The tools and apps I use to publish my podcast
A quick run through of how I put together an episode of my podcast, Mag Heroes.
Publishing a podcast is notoriously and historically a challenge. In recent years, though, services and platforms have come along to make it easier. I always enjoy reading how other produce and host their podcasts; I remember reading a lot of articles as I planned to start Mag Heroes back in 2013.
So here’s me giving back a bit, with an explanation of how I go about planning, creating and releasing an episode. (PS: The latest episode just went live)
Get an interviewee
An obvious and obligatory first step for an interview podcast 😆 I talk with magazine makers on Mag Heroes, and luckily I have a large network of contacts from running Magpile for the past five years. It’s normally very easy to introduce the idea of coming on Mag Heroes and no-one has said no yet.
I have an ongoing list where I write down interesting magazines and publishers, and I try to make a nice mixed sequence of guests from that. Sometimes scheduling or technical issues get in the way, but usually things run pretty smoothly.
I use email to get in touch, outline exactly what is required from the guest, and ask them to pick a time from my Calendly calendar (which automatically creates an event in both our calendars)
Before the actual recording, I do some research, especially for magazines I haven’t ever seen, or haven’t read in a while (indie mags can change quickly). I write talking points and ideas in a Dropbox Paper doc, which becomes my hub for information and notes for the episode.
When the time comes for recording, I open up Cast in my browser. Cast is an online recording, editing and publishing tool that allows you to record tracks for up to four guests. (I only use Cast for recording.) With nothing to download or log into for guests, it’s a very smooth process for them. Sometimes I have experienced initial connection issues (when a guest visits the URL, we may not see eachother, so we just refresh), but overall, Cast is a great product that really helps streamline the whole record-with-guests-over-the-internet challenge.
Once the recording is finished, the tracks are available to download, and I add them into a copy of the previous episode’s Garageband file. This means all my levels are OK and the intro and outro music tracks are already in place.
I first go through the recording to do some very minor editing, liking removing big noises or adjusting levels to reduce hiss and equalise our tracks a bit.
I then record the intros and outros (which I have already written in the Paper doc, post-interview) directly into their respective tracks in Garageband. They are usually different lengths from the previous episode, so I have to move them around a bit and edit the music’s involvement. I find this really interesting and fun and love making my words match up to the musical flow.
When I’m happy, I typically listen through again and jot down the episode’s show notes into the same Paper doc.
Create episode artwork
I create artwork for each episode, which most podcast clients actually never display (reverting to the podcast’s artwork). I use Sketch and have a file containing the logo and episode artboards. For the artwork, I use a basic text template and add a photo of (and provided by) each guest.
The Mag Heroes website has three more spots for adding the photo (homepage hero, episode header and homepage thumbnail), so I add the photo to those too, and export them all together.
I host Mag Heroes on Simplecast, which is an amazing platform and only $12/month. It has solid stats and is really pleasant to use.
Once I export the MP3 from Garageband, I add the artwork and edit the ID3 tags using Tag Editor, to make the file look all professional. I never share the actual files, but if I did, you would see the artwork embedded in the file information.
In Simplecast, I create a new episode, paste in all the copy that I’ve written as show notes and upload the file and artwork.
I normally prepare an episode and set it to release the next day. I’m not really sure why, but I think it helps relieve any pressure to have it go live right away. Mag Heroes has no fixed release schedule, so I’m free to release whenever I like. I now have a plan to release an episode every Thursday or Friday, but this is bound to change depending on work or scheduling issues.
I use a custom theme and some custom variables to make sure the podcast can be displayed properly (eg: the episode player, embedded from Simplecast). I paste in the episode’s show notes and Simplecast ID into the episode.txt file. The exported artwork from Sketch is added here too. When I reload the site, Stacey pulls everything together and the new episode is added. It’s almost too easy :)
Once the publish date is passed, the episode is added to the Simplecast feed, which means it can get picked up by everyone’s podcast clients. This is when I FTP the new episode folder to the server.
I use a second tool for feed monitoring and hosting, Feed Press (check the feed here). I’m not entirely sold on how useful it is to get Feed Press’ stats as Simplecast already provides what I need, but I like having a second overview available to me.
I use Twitter to announce new episodes and cross post on my personal account and Magpile’s at different points during the first day. Luckily, everyone who already listens to Mag Heroes will get the new episode in their podcast client at the moment their feeds update ✨
I also write out a tweet mentioning the guest’s recommended mags (a short segment at the end of each episode), to let them know they’ve been talked about. I usually send out a second reminder tweet before the next episode is due out, for anyone who missed the first announcement.
I really enjoy producing Mag Heroes. Hopefully this write-up will help you if you’re thinking about starting a podcast or frustrated with your current set up. I find it very quick to edit and release an episode with this flow, and I’m very happy with the output at the end of the day.