Finally an Apple Watch: What It Took for Me to Buy One

Today is my 37th birthday. If that’s personally interesting to you, you can check out the new podcast series I’ve launched today telling stories of my life, right here.

This is special for lots of reasons, but the one we’re focusing on in this post is the gift I’m giving myself today (along with some cash and gift cards from my family this year). I’m finally becoming an Apple Watch owner with the Series 3, now reduced in price after the launch of the Series 4 watch. But it’s not just the lower price point that has pushed me over the edge, it’s primarily the combination of hardware and software features now available at the entry price point that has me excited to finally jump into the smartwatch lifestyle.

Here are the big three:

GPS - The Series 2 Watch was SOOO tempting. The combination of waterproof casing with a big speed bump in the processor had me excited for the watch in my own life. BUT, with the release of Series 3 it was the Series 1 that remained for a lower price point while the 2 was officially retired. In the end, it was a blessing in disguise as the Series 3’s GPS addition is what I really wanted as it would allow for phone-free workout tracking with more accuracy and reliability.

Water resistance - Again, the Series 1 (and 0) were always no-go’s for me as more than desirable objects because (while I don’t own a swimming pool) I am a water-baby and love swimming more than any other physical exercise imaginable. If I want a device to track my workouts and activity, it’s got to be able to do so in the pool too. The Apple Watch Series 2 offered this for the first time, but was retired before it drifted down to my preferred price point. Now, the Series 3 brings me water resistance rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010. I’m no scuba-diver and I don’t do submarines, so I’m all covered.

Podcast Playback, independent of the phone - Finally, the real deal-breaker. I make the vast majority of my income producing podcasts. I am subscribed to more than a 100 podcasts and stay up to date on dozens of shows each week. The only way I’m able to do that is through the Overcast app, my AirPods and my iPhone and iPad Pro. BUT now with Watch OS 5, available last week alongside iOS 12, not only is the official Apple Podcasts app now available there but 3rd party apps have been allowed background audio playback which means that Overcast’s developer Marco Arment had a very busy summer bringing us this:

 Photo courtesy of Marco.org, click to check out Overcast 5.0

Photo courtesy of Marco.org, click to check out Overcast 5.0

So, now I’m an Apple Watch owner, excited to get serious about tracking my movement and using Siri Shortcuts to automate a ton of paperwork and processes in my daily job. As a day one iPhone 3G owner, an iPad owner since generation one and someone who runs his entire business from an iPad Pro today, Apple had to earn my business in this market, but eventually they’ve gotten there.

Why I Think Spotify Matters to Podcasters (& What Podcasts it Should Matter To)

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Lots of big tech companies have fallen in love with podcasting over the years. Microsoft loved podcasting one time. Google loved us, then they didn’t, then they sort of did, then they didn’t again. Now they REALLY do.

The one tech giant that has always stuck by us though is Apple. Since they introduced Podcasts into the iTunes Store in 2005, Apple has been the 900lb gorilla pushing our little podcasting choo-choo up the hill to the mainstream.

With Google back in the podcasting game, and Apple extending their podcast support to the HomePod and the Apple Watch, why do we need to worry about this new beautiful entrant to the podcasting pageant, Spotify?

Because of the different role they play in people’s lives, and the different people they put us in front of.

Spotify is an important part of a LOT of people’s lives.

The vast majority of these folks aren’t spending their time listening to podcasts EVEN those that already have and use an Apple device (which comes pre-installed with the Apple Podcasts app). Why is that?

Studies show that more and more people every year know that podcasts exist (and even have a vague sense of what they are), but they still don’t listen. In my opinion that’s because of the difference between the “lean back” nature of television viewing for the average consumer, and the “lean in” nature of podcast discovery.

No one “happens into” a podcast. There isn’t one playing on the radio already when you turn on the car, or one that comes on automatically every Wednesday at 4. Personally, I find that freeing. I HATE having something random on. I LOVE programming all of my entertainment or edutainment. But, I also am already an avid podcast listener. I’m not the person you need to convince to grow this market.

This is theory, based on the above referenced stats and my own understanding of the podcast market, but I think it is more likely than not that the next 50 million podcast listeners are going to want that “lean back” experience. They’re going to want someone programming things.

Spotify is already programming a lot of these people’s listening time. And now, it turns out that Spotify wants to use our podcasts for some of that time. I was skeptical in the beginning, but I’m seeing it laid out now and I think there are effectively three directories that matter now. Apple, Google, Spotify. Apple has a smartphone and smart speaker eco-system, Google has a smartphone and smart speaker eco-system, and Spotify has a brand of smart devices already starting and sits across both Apple and Google’s eco-systems talking to and bringing in a whole new group of people to wide world of podcasts. To get to 100 million, we’ll need them all helping us.

For Which Shows Does Spotify Matter Most?

For one, my podcast about podcasts is never likely to set the Spotify charts on fire (though with our background as a podcast review show, Spotify has featured us a time or two already). But obviously shows like Song Exploder, Cocaine and Rhinestones and even WTF with Marc Maron (which regularly features musicians) will be popular on a music streaming service. But also, high production narrative shows like Lore or Serial will find a lot of ready listeners that never knew they existed before.

Pop Culture shows, too, I bet are big hits long-term on Spotify. The next “Lost” or “Game of Thrones” will find it’s corresponding podcast a big hit on Spotify as well as Apple Podcasts. Again, these are “lean-back” experiences, and when Spotify serves them your show based on ads they’ve clicked or demographic info they have, they’ll be pleasantly surprised that other fans are talking about their new favorite TV show.

What about sports shows? The problem here is one of saturation and competition. Sports fans are more likely to already be searching team specific or sport specific content and have their preferred audio experiences already elsewhere. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t rather hear your show in Spotify, just that you’re less likely than the above categories to gain a multitude of new listeners there.

Time Will Tell Whether Spotify is the Next Apple or the Next Zune Marketplace

As an experiment this Spotify adventure costs us little to start, particularly if your branding and audience calls to action involve your own website. But the potential upside is a new true third party player in the space, with long term ambitions in audio, a desire to promote content they don’t have to license at exorbitant rates and no tie to a particular hardware platform, so as to protect podcasters from a monopolistic actor in Apple or Google. That potential future, where we have three semi-equal directories all growing and advancing the medium of podcasting? It is one I am all in for gambling on.

The Five Things Your Podcast Website Must Have

I don't want to waste your time, here's the TLDR.

1. An Apple Podcasts subscribe link  

2. An RSS subscribe link

3. An easily accessible (non-autoplaying) auto-updating audio player. Some call this a "playlist" player. 

4. Subscribe in Spotify link 

5. Subscribe on Google Podcasts link

Among the 1001 things the beginning podcaster is concerned with, a fully-featured and user-friendly website is a high priority for most, particularly those that plan on building a business around or supported by their podcast.

The greatest advantage of having your own site is the central location of information on your show. When someone drops your title into a web search, it's likely to return a myriad of links. Your Apple Podcasts listing, perhaps your Stitcher listing, maybe even a directory your media host provides that includes your episodes will turn up. But, if you've done your SEO homework, your own website should always top the list in any search, making it the most likely destination for someone looking to learn more, subscribe, buy merchandise etc.

 

What should they find when they find your website?

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First and foremost, they should find an easy way to play it right away. Something that autoupdates for you so the latest episode is always at the top. This is the lowest friction point for ANYONE to interact with your content, no matter their knowledge of podcast or technology, everyone can follow a link and click "play". Make sure they can if they follow your link.

Next, you need to promote your listing in Apple Podcasts. Personally, I suggest doing through this two means. First, and most obviously, a button. You can create your own, or use the branding and images provided by Apple through the Podcasts Connect website, but either way have something that is obviously for Apple users to click and subscribe on their devices.

The less obvious way you should integrate Apple Podcasts into your website is through the Smart App banners introduced several years ago. While primarily aimed at App Store developers highlighting their apps on their sites, it works admirably for Podcasts and even books.

For full documentation on implementing Smart App banners on YOUR site, see Apple's guidelines here.

To ensure you're show is listed in the Google Podcasts directory, and to grab the direct link to use on your site, use Google's developer tools here.

The RSS link should be easy to grab from your media host or website plugin that creates that feed. And finally, for Spotify, the best bet is to share the show from the app itself and copy the link. You might be asking, why Spotify? The other links above are either OS's themselves (Apple and Google) with their own proprietary apps, or the standard RSS that podcasting is built on, and which can be used in any podcast app, across platforms completely. So why Spotify and not Overcast, or Stitcher or iHeartRadio etc.?

Rob Walch with Libsyn and Todd Cochrane with Blubrry (the two largest podcast media hosts) have both said they believe Spotify will soon be the number two destination for downloads after Apple Podcasts (and depending on exactly how hard Google pushes their new initiative). Spotify is platform agnostic, it works on Mac, it works on PC, it works on Android it works on iPhone etc., AND Spotify is actively pushing the podcasting medium among avid music listeners who aren't CURRENTLY listening to podcasts through other apps. Why does this matter for Spotify? Well, we're infinitely cheaper than streaming music, since they don't pay us royalties (yet anyway), so there's every reason to think this current interest in podcasting from Spotify is not just a passing craze. 

For an example of how all this can work together well on one site see the image of my site above.

The primary thing to remember is that your website isn't where most of your fans and listeners will hang out. They'll be interacting with your content from their favorite podcast app for the most part. But your website should be the easiest, most direct route to understand more about your show, to find all the appropriate social media links, and enable new listeners to easily subscribe to your show whether they really understand what a "podcast" is or not.

Why You Shouldn't Hire an Editor for Your Podcast (Yet)

I spend a lot of time in Podcasting Facebook groups, and occasionally the topic will come up of whether or not to hire an editor. And if so, how much you should pay for it.

I'll leave the second question for another day, but I do have some thoughts on why hiring an editor might NOT be right for you.

  1. If cost is your foremost consideration. - If your podcast is a purely hobby enterprise at this point, coming out of your free time and funds. And if you're cutting corners already on media hosting, stats packages, or your website itself, then hiring an editor is likely going to cause you more grief than it saves you. You're better off researching software solutions you could buy or subscribe to that would give you some final audio polish automagically without actually employing a human producer.
  2. If your "unfair advantage" is your production skills. - If you are (or aspire to be) the next Roman Mars, then an editor isn't what you need to hire. You're much better off hiring a personal assistant, or as (Aaron Mahnke did not too long ago) a research assistant. Spend the money there, or upgrade your gear for recording and mixing.
  3. If it's all just for fun. - Unless you've got loads of expendable cash, if your podcast is anything other than a short or long term part of your business plans, then you probably shouldn't hire an editor. If you podcast about your favorite video game (but work in the legal field), if you and your best friend riff on the days events (but neither one of you have media aspirations), if want to discuss the history of quilting (but you don't have a quilting business, or have any plans for one) then you're better off learning how to better capture your audio and perform it clearly and coherently the first time so that there's no editing needed.


In each of these cases, a company like mine won't do you much good (or at least will cost you more than we likely earn you).

BUT,

  • If your podcast is part of the strategy you use to promote and grow your own business.
  • If you are an artist, executive or expert whose message is valuable, but so is your time
  • If you don't have a background in or the time to learn the basics of audio production
  • If you want to have a "podcast guy" just like you have a lawyer, a general MD, a dentist and an insurance agent.

    Then maybe you'd like to set up a call with us at ProPodcastingServices. Our, dive in and educate yourself on workflows and processes that can save you time (and money) at Pro Podcasting School.

 

Pro Pod Tip: First Impressions Matter

While people sharing podcast engagements stats that show listeners drop out within minutes of even seconds are suspect at best since they're all based on streaming users only as opposed to the downloads that serve the vast majority of your audience, I do think it's important to start your show off with a bang.

The episode number, name of the show and a high quality informative and descriptive intro should all be within the first thirty seconds of your show. If you wait longer than that you run the risk of new listeners wandering away from your content before they even know whether or not it's for them.

Pro Pod Tip: Backups are Not Optional

Everyone knows to save their work. It's something that we're taught from our earliest days doing projects for school. Podcasters especially think about this when it comes to recordings, sometimes making double backup recordings in case their different systems fail.

But do you provide the same level of security for your editing work? As you're editing, mixing or mastering your project, make sure you're saving multiple times, and (for extra security) ensure that your edited files live in a folder that is being backed up to cloud storage (whether that's Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft's One Drive or using a full drive backup like BackBlaze.

There's no perfect plan, and the right sequence of catastrophes can leave anyone stranded with lost work. But a proper backup system and set of procedures will ensure that you're never more than an hour or two away from restored.

Pro Pod Tip: Podcast Distribution

Distribution is key for podcasters. Make sure that your show is in the major directories (and updating properly with each new show). There are new directories every day, but the four that every podcaster should submit their show to first are:

iTunes: PodcastsConnect.Apple.com
Google Play Music App: Play.google.com/music/podcasts/
Stitcher Radio: Partners.Stitcher.com
Blubrry Directory: Blubrry.com

There's so much confusion for many new podcasters, that one or all of these above are where your podcast IS. Your media host is the heart and soul of your podcast, the RSS feed it's central nervous system, but one of those directories are how the VAST majority of your listeners will actually interact with you. Make sure you're in front of listeners in all of them.

Pro Pod Tip: Capturing Family Memories in Audio

This past week I found myself with family and friends celebrating the life of my Aunt Mable. She was 89 and had been suffering for a few years now. We all miss her and will for the rest of our lives, but this was an opportunity to honor her and share time with loved ones we too rarely get to see. It also offered me the opportunity to capture audio from those family members about my aunt and our family history in general.

No need to break the mood or disturb the peace with lots of recording gear. Download an app to your smartphone like the Auphonic Recorder for Androidor the Ferrite Recorder and editor for iPhone. Your smartphone's mic is better than you might imagine. Just find a small room or hallway away from the main gathering and set the phone between the two of you. It's not ideal, and NPR might wish for a little bit better, but for family movies, memorial podcast episodes or just personal memories, your phone will work wonders. With those recording apps, you can even edit and upload to services like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Pro Pod Tip: Remote Recording with Earbuds

When recording an interview remotely, if your guest doesn't have a microphone, the iPhone or Android earbuds with built in mic work better than you might expect. Remind your guest to be aware of the mic dragging against facial hair, jewelry or their sweater and you'll get close to professional audio without the hassle or headache of rescheduling and supplying your guest gear yourself.

Why and How to Create Your Own Podcast Network

I was recently asked by a friend for the “go-to” industry resource on the pros and cons of creating a podcast network, as well as a good tutorial on how to go about setting one up. There isn’t such a document that I’m aware of, so I just spoke from my own experience, as well as the research I’ve done on the industry at large. I also steered her towards this episode of Podcasters Group Therapy featuring yours truly and my Always Listening cohost Josh.

Satisfied, and with a plan in mind, my friend suggested perhaps I could save myself some time in the future by writing such a document. I’d hesitate to call anything I write a “Go-To Industry Resource” but, I’ve been doing this a while, I’ve talked to hundreds of podcasters big and small and here’s what I know about podcast networks.

“Real” Podcast networks are largely just about ad sales. - While there are the obvious exceptions like Gimlet media that are about hands on production, regional networks that are geographically convenient and many themed networks that focus on a specific kind of content. But most networks are about creating and taking advantage of economies of scale, primarily in the creation and sale of advertising. They provide those services (as well as some cross promotion and possibly group crowdfunding) and take a cut of all the proceeds.

If you're a member of a major corporation, or already have an advertising apparatus, this is likely not the tutorial for you.

WHY "NORMAL" PODCASTERS MIGHT BUILD A NETWORK

1. Ad sales - Turns out, the big guys have a pretty good idea. By pooling the combined audiences of a couple or several shows together you can easily become a more attractive target for ad buyers. You could also isolate the workload and remove redundancies having one member of the network actually "work" as an ad sales office.

2. Vanity - Just like it's a little presumptive to say your ideas are worth other people subscribing and listening to each week, it takes a certain amount of ego to say, "I need to build my own media empire!" Frankly, if you are capable of producing multiple quality shows on an ongoing basis (or, as mentioned below, in rotation) then you HAVE built a media empire. Don't be a jerk about it, but don't be ashamed if you just want one.

3. Cross Promotion - This is going to come up again in my next post about why you might join a network, but it's applicable here too. One of the toughest things for beginning podcasters (or even experienced ones) is promotion. If you had five or a dozen shows mentioning and suggesting one another, surely we'd all explode together!

4. Expand Your Podcasting Circle - I'm based in Ruston, Louisiana. To say Podcasting has only recently arrived here would be an overstatement of its current arrival status. But even here, I'm not all alone. Maybe you've got friends who are into the idea of Podcasting, but wouldn't go through with all the effort. You provide them a "turn-key" solution and you get local Podcasting buddies.

5. Network as Service Industry - In some ways, this is the best way to describe Podcast Websites from JLD and Mark Asquith. They become your "podcast buddy" with the gear and know how to get you started and keep you going, but they charge you for the service instead of just asking you to help them move every few years (I say it's a good trade off). There are likely other great examples of this business model and I think there are opportunities for small business owners to do this all over the world.

ON SECOND THOUGHT...

WHY YOU SHOULDN'T CREATE A NETWORK

1. Ad sales - You never said you wanted to start an ad agency. You want to run your own podcast network. And if it's the ad dollars you're chasing you're still better focusing on traditional radio. Roughly $16.5 billion better.

2. Vanity - Yes, it's swell to put that Network creation on your Linked In page or your About Me section of your site. It's even cooler hearing your Audio ID on someone else's show, I won't even lie. But, without the editorial oversight of a Gimlet, there's always the chance some one else puts something you don't necessarily want your name on out into the world. Pride, goeth before a fall, remember?

3. Cross Promotion - statistics tell us that while many podcast listeners regularly listen to 11 or more podcasts weekly (8% of listeners according to Edison's latest reports), most only listen to a couple and the vast majority of Americans don't listen to any. The real opportunities to grow are among people who don't listen to podcasts today. Network promotion doesn't help that.

4. Expand Your Podcasting Circle - I'm not gonna try to talk you out of this. I'll just say having more podcasts under your purview is like having more babies. They're adorable, but expensive and time consuming. Tread carefully.

5. Network as Service - For the right person or persons, this might be perfect. I'd hesitate to say this is a "proven" moneymaker but I think there are opportunities in the market that you might be perfect for if your passion lay in podcast middle management!

Okay. You've weighed the good, you've weighed the bad and you're jumping anyway.

WHAT DOES MY NETWORK NEED?

1. A logo

2. An Audio ID

3. A Website

4. An agreement for hosts

THE FIRST AND THIRD ARE SELF EXPLANATORY, BUT I WANT TO SPEND SOME TIME ON 2 AND 4.

AUDIO ID

In radio, we call this "imaging". Think about the heavy guitar and the big booming voice says "your favorite station for the drive time drive by!" Or whatever local flair they add. This is that unique and recognizable piece of sound that listeners can expect across all your shows. Whether your hosts run it before the show, after or both, it will be one of the best pieces or cross-promotion in my opinion. These little "sticky" bits of audio have helped me fall in love with more than one show.

AN AGREEMENT FOR HOSTS

Obviously the size of your fledgeling Network will determine how thorough and how official these agreements should be. But bare minimum you should know the answers to the following questions before you invite any other podcasters along for the ride.

WHO OWNS THE FEED?

Surely, your podcast network will last for a thousand years and no one will ever leave, but let's say they did? What happens to that show and its audience?

WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?

Do you (network) provide the media hosting? Website design and maintenance? Ad sales? Cross Promotion? Joint fundraising? Whatever it is, no one is joining on just because you built it. This isn't the field or dreams.

WHAT DO EXPECT FROM THEM?

Is there a madatory number of episodes the host must produce yearly? Mandatory network promotion? Again, it's a partnership. Make clear what you want from your partner.

If there aren't dollars involved, maybe no one needs a legal document (or even to have it in writing) but if you don't have answers to all of those questions and make them clear to your hosts you are setting yourself up for serious issues.

HAVE YOU CHECKED ALL THOSE BOXES? CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'VE JUST CREATED A PODCAST NETWORK.

Josh and I launched our "network" in August of 2015 with Always Listening and What Makes Me Weird? We've now added the very cool Smash/Cut as a member and are open to helping others launch their show in the future. Personally, I just added the new Articulate Coven about Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat and the Vampire Chronicles.

If you've found this helpful, I'd love if you'd share with other podcasters you think might benefit too, and if you're ever in the market for a professional voice over or need an audio editor, check out our services page.