Category Archives: Reviews

Podbase Is a Friendly Validator for Your Podcast RSS Feeds



RSS iconRSS feeds. Ten years into the history of podcasting and they’re still the cornerstone, if not the actual lifeblood of the medium. Want to get your podcast into places like iTunes or Stitcher? You’re gonna need a valid RSS feed. And while feed validation tools have been around since the beginning of podcasting, sometimes they return results that are complex to understand, often sending podcasters into a spiral of panicked Google searches, hoping to find remedies for what they believe to be a broken RSS feed.

I tried Podbase today for the first time. Podbase is a feed validator with a focus on podcasting. It’s also got a simple one-page design that gives you the information you need in an easy to understand format.

Podbase breaks down its results system into three sections. First, it’s the Basics section, described by Podbase as, “Basic tests, the podcasting equivalent of ‘Is the patient breathing?'” In this section, Podbase checks to see if your feed URL is correct, if your feed is actually made up of XML, and then it checks to see if your feed is truly an RSS feed. In testing my own feed, I passed the second and third requirements no problem. However, Podbase noted that, “It took about 3.3 seconds to get the feed, which is very slow in ‘internet time’. Worth looking into before it gets worse.” Ultimately, my feed still passed the test. But Podbase offered some helpful advice about the length of time it took to load my feed.

Continue reading Podbase Is a Friendly Validator for Your Podcast RSS Feeds


How Hindenburg Journalist Stole My Heart



Every few weeks, if you hang around podcasting forums and groups long enough, you’ll see someone raise the question, “What software do you use to record and mix your show?”

The usual contenders come up. You’ll see references to Audacity, Garageband, Adobe Audition, Reaper, and a few others. I was a Garageband man myself when it came to the final mix of my shows. Audacity has always been my tool of choice for editing. It’s because they were both free when I started out and didn’t take too long to master. I came to love Garageband for its ability to add adjustable fades and transitions. So when the question was asked I proudly commented, “I’m committed to Garageband.”

Until the day I cheated on Garageband.

It started casually enough. A response someone wrote to a long lost question caught my eye. In it the responder mentioned Hindenburg Journalist. I knew what the Hindenburg was. A crashed dirigible right? A tragedy made famous by the journalist who documented the events in a voice dripping with horror. Hmmm…. Hindenburg Journalist, huh.  A picture accompanied the response as well. It featured a screen with the familiar sight of tracks and waveforms. If you’re a podcaster or mixing engineer it is one of those images that never fails to catch your eye. So I dug a little deeper. I eventually found myself knocking on the door at http://hindeburg.com and downloading a trial version of the software. Was it because I wasn’t happy with Garageband? No, not at all. I think I was a little bored. I was looking for some spice.

A day later, one day into my 30 day trial, I bought the software. It wasn’t cheap, but it certainly wasn’t as expensive as some of the other options out there.

To add insult to Garageband’s injury, I moved all of the tracks from my current project into Hindenburg Journalist and quietly told GB that it was all over. “It’s not you,” I said. “It’s me.” I didn’t have the heart to say that I’d met someone new.

So what it is it about Hindenburg Journalist that stole my heart? One word… “Organization”. I’m a very organized person and I am constantly, and I do mean constantly, looking for ways to streamline my workflow. Not a day goes by that doesn’t find me creating templates, or new ways to manage the many projects I have going on at any given moment. Journalist allows for all of the things that Garageband does but what sealed the deal for me is the fact that it’s geared towards those of us who produce shows focused on narrative. Think This American Life and Radiolab, or my own modest offering Evolution Talk. This is where Journalist shines. A typical episode that I produce contains twenty audio files or more. These represent the narration, voice artists, music, effects, and show branding files. What Journalist allows me to do is add these files into an organized structure using ‘clipboards’. I usually start with clipboards called “Narration”, “VO”, “Music”, “Effects”. This is where I place the files I will eventually use in the show. Journalist contains another “permanent” clipboard called “Favorites”. “Favorites” travels with me from project to project and contains those bits of audio that are used in every show (like the show opening, closing, etc.).

Hindenburg1From the virtual clipboards within Journalist I simply drag the clip I need into its respective track. The software provides an almost overwhelming amount of shortcuts to edit and move clips around. It will seem daunting at first but, take it from someone who strives to keep things simple and efficient without taking away from quality, they are easy to master and you will quickly find yourself using only a subset of them.

Journalist also has a remarkable ability to auto-adjust clip volumes. This scared me at first. Don’t mess with my audio. Surprisingly though, I soon found myself relying on it. It is of course adjustable and can be tweaked at will.

I’ve been using Journalist to produce Evolution Talk for a couple of months now (and Who Said Anything About Free Will? , a new audio drama scheduled for launch in late March 2015). I’ve never looked back. Do I feel guilty? Yes. But that’s only because every now and then my eye drifts to the dock at the bottom of my screen and settles upon the Garageband icon. I haven’t had the heart to remove it.


Reviewcast Sends Your Last 25 iTunes Reviews For Free



Reviewcast LogoiTunes reviews are important to many podcasters. They help not only to increase our exposure in the iTunes directory, they can also give us insight into how listeners are feeling about our shows. It’s a good idea to take a look at your iTunes reviews on a regular basis. However, Apple doesn’t make it easy because iTunes reviews are divided by country, based on an individual reviewer’s location. The only way to see all of your iTunes reviews would be to log into iTunes and then manually change your location to each country, going thru the entire list one by one. That’d be a long and tedious process.

Reveiwcast is a simple service (currently in beta) that you can use to have your show’s last 25 iTunes reviews e-mailed to you for free. It’s easy to use and works pretty well.

When you load the Reviewcast site, you’re greeted with the message, “Let us email you the last 25 reviews from all over the world for any iOS Application, OS X Application, Podcast or iBook listed on the the App Store or iTunes Store.”

Reviewcast Main Screen

Enter your show’s title into the field immediately under the greeting text. Select “Podcast” from the drop-down menu and click the Search button.

Continue reading Reviewcast Sends Your Last 25 iTunes Reviews For Free


Validate Your Podcast Feed – FeedValidator.org gone?



Over the last weekend, I noticed that FeedValidator.org has gone to a webhosting parking page.  I don’t know what the future is for feedvalidator.org, but that got me to researching other feed validators.  Here is what I found:

Podcast RSS With Headphones

First off, *most* feed validators out there are using the same code as feedvalidator.org was (or is). One of these is W3c Feed Validation Service. This is VERY much like feedvalidator.org in that it also hasn’t been updated in a while and isn’t neccecarlly 100% for podcasting. One thing is that if you are using the Powerpress Podcasting plugin for WordPress, you will get a “Recomondation” that says:

“This feed is valid, but interoperability with the widest range of feed readers could be improved by implementing the following recommendations.
line 2, column 0: Use of unknown namespace: http://www.rawvoice.com/rawvoiceRssModule/”

The Rawvoice Namespace has been out there and is OK with iTunes, Stitcher and most (if not all) podcast aggregators and apps out there. Still, using the W3c Validator will let you know if something is VERY wrong with your feed.

Another one I found a while back is still in “Preview”, but still interesting. It’s called Podbase Podcast Validator. It doesn’t give you the same info as the other ones. The unique thing it does do for you is give you is a kind of checklist that will let you know if your feed elements are there and correct. It also will warn you of any size issues as in your feed size or if your art is too big (file size). This one has promise as a useful tool for podcasters.

The best one I found so far is CastFeedValidator.com. This one gives you a full preview of what your listing will look like on most podcast apps. It will also warn you of the normal things that can cause your feed to not perform as it should.

Whenever I setup a new podcast feed for a client or want to troubleshoot someone’s feed, I use all 3 of these. It’s a good idea to check your own feed once in a while just to make sure everything is good.

If you know of another feed validator that works good for podcasting, let me know.

Posted by Mike Dell from The Podcast Help Desk


The Shortest Podcast



Podcasts are such a varied medium. There’s very few rules or conventions defining what a podcast should be. There’s plenty of trends, so many podcasts are improvised group discussion, many have a specific niche to focus on, but the trends in terms of podcast length are all over the place.

Some podcasts are 20 minutes, some 45, some aim for an hour an episode, many go for 90 minutes and there’s even a healthy number that push three, four and five hours per episode. As someone who often finds themselves giving advice to aspiring podcasters, I usually tell new podcasters that they should aim to make their episodes no longer than it takes their listeners to listen to between episodes. This assumes that they’ve got other stuff going on in their day and other podcasts to listen to also. The bigger podcasters like Adam Carolla can afford to put out 90+ minutes five times a week because he has a dedicated fan base, but for your average podcaster, that kind of quantity is going to see their listeners miss episodes because other attentions take priority.

So that’s my rule for the maximum length of a podcast, but lately I’ve been struggling with finding a similar formula for the minimum length of a podcast. In theory it shouldn’t matter, in fact brevity could help you by making your podcast the go-to filler podcast for short listens. This has the flip side risk that your content lacks depth and therefore interest. It’s a tough line to walk, but recently I took the plunge when I fell in love with an incredible app that is driven by short form content.

For most non-Australian readers, if I mention the Omny personal radio app, you might not be familiar with it, they’re still growing and are slowly launching in new international markets. It comes from Melbourne-based 121cast, the makers of SoundGecko. Omny is a player that scrolls between short podcasts (under 10 minutes) music from your own library, music streaming services and also reads out events from your calendar, weather reports and more. All of this combines to make a highly personal radio experience.

When I discovered this app, I was preparing to launch my short-form podcast The Forgetting Curve. I later made an edited version of another of my podcasts to fit it in with the Omny format. I was nervous at the time about stepping outside of my 30-45 minutes an episode comfort zone, but with a tool such as Omny there, basically providing a shuffle button for podcast content, we have found the way to make short podcasts competitive with longer content.

If Omny is not yet available in your local App Store, then get in touch with them and tell them you’re keen to try it. I’d also highly recommend experimenting with the length of your podcasts. Edit a highlights episode regularly, or just segment your content to allow your listeners to fit you in here and there. Give your audience options and see what kind of length they prefer.

by Jackson Rogers

Taking a Byte Out of Time



Sound Byte: Using sound clips  without adding time.

When I first started the SciFi Diner Podcast, I would record my shows through my mixer and into my Zoom H2n Handy Recorder, and then add my intro, outro, sound clips, and promos in post production.  All my sounds were banked in a folder on my desktop. I edited my audio files using Garageband at the time; when I found a spot for a sound clip, I would split the track, move it over, logo100and drag and drop the clip in.  After making sure the levels were correct, I would continue editing. The whole process, if I was organized, took two minutes tops.  I used about ten clips through the show.  You can do the math to see how much time that added to my editing. But Sound Byte changed all that.

What Sound Byte allows me to do is  organize my sound clips into an app that I can play while recording a show.  Black Cat Systems, who produces the app, has a Mac, PC, and iPhone/iPad version of the app. Sorry Android users. Here’s the way it works for me.

I use the Sound Byte app on my iPhone (there is a free and paid version of the app; the paid version is $4.99).  The set up takes a little bit of time, but believe me, using Sound Byte will save you time in the long run . I load my sound clips into the app page designated for my phone in iTunes and then sync it.

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When I open up Sound Byte on my iPhone for the first time, I am greeted with this screen.

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This screen is called a rack (a location that holds all your audio clips); the individual boxes are called carts (a box to carry your sound clip). To get my clips to appear, I press one of the gray boxes for a few seconds.  This brings up a screen that looks like this.

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Next, I click on the words “Sound File” to bring up my bank of sound clips.

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After I select the clip I want to use, it takes me back to cart options. I can now test the clip, adjust its loudness, change to color of the cart, and much much more. Coloring coding is pretty awesome. I can make the clips I use all the time one color, promos another, and listener feedback still another.  Once I am finished tinkering, I click the back button and my clip is ready.

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Then, all I need to do is connect my iPhone to my Zoom R16 Multitrack SD Recorder Controller and Interface
via a ⅛ inch jack to XLR chord and I am ready to record.  It seriously couldn’t be easier.

As I said before, it takes a little bit of time to load the rack initially, but after that, this program seriously knocks at least 20 minutes off my post production time. That is another 20 minutes I can be connecting to my listeners or writing blog posts.

If you are already using Sound Byte, let me know how it has helped you in your podcasting. If not, I encourage you to check it out. Streamlining your podcast couldn’t be easier.  It you want to hear another podcaster’s perspective on Sound Byte, you can listen to my interview with Ben DeBono from the SciFi Christian Podcast. If you want to find out other ways to streamline your podcast workflow, check out my post on Auphonic last week.

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Answering Podcasting Poverty



Streamline Your Post Production Work.

Podcasters are a busy lot.  Most of us have full time jobs, families, etc. that keep us busy.  And then we are podcasters on top of that. We podcasters know that while planning and recording a show takes work, it almost seems easy compared to everything that needs to be thought about in post-production.  If editing down a show was not a job in itself, we need to pay attention to leveling tracks, normalization, files size and format, and meta-tagging. Doing this manually each week takes time, time quite frankly that I as a podcaster producer just do not have. Most of us struggle to do this effectively.  We suffer a time poverty when it comes to podcasting.  What are we to do?

Ilogon comes Auphonic.com to the rescue.  With a free account, I can have much of my post production work done with a few clicks of a button.  And here’s the thing. All I have to do is set up my work as a preset. I can save my preset so that each week when I release a new podcast episode, all I have to do is load the preset.  Auphonic remembers and loads all my meta-data (tags, show art, licenses, show description, etc.), remembers in what formats and bit rate I want to export the audio file as, hooks up to my Libsyn, YouTube, and Soundcloud accounts, and remembers that I want normalization and adaptive leveling done. Auphonic will even throw in a preloaded intro and outro if I don’t want to mess with inserting those each week. All I have to do in the preset is load my new raw audio file. In a click of the button, the work is done. Well almost; my files do need to be uploaded first. When everything is finished, I can listen to the finished episode online.  If something doesn’t sound quite right, I can go back in and edit the episode. For a new podcaster, it really couldn’t be simpler.  And it saves you time.

Check out Auphonic and let me know what you think. For me, it has literally shaved a half an hour of work off my post-production process.  This is a half an hour I can now spend connecting to my audience and developing more quality content for my listeners. That is time better spent in my opinion.

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Record Skype calls easily with Call Recorder



Call Recorder LogoSkype is an essential item in any podcaster’s toolkit. And podcasters are always looking for ways to record and save the audio produced during a Skype call. Over the years, podcasters have relied on various hardware/software combinations and techniques to achieve this goal with some methods being more complex than others.

If you’re a podcaster using a Mac and you need a simple and reliable way to record Skype calls, take a look at Call Recorder by Ecamm. Call Recorder is an application that works directly with Skype to record audio or video calls. It also comes with a collection of extras that can be used to convert your Skype recording to other media formats.

Installation of Call Recorder is pretty straight forward. Just download the installer from the Ecamm website and run it like you would any other Mac software installer. Once it’s up and running, Call Recorder automatically launches when you run Skype.

Skype and Call Recorder
Call Recorder opens automatically when you launch Skype.

Continue reading Record Skype calls easily with Call Recorder


To USB or Not to USB? That IS the Question



USB microphones seem to be everywhere.  For the beginning podcaster, they offer a cheaper, many times simpler, and fairly user friendly experience.  In some cases they can come off as sounding just as good as some of the professional microphones.

Should You Use USB Mics?When I first began podcasting in 2008, I owned a Blue Snowball Microphone, but it picked up way too much ambient sound. As a recording artist first, I hated the thought of extraneous noise filtering into my podcast recordings. Because of this, I abandoned USB mics early on in my podcasting career, shifting toward XLR dynamic microphones, the ones you plug into a mixing board, which tend to pick up less ambient noise and provide a better quality sound.

However, this year, I discovered, much to my dismay, that one of my co-hosts from another state was using a USB microphone, the Yeti  by Blue Microphones. How could she?

I was initially appalled; then amazed.  Except for a slight hum that I could eliminate in post-production and maybe could have blamed on Skype, it sounded just as amazing as my Heil PR-40.  It left me wondering whether or not using a USB mic matters in podcasting any more?  In my opinion, it still does, though not necessarily for the reasons I shifted away from USB microphones five years ago.

The real issue is not whether you should use a USB microphone or not.  Its whether your should use a condenser or dynamic USB microphone.  As a rule of thumb, condensers tend to be more sensitive to your surrounding conditions.  They tend to deliver a full, more robust sound.

Here are a few things to consider.

Recording Location

Many, if not most, entry level USB condenser microphones such as the AT2020 or the CAD GXL2200 produce a more authentic, sound.  This is great for live settings where ambient noise is important. For example, I attend a couple of conventions each year and record conversations, interviews, and panels.  The amount of ambient noise my Tascam DR-7, which uses a condenser mic, picks up gives the experience an authenticity and helps my listeners experience the convention.

At a home recording studio, a USB with a condenser mic may not be optimal.  Unless you have a studio with complete quietness, many USB mics will pick up children a few rooms away, the neighbor’s distant barking dog, the birds chirping on the spring summer day, or the thrum of the washer. And if the fan kicks in on your computer, it picks that up as well.  These mics will also pick up every lip smack, click, and saliva drip your mouth makes.

The home podcasting studio is where in most cases you want a USB Dynamic microphones.  The Audio-Technica ATR2100 is an example of one that is amazing, and will give you the best sound while eliminating those pesky noises.  It sounds darn good too.

Core Questions:

Where will you be recording? At a public place or a home studio away from all noise? Is ambient noise an important part of your podcast?

2. Co-hosting

This is perhaps the biggest issue for me.  I co-host two of the podcasts I produce with another body sitting in the room with me. If using USB condenser microphones, vocal bleeding becomes an issue. My vocals and my co-hosts vocals will be captured each others vocal tracks. This can result in messy editing in post production.  There are ways around this, but again, do you need this complication?

You can avoid the above issue by using USB dynamic microphones. You would still have to find away to get both mics into your computer.  Or you could have your co-host bring their own computer and record both mics separately, combining the tracks later.

Core Questions:

Are you running a solo podcast? Or do you have co-hosts with you in the room?

Food for thought:

Without a doubt, the piece of equipment that impacts the sound and presentation of a podcast is the microphone. There are great USB microphones out there that will give you phenomenal sound.   Consider the core questions carefully as they will impact the type of mic you acquire.

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