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June 25, 2019
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Podcasting

Overcast makes it easy to turn clips from podcasts into viral clips

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The popular iOS podcasts app Overcast wants to make it easier for people to share across social media clips from their favorite shows. The feature will likely be well-received by podcasters looking to expand their show’s audience, as they’ve previously been limited to sharing their podcast by way of links or audio-only snippets, for the most part. Overcast’s solution, meanwhile, allows anyone to share either an audio or a video clip from any public podcast, the company said in an announcement.

That means a show’s fans can get in on the action — giving their favorite podcast a viral boost by promoting it on social media, where it could reach new listeners.

To use the clip-sharing feature in Overcast, you first tap on the “share” button at the top-right corner of the app. You can then pick either an audio clip or a portrait, landscape or square video. In the clip-editing interface that appears, you can locate and select the audio clip you want to share. Clips can be up to one minute in length, the company says.

The variety of video formats is designed to appeal to those tasked with marketing a podcast across social media — including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat — where the supported video aspect ratios may vary. In addition, podcast marketers will be able to remove the Overcast branding from their shared clip to give it a more professional feel.

Overcast’s new feature competes with existing tools for marketing audio across social media — like those from Wavve, Headliner, Spotify-owned Anchor and others, including, perhaps, SoundCloud. Some of these services offer captions, as well, which podcasters may prefer to Overcast’s clips.

But unlike other rival tools, Overcast’s clip-sharing feature isn’t meant only for podcast creators and marketers — it’s for listeners, too.

Of course, that also could present a problem. Listeners who have an axe to grind could pull a clip that presents a podcaster in a bad light — perhaps, taking out of context something they said in hopes of manufacturing social media outrage. Or maybe they just catch the podcaster on a bad day saying something dumb. Small gaffes that in the past could have been overlooked could now be used against a podcaster because these viral clips are so easy to create and share.

Time will tell to what extent the feature is adopted and how it’s used, or if the idea makes its way to other apps to become more of a standard.

According to Overcast founder Marco Arment, the clip-sharing feature was inspired by a remark on the Unco podcast by Stephen Hackett, where the problem was discussed in more detail.

In addition to the launch of clips, Overcast’s public sharing page got a small refresh, too. It now features badges to other podcast apps and the RSS feed to the podcast for any show listed in Apple Podcasts.

“It’s important for me to promote other apps like this, and to make it easy even for other people’s customers to benefit from Overcast’s sharing features, because there are much bigger threats than letting other open-ecosystem podcast apps get a few more users,” Arment said.

That “much bigger threats” comment refers to the new trend of podcast “exclusives” — like those on Luminary or Spotify, which aren’t available to the public. Arguably, these aren’t podcasts in the strictest sense of the word — they’re audio programs.

The clips-sharing feature takes the opposite position. The podcasts this feature helps to promote are open and accessible to the public — and now all of the content inside each episode is more accessible, too.

Luminary ‘retooling’ after podcasters request removal from service

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Last month, a New York Times piece heralded the arrival of Luminary. The story focused on the startup’s healthy funding (almost $100 million) and its “subscription-based business model that it hopes will push the medium into a new phase of growth.” You’d be hard-pressed to find better circumstances under which to launch your startup.

A month and a half later, Luminary is live, and most of that good will seems to have evaporated. A number of prominent podcast hosts have requested that their shows be pulled from the “Netflix of podcasts.”

The $8 a month premium service has added shows to its walled-off network without the permission of creators. There are several TechCrunch shows up there, including Original Content, Mixtape, Equity and several now defunct titles. My personal podcast somehow made it on there, as well.

In some ways, it’s not entirely dissimilar from the way services like iTunes provide podcasts, but many have complained about a key issue with how shows are served up. The service clarified on Twitter today that it’s not re-hosting files as initially suspected. “Luminary is not caching any audio content for any open feed podcast,” it writes. “The Luminary audio link is simply a reference link that is marking audio metadata as the file is called through our proxy.”

The company says it’s using this method to save download/streaming time, but routing traffic through their own proxy servers is a good way to deprive creators of important metrics they use to attract sponsors. Others have complained that the service clips out links to fundraising campaigns in the body of the show notes.

Popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience is among the growing number of shows that have been pulled from the service. “There was not a license agreement or permission for Luminary to have The Joe Rogan Experience on their platform,” a rep for the show told Nieman Lab.

After being pulled, the show’s artwork was replaced with a bold white on black lettering reading “This content is unavailable at this time. Learn why.” That explanation can be found in the show description, which reads,

The Joe Rogan Experience is not available on the Luminary service at this time. At Luminary, we’re investing in technology to improve podcast listening for fans like you so we built a free app that welcomes hundreds of thousands of public RSS feed podcasts. This publisher has chosen not to take advantage of this free distribution. Head to our homepage for other great podcasts we recommend. Thank you for choosing to listen with us.

That’s a bad look from Luminary. A simple “The Joe Rogan Experience is not available on the Luminary service at this time” would have sufficed here. Instead the service chose to grind its axe on the page of a show that never asked to be there in the first place. As a new startup in the space, Luminary would be well suited to listen to podcasters, as it hopes to draw in more talent for original content.

A statement that has since been offered to TechCrunch strikes a more consolatory tone:

Luminary appreciates the feedback we’ve received today about how our technology works. We’ve heard you and want to explain what we have done in response. To be absolutely clear: Luminary has never hosted or cached audio content for any open RSS feed podcast. We used a pass-through approach purely because we believed it would improve performance and speed for our users when listening to public feed audio files, particularly from smaller hosts.

We now see that this approach caused some confusion. We have spoken with multiple hosting providers who suggested changes we could make to clarify that public feed audio is not being hosted or cached by Luminary, and ensure that hosts receive the data to which they are accustomed. We have already implemented those changes for iOS, Android, and our web player.

No specifics have been given for the changes, but there are likely to be some more growing pains as the company navigates its service around the medium’s highest-profile creators.

How I podcast: Bullseye’s Jesse Thorn

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The beauty of podcasting is that anyone can do it. It’s a rare medium that’s nearly as easy to make as it is to consume. And as such, no two people do it exactly the same way. There are a wealth of hardware and software solutions open to potential podcasters, so setups run the gamut from NPR studios to USB Skype rigs.

We’ve asked some of our favorite podcast hosts and producers to highlight their workflows — the equipment and software they use to get the job done. The list so far includes:

Ben Lindbergh of Effectively Wild
My own podcast, RiYL

For week three, I’ve asked my longtime friend and professional podcaster, Jesse Thorn, to share his thoughts. “America’s Radio Sweetheart” is the host of several long-running shows, including NPR’s Bullseye and the comedy podcast, Jordan Jesse Go. He’s also the owner and proprietor of Los Angeles-based podcasting network Maximum Fun, which hosts a ridiculous number of shows, including Judge John Hodgman, My Brother, My Brother and Me and Oh No, Ross and Carrie.

He’s highlighted his unique setup with a requisite side order of Hyphy.

I bought this recording booth on Craigslist. For years, I recorded in my house, and walls lined with books and lots of soft furniture were enough to make my recordings sound passable, but then my wife told me to get an office. The intern in our living room kept waking up the baby.

The office is in a concrete loft building, very unforgiving for sound, so I ended up in a guy’s backyard in Harvard Heights, in central LA [checking out this booth]. He was a huge Samoan dude who’d run a Pacific Islander R&B label until his business partner went on tour as Justin Bieber’s vocal coach. I bought it for three grand, hired a guy with a van to bring it to the office and set it up, and we were in business.

Guests often comment on the booth — the spectrum runs from, “this is a little low-rent” to “what am I, in one of the Saw movies?” Honestly I think that helps keep our conversations human. It’s not quite soundproof; one of our producers is a particularly loud laugher and he ends up on the tape a lot. But honestly I kind of love it.

Also pictured: My lucky mug. It has E-40’s “In A Major Way” album cover on it.

How I podcast: Effectively Wild’s Ben Lindbergh

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Last month, Spotify announced that it had paid $340 million for Gimlet and Anchor in a push to make its mark on podcasting. But while it’s encouraging to see media giants throw weight and money behind the medium, the beauty of the format has always been its accessibility.

It’s the rare form of entertainment that’s nearly as easy to create as it is to consume. And now, thanks to the proliferation of devoted hardware and software solutions, it’s never been easier. Podcast studios run the range from NPR to Skype chat and every variation in-between, with recording rigs every bit as diverse as the shows themselves.

After receiving some great feedback from my writeup of my own setup, I’ve reached out to some of my favorite podcasters to see what they’re working with. I’ll be highlighting some of those in the coming weeks, beginning with Ben Lindbergh, the host of my favorite baseball podcast, Effectively Wild.

For six and a half years and 1,341 episodes, the Fangraphs-produced show has offered an idiosyncratic look at the world of sabermetrics — statistically fueled baseball analytics. Host Ben Lindbergh is also a baseball writer at The Ringer, who has formerly written for Baseball Prospectus, Grantland and FiveThirtyEight.

[Above: Ben’s rig.]

I’m an East Coaster who’s been putting out podcasts with West Coast co-hosts for several years, recording roughly 1,500 episodes of various shows for The Ringer and via independent, Patreon-supported pursuits. I don’t have a whole lot of gear, relying largely on the ubiquitous Blue Yeti with a $30 shock mount (attached to a boom arm) and a $20 pop filter, both from Auphonix. (I do have a TASCAM, which occasionally comes in handy for more narrativereported pods.)

I use Cast to talk to and pull local audio from guests who can connect via computer, resorting to Skype and MP3 Skype Recorder when necessary for phone conversations. I use Audacity to edit, which works fine for me. My employers have helped with hosting and promotion, and Facebook has been best for building a community.

All told, it’s a simple, inexpensive setup, but with some care in the production process, it still sounds good. Remote recording has its hurdles, but given chemistry between co-hosts, repetition, practice and judicious editing, cross-country conversations can sound as intimate and natural as in-studio discussions. Sometimes it’s freeing to be far apart.

I’ve been working this way for so long that it now seems strange to be able to see the person(s) I’m podcasting with. If we’re doing it right, though, the listener won’t notice or mind that there’s a continent between us.

How I podcast

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I’ve been podcasting in various forms for about a dozen years now. Sometimes it has been within the corporate confines of the various publications I’ve worked for and sometimes it has just been for myself. That’s the beauty of podcasting — there’s no overhead.

It can be recorded on a terrible Skype line or meticulously crafted by an army of producers. You can do it for five listeners or five million. Do a five-episode miniseries or suddenly look at the calendar one day and realize you’ve been putting up an episode a week for five years.

My current podcast, RiYL, falls into the latter category. Episode 322 just posted this weekend. That’s a lifetime in podcast years, and I’m not exaggerating when I say there’s no way the show would have lasted this long had I not assembled the proper gear.

It’s true that doing the show has been an ongoing process of refining my setup, both in terms of recording hardware and the software workflow, but the core components have been in place for a while. A number of my more successful friends have invested thousands to build home studios that sound as professional as any NPR affiliate.

For me, however, the key has always been mobility. I’ve fine-tuned a podcasting rig that sounds good, but is small enough to slip into a laptop sleeve. Leave no trace, as the saying goes.

The motivation dates back to the show’s humble beginnings (though, for the record, the first few episodes were done over Skype as I was still figuring things out). I realized pretty early on that getting touring artists and musicians to come to my place in Queens (with a few exceptions) was going to be a non-starter.

Piecing together a lightweight rig has given me the flexibility to meet people where they are, be it a hotel room, bar or their PR rep’s conference room. And now that I travel pretty regularly for work, it means I can easily slip the setup into a carry-on, so I can meet guests in their hometowns.

Here’s a photo of upcoming guest Hannibal Buress, recorded in my hotel room in Lagos, Nigeria. My setup is placed gingerly atop my overturned suitcase on a coffee table. He’s clearly impressed.

The other thing the setup has helped me realize is that people’s expectations for professionalism has shifted considerably in recent decades. My rig is small and simple, but various guests have commented over the years that they’re impressed. The last person who interviewed them had them speak into their iPhone.

At the very least, this is certainly better than that.

It’s not the end-all, be-all, by any stretch of the imagination. This is just what has worked for me. Over the years, I’ve had plenty of people — guests and otherwise — ask me what I use. Also, in the wake of last week’s Spotify acquisition of Anchor and Gimlet, podcasts are, once again, the hot newness. So now seemed like as good a time as any to get this all down on paper.

TASCAM DR-40 4-Track Portable Digital Recorder ($170): This was my first acquisition and the one piece of hardware I’ve held onto through the duration of the show (though for the record, I’ve purchased it twice after an unfortunate incident with a lost backpack).

Zoom and Roland also make solid multi-track recorders that will probably be interchangeable for most. The key is finding a system you like that sports dual XLR mic inputs that you can monitor on the fly. They pretty much all have built-in mics, but you’re not going to want to rely on room mics for a podcast. It sounds like crap and it’s a nightmare to edit if you’ve got more than one speaker.

Recording works like a charm. The system records each mic to a left and right channel, which it saves as a WAV file on an SD card. Just make sure the mics are placed at a sufficient distance, so you don’t pick up too much cross talk.

Of course, here you’re limited to two mics. That’s been an issue at points when entire bands have wanted to join in on the fun. The aforementioned companies do make recorders with more inputs. Those are generally larger and a lot pricier, though.

Honorable mention here goes to the Rodecaster. The board is really great at what it does. We recorded an episode of TechCrunch Original Content on the thing, with it doing guest duties and producing in real time. The recent addition of multi-track recording makes this thing an absolute killer.

It has eight channels, including multiple mic inputs, triggerable sound pads and the ability to beam someone in via phone. If I was setting up a home studio on the cheap, I would shell out for one of these, no questions asked. That said, it’s just way too large for my current needs.

Weymic New Wm57 ($10): Okay, true story. Right after I bought the TASCAM, I invested in a pair of super-cheap mics. They sounded… OK, but the presentation was lacking. One afternoon, I went to Reggie Watts’ Brooklyn apartment to record an episode. I handed him a mic. He looked it over, moved it around in his hand a bit, then slyly unplugged it and reached into a drawer behind him, grabbed a mic and popped it on.

The guy knows from microphones.

My takeaway here is that presentation is important. Looks matter, as does weight. A microphone should have some heft to it. People’s expectations have lowered with regards to what an audio setup looks like, but you need good mics if pros are going to take you seriously.

I’ve since been through various mics, and lately I’ve settled on these things. For the record, they’re a wholesale knock-off of the Shure SM57 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone — the go-to microphone for podcasters. The SM57 is the thing I assume Marc Maron and Terry Gross would talk about if they had to share an Uber Pool to Silver Lake.

The Weymic looks nearly identical and sounds great for one-tenth the price. Don’t ask me how. And hey, I’m not exactly swimming in Casper ad revenue here. Also do yourself a favor and invest in a couple of foam windscreens to cut down on sibilance. You can get a bunch in a pack for cheap.

Universal Adjustable Desk Microphone Stand Portable Foldable Tripod (Two for $15): I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to add these to the repertoire. Guests jostle mics a lot during long interviews, and that stuff picks up. I’ve also had a number of older guests on the show, and asking them to hold a microphone for 45 minutes to an hour is just cruel.

These, picked up from Amazon, are super-cheap and fold up into nothing, making them perfect for my laptop-sleeve constraints. The only issues are: 1) They’re not great for super-tall guests. I recently had a member of the band Health on the show and ended up sticking the stand precariously atop a pile of several books; and 2) The screws loosen themselves like crazy for some reason, so I just purchased a pair of keychain screw drivers to keep them in check.

I pair all of that with a couple of six-foot XLR mic cables ($7 a piece for Amazon basics) and some velcro ties. Those fit nicely in the outside pocket of the laptop sleeve, along with backup batteries.

Audacity/Garage Band: Sometimes you just stick with the workflow you’ve got. I should probably upgrade to Adobe Audition (maybe this article will be what motivates me) one of these days, but I’ve been using Audacity for like 10 years at this point. It’s simple and it works fine for chopping up a show. That’s my biggest complaint with a number of the free apps like Anchor — they mostly suck when it comes to editing a show.

And editing is important. It’s true that another one of the wonderful things about podcasts is they can be as long or as short as you want, but everything can benefit from a little tightening up. I also spend a lot of time adjusting levels (often on the subway ride home). And make sure to record a little room tone to get rid of ambient noise in post.

After the show is edited, I export it as a single track and import it into my show template in Garage Band. That’s where I add the music beds, outros and the like.

Podbean: A couple of friends are launching a podcast soon. They asked me who I use for hosting. Podbean is something I found early on. I’m not sure I’d recommend the service, but I’m 300+ episodes deep at this point. There are a lot of options out there, so shop around a bit. Anchor is compelling for novices, including its built-in ad-servicing (though I’m a little wary of how the Spotify acquisition will play out) and a lot of my friends swear by Libsyn for more popular shows. Heck, even SoundCloud has a decent option.

Everyone has an embedded player and the means with which to syndicate to iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, et al.

I’ve found Podbean to be a bit clunky and the service has experienced a handful of outages. That said, recent additions have streamlined the program, and they’ve added some pretty decent analytics to the backend, so it’s definitely headed in the right direction. Once uploaded, I embed that into a Tumblr post.

Headliner: I’ve tried a number of speech visualizers for promoting the show. I found Anchor’s clunky. Wavve’s was decent, but they start charging you after your first 30-second clip. I only just started using Headliner this week, and it’s terrific. Easy to use, highly customizable and, best of all, free.

The transcriptions are okay for a free service (you’re going to have to clean them up) and the online editing tools are great. I think I’m sticking with this one for a while.

Additional shout-outs to Google Drive. The first thing I do after transferring files from my desktop is back them up here. It’s the one place where I’ve got all my files and has helped quite a bit with scheduling episodes.

YouTube is another recent experiment for me. I’ve been syndicating the show to all of the usual places, as mentioned above, but it recently occurred to me that people use the video platform to listen to audio programs. I asked a bunch of folks on Facebook and found it to be surprisingly popular. This will become increasingly important as more people purchase screen-sporting assistants like Google Home Hub and the Amazon Show. It’s a new thing for me and I’ve only got a handful of subscribers at the moment, but I’ll let you know how that goes.

I do still find myself recording remotely from time to time. Auto podcaster extraordinaire Kirsten recently introduced me to Zencastr, which is great for this purpose, recording each caller remotely and backing up those files to a server. If I’m using Skype, I go with the old standby, Ecamm’s Call Recorder, to record locally.

I’ve also become attached to Blue’s Raspberry USB mic for this purpose. It’s adorable and tiny, so you can stash it in a backpack for travel. It’s not the best-sounding mic, but it’s good for its size and it sounds a hell of a lot better than the company’s Yeti Nano. Rode’s got a company of models with optional windscreens I’ve been meaning to check out as well, but I’ve heard good things.

If you’re hip to any new tools you think I should check out, hit me up on Twitter at @bheater. I’m always looking for ways to step up my game.

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