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12 Episodes In: What I’ve Learned About Creating a Podcast (So Far)

8 Dec

podcast desktop

When I was in Perth earlier this year, my friend Connie took me to Fremantle Markets, where I stumbled upon a stall of adorable illustrations called Little Sketchy. One of the drawings I bought is her character Mr. Hammy trying to grow a sweet potato, and it’s captioned, “hard work + persistence = Big Potato.”

I look at this drawing everyday for motivation as I continue working my way up the mountain called “Successful Podcast.” Alison and I are 12 episodes into the adventure we call “Olympic Fever“, and while it’s a complete blast of a project to work on, it’s a lot of work to build something from nothing.

We pride ourselves on creating good content that we’re releasing every week, but then we have to market the hell of out of it (with no budget). On top of that, we need to work on multiple episodes at once–booking guests, conducting interviews, cataloging and editing tape, putting stories together….it can be a little daunting sometimes, and I see why people throw in the towel after posting just a few episodes, if it’s something they’re doing on the side.

I thought I’d take a little time to talk about what we’ve been able to accomplish in the four or so months we’ve been working on this project, not only as a motivational tool for us–it’s always good to take a look back at what you’ve achieved–but perhaps also as help for anyone who’s thinking about doing a podcast of their own. So here’s a short list of smart things we’ve done.

  1. Take a class – One of the best things I’ve done is take a self-study class from MediaBistro (which sadly isn’t on their current lineup of classes). It gave me the background I needed to understand equipment, hosting, good artwork and marketing. The pace was good, and the info was exactly what I needed to get going quickly.
  2. Come up with a good format – As we were talking about how to do the show, Alison suggested we do more packaged stories, rather than just “yuk yukking” it, so we have an A story, chat/trivia time, and a B story/news wrap-up. To be honest, it’s a lot more work than just chit-chatting — we have to write scripts, conduct interviews, drop in audio clips, sometimes throw music underneath — and potentially takes a ton of time (don’t ask how long I stayed up to put together our A story for our pinhead episode, but I love the final product). In the end, it’s a good format for us. We keep the show a little more focused, and it’s nice to have the experience of putting together an audio story, which gives me cred if I want to pitch to another show.
  3. Take advantage of opportunities – Not long after we started taping, we were able to go to Olympin’s pin collector conference, which also led to USA Bobsled and Skeleton saying yes to setting up interviews with some great athletes, which led to Team USA letting us into a media event where we got to do a bunch more athlete interviews that (a) were great people to talk to (we’re looking forward to some upcoming shows), and (b) got us quality guests without a ton of legwork on our part. Our show would definitely not be as interesting if we didn’t get to talk to athletes and fans, and the kindness of a few people saying yes has really helped define expectations for what we produce.
  4. Get it done every week – I’m honestly proud of the fact that we’ve managed to post an episode every week for the last 12 weeks. A lot of weeks have been “just get it done” for me, so maybe the audio quality isn’t as great, or the episode is longer than ideal, but we’ve gotten it posted. And when we’ve needed a vacation, we’ve managed to tape additional episodes to give us a much-needed break.
  5. Have patience – I’ll be honest — it’s really hard to get listeners (where are you, potential fans?!), and it can be frustrating to look at our download statistics. We’re marketing as well as we can, but let’s face it — we can’t do all of the things all the time. We have other jobs and families and activities, so while we post on social media where we can and look for other ways to market ourselves, we try to keep it in stride with how it shakes out in the results. And we know that if we had better results, we could start commanding some advertising to pay for a project that can be pretty darned expensive. Downloads aren’t everything though — we’re also incrementally building our skills, getting better gear, building out a good calendar and creating an interesting tape library. Every week we have a great conversation and learn new things about a topic we love. It’s pretty sweet to be able to say that about a project, and ultimately, that’s the best kind of motivation to keep going.

Got a comment, question or similar experience/inspiration? I’d love to hear from you!

This is What a Podcast Looks Like

29 Sep

My podcast!

Making a podcast–at least the way we want to do it–is tough. As I mentioned before, my fellow Olympic fan Alison Brown and I have started an Olympics podcast called Olympic Fever, and we’ve finally launched. This week we dropped episode 2 (“Who Wants to Host?”), and while it’s exciting, my head is swimming with everything we need to do for future episodes–and more importantly, everything we need to figure out.

Take recording and editing, for example. I took a low-key online self-study class through MediaBistro to learn about podcasting. Good move on my part–it taught me what tools I’d need to record, edit, mix, host and publish; in short, all of the technical stuff I really had no idea to do. Best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.

That said, once I had the tools in place, I had to learn how to use them. That learning is a little more complicated and who knows when I’ll actually master them.

Still, I’m having a blast, and I’ve learned that I love looking at sound. That’s us in the picture, talking. My track is on top, isolated because I discovered a nasty hum on my end after we finished recording (which I think I’ve figured out how to solve for future episodes, thank goodness). Anytime I’m not talking, I’ve cut my sound down so it’s not audible. But still, you can see on the front and back of my line where the light purple is a bit lighter–that’s the hum.

I’ve learned what laughs look like. I’ve learned what stutters look like and how long pauses are. It’s all so very fascinating to me right now, as is learning the art of where and how to edit. We make mistakes as we tape our story segments, and those need to get chopped out. We (mostly I) get cotton mouth and forget how to use our words.

But, we’ve gotten two episodes done and posted and have had fun doing them. My learning curve is decreasing dramatically, which is nice (episode 1 involved a very long Sunday learning how to split tracks and envelope sounds). Every day we get new ideas and opportunities for pieces that we’ll do on upcoming episodes [SPOILER ALERT: We’re going to Lake Placid this weekend to work on a few pieces], and we’re so excited about what’s in store!

I hope you’ll consider tuning in–and tell a friend and/or review us on iTunes. We’ve also got a Facebook group, if you want to chime in with your own two cents!

Coming Soon: Olympic Fever Podcast

8 Sep

Olympic Fever Podcast

We’re about five months out from another Olympics, which means that my case of Olympic Fever has been quietly raging for a while. If you remember, for Rio I tried having a blog, which while fun, was a lot of work and missed one essential element: The conversation.

One of my favorite things to do is talk about the Olympics, and without that element, it’s been hard to maintain the blog in the way that I’d like, which is namely, not a rehashing of the most recent news that’s posted as quickly as possible in order to get the most hits. Good research and writing takes time, and while I want to do that about the Olympics, that outlet became less and less of an ideal place as time went on. Also, posting is kind of one-sided. Blog comments just didn’t replicate the energy and excitement I feel when I can jaw about the Olympics with friends.

So I’m turning the blog into a podcast and calling it Olympic Fever. Each week my lovely co-host Alison Brown and I will be posting a ~30 minute episode that explores an Olympic story, includes some conversation, and preps you for the upcoming Games. We aim to find the unusual stories that make the Olympics what they are and why we love them–even if we know that there are tons of problems with them. We’re really excited about what we’ve got on tap so far, and we hope you’ll take a listen (if nothing, listen for the theme–I’m really proud of how that’s turned out)!

Olympics? How About Oldlympics?

14 Feb

Who says you have to be young to be a competitive Olympian? The Sochi Games have produced at least three medalists who are in their 40s, which says to me that your peak athletic years don’t have to be behind you if you’re over 25. As I get older, this thread of hope becomes even more important to me.

I haven’t looked at all of the medallists to gauge their ages, but let’s look at the men’s luge: The silver medallist is 42 and the bronze medallist is 40. Wow!

Oh, I know what you’re thinking: All these guys have to do is lie on their back and slide down a mountain. Any old person can do that. OK. I present Exhibit B: Ole Einar Bjorndalen, Norwegian biathlete, who won gold in the Men’s 10km sprint at age 40. This gold medal was his twelfth overall, tying the record for most medals in the Winter Olympics. Let me remind you that the guy is 40. Biathlon’s not easy either–you cross-country ski as fast as you can, then you have to get your blood pressure down as quickly as possible to be able to hold a rifle straight and hit a small target that’s about 50 meters away. It’s tough. I know. I do summer biathlon (running and shooting). I am no Bjorndalen…..unless he ever decides to start sponsoring the penalty loop, since I tend to spend a lot of time running around that, making up for missed shots.

The fact that these guys in their 40s can still be competitive gives me hope that if I work hard, I too can achieve a better level of fitness, lose those last 10 lbs, still achieve personal best times.

I just saw a piece on American snowboarder Kelly Clark, who at 30, is kind of surprised she’s competitive. She talked about having to work much harder to keep up with the 13-year-olds. If she’s not in the gym six days a week, she can’t hang.

Interesting, and when I hear a woman several years younger than me say that, it’s a little depressing. Then again, I’m not trying to twist and spin my body into a million directions and then stick a landing in a halfpipe. I’m just trying to be the fittest Jill I can be so I can do things like jump rope, run 5Ks and referee roller derby for a long time. It’s nice to have role models who show me it can be done.

Dueling Fevers

24 Jan

Every four years, a horrible thing happens: The Winter Olympics collide with Oscar Season.

This used to be a more dire situation for me. I used to be a movie junkie, and I’d have a huge Oscar party every year. Attendees dress up like nominated movie characters, and I’d have themed food, games, and champagne. When I had it at my apartment, I’d rent a big screen TV. Then I started having it in a private room of a bar, which allowed for more people and fun.

Martin Scorsese changed all of that. I don’t know how I sat through all of “Gangs of New York.” Perhaps it was trying to see if Cameron Diaz’ accent ever got better. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but after that dreadful experience–luckily at a cheap movie theatre–I stopped going to the movies so much. Every time I wanted to go, it had to be something I really wanted to see because not much was worth the $10 price of admission.

That hasn’t really changed today, and ticket prices have gotten a little bit higher, lessening my desire to see many movies. I’ve only seen a few this year; however, that general malaise I have about the movie industry goes out the window when the Academy Award nominations are announced. I’m excited for the nominees, and these are the movies that have been deemed to be good. This is my short list of what to bother with.

Of course, if that short list is pretty long, I have a bit of movie viewing to cram in during the nomination season. This year is no exception. I’d like to see at least eight of the nominated pictures, and on paper, that’s not such a daunting task….until you realize that the Olympics are on as well.

We’re in the run up to Sochi, and I’m so excited to watch–and become an instant expert on–obscure winter sports. I want to see how Sochi does as a host, how it deals with security threats, and how all the money it’s put toward these Games is actually spent. I want to spend hours watching television, looking for obscure glimpses of judges and officials, wondering how they get to that level. It’s been a while since I threw a big party, so a few friends are helping put together an epic one for the Opening Ceremonies. I’ve got Olympic Fever to the max.

When Olympic Fever collides with Oscar Fever, it’s tough. Real tough. While I still love the movies, they may continue to sit on the back burner. Double the Fever can be double the fun, but we’ll see if I test that theory.

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