This morning, I got up at 5:00 a.m. to drive to Dallas to call on two clients. It’s a 3 hour drive from Austin to Dallas, so last night, I made sure the iPod was loaded up with plenty of podcasts so I wouldn’t have to deal with the contant radio station changing that’s required on a cross-country trip of more than about 50 miles.
One of the podcast series I was really interested in listening to was Scott Johnson’s Tech War Stories. Scott, you need to read this feedback. Realize I truly consider Scott one of those guys that I truly like, and none of this is meant to be a personal attack, but Scott, I’m about to quit listening to your podcasts for a few reasons, and that’s really a shame, because I think your content is excellent, but your presentation is killing it.
To be fair, I believe Content is King, and crappy presentation can be overcome with killer content usually, but podcasts have come a long way from Dave and Adam’s first Skype based chats of a year ago, and I expect more from my podcasts.
If you’re producing a podcast, realize you’re competing with NPR, ABC, and other really great professionally produced podcasts. You’re also competing with lots of really great non-professional podcasts like BabyTime, which comes off as being pretty professional.
So, here are my pocaster commandments (and no, I don’t produce my own podcast, but I’m an avid consumer):
1. Speak into the microphone. All the time. If you’re recording a ten minute segment: take the ten minutes it takes to record your content, and put the damned microphone in front of your mouth while you’re talking. If you need to take a break, take a break, then come back to the recording. You can use iMovie to do your recording, if you want. It’ll export a video-less MP3, believe it or not.
2. Don’t cough into the microphone or shuffle papers in front of the mic, or set a cup down on the desk, or suck juice through a staw, or slurp the last of your drink… DON’T DO THIS RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE MICROPHONE!
In the car tonight, I was listening to podcast upon podcast and Scott, you’re going to blow my speakers… first it’s low volume from your voice a few times, because the microphone’s too far from your mouth, then, it was cough, cough, really loud, or papers being shuffled right in front of the mic… and I had the volume quite loud.
3. Check the levels on your podcast. Listen to your podcast, at least the first 15 seconds before you publish it. Do this, every time… why? Because you’ll notice the loud blip at the beginning of some of your recordings and you’ll be able to edit it out. You’ll also notice the low-voice volume, and you can fix it. You might even pick up the back ground noise, and decide the recording needs to be redone.
4. Lose the “okay… right?” This is a common public speaking pet peave of mine. Honestly, I’m really proud of you that you don’t say “ummm”, but, after 3 hours of Scott Johnson, I can qualitatively immitate his “okay” and “right?” perfectly… and oh, man, is this not the way you want to sound Scott. Scott’s vocabulary and content will show you how damned fucking smart he is, then he’ll clouds it by interjecting that “okay” every third word for 15-20 second periods at a time.
5, 6, 7, and 8. EDIT THY PODCASTS. Honestly, editing your podcasts will take care of all of these problems, and you’ll come across as soooo much more credible. I’ll go back to “Content is King” and say right now that all of the Tech War Stories podcasts have excellent content… well all of them except that News River Aggregator one (you forgot to plug inluminent Scott ;))… but I digress. I also realize you’re busy, and you’re multi-tasking, and that you’re building a company. I get it. Edit. Edit. Edit. It’ll take you twice as long to do a podcast, because you’ll have to listen to it all again, but that’ll also make them a much much better product.
9. Put some sound proofing in your office. Get something to break up the flat walls around you, and maybe your ceiling, to deaden the slight echos in some of the recording sessions. I actually enjoy the multi-task podcasts you’ve done while driving in the car, or while cooking the family lunch… that shows me your dedication. Do some of that, but then edit it down, and I think you’ll get a much better podcast.
10. Add an intro and outtro. Since you’re going to start editing your podcasts, record a standard intro and outtro for the podcasts. The Intro might include a snippet of your favorite piece of music, with a voice-over introduction. (I’m really tired of hearing how much you hate your radio voice). Get someone else to produce an introduction… it’ll sound better, then just start talking. An outtro idea could be something like a standard “thank you for listening” message with a plug for your URLs: Fuzzyblog.com, Ookles.com, Ookles.wordpress.com, etc… and maybe some other contact information, if you think it’s important for people to be able to contact you right after listening to a podcast (I wanted to call you but had the wrong number in my cell phone while I was driving).
So, don’t take this criticism harshly Scott. Take it as constructive criticism, please.
Overall: Excellent fucking content. Excellent. I’ve learned a hell of a lot from listening to your podcasts. I love the content. I love the long/short formats… you never seem to talk too much or too little, it’s always just right. Take the production up a notch, and I think you’ll really have something you can be proud of when you look back on them in the future.
Anyone else have any tips for Scott?
updated: I have to take a moment to compliment Scott after taking him to task here. It takes big brassy balls to throw your shit out into the wild, and that’s what Scott is doing with his podcast. I applaud him greatly for that… hoping to help him learn… and yes, Scott, you’re the one that said to pick a fight in one of your podcasts so I’m eating your dogfood a little here!