcast that I’ve heard of. As I say, there’s so much waffle out there but the honest feeling is, I think it’s great. I think he’s really really to the point, so if you haven’t heard it, I would definitely go and have a listen to that.

So next week then how to find the right guests who are going to bring my story idea to life. How do I find them? How do I persuade them to come on? How do you get people who will get your listeners talking?

Live updates almost every day on social media with all the developments as they happen. The account name is @hitpodcast2020, thats @hitpodcast2020 and you can find all the links as well Ive been talking about in this podcast on the website at that’s literally all one word.

There is lots of advice out there saying you can still make a hit podcast in the 2020s. I love saying this if it’s right, then you and I could be making one by the end of this year. Speak to you next week.

Published by Richard

25 years in the communications business. Former news editor, journalist, political public relations professional, social media content creator, and podcast host of

Leave a Reply