Talking Podcasts with Rob Visconti

by Bill Ferris on January 13, 2006 · 0 comments

in Interviews,Podcasts

Rob Visconti, aka the Bleacher Guy and Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion fame have been teaming up for almost a year to produce podcasts called Bleacher Guy Radio. Rob was kind enough to take the time an answer some questions about his experiences with podcasting, and what opportunities might be out there. If I’d been thinking when I emailed Rob, we could have done this as a podcast. Oh well, maybe next time…

What made you start doing podcasts instead of just blogging?

This time last year I hadn’t even heard of podcasting, much less given any thought to playing out my sports radio fantasies on the internet. But one night in January I was on the phone with my buddy and fellow sports blogger Eric McErlain from Off Wing Opinion. We were talking shop about where we saw sports blogging heading, and kicking around different ideas for possibly working together at some point. Eric mentioned podcasting as a possibility, which was the first that I had even heard of the concept, and I started doing research on the topic as soon as we got off the phone.

After a couple of months of toying with the idea and trying to figure out how the back end of podcasting works, I finally sat down on March 17 to record my first show–and it was awful. But I got a real kick out of putting it together, and an even bigger kick when my aggregator successfully downloaded the file and transferred it into my iTunes library. That was a pretty big moment for me–I didn’t really care whether anyone else ever listened to that first show. I just wanted to see if I could figure out how to make it work.

Of course, once the initial excitement wore off, I had to decide whether this was something I wanted to continue to pursue. Despite the fact that the first show was embarrassingly bad, I got some really positive feedback from regular readers of my blog who took the time to listen. At that point I realized that podcasting was going to be a great way to expand the content of my blog and to reach a new audience. And now that I’ve worked out the kinks and learned how to produce a better product, I think that the podcast and the blog feed off of each other. It’s been fun to watch it grow.

How long does it take to produce a podcast? What is the ratio of “air time” to total production time (prep, editing)?

We’ve pretty much settled on producing one hour shows on a weekly basis, and to produce that show, from prep through distribution, probably takes me approximately 3.5 hours of active work–i.e. prep, research, recording, editing and posting the show. There’s typically another 45 minutes or so that you can add on to that time in which I’m waiting while my software accomplish tasks that don’t require my constant attention, such as converting the file from .wav to mp3 or uploading the show to my server via ftp.

With all that said, the good news for people interested in getting started is that software developers are starting produce new tools for podcasters which make the whole process dramatically quicker and easier. I’ve decided to stick with what I know for now–I’m a “don’t fix what isn’t broken” kind of guy.

What are the technical requirements? Can the average, moderately technically adept blogger pull it off?

There are plenty of tools out there to help the newbie podcaster. One that I took advantage of was using Feedburner to produce my podcasting feed. When I post a show announcement on my site, Feedburner scans the post, finds the mp3 file embedded in the post, and sends it out as an enclosure in a separate rss feed, which iTunes and the various aggregators can then pick up. I’m still not absolutely sure how it works- but it does, and I’m happy with that.

I use Skype, which is a very simple voip application, to talk with Eric, and a program called Audio Hijack Pro to capture the audio of our conversation. I do my editing in Audacity, which is a free audio mixer available for download on the internet, and I use iTunes to convert everything from .wav to mp3, and to add the artist and title tags that show up when people listen to the show on their mp3 players.

It may sound complicated, but this is all stuff that I–an average, moderately technically adept blogger, managed to pull off. And, as I mentioned earlier, there are software developers who are producing tools which will allow you to use one piece of software to do everything you need to do to record your own show. If anyone has anyone questions about the speciifics of the process I use, I’d be happy to answer them via email at: bleacherguyradio@gmail.com.

How do you distribute your content? With large audio files are there bandwidth/storage concerns?

I have a dedicated server to host my shows, and I take old shows down off the server after approximately 3 months to save space. Our topics are pretty timely, and I figure that it is unlikely that someone wants to go back today and listen to what we had to say about Nomar Garciaparra’s injury last summer.

As I referenced earlier, the content is distributed as an enclosure within an rss feed that is produced by feedburner: http://feeds.feedburner.com/bleacherguy. This rss feed sends the show out to anyone who has subscribed to the show and automatically puts it in their aggregator, which could be anything from the Juice Receiver to iTunes. And, with each show, there are some folks who just click the link to the show on my blog and download the file directly to their desktop.

We’re also pretty pleased to be affiliated with TPSRadio.net, an internet radio station which streams our show from 11 to noon eastern, Tuesday through Friday.

Have you done any interviews or had any special guests? If not do you plan to?

The only interview I’ve done to date was with Tony Pittman, a former Penn State cornerback who started on Joe Paterno’s undefeated 1994 team. Tony also hosts his own very successful podcast, the Penn State Football Podcast.

Eric and I have talked a little bit about whether we should try to reach out and get more interviews. To be honest, I kind of struggle with how much access I really want to have. I think our show works pretty well under the premise that we’re just two fans who happened to figure out how to post their barroom sports conversation on the internet. The more access we get, the more we might start acting like media–and I’m not sure that’s something I want to see happen.

What are some monetization opportunities for sports podcasts? Are there any?

Your guess is as good as mine. Adam Curry’s Podshow company has numerous podcasts under its umbrella, and they’ve managed to sell advertising spots to companies such as Earthlink. For an average, grass-roots show such as mine, I think some modest opportunities to monetize are going to arise in 2006 as advertisers recognize that the podcasting content format isn’t going away.

I’d like to thank Rob for taking the time to inform me (and hopefully you) about podcasts. If you want to check out Bleacher Guy Radio, you can subscribe to the feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/bleacherguy/.