2018 will be the year of the Podcast. Is it time to add podcasting to your marketing mix?

One of the most popular marketing topics in 2017 was video marketing. Every marketer was thinking about how to incorporate video into their strategies. After all, a picture tells a thousand words right?

With the growing popularity of smart speakers/personal assistants, maybe it’s time to focus on a new tactic – podcasting.

Podcasting is the new blogging – not

I saw the phrase “podcasting is the new blogging” on a news site, and it made me think about the effort we put into our blog writing. Some of us spend hours researching, outlining and writing blogs and columns, laboring over the right words to say in the right way. Is it possible we may be wasting some of our time? Would we be smarter to develop our ideas and share them through a podcast, leaving the writing part (and the cursed “passive voice) fall by the wayside?

There’s no video involved, so we don’t need to look good, and we don’t have to invest in expensive computer equipment for video creation and editing. Podcasting seems like the perfect way to share ideas.

It’s not that simple. Podcasting is not a replacement for good writing – blogs, whitepapers, and ebooks. And it’s not a replacement for video. It’s also not necessarily cheaper or easy to do. But it could be a great addition to your marketing mix if you approach it with the right strategy and mindset.

Tips for getting started with a podcast

As part of the marketing plan for one of my clients, we have decided to develop a podcast. This is a dip into the waters to see if we can build an audience by offering useful content in the market. There are a couple of other podcasts in this market, but none by a vendor and only one other focused on our particular niche. So there’s opportunity, but there’s also the risk that people won’t want to hear from a vendor.

Why did we decide to try a podcast? The team has a wealth of insights and information they want to share. They also have a lot of connections to experts and customers who are willing to share their expertise – we know the content is there. It’s not about peddling products and solutions. The challenge is now figuring out the best way to implement it.

The Globe and Mail article mentioned above noted that podcasting is a labor-intensive process. You have to plan the podcast, record it, edit it, distribute and market it. The article said it could easily take 10-20 hours per episode. We are hoping to start on a small scale, but that amount of time sounds about right.

There’s a lot of information available on how to run a podcast. Here are a few of those suggestions:

Planning the podcast theme

Before you start working on individual shows, you need to decide on an overall theme for your show. Who is the audience and do they listen to podcasts? Can you generate enough of an audience to make the effort worth it? What’s your goal with the podcast? What type of information do you want to share? What pains are you trying to solve? Have your goals and expected performance metrics understood before you start. They may evolve, but you need that starting line.

Hosting

Where will you host the podcast? There are many hosting options available including Blubrry and PodBean. Pretty much all of the hosting services include the ability to share your podcast show on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Maybe you are considering hosting your podcast on your website directly. Think about the size of the files you will not only be storing, but streaming out to your audience. The bandwidth alone might kill your budget. Plus, you don’t have those automatic integrations with iTunes and Google Play – and they are very helpful in getting your podcast available quickly.

Developing a schedule

One very important thing you need to be is consistent. Decide on a schedule that you know you can stick with and then plan out a few months of topics. This will give you time to pull together the content and the guest hosts you want. You can make the schedule available on your website and share it on social media to generate interest.

Podfly.net, a boutique podcasting company that helps companies create podcasts, includes show notes you need for each show:

  • A compelling show title
  • A subtitle
  • A description paragraph
  • Time-stamped key takeaways
  • Links and mentions
  • Tweetables

To script or not to script

There’s a lot of discussion on whether you should script your podcast or not – and what scripting actually means. You could write your script out word for word, ensuring you cover everything you need to. This works when you are doing the show on your own or with an internal team, but if you are interviewing or talking with an expert or client, you can’t script the conversation word for word. You need to think about how you’ll sound when you script word for word. Think about some of the webinars you’ve attended and how stilted they sound – those people are reading off a script.

Reading off a script doesn’t have to sound bad, but it will take practice to make the conversation sound natural. Another option is scripting a complete outline but leave the actual discussion be natural. An outline ensures you are covering all your points and it gives you a consistent structure for the show. The most conversational approach is a flexible, rough list of bullet points around a theme or topic.

You don’t have to stick to one approach only, but it’s important to be aware of each style and what you need to do to prepare. (The Podcast Host provides lots of guidance on scripting, where I found this information)

Engage your listeners outside the podcast

Don’t think of a podcast as the only way to engage with your listeners. To help you build a loyal audience, think about how you can leverage social media to build and continue the conversations you have on your podcast. Consider a Facebook Group and create a Twitter hashtag or specific account to grow the conversation.

Promotion and distribution

Make sure you are promoting and talking about your Podcast on your website – links on the homepage,  blog post summaries of episodes with a link to the podcast, LinkedIn company page notifications, and updates, LinkedIn posts from the host and guest hosts summarizing the conversation and linking to the full podcast are also helpful. Give your guest hosts a way to promote the podcast as well and request the audience sign up for notifications of upcoming episodes so you can email them.

You might also want to consider getting set up with Alexa Skills to have your podcast showing up on Amazon for the Echo or Show.

There are visual components

Although a podcast is audio only, there is some artwork you need for your podcast to brand it. You may decide to brand it closely to your company brand or to keep it completely separate. Make sure you know what you need and make it look professional.

The equipment and software required

You can’t do a podcast with some investment in software and equipment. I think you can start with some inexpensive options and build from there. For recording and mixing, Audacity is a free open source tool that’s pretty easy to use (I’ve used it to add music to the opening of a podcast and to edit out dead zones that don’t add value).

Clear audio is critical. If you are recording a podcast where everyone isn’t in the same space, you want to be sure everyone’s audio and internet connection are solid. For regular hosts, you should have special microphones that improve the quality of your audio. Here’s a post that gives you a range of microphone options.

Finding the ROI in a podcast

Can you determine the ROI of a podcast? The answer depends on the purpose of your podcast. You can offer advertising spots in your podcast, have sponsors and do other advertising tactics that will bring in revenue for your podcast.

IAB did some research on podcast revenues in 2016 and indicated that US ad revenues for podcasts were expected to hit over $220 million in 2017. The latest stats aren’t out to see if we hit that target, but we know it will be up from the $119 million in 2016.

Advertisers need to know they are getting something for their money. Analytics around listeners become important to have, so make sure wherever you host and distribute your podcast includes a way to track audience engagement.

Of course, analytics are important regardless of whether you are trying to determine ROI. You want to know the number of subscribers, how many listened to each podcast, how much of the podcast they listened, and other key statistics.

My take

I am excited to start developing a podcast with my client. But I have no misconceptions about the work that is required to create a compelling story that our identified audience will want to listen to on a regular basis. I also know the budget is not high; we will start small with the financial investment. The sound quality is critical, the topics and conversations even more critical.

I’ll let you know how it works out and what lessons we learn after being active a few months. Until then, share your experiences in the comments. Any advice you can give someone starting up a podcast or looking to grow one in place?

Editor’s note: for more on the pros and cons of audio content on Alexa, check out Jon Reed’s How to get a halfway decent tech news Flash Briefing from Alexa – tips for enterprise readers. This article was first posted in Diginomica.com

 Image credit – Broadcast © fotomek – Fotolia.com

SpaceX is sending two people on a trip around the moon next year

Yup, you read that right. And no, the two people aren’t part of  SpaceX’s moon exploration team or anything. They are two regular folks like you and me…..actually, probably throw in a lot of money as well.

Apparently, these two individuals approached SpaceX on their own and requested to be flown around the moon. And if you are wondering if SpaceX sanctions such trips, it does assuming that you have money enough to sponsor it.

The company expects to conduct health and fitness tests and begin initial training, later this year. Meanwhile, the identity of the two highfliers — and they are literally taking the meaning of the word to a whole new level — has not been revealed. SpaceX said that it will reveal them after the individuals pass their health and fitness tests and give their nod to going public.

A SpaceX post on the topic read as follows:

 We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration.

Meanwhile, SpaceX’s behavior is very reminiscent of a private taxi company. Except of course, the turf here is Space. Gone are the days when you had to be a the model human, the one with science geek-iness in addition to a robust physique, and work at NASA in order to observe the moon from anywhere  considerably closer than the rest of the human race. Provided you have the money and that the journey won’t kill you, SpaceX will train you and will send you on your trip.

The trip will deploy the Falcon Heavy rocket — which after the Saturn V, is the most powerful rockets ever built for the purpose of space exploration. The launch will take place once SpaceX performs a manned mission to the ISS for NASA in the second quarter of 2018.

Post the launch, the two private individuals who are presently shrouded in anonymity, will become the humans to have traveled the furthest into space. Imagine the ice-breakers it will give them when they are back “So, I was traveling to the moon and suddenly……….”

Shared from Mudit Mohilay…

How to Avoid Making a Horrible Speech That Everyone Will Hate

The only thing worse than sitting through a boring or obnoxious speech is being the poor soul who just gave it.

Whether it’s wedding toasts or the too-early start of the 2016 election season, every time you turn around somebody is standing up to share a few remarks.

Some are brilliant and inspiring. Others, not so much.

I know a bit about how to give a great speech–and probably more importantly, how to avoid giving a really bad one. I’ve had a side business as a professional ghostwriter for years, and I also run a network that connects other freelance ghostwriters with paying clients. While I’ve written more articles and books than I could possibly count, it’s the speeches–everything from eulogies and father-of-the-bride speeches to professional presentations–that can be most daunting.

I think this is because speeches are a multifaceted form of communication, most often given in real time, and that means there are simply more ways to screw thing up. So, in the interest of improving your next audience’s experience, here are 10 key steps that you absolutely must take to avoid a crowd full of groaners and yawners–or worse.

1. Understand the occasion.

Too basic? Please. We all have a story about the wedding toast that was completely inappropriate, or the professional address that got way too personal, or the supposedly friendly speech that turned into a complete bummer. Understanding the occasion and getting the tone right are crucial. People mess this up all the time, and yet it’s so easy. Think about your audience. What are they expecting to hear?

2. Take the time to prepare.

Whether you have a month’s notice or just a minute, it is your responsibility to prepare. It can be simply three main points you’ve jotted on a napkin, but remember that there are only a very few, rare people who can give an off-the-cuff speech with no preparation. (I saw Bill Clinton do it once. It was impressive, but he’s the exception. It’s also a big part of why he was president.)

3. Structure is your friend.

Make me listen to a horrible speech, and I bet I’ll tell you afterward that it lacked structure. Think of it this way–if the audience doesn’t know where the speaker is going and how long he or she is going to take to get there, they’re less likely to be on the his or her side.. We’ve all sat through these kind of long, boring diatribes. At the very least, even if you get everything else on this list wrong, at least respect your audience enough to let them know how long the torture is going to last.

4. Sing, don’t just speak.

You don’t have to rhyme your words or look up what iambic pentameter means, but remember to write prose with a dash of poetry. Here are two simple tips to make it easy. First, boil the theme of your speech down to a simple phrase, and repeat it at well-spaced intervals (classic example: “I have a dream…“). Second, remember that the human brain is hardwired to respond better to three-item lists. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet that’s why in his classic 2005 speech at Stanford University, Steve Jobs mapped out his speech and told his audience he planned to share three stories.

5. Get the logistics right.

Basic stuff: Don’t read your speech verbatim, but have your notes with you. Project your voice–and if that isn’t going to work, make sure you’ve got a working microphone or plan to speak from the center of the crowd. If you’re physically short, stand on top of something. And at the risk of being crass, look in the mirror. Make sure your hair isn’t standing on end and you don’t have any boogers hanging out of your nose. Don’t let practical things that have nothing to do with your speech ruin everything.

6. Make it shorter.

Fewer words, fewer minutes, fewer points. If you were to read this column as a speech, it would probably take you about six minutes. Any longer, and your audience would probably revolt. (I can count on my fingers how many times I’ve worked on speeches and thought, “You know, this really needs to be longer.”)

7. Use props, literally.

Don’t over-rely on them, but use them as tools to “prop” up your speech (hence, “literally”). Also, if you absolutely have to use PowerPoint–you probably don’t, but if you really do have to–the fewer words on each slide, the better. Oh, and plan for the worst. Assume the projector will break, or your computer will freak out. What’s your backup plan?

8. Strive for connections.

Even though you’re doing most of the talking, a good speech is ideally a multi-way communication between you and multiple audience members. That’s actually a pretty high standard, but aim for it, and when things are going wrong, fall back on it. Focus at least on finding one or two friendly faces in the crowd, and engage them–whether it’s through simple nonverbal communication, questions, or something else.

9. Own your emotions.

I can’t tell you whether you should start with a joke, mainly because I have no idea whether you’re funny. However, I can tell you that in almost every speech, you’re better off sharing some kind of human emotion. Even just briefly (but authentically!) sharing how proud or sad or flat-out nervous you are to be making the speech can help you connect. (When in doubt here however, the key word is “briefly.”)

10. Pretend you’re on an airplane. Know where the exits are.

Even when you’ve prepared perfectly, sometimes a speech just doesn’t go well. Sometimes you run out of time (maybe it’s not even your fault), and sometimes you just plain lose the audience. So, prepare for it, by building escape hatches into your remarks. Know how you can cut them on the fly without seeming like you just quit in the middle. I guarantee you that at least once in your speaking career, both you and your audience will be glad you did.

 

 

 

By Bill Murphy Jr.

Connecticut Website Designers

Executive editor, TheMid.com, and founder, ProGhostwriters.com

5 Steps to Pitch Like Elon Musk

A great pitch is a mixture of science and art — the business fundamentals of the idea you’re selling must be solid, of course, but to really move an audience you need to go beyond the numbers and offer a little magic. Investors, potential employees, or a sales prospect are all human, and as humans they all respond to a great story. If you want to really move people to action, your pitch needs to tell one.

How do you do this? According to a recent Medium post by startup messaging consultant Andy Raskin you could do a lot worse than emulate Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. Despite his limitations as a speaker — Raskin calls Musk “self-conscious and fidgety” — he manages to leave his audiences literally cheering when he pitches his ideas. Raskin says it all comes down to these five steps.

1. Name your enemy

If you want to move your audience like Musk does, don’t kick off your pitch by talking about yourself, your product, or your market. Instead, lead with your nemesis. “Start by naming the thing that’s getting in the way of your customer’s happiness. Do that by painting an emotionally resonant picture of how the world currently sucks for your customer, who/what is to blame, and why,” advises Raskin.

2. Why now?

The world has no shortage of problems. Most of the time we just live with them. In order to overcome your listeners’ inherent skepticism you need to convince them that, for whatever reason, now really is the time to change.

When Musk was pitching Tesla’s Powerwall battery, for instance, he did this by discussing climate change. We could ignore emissions before, he argues, but now imminent changes to the climate are rapidly making this impossible. Why is now the right time for your product?

3. Paint a picture of the promised land

Before you get into the nitty gritty of your business, you need to give your audience a mental image of where all this is headed. “Showing the enemy’s defeat before explaining how you’ll make it happen can feel wrong for novice presenters–like blurting out the punchline before you’ve told a joke. But when an audience knows where you’re headed, they’re much more likely to buckle in for the ride,” instructs Raskin.

4. Explain away obstacles

Audiences, you’ll recall from step two, tend to be skeptical. Don’t ignore this reality; address it head on. “Now that you’ve shared your vision of the future, (a) lay out the obstacles to achieving it and (b) show how your company/product/service will overcome each one. (There had better be some big, nasty obstacles–otherwise who needs what you’re selling?),” Raskin writes.

5. Win them over with evidence

You’ve shown your audience how you’re improving the world, laid out a picture of a rosier future, and met their objections about this vision head on. All of which is bound to be very compelling, assuming, of course, they believe what you’re telling them. Now is the time to clinch your pitch by proving that you’re not just blowing hot air, according to Raskin.

In the case of Musk’s Powerwall pitch, he does this by “letting his audience in on a secret: Powerwall batteries have been supplying the energy for the auditorium in which he’s speaking,” Raskin explains. Your company’s product might not be so dramatic, but “demos like this can serve as evidence, though results from early (or beta) customers are more compelling,” he continues, adding that “least persuasive– but better than nothing–are testimonials from potential customers explaining why they would buy.”

Curious to see what all this looks like in action? Check out Raskin’s complete post for more details and a video of Musk’s Powerwall pitch for further inspiration.

By Jessica Stillman

Connecticut Website Designers

Editor-at-large, Women 2.0

An In-Depth Guide To Launching Your Own Podcast

Podcasting has experienced a renaissance in the last couple of years. According to RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million, up from 25 million five years ago.

Suffice it to say, now is a great time to start a podcast. It’s an authentic and intimate way to demonstrate authority in your niche and to grow your client base.

I recently started my first podcast, Agencies Drinking Beer, with my cofounder, Kevin Springer. When starting out, I was a bit lost with the technical logistics of actually setting up the podcast; figuring out the best approach required a lot of searching and digging.

I want to make all of that easier for you. Here, in one place, is all of the best advice, information and resources I can offer you. This way, you can spend less time on the technical side of setting up your podcast and more time creating killer content.

Ready to start? Let’s go!

Plan Your Podcast

While this article focuses on the technical aspects of getting a podcast online, we should quickly cover the basics of starting a successful podcast.

Pick a Target

As with any content marketing endeavor, start with identifying your audience and creating personas. Your podcast should target one distinct niche and not try to appeal to everyone.

Listen to other podcasts in your niche to get an idea of what’s out there and what you can offer that’s different. A ton of web design podcasts are out there; so, if your goal is to talk about web design, think about how you can approach it in a way that no one else is doing.

Form a Structure

Decide on the length of the show, whether you’ll have interviews, how often you’ll publish episodes, what day of the week you’ll release them and so on. In most cases, there is no right or wrong way to do it. I’ve listened to podcasts that are 15 minutes each and some that are two hours long. Just pick what works for you and stick to it as consistently as possible.

Plan Your Content

While heavily scripted podcasts can come across as stiff and robotic, planning your topics is still a good idea, especially if you’ll be interviewing guests. I schedule our episodes using a Google Docs spreadsheet, and I use Evernote to store notes, questions and topics for each episode. More recently, I’ve also been sending guests an email outlining the questions I plan to ask, to guide the discussion.

Add the Polish

Create a theme song in Garageband or buy a stock theme from somewhere like AudioJungle. Music will add a lot of energy to your show and make it feel polished and professional.

What Makes A Good Podcast?

An entire article could be written about this — in fact, many articles out there discuss what makes a good podcast — but I will mention some things I’ve learned in the four months I’ve been doing it.

Be Real

You don’t need to have the golden voice of a professional radio announcer, and people won’t care if you stumble or make mistakes — that will just make you sound more authentic and human. Whatever you do, don’t read from a script. Speak from the heart and say what you’re really feeling.

Be Passionate

If your podcast revolves around a subject that you love to talk about, then creating new content each week will not be hard. Your passion will shine through, and people will pick up on that. In my podcast I talk about building great agencies because it’s a topic I enjoy discussing with agency owners. I also like beer.

Be Focused

It’s hard to market an episode where you bounce from topic to topic and go on long, rambling digressions. A few off-topic excursions are fine if they are entertaining, but have a clear direction in mind for each episode. If for nothing else, that will make it easier to package and promote later. Preparing bullet points to have in front of you will help guide the discussion.

Really Listen to the Other Person

This seems obvious, but it’s tricky in practice. If you are thinking about what you’re going to say next while your guest is speaking, later you’ll listen to the recording and kick yourself for missing out on great conversational opportunities because you weren’t really listening to what the other person was saying.

My advice is not to overthink it. Recording something is better than obsessing over getting it perfect and not recording anything. Your first episode isn’t going to be as good as your 10th or 50th, but accept this fact, lay down some tracks and move on.

Ready to record? Let’s make sure you’ve got the right tools in place.

Record Your Podcast

A simple set-up
Laptop, microphone and headphone. A simple set-up. (View large version)

Hardware

The hardware required to record a podcast is actually pretty simple.

  • We use a Macbook Pro with an external hard drive (since clips quickly eat up storage space). Mind you, any PC with an audio input can be used.
  • A proper microphone was the first thing we purchased, and after some research we found a fantastic product at a great price point, Blue Microphones’ Snowball iCE. It’s a simple plug-and-play USB mic with a sturdy swivel tripod stand. We require two of these because we have two hosts on the show, and we also purchased a USB hub to plug into.
  • Headphones are a necessity, and they must be ones that do not have a microphone built in, so that they don’t pick up unwanted sounds. We use Rocketfish’s headphones hub for two.

Software

  • Skype is a good choice if interviews are an important part of your podcast. Skype is free and ubiquitous, and the sound quality is decent. Keep in mind that if your Internet connection is slow, you may find occasional distortion or delays, which can sap the flow of your interview. Plugging your laptop directly into your Internet connection will help, especially if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network.
  • We found Ecamm’s Call Recorder to be the easiest way to record calls in Skype. The one-time fee of $29.95 is well worth it. It also has video recording capabilities if you need that.
  • After we’re done an interview, we import the Ecamm file (which is automatically exported as a MOV file) into GarageBand, and from there we record our introduction and conclusion and add our sound effects and music. GarageBand has a podcast setting, which makes editing a breeze.

Note: When recording with a remote guest, if at all possible, ask them to record their own audio separately and send it to you as an MP3. The quality will generally be much higher than if you record through Skype; and this way, if your recording fails, you’ll have a backup.

From there, we mix it down to a M4A file and upload it to our web server via FTP. (Of course, you may choose MP3, which is perfectly all right.)

Configure Your Website

If you’re new to podcasting, you might be surprised to learn that Apple doesn’t directly host podcasts, and it doesn’t offer any tracking data to tell you how many downloads each episodes get. It’s all on you.

Third-party services, such as Libsyn, will host your podcast for you, generate an RSS feed and give you download metrics. Call me a control freak, but I want total control over my publishing and don’t want to rely on a third-party service for it.

According to the “king of podcasting,” Paul Colligan, you should:

  • own the domain name of your podcast,
  • bankroll the hosting of your podcast,
  • own the RSS feed of your podcast,
  • own your podcast copyright.

Set Up a New Blog Channel in Your CMS

For a content management system (CMS), I use Craft, but you could publish your podcast using WordPress, ExpressionEngine, Drupal or any other CMS that lets you define your own fields and output them on the page however you want.

Below is what a blog post in Craft looks like for one of my podcast episodes. I’ve set up basic fields for the headline, teaser, main image and content. For the audio file, I simply insert the name of the file and specify in the template the directory in which to look for the M4A file.

A blog post in Craft
A blog post in Craft.(View large version)

You could do this differently and directly upload the file through your CMS. But at 40 to 50 MB per episode, uploading is easier via FTP than in a web browser.

Set Up Fields to Output the RSS Page

Next, you’ll want to set up fields specifically for your RSS feed that iTunes and FeedBurner will display (more on submitting your feed later). Here are the fields you’ll need:

  • Episode title
    Make this separate from the headline used on your blog. Most podcasts contain a short code to go in the title. This looks good on iTunes but may not be what you want on your blog.
  • Subtitle
    This will appear as the description on the iTunes podcast web page.
  • Summary
    This will appear as the description when someone is subscribed to your podcast in iTunes.
  • Length
    Find the length of the episode, and insert the time here (for example, 45:15).
  • File size
    To get the file size accurate, right-click on your audio file and look at the size in bytes. Remove the commas and paste in the size. It should look something like 56288430.
Get the file size accurate
Get the file size accurate. (View large version)

In Craft, I created a new tab to list all of my iTunes fields, so that they’re organized together and separate from my other content.

A new tab to list all iTunes fields
A new tab to list all iTunes fields. (View large version)

Notice how this content will appear in iTunes:

Content in iTunes
Content in iTunes. (View large version)

On the front end of the website, I designed a simple blog-style page for each podcast episode that outputs the headline, introductory paragraph and audio player with iTunes and RSS links. Below that is an image for the episode and the written article.

An image for the episode and the written article
An image for the episode and the written article. (View large version)

For the audio player, we use audio.js, a simple JavaScript file that uses HTML5’s audio tag, with a Flash fallback for old browsers. The UI is great, and configuration is simple.

07-audiojs-opt

Steps for Installing audio.js

Put audio.js, player-graphics.gif and audiojs.swf in the same folder.

Include the audio.js file:

<script src="images-in-article//audiojs/audio.min.js"></script>

Initialize audio.js:

<script>
  audiojs.events.ready(function() {
    var as = audiojs.createAll();
  });
</script>

Now, you can use the audio element wherever you’d like in the HTML:

<audio src="images-in-article//mp3/juicy.mp3" preload="auto" />

OK, now that your CMS and front end are set up, it’s time to generate the RSS feed.

Generate The RSS Feed

Apple has an extensive article showing all of the different nodes to add to your RSS feed. But after digging, I’ve come up with a basic template that should work for most people’s needs:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<rss version="2.0" xmlns:itunes="http://www.itunes.com/dtds/podcast-1.0.dtd">
  <channel>
    <title></title>
    <link></link>
    <language>en-us</language>
    <itunes:explicit>clean</itunes:explicit>
    <itunes:subtitle></itunes:subtitle>
    <itunes:author></itunes:author>
    <itunes:summary></itunes:summary>
    <description></description>
    <itunes:owner>
      <itunes:name></itunes:name>
      <itunes:email></itunes:email>
    </itunes:owner>
    <itunes:image href="" />
    <itunes:category text="Business">
      <itunes:category text="Management &amp; Marketing"/>
    </itunes:category>
    <!- Here's where you’ll want to loop through your CMS entries -->
    <item>
      <title></title>
      <itunes:author></itunes:author>
      <itunes:subtitle></itunes:subtitle>
      <itunes:summary>
        <![CDATA[
        ]]>
      </itunes:summary>
      <itunes:image href="" />
      <enclosure url="" length="" type="audio/mpeg" />
      <guid>http://yoursite.com/download.php?url=</guid>
      <pubDate></pubDate>
      <itunes:duration></itunes:duration>
    </item>
    <!- end loop -->
  </channel>
</rss>

Note that you won’t be linking directly to the audio file. Rather, you’ll be linking to yoursite.com/download.php?url=path-to-your-file. This is important for tracking downloads. Trust me on this for now — I’ll explain more in a subsequent step.

Below is what the RSS feed template looks like filled out with static and dynamic content within my Craft template:

Complete RSS feed
Complete RSS feed. (View large version)

You can download my own RSS template to customize to your own needs.

Finally, once you’ve finished coding your RSS feed, submit it to Feed Validator to ensure it has no errors. Do this even if you’re sure it’s valid. At one point, I wondered why my podcast was behaving strangely in iTunes, and it came down to an invalid feed, which Feed Validator helped me fix.

Feed Validator
Feed Validator. (View large version)

Submit the Feed to FeedBurner

Not everyone will want to subscribe to your podcast through iTunes or email. To let people more easily subscribe to your podcast using their own RSS reader or a third-party podcast subscription app, using FeedBurner is best.

First, submit a new feed and check off the “podcaster” option:

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Once you do that, it will read your feed and generate a unique URL. This is the URL you should be linking to when advertising your RSS feed on your website. It will look something like what’s below when users click the link, which is a bit more friendly than sending them to a pure XML page.

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Submit To iTunes

Of course, you’ll want to submit your podcast to iTunes to reap the benefits of the free exposure that Apple offers. (That being said, don’t ignore other platforms, such as Pocket Casts and TuneIn.)

Before you submit it, design a beautiful cover to stand out in the iTunes store. This cover is comparable to an app’s icon in the App Store, but you have a slightly larger canvas to work with. Design it at 1400×1400px. It will appear smaller than that in most places your listeners will see it, so keep it simple, bold and free of small text.

I remember thinking I could get away with including my logo and some text in the cover, but this is how it appeared in the iTunes store:

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I removed the Proposify logo and text because it couldn’t easily be read.

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Ready to submit to Apple? Go to your iTunes app, click on “Podcasts,” and to the right you’ll see a link to submit a podcast.

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Click on the button, and it will ask you to submit the feed.

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It will return a message if you’ve missed filling in any fields. Once everything is correct, iTunes will notify you within a couple of days that your podcast has been approved and will email you a link to your podcast on the iTunes website. It may take a bit longer to show up in the iTunes app.

Seeing your very own podcast in the iTunes store is a pretty magical experience!

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At this point (and probably long before), you should be announcing your podcast to the world.

  • Email your list of subscribers.
  • Ask all of your friends and colleagues to share it with their contacts.
  • Post it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
  • Don’t stop.

Nathan Barry’s article “How to Launch Anything” might help.

Launch With At Least Three Episodes

The “New and Noteworthy” section of the iTunes store offers you much needed exposure, especially in those critical six to eight weeks following the launch. iTunes has an algorithm that looks at a number of different factors to determine whether to push you higher up in the “New and Noteworthy” section. One factor you can affect directly is the number of downloads.

What if you haven’t yet built up a huge audience? Simply put, launch with more episodes. The more episodes you launch with, the more likely you’ll get more downloads per subscriber, meaning you’re more likely to get bumped to the top.

Consistently releasing new episodes on schedule is important, so put one or two months’ worth of episodes on reserve in case an interview falls through, you get sick or you can’t release a new episode for some other reason. Of course, this may be impractical if you are newsjacking or discussing some other time-sensitive topic.

Track Downloads With Google Analytics

This is the last piece of the puzzle, and I was shocked at how few resources exist to do something as relatively simple as tracking downloads.

Apple doesn’t offer any tracking whatsoever. There are third-party apps, such as Lisbyn, Podtrac and Blubrry, but, as mentioned, many require you to host your audio files with them and to use their CMS and RSS feed. Not what us control freaks want!

If you aren’t overly concerned with getting paid sponsorship of your podcast, tracking downloads yourself is actually much easier by combining a bit of PHP with Google Analytics events.

I came across a free script from Chris Van Patten, Downloadalytics, which allows you to track downloads as an event in Google Analytics.

Here are the steps for installing it:

  1. Download the Server Side Google Analytics PHP script from Dan Cameron.
  2. Download Downloadalytics.
  3. Upload both PHP files (ss-ga.class.php and downloads.php) to the root directory of your website.

Leave the Server Side Google Analytics file alone, and open downloads.php. You’ll need to change three things:

  • the website’s URL (yoursite.com);
  • the Google Analytics property ID (for example, UA-1234567-1), which you can find in Google Analytics;
  • the type of audio file to track (I use M4A, but you could use MP4, MP3 or something else).
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Remember earlier when we pointed our RSS feed to download.php?url=, instead of just the basic path to the file? We did that so that Downloadalytics can properly track downloads in Google Analytics.

If you’re using an audio player on your blog, be sure to also point to downloads.php, instead of the basic file path. For example, your blog post should link like this:

<audio src="http://yoursite.com/download.php?url=http://yoursite.com/uploads/file01.m4a" preload="auto"></audio>

Not like this:

<audio src="http://yoursite.com/uploads/file01.m4a" preload="auto">
</audio>

After a day of tracking, log into Google Analytics. Navigate to “Behavior” → “Events” → “Overview.”

You’ll notice a new event category, named “Downloads,” which Downloadalytics has generated.

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Click on the event category, and you can add it to your dashboard to more easily track by episode.

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Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve found this to be a useful and comprehensive guide to launching your very own podcast. I’m only 10 episodes in at the time of writing, but so far I’ve found the experience to be a great way to build a closer relationship with my customers and fans. It’s a lot of work, and discipline is required to record week after week, even when you aren’t in the mood, but the reward is more than worth the effort.

So, tell me, when do you plan to launch your podcast?

(ah, ml, al)

 

 

By

An In-Depth Guide To Launching Your Own Podcast

NASDAQ:AAPL $1 Trillion….

Analysts at Morgan Stanley upped their bullish ante on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) by releasing a research report which believes that the company could become a $1 trillion company over the next 12 months which is being seen as a huge positive by investors on the street. The analysts at Morgan Stanley raised the price target on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to $160 and believes that the Apple iWatch and the entry into the electric car market could be an absolute game changer for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) in the near term.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley upped the price target to the current $160 from the previous $133. Analysts also believe that the best bull case scenario for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) could see the price of the company go up to levels of $190 in the near term which is being seen as a huge positive for the company. Analysts at Morgan Stanley believe that the Apple Watch could double the market share of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) within the next 5 years which is a huge positive. Shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) were marginally higher in the trading session today.

When looking at the charts for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), the stock has been in an uptrend but is moving from strength to strength which is being seen as a huge positive. The stock is currently seen consolidating at the levels of $126.06. The momentum indicators for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)  have given a buy  signal which is a positive for traders and investors for the near term. The strength barometer for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)  has also given a buy signal which is indicative of the buying interest building up at current levels. According to chartists, the stock for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) would face resistance near the $133.88 levels in the near term.

3 Ways to Become Super Productive

Many of us feel like there’s never enough time in the day. Jumping from task to task, we work from dawn to dusk only to be disappointed by our progress. When we try to relax, we’re subconsciously focusing on the tasks we have to do afterwards. Because of our hyper-packed schedule, we end up doing 50 things all at 50 percent. Over time, this leads to a crash and subpar work. We start to become overwhelmed, and soon we neglect things like email and staff meetings. The question of why effort doesn’t equal results keeps popping up in our minds. We are trying are hardest to be productive, but every step forward is bringing us two steps back.

What’s worse is that we see others in our organization who always are able to get everything done. They rarely seem stressed, and yet they always get their tasks completed. These are the people in our companies who we regard as superhuman. Below, I’ve listed three ways that these people manage their time. Try incorporating this advice in your daily schedule and your co-workers will begin to think you never sleep.

1. Home in on major tasks

When we’re growing up, people always tell us we can do anything. More so, when we watch inspirational videos, they always seem to highlight a ridiculous work ethic. This gives us the feeling that by not working 24/7 we are somehow not going to be successful as entrepreneurs.

In reality, people who are the most effective just focus on the top tasks to take care of. Some people give the advice to say yes to everything, where in fact the most efficient say no to most things. This clears their schedule so they can just concentrate on the tasks they need to take care of. When you wake up in the morning, write down the most important objectives for the day. If other things come up, say no or delegate them to someone else. Your success for the day should be based on what you wrote down to get accomplished. Doing a few things well is much better than being average at everything.

2. Realize that discipline runs out

Studies have shown that we only have so much discipline to give out. If we overuse it, eventually we lose it. Because of this, it’s important to take time to relax and reenergize. A perfect example is people who eat healthy. When you ask most of them, they’ll tell you that they incorporate some kind of cheat meal or cheat day in their diet. This is so they can give into their craving, and recharge their discipline for the week ahead.

To do this in business, consider taking a complete day where you don’t answer your email. Another idea is to set out time blocks during the workday to spend with your family or friends. Small breaks will go a long way in saving your discipline and avoiding burnout.

3. Drop time wasters

Take a hard look at your schedule. Do you have any meetings that seem to run on too long or phone calls that have no purpose? These are perfect examples of time wasters. One way to get rid of these is to have a clear agenda for every meeting you go into. Another way is to try and push unnecessary meetings and phone calls to emails.

Finally, eliminating time wasters goes for your personal life as well. We all have those friends who want to do nothing but gossip. These are the exact type of people who are sucking your time out of you. Instead, try surrounding yourself with people who are as determined as you are. They’ll keep your energy up, and will make spending time with them worthwhile.

Read the full article here….

20 Tips for Getting More Done Every Day

If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, getting things done is incredibly important. You have to have vision, you have to plan, and you have to work with great people. But if you never move into action, all of the plans, visions, and staff in the world won’t save you.

Don’t confuse being busy with getting things accomplished. It’s possible to work an absurd number of hours without actually making much progress. Unfortunately, being busy is much easier than being productive. So here are 20 tips to making sure you’re actually getting the work done.
1. Know where you are and where you want to be.

You need to know both where you are and what you want to accomplish every day. This is not that bulky business plan you never look at. This is about knowing what should happen every single day and which of these tasks will move the needle most for your business.
2. Get enough sleep.

This cannot be overstated. If you’re exhausted, you won’t get as much done and you’ll make more mistakes. Whether you choose to rise early or work late and sleep in, make sure you get enough rest.
3. Get fit.

Getting fit can make a big difference in your productivity and perspective. Making simple, small changes in regards to your physical activity can improve your business and your life, as well as help you get more done and ultimately reach your goals.
4. Take steps toward a deadline.

When you’re moving your projects toward completion, you’re doing real, important work. If you spend an hour organizing your inbox, what have you accomplished?
5. Use a prioritized checklist.

By having a list of all that needs to be done, with the most important first, you’ll set yourself up for success. Checking off tasks is satisfying, and you’ll ensure key tasks aren’t forgotten.
6. Don’t overcommit.

This is a great tip from Lifehack. Not only should you not overcommit in a single day, but you should also carefully monitor your overall workload. Don’t be afraid to say no sometimes.
7. Close social media.

Close Facebook, Twitter, and anything else that distracts you. If you want to get work done, you’ll need to cut off the avenues you use to procrastinate.
8. Forget multitasking.

Multiple studies, including one using MRI images from the University of Michigan, show that effective multitasking is a myth. The brain switches tasks quickly, but too much switching decreases concentration and increases mistakes.
9. Use the Pareto Principle.

Listen to Tim Ferriss and put your focus on the 20 percent of your tasks that give you 80 percent of your results.
10. Focus on service.

When you spend time each day serving others, you’ll find yourself feeling so empowered and motivated that tackling your own tasks is a no-brainer.
11. Use time blocks.

Rather than bouncing around from task to task, set blocks of uninterrupted time to work on specific items. Make sure your employees know these are “no talking times.” Focused work will let you get more done quickly.
12. Use a timer.

When working through your tasks, estimate how long they will take and then try to beat the clock. It can make even dull tasks into a fun game, and you’ll surprise yourself with how fast you can be.
13. Create routines.

Habits are one of life’s strongest forces. The more you can make into a habitual routine, the more energy you’ll have left for bigger tasks. As the Harvard Business Review notes, we have a limited amount of willpower. Be sure you’re circumventing the amount you need to use by implementing good routines.
14. Change your environment.

Doing the same things, in the same place, day after day can cause burnout. Try a change of pace and do your work in a different location.
15. Work out midday.

Exercise has proven benefits when it comes to energy and feeling great. By taking a midday workout break, you can come back to your work refreshed and more productive.
16. Capture fleeting thoughts.

Nothing uses up brain power like trying not to forget something. By writing it down immediately, you’ll free up your mind to focus on other, more productive tasks.
17. Replace “I can’t” with “How?”

When it comes to being productive and overcoming burnout, you can’t accomplish what you think is impossible. By asking how to accomplish something instead, you’ll frame your work as achievable and get more done.
18. If you’re struggling, take a break.

Odd as it seems, sometimes the way forward is to stop. Regular breaks will give you a fresh start on your tasks.
19. Handle paper and email once.

By forcing yourself to take action on papers or emails right away, you’ll avoid having them pile up into an overwhelming mass. Make it a goal to handle them only once.
20. Eat healthy snacks.

What you eat has a big impact on how you feel. Rather than eating something that will give you a sugar rush and then a crash, focus on healthy foods like nuts or carrots.

Having a focused, productive day isn’t always easy. However, by following these tips you should be well on your way to getting all of your truly important tasks done each day. In the end, you’ll find yourself truly productive–not just busy.

Read the original article here

FOLLOW WIRED Twitter Facebook RSS What’s Up With That: Your Best Thinking Seems to Happen in the Shower

You’re in the shower. The water sounds like a gentle, rainy static, and feels like a Plinko massage. You’ve just started to lather up and suddenly, you’re hit with a flash of brilliance. Maybe it’s the answer to a vexing problem at work, the location of your lost USB drive, or perhaps it’s just a random, inconsequential (yet totally satisfying) insight.

But, by the time you towel off, the idea already has spiraled away down the drain. We all get these kinds of thoughts, and they don’t just happen in the shower. Long drives, short walks, even something like pulling weeds, all seem to have the right mix of monotony and engagement to trigger a revelation. They also happen to be activities where it’s difficult to take notes. It turns out that aimless engagement in an activity is a great catalyst for free association, but introducing a pen and paper can sterilize the effort.

There haven’t been a lot of experiments on why we get random insights, but psychology does have a theory that describes a mental state that seems to foment these kinds of thoughts. It’s called the default mode network.
“You become less aware of your environment and more aware of your internal thoughts,” said John Kounios, a psychologist who studies creativity and distraction at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The common thread in these activities is they are physically or mentally active, but only mildly so. They also need to be familiar or comfortable enough that you stay engaged but not bored, and last long enough to have an uninterrupted stream of thought.

Kounios explains that our brains typically catalog things by their context: Windows are parts of buildings, and the stars belong in the night sky. Ideas will always mingle to some degree, but when we’re focused on a specific task our thinking tends to be linear.

Kounios likes to use the example of a stack of bricks in your backyard. You walk by them every day with hardly a second thought, and if asked you’d describe them as a building material (maybe for that pizza oven you keep meaning to put together). But one day in the shower, you start thinking about your neighbor’s walnut tree. Those nuts sure look tasty, and they’ve been falling in your yard. You suddenly realize that you can smash those nuts open using the bricks in your backyard!

As far as Eureka moments go, using a brick as a nutcracker is pretty lame, but as an illustration for how the default mode network frees the things in your brain from external associations, it works quite nicely. As ideas become untethered, they are free to bump up against other ideas they’ve never had the chance to encounter, increasing the likelihood of a useful connection.

RATHER THAN A CATALOG OF OUR COLLECTIVE WISDOM, THE POOP JOURNAL BECAME A REPOSITORY OF INSIDE JOKES, GROSS ARTWORK, AND RECAPS OF OUR DAYS.
Random insights aren’t well studied, because as Kounios points out, “You can’t just sit somebody down and wait for them to have a novel idea.” However, there has been a lot of research on eureka moments, or flash epiphanies that solve a particular problem. The most famous is the apocryphal story of how Archimedes figured out that his king’s crown was a fake.

As the tale goes, King Hieron II had given his goldsmith a lump of gold to make a crown. However, he was suspicious that the artisan had taken some of the gold for himself and replaced it with less-precious silver. But, short of melting the crown, the king couldn’t be sure the goldsmith had ripped him off. He came to Archimedes with the problem. The famous scientist was stymied, until one day he had a realization while bathing: When he sat in the tub, the water rose corresponding to the volume of his body. If the goldsmith had cut the crown with silver, he would have had to add extra silver to make up for the weight of the denser gold. So, if the crown was cut with silver, Archimedes reasoned that it would displace more water than a chunk of pure gold that weighed the same. They did the test, and the goldsmith turned out to be a cheat.

Like Archimedes, when you are working on a problem your brain tends to fixate on one or a few different strategies. Kounios says these are like ruts that your mental wheels get stuck in. “If you take a break however, those thought patterns no longer dominate your thinking,” he said. The problem gets removed from the mental ruts and mingles with other ideas you’re carrying in your head. Eventually, it finds one—or several—that click together and rise up like Voltron into a solution. This is called fixation forgetting.

Shower thoughts aren’t always attached to a specific problem, but fixation forgetting still helps psychologists like Kounios understand those random cocktails of revelation.

It’s not clear how your brain decides which are the right connections, but it’s obvious that the farther your brain can roam, the better. Research has shown that your brain builds bigger creative webs when you’re in a positive mood. This makes sense, because when you’re anxious you’re less likely to take a chance on creativity. Even when resting or taking a break, anxious brains tend to obsess on linear solutions. This may be part of the reason that when you bring a way to record your thoughts into the equation—such as a notebook, voice recorder or word processor—the thoughts worth recording become scarce.

When I was in college, my roommates and I decided we wanted to harness some of the fruitful free association happening in the bathroom. We bought a beautiful, purple notebook, and titled it the Poop Journal. Every time I went to do my business, I grabbed a pen and laid the “PoJo” over my knee. But, the insights rarely came. It was similar for my roommates. Rather than a catalog of our collective wisdom, the Poop Journal became a repository of inside jokes, gross artwork, and recaps of our days. Why did the tool for posterity end up spoiling the creative fruits of our labor? Where do those thoughts come from to begin with?

“Not having an explicit task is the main ingredient for random insights,” Kounios said. “Once you have a pen and paper there, it’s not really your mind wandering.”

It doesn’t even take a pen and paper to spoil the moment. While I was researching this story, I took an expectation for insight with me into the shower every morning. The best I could conjure by force was something that sounds more like the product of a bong than a warm shower: “People anthropomorphize dogs, and dogs canipomorphize people.”

That doesn’t mean your eureka moments are doomed to be flushed away. Kounios says if you acclimatize yourself to your recording method, and keep it out of sight (yet within reach), your mind won’t be waylaid by external pressure on its way to free association. This could be a water-proof notepad for your shower, a voice-activated recording app for the car, or even an unobtrusive pocket notebook for when you’re sitting on the can.

Read more on Wired!

How to Get Outside Investors and Keep Control of Your Company

Consider selling a minority stake in your company as a way of having your cake and eating it too.

Today, owners of well managed companies have more options than ever before for liquidity, growth capital, or an outright sale of their enterprise. It’s a seller’s market.

Selling a minority stake might be the best option in this market. That way you can maintain ownership control and minimize personal financial risk.

The reasons the time is right are three-fold: An abundance of capital is available in the market, from both debt and equity sources; there are fewer high quality companies for sale; and a minority stake in a successful, growing company still generates a nice return for investors. Here’s what it takes to make it happen:
Decide to diversify your personal wealth.

Many business owners have a large percentage of their personal wealth tied up in their company. Selling a portion of the company enables owners like you to cash in on some of you hard work and re-invest the cash in diversified, more liquid, long-term investments that will be available for you and your family.

Determine what percent you want to control.

The owner’s personal and financial goals drive how much of the company is sold. If the goal is to retain control and still be very active in the company, you would sell a minority interest based upon the amount of cash you would like to take out of the company for personal reasons. This strategy also enables you to still control the direction of the company and sell the balance at a future date. Minority sales (less than 50%) normally involve private equity groups seeking to invest in profitable successful companies.

If the your goal is to retire or totally cash out of the company, you would sell a majority of the company or potentially all of the company. This type of sale enables you to capture a majority of the value in the company, and it also relieves the you of major management duties. If you are not ready to leave the helm, this option may not be for you and a minority sale will be better.
Designate funds to grow your company.

Many middle market business owners simply need an influx of cash or specialized expertise to take the company to the next level. A private equity group can provide the cash needed to expand into new markets, purchase new technology or equipment, or hire the additional sales force needed to grow the business. This can be your way to take your business to the next level.

The value of your business is determined by what investors are willing to pay. Currently, investors are willing and eager to invest in successful companies and the inventory available to them is limited. So, they have adapted to respond to the needs of owners. Minority ownership transactions are just an example of the adaptations they have made. Just as you see potential in the future they see opportunity as well.

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