For the past few months, one of the topics we’ve been talking about when on the road have been podcasts. Most of time its been talking to Realtors and how they can use podcasts in business. Last week I was invited to speak at the Arizona Association of REALTORS® Leadership Conference. I spoke with the AEs and leadership of Arizona about how to use podcasts in member communication and cited the NAR President’s Podcast as an example.
I was excited to go to Arizona and speak about this topic if only because Arizona has become a podcast (and other new media) hotbed. There are many reasons for this, but one major reason is that Arizona is home to the headquarters of Farpoint Media. More than half of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis are part of the Farpoint family.
A few years ago, when I decided that I needed to be more educated on podcasts, I searched around for podcasts on topics that interested me and the first one I came across was Slice of SciFi. As a big science fiction geek, I knew I’d be entertained by a show promising weekly news and interviews on the world of SciFi and Fantasy TV and movies. What I didn’t expect the first time I listened to the show was how professionally produced the podcast is and how entertaining the hosts are. From there I got sucked into some other Farpoint shows that were occasionally mentioned including Wingin’ It (now Wingin’ It 3D,) Speaking of Beer, and Cover to Cover.
As luck would have it, the AZ Leadership Conference ended up being on a Wednesday, one of the three nights a week they Draco Vista studios are up and running cranking out podcasts. As they’ve invited listeners many times on the shows to stop by if they are in town, I e-mailed them to see if I could take them up on the offer and see how the professionals do it. (I also think it helped that I promised to bring beer with me.)
As it turns out, one of the shows that I listen to, The Babylon Podcast, is recorded on Wednesday night. What is recorded is usually put out as a podcast the following Wednesday, so I was going to get a slight glimpse into the future. (They also live stream the show, but I’m usually busy at that time.) I am a big fan of Babylon 5 and have been watching the show again to keep pace with the podcast’s episode analysis, so I was feeling well prepared.
When I got to the studio Michael R. Mennenga, Summer Brooks, and Micheal Stackpole were finishing up Cover to Cover. It gave me a few minutes to watch them recording and soak up the studio. It also gave me a few minutes to get over that initial mental adjustment of seeing the faces that go with voices you’ve heard for years. Once they had a break, we greeted each other and spent some time talking.
Unlike many podcasts that are done with just a computer and a microphone, the Draco Vista studio is setup similar to professional sound studios I’ve been in. However, I think there were more toys and bottle openers around than I’ve seen in other studios. The photos you see are two quick pictures of the sound board and equipment with my phone.
Another interesting twist on this particular podcast recording is that two of the hosts of the Babylon podcast aren’t actually in AZ. Jeffery Willerth and Tim Callendar both connect up to the studio via Skype. Once they were connected, I was introduced to Jeffery and Tim and chatted for a few minutes while Mike and Summer got ready to start up on a new show. After a brief discussion of what would be on the show that evening, Mike queued up the opening music and we were off.
I won’t talk too much about the show content, since you can listen to it here. I ended up participating more than I thought I would. Most of the credit for that goes to all of the people involved being so friendly and inviting. It did feel like a familiar situation having listened for the past year or two, but this time they could hear me talking back, instead of me just talking to myself in my car. I think the fact that I also felt well versed in the subject matter helped.
I didn’t get a full run down on the the technical side, but I learned enough of what they were doing to be dangerous. I figure if I ever need to know more specifics, I can always e-mail Mike. Besides the mixing board you saw, there was a PC running Windows XP for the recording and Skyping. Mike is in the process of building a new quad-core box, so he can also do video editing, but claims that will be the last Windows box. The next time he needs a machine after that, he’s going Mac.
The second display is replicated to a few monitors for others to see in the studio. The most important item I saw on that screen when I was there was the counter with the length of the current segment. This is important because in general, they don’t like to go over 80 minutes so people can burn episodes to CDs and they have at least one show also played on XM (and other radio stations) that must be an hour in length.
The recording software I saw them using was Adobe Audition. Should I ever decide to do a podcast, I’d start out with Audacity until it didn’t fit my needs anymore. At that point, I’d follow what the Farpoint folks are doing.
The last thing I should mention from the technology side is that Farpoint Media recently entered into an agreement with Podango. Podango is a podcast and video podcasting directory and hosting company. It looks like they also do some advertising recruiting and sharing to help cover their costs as well as yours. If you’re thinking about doing your own podcast, it could be a good place to look into.
All in all, I had a blast. If was visit I had wanted to do for awhile, and its helped me get a better understanding of the behind the scenes of the growing podcast empire that is Farpoint media. I’m interested in seeing how the business side of things grow as they get bigger. Its wonderful to see the new media entrepreneurship and excitement when talking to Mike and Summer. As a listener, its also just great to see them grown from the three shows they were at when I found them to the 41 currently listed in the iTunes Music Store.
As NAR has been doing more and more with video and audio that is produced in-house, many of us have been pushing for a “media services group.” I’ll definitely be pushing for NAR setting up a studio similar to what I saw in in AZ. The ability to self publish should not be underestimated.