Content Marketing With Podcasts – Part 2

Podcast Studio Equipment

In part 2 of this episode of Digital Marketing Madness, John Maher discusses content marketing with podcasts, including what equipment you need to podcast, how to add music intros and outros to your podcast, and some helpful tips for podcast editing using free Audacity software.

John Maher:  Hi, I’m John Maher and this is “Digital Marketing Madness.” This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re a digital marketing agency in Danvers, Massachusetts. Today, we’re doing part two of my series on content marketing with podcasts. Welcome to the show. In part one of this series I talked about what podcasting was, why you should podcast, and a little bit about what makes a good podcast.

Then I talked a little bit about how we do it at McDougall Interactive with transcripts — rather than just having a standard show notes blog post, we actually do a full transcript of the podcast in order to generate a long blog post that has all of this content from the podcast. We have that up on our blog. We do that so that Google can come and read all of that content.

We generate content for our website by doing a podcast. We do that in addition to putting the podcast up on iTunes or other podcasting outlets, so that people can discover or listen to our podcast there. People can also discover our podcast by just searching on Google and having that content show up in the search results and coming to our website and reading it on the blog.

Podcasting Equipment

In this episode, I want to talk a little bit about the equipment needed for podcasting — how to set that up. Then a little bit about how to add music to your podcast and to do editing. In terms of the equipment I did, in part one, talk a little bit about how important it is that you have good audio quality. I think that really is important as a listener of podcasts.

I know that when I start listening to a podcast, I go to iTunes on my iPhone. I do a search there for a particular topic to see what’s available. I’ll go through and start listening to some of the podcasts. I’ll tell you, if I can’t really understand what these people are saying or this person is saying because it sounds like they have the microphone about 20 feet away from their mouth, they’re in a big echo-y room, and it’s just hard to understand them or it’s a bunch of people around a big table with one microphone in the center and it just sounds like I’m listening to them from the other side of the room somewhere — I’m just immediately turned off by that. I say, “Oh, my gosh. I don’t think I can listen to a half-hour podcast of this with the audio quality sounding like that.”

It really makes a big difference to start off your podcast with some good music and have a good microphone, where you’re speaking directly into the microphone and it sounds like somebody is talking to you like on a radio show. There’s a reason that, on the radio, when people talk to you, they have nice microphones — because it helps with the tone of your voice, it helps to be able to understand what that person is saying.

You don’t listen to the radio and have the host on the radio sound like they’re talking to you from 30 feet away. It’s a more intimate experience, and by having somebody talking directly into a microphone, it’s like they’re talking directly into your ears. It can really make a big difference in terms of whether people even bother to listen to your podcast or not.

With that said, there are a few different ways that you can go about doing podcasting and recording a podcast. I’ll go through some easy ways to do it and some harder ways to do it, and I think the harder ways are going to be more expensive, but you’re going to end up with better quality. Just take that into account here that some of the easier methods, you might not get the best quality, but it might be OK.

Podcasting With Your Smartphone

One of the things that you can do is, actually, if you have a smart phone, then there are apps available on your smart phone to do audio recording. One of those apps that’s available on the iPhone is called “Bossjock studio”, like a disc jockey, “Bossjock studio.”

That is a paid app. I think it’s $9.99 for that app, but it does have buttons for adding music into your podcast and sound effects that you can add while you’re recording your podcast, all right there on your iPhone.

You just pop in some headphones, you can use the built‑in microphone on your iPhone or maybe you have an external microphone that you plug into your iPhone. That could be a really good option if you want to do a lot of your podcasting while you’re on the road with an absolute minimum of equipment. You already have your phone with you, you maybe have a pair of headphones.

You could do this while you’re driving in a car or you can do this at your hotel room or while you’re traveling, or at home, or in your office. Wherever you are, you have your phone with you and you can just use one of these apps to do an audio recording. That is a good option.

One potential con of doing it that way would be most smartphones don’t have a lot of storage space. Especially if you get a 16 GB iPhone instead of the 32 or the 64, you might not have a lot of storage space for audio recording on your device.

You might only be able to get one episode in and then you have to edit that and delete it from your phone before you can record a new one. Just keep that in mind that that might be an issue — storage space. Of course, if you’re just using that built‑in tiny little microphone on your phone it’s going to sound OK, but it’s not going to be great.

Podcasting with a Portable Digital Recorder

Another option would be to get a basic portable digital recorder. You can go online and search for that — portable digital recorder — and you’ll see a lot of different options. The one that I use — well I use an older version of this — but the newer version is the Roland R‑05.

The Roland R‑05 is really simple. It has a couple of built-in — a pair of stereo microphones up at the top of it. It’s a very small recorder. It’s only a couple of inches, a few inches across, maybe about 2.5 inches across, and it’s maybe 4 or 5 inches tall and it’s about 3/4 of an inch thick or so.

That is just a little handheld recorder that has microphones built right into it. It works really well. You could actually just use this totally by itself. You just put it on the table in front of you and start talking, hit record and start talking.

If you’re interviewing somebody and they’re right there in the room with you, you could put it in the middle between you on the table, like on a conference room table, and you could have a conversation back and forth and get a recording.

The microphones are pretty good and it would pick you up. It’s not going to be as good as having microphones that are right up to your mouth and are made to make your voice sound better. It is going to sound a little bit like you’re listening to somebody in a conference room when you’re listening to that podcast.

It can be OK. It records directly into wave format or even directly into mp3 format if you want to, so it could save some time for editing and getting that audio file up on iTunes or on your website later.

Portable Digital Recorder Plus External Microphones

There is another option you could do, the intermediate option, which it would be to take that portable digital recorder and just plug in an external microphone or two. There are adapters, the Roland R‑05 actually doesn’t have particular microphone inputs.

It does have an input for a microphone, but it’s one of those like a headphone jack, or like a 1/8 inch jack. So you would need to get an adapter that would adapt that 1/8 inch jack to whatever type of microphone it is that you want.

There are microphones available that have outputs that go to an 1/8 inch plug, but they’re kind of particular types of microphones. You could get one of those, or you if you want get a regular microphone that uses what’s called an XLR output, you would get an XLR cable and then you’d have to get an adapter to adapt that to this 3.5 millimeter or 1/8 inch plug that goes into the digital recorder.

That would be an intermediate set up. Another option for that would be to use a different type of recorder. There’s a digital recorder called the Zoom H4N, that has a pair of XLR microphone inputs right on the bottom, so you don’t need a converter in that case.

You could plug two microphones into that with cables and set up those microphones, maybe you put them in little table-top stands across a conference room table, so that there could be a host and a guest and then each have a microphone in front of them and it all gets recorded right into the digital recorder.

That would actually sound pretty good. If you do something like that, you could start with a pair of Shure SM57 microphones. Those are basic, nice microphones. If you got a pair of those on a conference room table and recording directly into a digital audio recorder, you’d be in pretty good shape. That would actually sound pretty good.

Those particular microphones are about $100 each. You could get those and it would sound decent.

Podcasting Using A Mixing Board

If you really want to go for the full podcast studio kind of effect, then you really need to invest in some more equipment. One of the things that you’d want to do if you want to go for a more advanced podcasting setup would be to get a mixing board.

You’ve seen these in pictures of recording studios or radio stations, where the mixing board has all these, what are called “faders”, on the bottom, and there are all these channels where the microphones and other audio inputs plug into the mixing board.

You could have a music recorder going into the mixing board. You have a couple of microphones going into the mixing board. If it’s big enough, maybe you can have half a dozen microphones going into the mixing board, and you can have a big round table with all these microphones set up, if you want to do that kind of a podcast, where you’ve got a group of people doing a recording.

Then any other audio inputs are going into that, and then you have these faders down on the bottom where you can adjust the volume level of each microphone or each audio input individually by sliding these faders up and down.

That’s really the best way to do it, and then to invest in a couple of really good, quality microphones. The microphone that I’m using right now, again, it’s by Shure, and it’s called the SM7B. These microphones are about $350 each.

If you wanted to set up a studio and you wanted to have a couple of these microphones in a studio, you’re talking $700 to get a pair of these. For a business, this could be a good investment. If you’re just doing a podcast for your hobby at home, maybe you need to think about whether or not $700 is an investment that you can make.

Maybe one would be fine if you’re doing a podcast where it’s just one person speaking. That would be OK.

Again, a mixing board, some good quality microphones. Other options for microphones are the Heil PR 40. Those are really good microphones. Those are about $330 each, I think, online.

Then a more expensive option, these are about $450 each, are the Electro‑Voice RE20. You’ll see those microphones used a lot in radio stations. They’re a very popular radio station microphone. Again, really good audio quality, but the Heil PR 40 and the Shure SM7B are really good options as well.

If you are mixing these microphones down through a mixing board, the audio still needs to get recorded somewhere. In our studio here at McDougall Interactive, I’m still using one of those Roland R‑05 type of digital recorders.

I have the output from the mixing board going into that small digital recorder. I hit record on the digital recorder, and then whatever I mix on the mixing board, whether the microphones or the music intro at the beginning, all gets recorded onto that digital recorder.

Then I can take the memory card out of that digital recorder and bring it to my computer and do the editing after I finish recording.

Podcast Recording With Your Computer

The other option would be to do your recording directly onto a computer. You could have a desktop computer set up, or a laptop computer, and you have the audio from the mixing board going into the computer, and then you’re doing your recording on the computer.

The only reason that I don’t do that is because, as you know, computers can sometimes be a little bit finicky, and if you’re in the middle of recording a long podcast — say it’s an hour‑long podcast, and you get 45 minutes in to that podcast — and then all of a sudden maybe the program that you’re using to do the recording just crashes on you, or maybe you don’t have enough memory on the computer or something, you could lose that whole file.

I just don’t trust computers that much to constantly and reliably work. I use the digital audio recorder as my recording device, because I just trust that it’s just going to work more than software on a computer would.

That’s the reason that I do that, but a lot of people do use computers for doing their recording, and that can be fine. Just consider that, that if you do have a problem with the recording because of the computer you might have to start over again and re‑record that episode.

In our studio, again, here at McDougall Interactive, we have a couple of broadcast boom arms, so we have these Shure microphones set up on boom arms. It looks very much like a radio station, if you’ve seen pictures or in movies or something of a radio station and an announcer in a radio station.

They have this microphone hanging in front of their mouth. That’s very much what our studio here looks like.

Then another alternative solution, if you don’t want to go with the whole mixing board thing, and maybe you do want to do your recording right on your computer, they do have USB microphones that plug directly into your computer, and then you can do your recording there.

There’s one by a company called Rode, and it’s called the Podcaster Studio Kit. This actually comes with a USB microphone, and it looks very much like a broadcast kind of microphone that you might see at a radio station, but it has a USB input on the back of it and it goes right into your computer.

Then, again, you can open up an audio recording program on your computer. You can have this microphone hanging in front of your mouth, maybe on one of these boom arms or on a desktop stand, and then you can talk into that and record directly onto your computer.

If you wanted to just have a good quality microphone and then record onto your computer, that’s another option, as well. I think, really, the microphone is probably the most important thing in the whole setup, in terms of getting good audio quality.

Whether you go through the mixing board or you’re going directly onto your computer or directly onto a digital recording device, that part of it doesn’t really matter so much. The microphone is really the most important thing.

Invest in the microphone, and then just figure out what else you need.

For us, we like to have our clients and other people that we’re interviewing come to our office, if possible, and do the recording here. We have two of these microphones set up across a table, and I can talk to somebody or somebody else in our office can interview somebody.

We have two people, and I have additional microphones, as well, that I can add to that, so that we could have, say, four people in a little conference around the table, and they each have a nice, high‑quality microphone, and it gets all recorded through the mixing board.

Do what makes sense for you. Some podcasts are just one person talking like I’m doing right now, and other podcasts have a group of people. Other podcasts are just two people.

Then there’s the option, too, of being able to do an interview with somebody who’s remote. I’ll talk more about that in Part Three, where you get into maybe using Skype or Google Hangouts with your computer and you’re calling somebody via Skype and talking to them remotely, whether it’s on their phone or if they’re talking on a headset on Skype, and then you’re recording that, as well, so that you can do podcast interviews with people remotely.

Adding Music to Your Podcast

I do want to talk a little bit about adding music and doing editing for your podcasts. I think that adding music to your podcasts really helps to make your podcast stand out and sound more professional.

As you heard, I had an intro at the beginning of this podcast that included some music. It included some little audio clips. It included an announcer speaking.

I recorded this whole intro at the beginning, and I use that at the beginning of every episode of Digital Marketing Madness, but you could just have some music play at the beginning. I think that that really goes a long way toward making your podcast sound more professional.

If you’re using one of the basic or intermediate methods of recording your podcast, like just having a microphone plugged in to a digital audio recorder, or just having a microphone plugged into your computer and recording on there, you’re probably not going to be adding in the music while you’re doing the recording.

You’re probably going to be doing what’s called adding the music “in post”, or in post‑production. After you’ve done the recording, you then take that audio file, and then you go and you add the music in afterwards.

That can be fine, and there are tools to do editing and add in music afterwards that make it not too hard. For me, I like to make the editing process as smooth and quick as possible, so I actually prefer to have the music playing live here in the studio while I’m doing the recording.

I also like this when I’m interviewing somebody in our studio, because they can hear the music through the headphones, and it makes it sound professional right here in the studio, and it makes them feel like, “Hey, I’m on the radio. There’s music playing, and here’s the introduction, and now John’s talking. He’s interviewing me, and he’s introducing me.” I’ll ask them a question, and then fade that music out.

It just sounds professional when you do it that way, for the person who’s in the studio. I just like to do it because it makes the process of editing afterwards much easier. All I have to do is just trim a little bit at the beginning and the end of that dead air before I started recording, and then maybe fix any mistakes that might have happened in the middle of the recording. Otherwise I pretty much just leave the recording the way it is.

I’ve already got the music in it. I just do a little bit of editing afterwards, and then it’s ready to go. It does take a little bit longer if you need to take that audio of the podcast and then add music in afterwards.

Maybe end your podcast with some music, as well. Again, it just makes it sound more professional. Then you do then have to go into the editing process afterwards.

Podcast Audio Editing

How do you do audio editing? I just use a free program that’s available for the PC or the Mac that’s called Audacity. There are other audio editing programs that are available.

If you’re just doing a basic podcast, I really don’t think that you need to invest a lot of money in really expensive audio programs. Audacity does a great job of just cleaning up your recording, doing a little editing and boosting the volume level up a little bit.

Clean It Up

My basic process for doing the editing is to take the MP3 file that I get from my digital audio recorder after I do the recording, and I bring it into Audacity. I trim any of that dead air from the beginning and the end, and then I go through the recording and I fix any little mistakes or problems that happened.

Sometimes people, when they talk, make little clicks with their mouth or their lips, and I like to try to edit some of those things out, again, just so that it makes it nice and clean.

Fade Out

Then I will trim the very end, where the music fades out, and then I’ll apply what’s called a “Fade Out” effect, in Audacity, just to make sure that that audio fades out nice and smoothly, and fades out all the way down to zero.

Then I will apply the amplify effect to the recording, which basically just amplifies the volume level all the way across the whole recording, all the way up as far as it can amplify the audio without getting to the point where it’s amplified it too much and it starts to distort.

Limiter

It amplifies it as much as it can without distorting, and then, depending — I’ll look at the wave form in the audio editor, and if I see that there’s a couple of places in the recording where there are really high peaks or low valleys where maybe it was a little click of the mouth, or maybe somebody laughed and it was very loud all of a sudden, but mostly the rest of the audio is at a lower volume, I’ll actually apply the “Limiter” effect in Audacity, which will scrunch that down and cut off some of those high points where maybe the volume peaked for just a moment.

Then when I apply that limiter, I’ll then apply the amplification again and just amplify that volume. I’m just trying to get as much volume level as I can in the recording without going overboard, and without making any kind of distortion, making it sound bad.

Compressor

I’ll also sometimes apply the “Compressor” effect in Audacity, which basically does the job of taking any loud points and any soft points, and it just scrunches everything together, and then, again, amplifies the whole sound overall. What that will do — I especially do that when I’m interviewing somebody in the studio, because my volume level on my microphone…I try to get the microphones so that they’re similar volume level, but sometimes my voice might be a little louder than somebody’s voice that I’m talking to.

By adding the compressor effect, it just takes away a little bit of that difference between the highs and the lows, and it makes the difference between the high and low volumes a little bit less noticeable. It just evens it out.

You can add the compressor effect, as well.

Then I just export file to an MP3 file, and then I have that file, and I can upload that to a program for hosting, a provider online, whether that’s SoundCloud or Libsyn. I’m going to go more into hosting your audio files in Part Three, so definitely check that out if you’re interested in where you store those audio files and how you create an audio player that you can put on your website.

Auto-Duck

The other thing that you can do is if you do have to add music to your podcast after the fact, and it’s not just something that you did like I do, which is just adding that music in while I’m doing the recording — if you have to add it in post‑production, then there is another effect in Audacity that’s available called “Auto‑duck.”

It’s not a duck like “Quack like a duck,” it’s a duck as in “Duck under something.” In this case, what it means is you’re taking music and you’re putting it in a track on the top of Audacity, and then you put your audio, your speaking part of the podcast, on the track below that.

You line them up so you have that music start, and then you have the voice come in a little bit — maybe 5 seconds or 10 seconds after the music starts, the voice starts on the other track. At the end of the podcast, the voices end and then the music continues for a little bit at the end of the podcast.

When you choose that audio music file that’s on the top of that track, and you choose the auto‑duck effect, what it does is it will automatically have the music duck under the spoken voice, or whatever is on that audio track below it, the music track will duck under that.

Basically what it does is it just automatically lowers the volume level of the music when somebody’s speaking. Then you have all of your speaking during the podcast, then at the end when your speaking stops, then the audio level of the music will automatically go back up again to full volume until the end of the podcast.

It’s a really easy way — if you didn’t have that, you’d have to try to somehow record the music into the track, and then you’d have to fade it out right when the music starts, but then it’s hard to get that so that it lines up right with exactly when the speaking starts.

Then the same thing at the end. It can be really complicated to try to do that manually, so this auto‑duck effect is really, really helpful for that. You just have that audio file as a track at the top, and then the spoken track as a file below it.

Choose that auto‑duck effect on the music, and it will automatically adjust that volume level depending on what is in that second track, the spoken track. That’s a really, really helpful feature.

That’s really all there is to it, in terms of doing the editing. Once you have your edited file, you just, again, export that as an MP3, and then you can upload that to your hosting platform.

I hope that that was really helpful to talk a little bit about some of the equipment that you can use to create your own podcast. Remember that the microphone quality is really the most important part of that.

The rest depends on what kind of situation you’re in, whether or not you are talking just by yourself or with a group of people or you’re planning on doing interviews with people remotely. That is going to matter more, in terms of what other equipment you need, but the microphone really is the first thing.

Then adding music really makes your podcast sound more professional. As you can hear, I have music in the background here while I’m doing this outro, and it just makes it sound a little bit more like a real radio show that people can really listen to.

That just makes it sound that little bit more professional than it would be if I just said, “OK. Goodbye,” and then that was the end of the audio.

Keep that in mind, and then Audacity is the program that I use for doing my audio editing. It’s a free program that’s available for PC and for Mac. You can use that for your editing. I really don’t think that you need anything more complicated than that if you’re just doing basic audio editing.

I hope that that was helpful. In Part Three, I’ll be talking more about recording interviews remotely, and about getting links from people to your podcast by doing those remote interviews.

I’ll talk more about hosting your audio files and a couple of different options that you have for that, and then I’ll talk more about submitting your podcast to iTunes, and how you get an RSS feed to submit to iTunes, et cetera.

That will be the last piece of the puzzle. If you missed Part One, make sure you go to our blog at mcdougallinteractive.com/blog, and check Part One of Content Marketing With Podcasts to learn a little bit more about what podcasting is, why you should podcast, and what makes a good podcast.

I hope this was really interesting and helpful for you. For more information about digital marketing, in general, you can visit mcdougallinteractive.com, and please make sure you subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

Thanks again for listening. I’m John Maher, and we’ll see you next time on Digital Marketing Madness.

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