Expert Interview: Dave Hamilton on managing three podcasts

Expert Interview: Dave Hamilton on managing three podcasts

Recently, we sat down with Dave Hamilton to discuss how he manages running three different podcast shows — Mac Geek Gab, Gig Gab, and The Small Business Show. From curating topics and planning episodes, to connecting with listeners and promotion, Dave shares his experiences from over six years of podcasting.

The full interview can be watched below. We’ve also included the full transcription as well.

Shelby:

Dave, thanks again for joining us. Can you share a little bit about the podcasts that you host and a little bit about your background and how you got started in podcasting?

Dave:

Yeah, sure. So, so there are currently three podcasts that I host, the, the longest running one I’ve been doing for 15 years, that’s called Mac geek, gab, and that’s a Q and a show for Apple users when we started it, the Mac was really the only product Apple had. So that’s why we named it that, but now of course they have the iPhone and iPad and all that other stuff. So there’s that one. And then about five years ago, almost six years ago now, we started two more shows the small business show, which, caters to small business owners, and then gig gab, which is for working musicians. And the way I got started in podcasting was we for 21, almost 22 years have been publishing a website called the Mac [email protected] And 15 years ago, podcasting was sort of starting to become, you know, a thing.

Dave:

And I thought, yeah, we need to have a podcast here. So we started what became Mackey gab the first week. I don’t think we had come up with a name yet. I think we just called it TMO to go the Mac observer to go, as an audio show. And then, you know, it sort of grew from there. My, the idea was that I was going to start it and pass it off. I clearly failed at that. But the first week the topic was whatever Apple’s new operating system at the time was my cohost. And I was the same color as John F Braun. He and I talked through how we migrated to it or something. I can’t remember what the second week was. And then the third week I had no idea what we wanted our topics to be. So I said, let’s pretend that we got questions in the mailbag, even though we haven’t gotten any, we’ll just write it, we’ll phone them up, it’ll be fine. And we’ll, we’ll answer some questions and actually use that as sort of the, the way we share some tips we want to share that did it, the mailbag has been full ever since, and that’s 15 years later, so, yeah.

Shelby:

Wow. That’s pretty cool. I also, when I first started at the, job I’m at now, we started a podcast too. And, and on my first week I was like, Oh man, if I have to keep doing this, like week after week, I don’t know how long I could, you know, keep doing these podcasts. And it’s been two years now over a hundred episodes. And it’s, yeah, it kind of does start to feel a lot more natural. And I actually look forward to towards it each week. So it’s funny how that works out.

Dave:

Yeah. You know, and we have started other podcasts at the Mac Observer. I don’t host them, but there’s three others that we do. And my problem was, you know, when we started Mackey gab, it was, I think we launched three or four weeks before Apple’s podcast directory and iTunes came out and we knew it was coming because in March of that year, we launched into June. In March of that year, Steve jobs had to taken the stage wherever he was and said that they were coming out with this podcast directory. And, and it was clear, it was a pet project of his. And so as soon as we started the show, I started asking all my friends at Apple, like, I want to make sure we’re in your directory the day that it launches, you know, and this was, of course back when Steve was running Apple and everybody was afraid to say anything.

Dave:

And I finally got frustrated after talking to like four different people. They’re like, well, it’s not me. And I can’t really tell you. I was like, man, what a stupid way to run a company? You know, everybody’s afraid to actually help the company do a thing that the company should want to do. Like you got these, these shows you should want to be in there. So out of frustration, I wrote an email to Steve jobs. And 20 minutes later, my phone rang, with, with Keith who was the manager of the podcast directory. And he said, Hey, we’ve got your email where, of course you’re in the directory. We’re going to make sure to feature you in week one. And that’s when our listeners grew from like a thousand to 20,000 in one week when the director came out. And that’s why I couldn’t stop doing the show. So, but that was okay.

Shelby:

Right. So with the different shows, how did you determine the format of each podcast, whether you have a new guest every week, or whether you keep the same hosts and how often do you publish them? So how did he kind of figure out the formula for that?

Dave:

Yeah, so, you know, with Mackey gab, like I said, we stumbled onto the formula that works for that show. And, and we’ve been very fortunate, but we always knew, I always knew that having a consistent release schedule was going to be one of the most important things we could do, because, you know, if, if we were fortunate enough to get someone that liked the show that wanted to listen every week, let’s say they listen on Wednesday mornings when they, you know, do their Wednesday morning workout. Well, if we don’t publish an episode, they’re still gonna do their Wednesday morning workout. And if they really like us, they might forgive us if we skip one week. But if we skip two weeks, they’ve found something else. So I knew that release schedule was important because of that. I built a workflow so that we could release episodes 15 minutes or less after finishing recording.

Dave:

 and that meant, you know, doing a lot of work upfront to come up with topics and things like that, and prepping to make sure that we could just essentially record live to tape, with gig gab and small business show, small business show, we often have guests, but not always. And my cohost and I Shannon Jean. And it was Shannon’s idea to do the show. He and I often are able to, in fact, not often always are able to come up with some topic and the same is true for gig gab. We, you know, when we don’t have a guest and get gab sort of, I guess, far less frequently than, than small business show. So we just keep a, a shared document going. It could be a shared note in Apple notes or a shared Google doc or whatever. And when an idea comes, we make sure to capture it in that document.

Dave:

So that we’ve got something to then expand upon because as I’ve learned, it seems like the most obvious thing at the time, you’re like, Oh, I’ll never forget this. And then you definitely forget it. So being able to kind of have that list of things that, that we can go back to now, sometimes we’ll sit down to record and we’ll have had a topic, but something will come up for one of us and it’d be like, Oh, this is like, definitely we got to go through this or listener will have written written in about something, but otherwise, you know, we’ve got kind of a deep roster of things that we can expand on, at any given point in time. So, so that, that’s how we do it is, is making sure to, to just always have kind of a, a list, a running list of potential topics. And so, yup.

Shelby:

You answered the next question. I was going to ask, with how you come up with topics for the shows and what that process looks like. are there any other methodologies that you use, to help come up with topics?

Dave:

I’m asking our listeners for what they want us to talk about is great. and, and really truly making sure that we acknowledge that in the flow of the show, when people are listening and they hear that other people’s comments or questions or tips or whatever it is are actually giving, being given attention that encourages people to, to write in their own stuff. And it’s, it’s, it’s really hard to get people to write in consistently, but if you can, if you can do it, obviously, that can be great too. So, yeah.

Shelby:

Yeah. I think that’s a good segue to some of the, or what are the most effective ways that you’ve connected with your listeners and gotten their input. And, this is something that I struggle with myself. It’s my own podcast is at the end of each episode, we do try and incorporate a message. Like you can leave comments here at this website or leave a room here, but we haven’t gotten as much, you know, interaction back and forth with our listeners as we would want or expect. so what are some ways that you kind of facilitate?

Dave:

Yeah, it’s I wish, I, I wish I had a magic formula because like I said, for Mac gab, we get, you know, a hundred emails a week into that show if more and the other two shows like a, we can go with no email whatsoever. And yeah, the listeners, it’s a bigger audience for Mackey give than it is for the others, but, but it still track like the percentage wise, it doesn’t work. And, you know, I mean, answering truly providing value for people and we’re, we’re doing tech support on that show. So, so that’s really, you know, if you can provide value and, and answer a question that’s valuable for the listeners, I think that’s one way to do it. You can run contests and that sort of thing to sort of spur things along, make sure you’re telling people how to reach you in a variety of different ways and you don’t necessarily need to do each way in each episode cause that can, you know, if you’ve got five different ways to reach you, that can, you know, it can, it can become a whole segment in and of itself and they be, that’s your stick.

Dave:

Maybe there is a segment of about that. Right. But making sure, because not everybody thinks, Oh, I’ll send emails. Some people think, Oh, you know, I follow these, these folks on Twitter. I want to be able to send any messages there. I used to put her a lot. And if you say, Hey, you know, follow us Mackey Kevin’s Twitter, it’s something, okay. You know, then you’ll get messages from them that way or Facebook or, you know, wherever we find where your listeners are and then go be there, you know, and be present there. So if you do get comments, you know, via YouTube, if you’re publishing there or whatever, Facebook or whatever, make sure you go read them, reply to them, you know, engage because if someone reaches out and nothing happens and not going to reach out again. So

Shelby:

Yeah, that’s a great tip and something that we’ll definitely have to try implementing. yeah. in terms of, how long it takes for you to produce an average episode from the planning to the recording, to the editing and publishing, how long do you think that you spend on an average one?

Dave:

Yeah. you know, for Mac geek, it’s probably about five hours of prep, time, maybe six, and then recording the episode usually takes another, you know, it’s an hour and a half episode where we get together. First, we sort of talk things through and then I do have, you know, 15 now maybe 30 minutes of postproduction time because we’re doing video and stuff now. So I’ve sort of broken my own rules, but not really. so it’s probably a nine or 10 hour investment for that show every week. And that, you know, that includes, well, that includes some of the technical research that we have to do to answer people’s questions, but not all of it. I mean, then there’s sort of the other stuff that I do cause I’m just a geek and I like to stay up to date on different tech stuff and being, you know, having that stuff kind of swimming in my head helps me when it comes time to answer these questions. So it’s probably 10 plus hours realistically, but you know, it, it, I can count 10 hours on my hand every week that we’re doing for that show. The other shows, maybe two or three hours for those depending what the topic is and how we do it. So

Shelby:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It definitely depends. I do like how, it seems as though all the podcasts you’re involved with, you actually have a lot of interest and passion in those topics too, I think is really important and running a podcast

Dave:

It’s super important. Yeah. You know, I’ve always said you have to make a podcast that you would want to listen to. Right. And because you’ll, you’ll actually do a good job with that. You know, if you’re doing a show, that’s just like somebody gave you a, a form and you’re like, okay, I got to do a show about this. You might, I mean, you know, we’re all professionals and we all wind up doing things that aren’t our favorite things to do. And that’s fine. But with podcasting, I think that there’s a, there’s a greater degree of transparency there between host and listener. And if you’re doing something that you’re not passionate about, your listeners are gonna know, and you’re just not going to attract listeners. So we’ve always said, we want to make shows that we would want to listen to. And that seems to work out really well because, because then we’re passionate about it and, and we, and that, that makes it easier to take the extra step to really get it right. To do it. Right. so yeah, I think, I think that’s part of it. Yeah.

Shelby:

Yeah, definitely. was there a point where you kind of realized that, you know, okay, these podcasts are something that I really want to stick it out with. so we, a lot of the times we’ll tell publishers or just anyone in general, the best way to find out if something will work is to just give it a try. but at that same time, there’s always a part of that where you have to determine, you know, when it’s time to call it quits or when it’s time to pivot to a new idea. So what was that kind of moment for you?

Dave:

Yeah. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed doing the shows, and, and, but, but like I said, my plan with, you know, initially was to just art it, get the machine rolling and then hand it to somebody else. And, and then I realized not, I, you know, I like this, I want to keep doing it. I like having this touch point. I, before, and even after we had started Mac observe, right. I always had my own consulting business where I would go to people’s houses, kind of like pre geek squad thing where I’d go to people’s houses and fix their computers. And that, I mean, it was good money, but what I really liked that moment where you solve somebody’s problem and you are like the super hero, you know, like you, you like, they were so happy that they, you know, had found you and you were able to do that work.

Dave:

And, and we get a lot of that with, with the shows. And so it was like, Oh, wait a minute. I can, I can keep actually stretching this muscle and keep doing this kind of tech support without having to carve time out of my day to leave the office and do it. And at the time I didn’t really have the time to, to go out and, you know, do that consulting. So, it was, it was, you know, that all kind of came together and was like, yeah, I want to keep doing this. and that, you know, I mean, we were already invested. We were already, you know, perfecting our craft and honing our craft. But you know that at that moment it made it easier. One thing I will add is, you know, I said that release schedule, consistent release schedule is super important.

Dave:

Another thing that I, you know, your listeners will forgive you occasionally, but you can’t get away with often is bad audio quality. You’ve got focus on having good audio quality 15 years ago. I mean, it was doable. It’s way easier now to, to, to really get good audio quality, but you want to make sure you’re using a microphone. That’s not just picking up a lot of room noise. You know, I always say you don’t want the sound of my noisy room being broadcast into your noisy room. Right. So I try to give people a nice clean, clear show levels balanced between the host. So people aren’t having to twist the volume now, like that audio quality thing makes a huge difference. So if you’re doing a podcast, go out, listen to it in your car. That’s a great place to tell if you’ve got balance issues, because if you do the road noise will bury one of the speakers and you’re, you know, you’re constantly cranking up the volume. If you enduring that, then you got to fix it. Cause your listeners are doing it too. So,

Shelby:

Yeah, definitely. I know this wasn’t, part of the questions, but could you dive a little deeper into the tools that you use for editing and, and, you know, noise reduction and things like that?

Dave:

Sure. Yeah. So, I’m a Mac guy as you might’ve guessed from what I was talking about. So my tools are all I do use max to do this. really the first tool is making sure you’re recording in a quiet room. And if you can put up some sound treatment and things like that, you know, the room that, I mean right now that we’re doing this and it’s just my office, I actually have a studio upstairs. So this room is a little bouncy, but it’s not terrible, but putting some treatment on the wall in front of you so that it’s not bouncing right back at you, when you talk and putting some of above, you can make a huge difference. You want to kind of, you want to eliminate those, what they called square waves or standing waves, where you’ve got two flat surfaces across from each other, where the waves are just going to do this.

Dave:

You want to break it up a little bit and foam padding can do it. Or if you’ve got, you know, weird shaped walls, that’s even better. so that’s, that’s one is starting there. And then the second is the microphone you choose to use. I’m a big fan of dynamic mikes, because in general they tend to pick up less room noise than condensers. I know there’s microphone professionals out there that are yelling at me. They’re just saying you can get a condenser to sound good. Of course you can. It’s way easier to get a dynamic to sound good. So, so that, you know, and, and the audio Technica, I think it gets the 2005 USB is a good sub hundred dollar microphone. That, that really sounds good. That’s the one I use when I travel. it’s it, you know, it great. Doesn’t pick up a whole lot of the hotels in a man and things like that, which is good.

Dave:

And then from there, I use logic on the Mac to do my mixing, but I actually record my setups weird. I record because I record live, you can’t really record a mix live in logic. You can court record individual tracks, which I do as backups, but then I, I pump it out from logic into a tool called audio hijack that, that records my, my final audio for me, but inside logic is where I’m using their built in noise Gates, to kind of shut off my microphone when I’m not talking or shut off the, my, you know, guests or call us microphone when they’re not talking. And that helps eliminate some of that noise. And then also using a healthy dose of what’s called compression, which, is not, not digital compression that, that shrinks a file down, but compression that shrinks the dynamic range of the audio.

Dave:

So that the loudest part isn’t too much louder than the softest part. And it does that by bringing the loudest part down almost automatically. And, and, and you can set the ratio to how much to squash it. I squash it a lot, again, so that when people are talking, if somebody drifts off the mic or something, you know, like you still get a good level, zoom, and, and even to some degree Skype and other things like that have a lot of compression built into them for exactly that reason. But, but I add, I add my own and, and we can, you know, that way we can control it and mix things together. And then one of my favorite little tips, especially with everybody doing things remotely now, but we’ve always done in the podcast remotely is I want it to sound like we’re in the same room, not a noisy room, but the same room, even though we’re, you know, thousands of miles apart or whatever.

Dave:

So I always take the full mix of everything. Both speakers are three speakers, if there’s more than two people and I run it through a touch of reverb just a little bit, not so much that you hear it. In fact, I turn it up until I hear it, and then I turn it back down, but it’s just enough to kind of pull everybody into that same virtual room so that it sounds like we’re all sort of being treated the same way by the same bouncy walls. Hopefully not too bouncy, you know, but so that’s, that’s my extra trick.

Shelby:

Yeah. There were a lot of great tips in there.

Dave:

Yeah, I know.

Shelby:

Compressing your audience is really important just because no one likes getting, you know, a super loud, like, surprise in their ears. So that’s definitely important. I think this is one of the last questions. how do you promote your podcasts and get them in front of new listeners?

Dave:

Not well enough. we, we can always do more. We’re actually working on ways of sort of systematically doing more building that into our workflow. But, you know, with, with Mackie, gab, we have the Mac observer, which has, you know, a millions of readers a month. So that’s sort of an easy place to promote that show. w but that show and the others, we also promote on the various platforms that were the social platforms that we’re on. So, you know, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, depending on whether it’s a video show or not. for sure, I highly recommend, and, and this is advice that I’m starting to take myself and I’m not doing well enough with it. Highly recommend you ask your listeners to sign up on your email list because you can send them an email every time a new episode is out.

Dave:

And if you’re building decent show notes where you’re actually including like links to the things that you talked about and, you know, somewhat valuable stuff there, you can just have your show notes sent to the listeners to tell them, Hey, there’s a new episode up. And here’s all the things we talked about. And most people will appreciate that. And now they know that the show shows up and all of that stuff. So leverage that email list. I know we all think email is like an ancient technology, but, you know, if you look at how much email you get every day, and you can see it still works. I don’t know anybody. That’s like actively doing something. That’s not checking their email many times a day, let alone, at least once a day, it is still a thing. We are all a slave to. So we can leverage that.

Shelby:

This question is kind of just for fun, but what podcasts do you subscribe to or follow yourself?

Dave:

Yeah, so there’s, there’s a few, I like Pendula, that’s podcasts. He does a good job over there. I like, I’m a, I’m a fan of the band fish, and I like Tom Marshall’s under the scales podcast. So that’s another one that I listened to. you know, there’s, there’s a few others. I like, I really like the daily. I like what they’re doing with that over at the New York times. I like how it’s kinda bite-sized and that sort of thing. So, yeah, there’s three.

Shelby:

Yeah. The daily is definitely one of my favorites as well. and then the last question is Dave, how can people find you if they want to interact with you or listen to some of your shows? Where can they find all that?

Dave:

Sure. Yeah. The easiest way to find me is on Twitter @DaveHamilton, that will kind of get you to everything that I do, but the shows are macgeeklab.com, giggab podcast.com and business show.com

Shelby:

Very nice. Dave, thank you so much for taking your time and sharing your knowledge and all the tips that you’ve shared. Definitely we’ll have to, do more of these together.

Dave:

Awesome. Thanks so much for having me. This is a blast. Thank you.

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