10 Lessons I learned my first 30 days of Podcasting
Yes, it’s harder than it looks, but what isn’t?
For years it has been my dream to go to every neighborhood in LA and talk with the people. One thing after another stopped me from this insane goal but a month ago I finally got my feet wet.
Here’s some of what I learned my first month doing Hear in LA.
Find a partner who is better than you at the things you suck at.
I am not an audio editor. I am not a musician. I am not interested in hearing the three hour interview I just did and figuring out what should stay and what should go. I am a crazy person who thinks it all should stay.
But humans do not care about my three hour conversations. If we are extremely lucky they will enjoy an hour conversation or one of 45 minutes.
Jordan Katz is an angel sent from above who married my longtime friend and LAist mainstay, Lisa, and through her we met. It is a beautiful partnership.
It is vital to have a second set of ears from someone who is living a different life than yours to tell you, “yes this blows” and “are you kidding, this is great.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it wasn’t made by one guy named Dale. Teamwork makes the podcast work. And I am very grateful.
Buy the right equipment. Learn it. Use it a lot.
Jordan reached out to me when I posted on my Facebook that I was going to start podcasting using [and inferior product]. He told me what to buy and said he would help me learn it. (See, angel.)
I have been very happy with the Zoom H5, and the Shure and Sennheiser mics.
One lesson I learned about this recorder though: always have fresh batteries on your person. This guy sucks the life out of batteries. Maybe two long interviews is all it will give you. But great sound quality.
Talk to every damn body
People are fascinating if you let them be. Not only was the guy who plays The Joker on Hollywood Blvd. surprising, but his girlfriend, who I had no intention of originally interviewing, shed light on a different part of him.
Is it hard to interview two people who both like to talk? Yes. And I will interview couples separately going forward. Like the FBI. But in many cases “the more, the merrier” is true.
One of the unexpected things that came out of this interview was neither of these very nice people had been vaccinated yet. And although we didn’t get into politics, it seemed like their apprehension came from an article that was printed in the LA Times. Again, this is why I love talking to people. My assumptions about things are usually blown away when people trust me enough to tell me why they make the choices that they do.
I would have never thought a news article in the Times would had inspired two people passing on a life-saving shot.
Talk to the people you love from social media.
Social media gets demonized so often. In many cases the judgement is undeserving because it also brings strangers together.
I would have never known about William G if it had not been for Twitter, and he would not be the social media star if he hadn’t begun filming the cops and putting those short videos online.
Because they were there it was easier to research his obsession and have good questions to ask him. But because podcasting is an auditory medium, William’s interactions with the cops provided for a deeper angle at the story.
Then when Jordan added his original music to a confrontation, mama mia, what an end result. The opening seconds alone of our episode with William G blew my mind and made me want to thank Jordan a million times for partnering up with me. No way could I have even thought of that opening.
This episode has been our most popular for a number of reasons: William is intense AF, we got along swimmingly, and also his loyal Twitter followers wanted to hear more about his origin story. It was the perfect storm.
You’re not going to get rich any time soon. In fact you will probably go broke, lose all your friends, die, and be forgotten.
Every successful YouTuber, cam girl, and pimp say the same thing: pimpin aint easy. It takes time.
The drummer of the Beatles made a solo album during the grunge era called Time Takes Time.
So patience, young grasshopper. Do not quit your day job. Do not turn your back on a life of crime.
It’s going to take a lot of episodes for a large enough audience to sustain this crazy adventure, so do not burn bridges, do not get mad at people who are seemingly unsupportive. Do the work. Make the thing. Keep making the thing. Get better. Experiment. Pray. Give thanks. Do not be discouraged.
And most of all realize: very few people are going to give one shit what you are doing, even your mother. My mom loves me so much and still hasn’t heard all of these episodes yet.
People have lives. Respect that.
Do all the things, even if you don’t know how to yet
Learn video editing, get better at Photoshop, get a YouTube channel, get better at photography, give up on sleep, give up on sex, give up on being caught up on your stories
Get your podcasts on YouTube and add photos and videos that will reward the viewer for each minute they have invested in you.
Not everyone goes hiking. Not everyone is a mailman walking around with not enough murder mysteries in their ear pods. Some people want to hear you talk but need visuals. Give them visuals.
But give up on the idea that you will suddenly become a YouTube star and the vids will pay for your new toupee. That too will take time.
If you have a 45 minute podcast, bring it to life.
Most of your competitors have long, established podcasts and you scroll the descriptions and it’s like choosing a movie on Netflix: it’s never ending.
So help yourself out. Find 2 minutes in your podcast, dump that into Davinci Resolve (a free video editing software lifesaver), add some photos, upload it on your dumb Facebook page for your friends to see, and put it in your Podcast’s YouTube page.
Then cry in your pillow when only 9 people look at it.
BUT AT LEAST YOU ARE TRYING AND LEARNING THINGS
If you see a cat running around during a baseball game, turn that into a way for people to listen to your thing
And then cry in your pillow because 11 people watched and all monies you make off YouTube will go straight into the pockets of MLB.
Make a blog for your pod and put way too much info in it (but don’t worry, this won’t pay either)
Audio is a tricky beast. We can’t see it, does it even exist?
But words… delicious words… and pictures, and video, and hyperlinks, ahhhh now that makes for a wonderful experience.
How many times have you listened to a song and thought, clearly the gentleman is singing “take a shower, take a shower,” and decades later you learn he was yelling, “take it, it’s yours”?
This can all be alleviated in your podcast if you transcribe your brilliance and publish it in a corresponding blog, like, say, this one on Medium. The great thing about Medium is, if you get lucky and someone famous links to it, you might make a few bucks to pay for all of those Rev.com bills.
But fear not, that will probably not happen because no one is listening to your podcast let alone linking to its super long transcription post.
Or aren’t they?
The general rule of thumb is Keep it Short, Stupid, which may work in rooftop lovemaking, but the average time spent on one of my nascent blog posts was 10 minutes — or about 30% of each post. That’s about double the time spent of newspaper subscribers to news sites they pay for.
The Devil may try to convince me that this is all a total disaster of a launch but over 2,000 people came to this blog in July and hung out for a while. And a few not only started following this thing, but some of them even became Patreons. Up yours, Beelzebub!
Having a blog is good because you can link to it on Twitter, you can cut n paste excerpts, Google might help you out once in a while with some traffic, and who knows, maybe one day Medium will feature an interesting convo one day and it’s back to that omakase life. (But don’t count on it any time soon, loser.)
Podcast because you love learning from other people, even if you know them personally
The great Shane Nickerson said I should just have a podcast where I talk with all of my friends because I know an embarrassingly large amount of cool ppl who I rarely hang out with.
Another not-so great person told me I should never “interview” my friends because nothing interesting will come out out of such things because you both won’t want to embarrass each other.
Naturally Shane is right. I have been blessed with amazing friends. And I don’t talk with them enough. And if this is one way that we can have an excuse to sit around and drink some beers, so be it.
But people should not be punished for knowing me, or having known me. Their stories are just as valuable as those from a stranger.
I will say this though.
We’re all gonna die.
But before I do, I’m gonna talk to people from every neighborhood in LA and share that with the world.
Will a giant media outlet sign Jordan and I up for a season or two when they realize, “that fool is crazy. he’s gonna do it anyways, we may as well get a slice of this nutty pie”?
Thank you to all of our guests so far, all of our listeners, and Al Gore for inventing the Internet.