In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 8 topics from my brand new podcasting setup to how selective auto-aggregation might just be a good idea for your niche.
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DPP015: My New Podcasting Setup, Twitter Activism, Automatic Aggregation, and 5 More Ideas
Hey everyone, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this show is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
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Ok! I’ve got 8 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. My new podcasting setup
[Note: The Amazon links below are affiliate links.]
The last episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast, which was episode 14, was the first one I recorded with my new recording setup, and I thought I’d talk about it here so that everyone else out there who wants a relatively portable and low-cost but still decent-sounding setup can know what to get.
That portability aspect was really important to me, since I live and travel with only what I can fit into my carry-on-sized backpack. Before episode 14, I recorded using the built-in microphone on my laptop. That worked and it was definitely good from a packability standpoint, but the sound quality ranged from almost unlistenable to minorly annoying, depending on where I was recording and what was going on around me. This microphone that I’m using now is the Audio-Technica ATR-2100. It was about $44 on Amazon, which is a really good price.
The main reason I was attracted to this microphone was that it is a relatively inexpensive dynamic microphone, instead of a condenser microphone. I’m not savvy enough here to know the technical differences between the two, but condenser microphones are extremely sensitive and will pick up everything going on around you. So good luck if the AC is on or if there are dogs barking or birds chirping outside. Dynamic microphones will really pick up only the sound that is right in front of them, which is exactly what I wanted in my situation. I used to have the Blue Yeti Microphone, which is a popular condenser microphone among podcasters, but I sold it because 1) it was massive and weighed about a million pounds, and 2) it picked up absolutely everything going on around me. If I had to scratch my leg, it would pick that up.
The ATR-2100 comes with both USB and XLR cables. XLR is what you’d use if you were going to plug the mic into a mixer or something, but I threw that away and just use the USB cord to plug it in directly to my computer.
Now, you know how hardcore podcasters and people on the radio have their microphones mounted on a boom arm thing that they can move around? That definitely is not portable and would not fit in my carry-on, so that was out. That wasn’t an option. Luckily, the microphone also comes with a lightweight plastic tripod that holds it maybe 6-10 inches off of the surface of your desk or table or whatever you’re recording on. I did, though, switch out the microphone clip that came with the mic, and that’s the plastic thing that you slide the microphone into on the stand. I switched it out for the On Stage MY325 Dynamic Shock Mount Microphone Clip (which is about $14 on Amazon). It apparently makes it so that when you bump the table or something, the sound doesn’t carry on through to the microphone. It absorbs the shock. I don’t know if it actually makes much of a difference in practice, but whatever. It still holds the microphone.
Another important piece of my podcasting setup is the pop filter. This is the thing that goes between your mouth and the microphone so that when you aspirate your P’s, there not that annoying popping sound. Here’s me saying the phrase “pop filter for podcasting” with the pop filter and here I’m saying “pop filter for podcasting” without the pop filter. Hear the difference? The pop filter I bought is the Nady MPF-6, and it’s about $18 on Amazon.com. It’s a 6-inch wide circle of very thin fabric that you place in front of the mic, and it has a long, bendable neck and a clamp on it that you attach to your desk or to a larger, more sturdy microphone stand. I didn’t like the long neck and the clamp thing, though, so I came up with another solution.
I bought a new very small portable microphone stand/tripod thing that’s about 8 inches high when it’s out (and that was about $8 on Amazon), and I mounted the circular part of the pop filter on top of that tripod. I did have to wrap the stem of the tripod with several layers of tape to make it thick enough for the pop filter. So when I’m ready to record a new episode of the podcast, I put the microphone in its stand and set it on the table, and then put the second stand that has the pop filter on it in front of the microphone. The whole setup together sounds good, is really portable, and cost less than $90 on Amazon. I’m really happy with it, and if you go to DigitalPublishingPodcast.com you’ll find links to all of the products I mentioned, plus some detailed pictures of the setup.
Here’s a pic of the overall setup:
And here are the two parts of the pop filter thing:
2. Twitter activism
I read a blog post a couple months ago by a guy who mentioned that he is a balloon release activist. Or something like that, I’m not sure what exactly he called himself, but he’d go onto Twitter and search for people planning balloon releases. Balloon releases are when people get together and release a bunch of balloons into the air for a variety of different reasons that are usually celebratory or commemorative in nature. So this guy goes onto Twitter, searches for people using the words “balloon release” in their tweets, and then tweets at them, telling them that it’s essentially littering and that it’s bad for animals and the environment, and he points them to an article that explains it more.
He’s not the only person doing this, but this was the first time I’d head of something like this. If you search on Twitter for “balloon release environment”, you’ll see lots of people doing it:
— Dan Sumption (@dansumption) September 29, 2012
I love this idea of using Twitter very directly for a cause. It’s a use of Twitter that I’ve never thought of before. Just search for people doing something that you don’t like and nicely tweet at them your views on the subject. Don’t be a jerk about it, because then you’re just going to make people mad and give them a bad impression, but hey, it’s a great way to spread the word about your cause a little bit further and it’s easy to do.
3. Selective automatic aggregation
I created a new site recently that I think is pretty darn neat, and I think that other people could use the same idea for whatever niches they’re interested in. The site is called Passportive (and that’s at passportive.com) and it automatically posts links to the newest blog posts from the top 50 travel blogs. I made it because I wanted to read more people’s travel blogs but didn’t want to subscribe to each one individually. I already have enough stuff in Google Reader that I need to keep track of, and I didn’t want to add anything else to it.
I used ifttt to make the site. I’ve talked about ifttt in a couple recent podcasts, but for those who need a refresher, it’s a free service that you can find at ifttt.com that lets you create different automated tasks that connect different services and platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, email, RSS, SMS, and a bunch more. So for each travel blog I wanted to keep track of, I set up a “recipe” (which is what the automated tasks are called) that makes it so that whenever a new post is detected in that blog’s RSS feed, a new post on my WordPress-based Passportive.com site is created that links to that new article, and includes the article name and the site the article is from. It doesn’t re-publish the article’s content or anything. Just the title of the post and the blog it’s from.
Now whenever I want to read something travel-related, I go to Passportive.com and see if anything looks interesting. Right now there are roughly 20-30 new posts listed there every day. I also have a separate ifttt recipe set up to tweet whenever Passportive.com is updated.
And I should give a shout out here to Nomadic Samuel’s list of top 100 travel blogs, which I used to find more travel blogs. That list of travel blogs is at nomadicsamuel.com/top100travelblogs.
But getting back to what I said earlier, I think that this is something that you could do for any niche you’re interested in. I’m really into rock climbing, and I used to own climbingblogs.com. The plan when I bought the domain a couple years ago was to create a site like this that linked to the newest stuff from climbing blogs and websites. But I couldn’t figure out how to do it at the time, so I sold the domain to someone else. Now with ifttt, it’s super easy.
And speaking of automating things…
4. Making life easier with WordPress plugins
Sometimes I forget just how awesome some of the WordPress plugins that are out there are. Here are a few that have been making my life easier recently.
The first one is a paid plugin. It’s $7 over at codecanyon.net, and it’s called Pinterest Automatic Pin WordPress Plugin. It makes it easy to pin things to Pinterest from inside WordPress. I use this on fkb.me, my free Kindle book site. I publish a different post every day for each genre of books, and each post has an image of a book cover that goes along with it. With this plugin, I can choose the image from the post that I want to pin, select the board I want to pin it to, and write up the caption for the image. Then when I press the publish button for that post, the selected image is pinned to Pinterest right away. It saves me from having to do it manually after I publish a post, which I usually never did because I always forgot about it.
Another great plugin I use daily is called POST2PDF Converter, and this one is free. It makes it easy to download your blog posts as PDFs, by adding a download button or link to each post. I have it set so that only I see the download link when I’m logged in; no one else can see the link. But I use this plugin to download the PDFs which I then upload to both Scribd and Slideshare. These are document sharing websites that can help send some traffic back to your site. I used to highlight each blog post, copy it, paste it into Word, save the document as a PDF, and then upload it to those sites, but now I just click the PDF download button. It’s a lot easier and faster.
Another free plugin you might find useful is called Simple Post Templates. If some or all of the posts you write have a similar format or content, this is a great plugin to use. So let’s say that you have a podcast, and in the show notes for every episode you include a brief introduction or description of the podcast. You could take that text and create a post template from it. You then have the option to apply that template automatically to all new posts or to manually insert it into just the ones you want.
5. Real passive income
Passive income is the holy grail of making money online, but it’s a really difficult thing to actually make happen. I’ve heard some people say that passive income doesn’t actually even exist. One passive income method that we hear about all the time is creating niche sites and tossing AdSense ads up there. I’ve never been too into the making money with niche sites thing, but it seems like that’s becoming more and more difficult with all of Google’s updates. And that’s good, because most of those niche sites suck and don’t help people.
But there’s one source I have had experience with that really, actually does provide purely passive income, and that’s Kindle books. I’ve written and published 38 Kindle books, and as of recording this, only one of them is being advertised, and it’s on a blog of mine that doesn’t get very much traffic. I’ve listed the others in various places, but I’m not promoting them in any blog sidebars or anywhere else. But I make money from those ebooks every single day. It really is passive income that requires nothing else from you once you publishing the thing. That’s not to say that you can publish a book and you WILL earn passive income from it, just that it’s a possibility depending on a bunch of factors like how good the book is, the subject matter, and stuff like that. And of course, you’ll make more money if you are actively marketing your ebooks, but Amazon has so much traffic built in that you might not need to go out and build traffic if you don’t want to. It’s pretty awesome.
6. Creating ebooks, one piece at a time
This is a great way to create ebooks on the side, separate from your main work or projects and without drawing focus away from those main projects. Right now I have several ebooks in development. They’re about things like language learning and snorkeling—things I’m interested in. My favorite books to write are tips-type books, like 101 rock climbing tips and tricks or 101 blogging tips, both of which are books I’ve written. The great thing about these books is that they’re not difficult to write. You pick a topic, make a list of tips until you get to 100 or 101 or whatever your magic number is, and then expound on each tip.
One thing I do that helps me write books quickly is to start those lists of tips well before I want to start actively writing the book. So take, for example, the snorkeling book. I’m not actively writing the book right now, but I’m slowly making a list of tips. I have a Snorkeling Book note in Evernote, and whenever I have an idea for another tip, I go into Evernote and add it to the list. I’ll keep adding tips until I get to 110ish (I like being able to take some out if I realize that the tip isn’t very good). And then all I have to do is go in and expound on each one.
Writing is the easy part. It’s coming up with things to write about that takes time, but it doesn’t really take any time when you keep adding notes to your list bit by bit. Before you know it, the hard part is done and all you have to do is write the thing.
7. Recurring podcast guests
Some blogs have recurring writers or guest posters on them. This can be good for the blog owner because he or she has a reliable outside source of content, and it’s great for the writer or guest poster because he or she gets more exposure to a wider audience.
This is something that also happens on podcasts. I assume that it’s been going on for a while, probably since podcasting began, and I just haven’t thought about it much until now. Leo Laporte’s Tech Guy podcast is a great example of this. His podcast is about anything to do with technology. If it has a chip in it, he’ll talk about it. He has a bunch of regular guests come onto his podcasts. He has a guy that talks about using technology for traveling, a home theater guy, a photography guy, and a gadget guy. Those all fit nicely under his larger technology umbrella. These people aren’t co-hosts. They come on the show for 5 minutes or less to talk about their respective topics.
Another example comes from Clif Ravenscraft’s Podcast Answer Man podcast. About every other episode, Clif has Erik Fisher on the show to talk about something related to social media that podcasters might be interested in. They call it the social media segment.
Like I said, podcasters have probably been doing this for a while, but I doubt many niche podcasters do this. I’m not a huge fan of reading guest posts on the blogs I subscribe to, but I really like these recurring podcast guests. Just something to think about if you have a podcast.
8. A great example of curation
Right before recording this podcast episode I saw a Mashable article that profiled a site that I think is a great example of curation providing value. The site is at BiteMyApple.co, and the site is an online store of successfully-funded, Apple-related Kickstarter items. So the site sells different gadgets and gizmos and stuff for iPhones, iPads, and the other things that Apple makes, and all of the gadgets and gizmos were first successfully funded on Kickstarter.
I think first of all that this is a great idea for an online store, but something like this would be a great idea for a blog or website, too. You could link to new and interesting Kickstarter projects for Apple-related stuff. Whenever you see a cool new Apple-related project on Kickstarter, you’d write about it. You could easily make money through affiliate sales of Apple products and accessories on Amazon, or I’m sure there are Apple accessory manufacturers that would be happy to advertise on your site.
And of course, you could do this for any number of topics, not just Apple products.
And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. My pick for this episode’s featured podcast is Build My Online Store [link]. It’s all about e-commerce. If you’re interested in creating your own online store, it’s a great source of information, and it’s fun to listen to. The host is a guy named Terry and he does a great job of interviewing people. He interviews people who have successful e-commerce stores and people who are experts in other things that people who run online stores would be interested in. You can head over to BuildMyOnlineStore.com to find out more and check out the types of people interviewed on the show.
My pick for this episode’s featured tool for digital publishers is a website called Wordoid (which is at wordoid.com). It’s a great resource to have bookmarked for when you need to come up with a name and domain name for your new project. I’ve used it for both Osmosio and Passportive. You go there and enter in a root word and it adds prefixes or suffixes to that word to give you a resulting unique word and name, and it tells you whether the .com and .net versions of that name are taken.
In the case of Passportive, I knew I wanted it to be something travel-related, so I typed in “passport.” I also knew that I wanted that word to be at the beginning of the resulting word instead of at the end or somewhere in the middle, so I chose that option. And I think I also specified that I didn’t want the word to be more than 13 characters long. I pressed the “Create” button and Wordoid returned words like passportant and passportunate, but I obviously went with passportive.
Wordoid is a free service, so head on over there, enter in a word or part of a word, and see what comes out.
Well, that’s all for episode 15 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links and transcriptions. You can also sign up there for a weekly newsletter where I send out a roundup of the best digital publishing-related articles that I’ve read over the previous week.
Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.