The pandemic gives us many opportunities to start something new. The additional amount of time that you get by not going out meeting friends needs to be filled. And you can’t do sports and Netflix all the time.
So, during these times I find it awesome to see how content creation has exploded. Be it virtual conferences (that you now can join from everywhere), panels, Clubhouse discussions or strategic roundtables on Twitch. The whole world has become a producer of content and that‘s good.
Sometimes it is hard to keep up, so many interesting things are created – and you need to draw a line somewhere – not to drown in consuming. But in general I enjoy the new opportunities.
A company podcast – internal only
So next to other activities to increase the amount of my creative work, one day I decided to create a company-internal podcast. I am working on software development and digital products and during my days I get to know very interesting and inspiring people. There are many occasions where we just sit and talk, exchanging ideas and knowledge (we made this a ritual btw).
One day I thought: „Why not record and publish it?“ Our company just had introduced the Microsoft Office 365 Suite and – while I am still not a huge Microsoft fan (old and deep scars, sorry) – I find it an amazing fit for a non-tech company. Now, O365/M365 comes with Microsoft Stream, a very simple and dumb YouTube clone. „Simple“ in this case does not mean „smart“, but simple. There are so many things, that you cannot do that should be part of an intranet YouTube clone, it just hurts.
Adopting to Microsoft Stream
However, it does some things right. Stream lets you upload videos and publish them from within the central sharepoint/OneDrive storage. It has a streaming component, that you can use to broadcast on the intranet. It has channels to structure your videos. Finally, Stream comes with an app to run on company phones (authenticated over your central Exchange). Each video has a rudimentary comment section and – if you need – you can restrict access to certain channels. And: It‘s available through the O365 suite over the internet. You do not need to be inside the companies‘ VPN (I do not know if this is not actually a flaw sec-wise, but it makes some things much more easy).
Now, a company is not necessarily a tech-savvy community. We are all used to communicate over Twitter, dropped vanilla TV for Twitch, learn over YouTube, discuss in Clubhouse, do business on LinkedIn, meet people in Zoom, exchange our development output on github. Most of the people I know are online 24/7, use the web for learning, exchange, dialogue. The web has enhanced our lifes more than anything else. I know, I know. This has a lot of downsides, but I am referring only to the good things here.
But many, many people have not yet bathed themselves in that magic well. They don‘t know or don‘t want to live their lives online. Podcasts (and the creation of) are a totally new thing for them.
So I got curious, whether I could „ignite“ a not necessarily tech-savvy company over Stream and get people to regularly listen to an internal audio podcast.
A product management for an internal podcast
I decided to apply all the product management stuff I have learned: Develop a vision, run a tiny discovery activity (with some potential customers), create a rough roadmap and do some thinking and collecting of topics. So here is the summary:
I want to make inspiring knowledge in the company available to everyone. So I record 30-minute interviews with colleagues I get to know, cut them and publish them in an open channel in Microsoft Stream once a month. After doing some prep work once, each podcast should not take more than two hours to produce – including prep of questions, scheduling, running the interview, cutting, publishing and announcement/advertising. As a result, I want to have first an increasing amount of people and then a recurring consumption. About 100 people (of a 13K employee company) should regularly listen to each episode (I take this as a success).
First steps: Try it out, then learn fast
Full production of a podcast in 2 hours is tough for me, so I needed to do some preparation work. Especially, since Microsoft Stream does not allow audio tracks to be uploaded. So I had to create audiograms, not to produce huge gigabyte files for 80MB audio. I created an audio template in GarageBand (yes, I am an Apple fanboi deep in my heart), created a fixed intro, selected intro and outro music (available for commercial use). I created the audiogram template in Keynote and a KANBAN board in Trello that contained all the single process steps that every single podcast was supposed to go through. For creating the audiogram I found FusionCast, a beautifully simple program to create a small movie file out of a still image and an mp3.
Then I looked around for recording options. I checked Discord (using craig.chat), Skype for Business (we use that at work), Teams and several other web-based solutions. At the end I went for Zoom. You can configure Zoom to record every input in single audio tracks – and that‘s all I needed to make a quality editing afterwards. Zoom creates m4a files so for proper editing I need to run ffmpeg once in a while for the conversion stuff.
You can install ffmpeg on a mac using homebrew and then use a simple command to convert m4a to mp3:
ffmpeg out.mp3 -i in.m4a -codec:a libmp3lame -qscale:a 1
A KANBAN flow for podcast production
To pull the different interviews from ideas to publish (and create the podcast on the way) I created a Trello board. The board contains the following process steps:
- Send out invite
- Schedule meeting
- Prepare questions
- Run interview
- Cut audio/video
- Publish podcast
As I pull the cards across the board, I have just 1 column with a WIP of 1 – which is the Run interview column. In general, my board is pretty empty in between Ideas and Done. However, if I just take a quick look at it, I know exactly where I am in the process with each card.
Definition of Ready and Definition of Done
I used the lately introduced Trello template system to create a card that contains all the steps of a production in 4 checklists: Pre production, Editing, Post production and Publish workflow. Each checklist contains the detailed steps to run through – including the command line execution for ffmpeg. These checklists serve as my Definition of Ready and Definition of Done. And I don’t have to remember every time what I have to do. This helps me to keep the needed work below 120 minutes.
The template card already contains some sections in the description, that helps me fill in content later: The reason why this topic and interview could be interesting, the background of my interview partner, the questions I want to ask and the custom introduction that I want to record for this episode (which contains a mix of the first 2 sections). Here are these sections in an overview:
- Why is this interesting?
- What is the background story of my interview partner?
- What questions do I want to ask?
- How am I going to introduce this episode?
It did not take long to create a large list of potential interviewers. I drafted a standard interview request and started sending out emails. Success! People were very interested and scheduled interview sessions were accepted. Cards were slowly pulled across the board.
For the first podcast I needed 3:32 hours in total – far from what I set my KPI. The second one was 2:50 hours (better!). Yesterday I recorded my third interview and used 1:13 hours on the third production so far, giving me 47 minutes for cutting, publishing and advertising. I don‘t know whether I will be able to really bring that down to 2 hours without reducing quality. But let‘s see.
Last week on Monday I published my first podcast (on Gamification at the workplace with Stephen Sykes of Amazing Outcomes). I posted it on Stream, then in #random on our Slack, posted it in our internal Chatter and sent out one email to a few selected people. So far I the track was listened to 55 times and got 15 „likes“ – unfortunately Stream does not give you any more stats 🙁
Stuff I learned on the way
Along the way there are some learnings – and a lot, lot of help and support by other creators. All the YouTube videos and the podcasts I have listened to – thank you for taking the time and explaining things to others!
- How to edit & export a Podcast in Garageband 2021 (Easy Workflow) by Ben Leavitt on YouTube
- How to mix your Podcast in Garageband (and make it sound better) by recordingrevolution on YouTube
- Podcast starten – die ultimative Anleitung für Einsteiger von Martina Honecker
- How to start a podcast on buzzsprout.com
- Editing a podcast by buzzsprout on YouTube
And here is some additional stuff I have learned:
- Keep track of the volume settings in intro and outro recordings so that you can mimic them if you have to re-record some stuff
- Have a sheet of paper to note down minutes and seconds while listening to the recording to highlight passages you want to edit later
- Keep track of the compressor and editor settings on a separate sheet so that you can use it in other recordings as well (and always create the same quality & effects)
If you have questions (I am just a beginner, too), feel free to contact me on twitter.com/oliverschwarz.