June 18, 2018

It’s been about six years since I launched my first podcast. It’s been about five since the dust started to settle on my microphones and mixing board.

Anyone who has ever launched a podcast can tell you it’s harder than it sounds. From conceiving an idea that hasn’t been done before, to recording something that doesn’t sound like it came from an abandoned parking garage, to cutting out the awkward bits using uncooperative editing tools, podcasting is a test of patience, creativity and technique.

It’s also something I think I would have stuck with if I had access to today’s technology.

Recording technology has evolved quickly to accommodate aspiring vloggers and podcasters. Where I used a complicated eight-track mixing board, newer tools like the Tascam MiNiSTUDIO (which launched in 2016) make recording much easier. Just plug in two microphones and you’re good to go.

If you’re recording on your own (or have remote guests), it’s even easier. Skip the mixer and get everyone a USB microphone like the Blue Yeti, which costs two-thirds of what I paid for one back in the day. Or, if you’re more no-budget than low-budget, skip the gear altogether and get started with a service like Anchor.fm, which does all the work for you.

A tool called Descript (Mac only but coming to PCs soon) transforms the editing process from the hellscape of highlighting and tweaking small bits of audio waveforms into a paradise of text-based editing. Import the recorded audio (even if it’s multiple tracks) and Descript transcribes it. Edit that text to edit the audio and then export the file to whatever professional editing tool you prefer.

To do the remaining editing bits, like adding music or boilerplate audio, Audacity is a good place to start. It’s free and the endless online tutorials make it easy to learn. Had I stuck with podcasting, I may have eventually switched to Adobe Audition CC, a much more powerful tool that costs about $20 per month.

Hosting has gotten easier, too, with a wealth of new podcast hosting services available at a variety of price points. Some hosts even make publishing to services like iTunes and Stitcher as easy as one click. And though podcast analytics are still moving toward an industry standard, hosting services and iTunes offer a lot of metrics to scrutinize.

The technological hurdles are lowering in the podcasting industry, opening up more opportunity for good ideas, great audio reporting and charismatic hosts to thrive. It’s a good time to join.

Digital News to Know

MONITOR THE WEB: Imagine being able to see what a billion people are thinking about in real time. With the launch of Currents, a beta feature from analytics tool Parse.ly, it’s almost no longer a sci-fi scenario. Currents tracks “what people care about online” by analyzing hundreds of thousands of articles and other online content for topics and categories. Journalists can use that data to see how much audiences seem to care about a topic like nuclear proliferation, and then dig deeper to see how they find information about it through search, social or other.

CAPITAL OFFENSE: Are you in Albany? Atlanta? Salt Lake City? It might be time to beef up your online security. An anti-malware company compared computer infections in state capitals with the rest of the state and found that 43 of 50 state capitals saw higher infection rates, in some cases by a dramatic amount. To keep safe, install updates as soon as they’re available, invest in a trustworthy antivirus tool (BitDefender is a good start) and be stay skeptical of weird links.

LINKED IN: Most of us use hyperlinks on our work. Turns out, many of us use them incorrectly. Stick with one or two words. Link nouns more often than verbs. Never use that two-word phrase that rhymes with “brick fear” (I won’t use it here for fear of alerting the spam police). And consider finishing the sentence or paragraph with the link.


  • Apple and the FBI engaged in a legal war after the tech giant refused to unlock the phone of a man who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Shortly after, the FBI abruptly announced they didn’t need Apple’s help — a third-party company supplied them with a device that allowed them to unlock any iPhone. The device quickly found a home in police agencies across the country. It may soon be useless. Apple announced last week that it will patch the security hole that the device takes advantage of.
  • Coincidentally, Apple also just announced it would provide police with more user information. Telephone-based emergency services in the U.S. have been struggling since the widespread adoption of cell phones. The latest iOS update will allow callers to share their location data with emergency services automatically and securely. “Lives will be saved,” said Tom Wheeler, the former FCC chairman.

SO WHAT: Facebook has taken plenty of flak this year. But the confirmation that Facebook tracks how users navigate its products is hardly a revelation. Most websites do this to improve the user experience, determine if you’re a bot or not or to measure actual time spent on the page versus loading it and leaving it in a separate tab somewhere.

FAIR PLAY: The Future Today Institute predicted earlier this year that “algorithm reporters” — special investigative teams who scrutinize the algorithms and datasets that increasingly govern our lives — would be the next big thing. This new “Fairness Tool” from global management consulting firm Accenture might be one of the first tools in their toolbox. The tool uses statistics to find cases when an algorithm treats groups of unfairly. When companies use algorithms to approve loans, hire employees and determine credit scores, ensuring fairness is incredibly important.


  • Though not perfect, this hypothetical redesign of The New York Times website from Russian designer Artem Troinoi certainly is provocative. The entire site framework can be changed to accommodate fast and slow news days or to highlight a particular topic. Interesting? Undoubtedly. Feasible? Maybe.
  • Speaking at a conference is hard enough. There’s the prep work, the fumbling of laptop dongles, the awkward exchanges between panelists, the ever-present technical glitches. Then there’s something I hadn’t considered (but will from now on) — the chairs.
  • Tune in to The Weather Channel between 6 and 8 a.m. on June 20 to watch Jim Cantore cover a devastating tornado heading straight for downtown Atlanta. I’m no time traveler; it’s an “Immersive Mixed Reality” event that TWC hopes will help residents prepare for the real thing (and to demo their cool technology, too, I’m sure).
  • The Facebook Journalism Project and Poynter just launched two new training courses. The Facebook Groups course focuses on how to use the tool to build back-and-forth conversations and communities with your audiences. The Crowdtangle course is a deep dive into what I think is one of the best free tools for journalists out there. Let me know what you think.

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Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of Poynter.org. He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
Ren LaForme

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