Thursday, February 6, 2014

Reviewcast - Web Based iTunes Reviews Retriever

Earlier this week I received an email from one of the producers for Porchlight Family Media, the podcast network that I manage. He was letting me know that the Mac software, CommentCast, was shutting down. CommentCast, in case you've not heard of it, was a great little software program that enabled us to retrieve iTunes reviews for our podcasts from each of the various country-specific iTunes stores around the world all at one time. It was a fantastic little tool so I was a bit disappointed that it was going away.

But I didn't need to be disappointed because the developer has handed the software over to a new party to maintain. Steve Scott is the new developer of the software and he has transitioned it from a Mac app to a very nice web app called Reviewcast. My trials of Reviewcast over the last few days have been very successful.

Reviewcast is simple and straightforward. You simply type in the name of your podcast, choose "Podcast" from the dropdown menu and click "Search". If there are other similar show titles you will then be asked to choose the one you want and click "Continue".

Finally you will be asked for an email address for Reviewcast to send the reviews to. If it is your first time using the service you will have to complete a verification of your email address. Then the reviews just arrive in your inbox!

Go to and take Reviewcast for a test drive yourself.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: iRig PRE - the mic preamp for your smartphone or tablet

Have you ever been preparing for a trip and wanted to record a podcast, but didn't want to drag along your entire podcasting equipment arsenal? So have I. Well enter the iRig PRE, a great little device from IK Multimedia which allows you to record audio on the go. The iRig PRE is a microphone interface for your XLR mics which plugs directly into your smartphone or tablet. The device is compatible with iOS and Android and when used along with the iRig Recorder application for your smart device you can capture some really fantastic audio.

The iRig PRE comes equipped with a headphone jack for monitoring your audio. It also has a gain control so you can adjust the input levels. The PRE provides phantom power by one 9 volt battery so you can use it with condenser microphones as well as dynamic.

I tested the PRE with my Nexus 7 Android tablet and my Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone using the iRig Recorder application. I also ran tests with different mics, the Shure SM58 dynamic mic and the Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser mic. The following are some audio samples of my results. These files have not been processed in any way other than conversion from WAV to mp3.

1. Shure SM58 into the Nexus 7 tablet

2. Shure SM58 into the Galaxy Nexus smartphone

3. Audio-Technica AT2020 into the Galaxy Nexus smartphone

I also tested recording with the Catch Notes app and the Google Keep app to confirm that the iRig PRE does not require the iRig Recorder app. The audio quality resulting from those two apps was less than desirable, but it did work. It seems that for the best results you should use either the official iRig app or another dedicated audio recording application.

This is a great tool that is worth looking into if you'd like to be able to record a full podcast or even just interviews at an event using a professional XLR microphone. The iRig PRE runs between $35 and $40 on Amazon. The iRig Recorder app for iOS comes in two flavors; the free version which has only basic features and the $8 full version which has lots of editing features. The Android app is free but it only allows you to record; if you want editing features you can unlock those with in app purchases. For full specs on the iRig PRE you can visit IK Multimedia's website.

iRig PRE on Amazon

Screenshot of the iRig Recorder app on Nexus 7
iRig Recorder app for iOS

iRig Recorder app for Android

If you decide to try out the iRig PRE or the Recorder app, please leave your thoughts in the comments below. I'd love to hear your experience.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Two Thumbs Up Media - New Podcast Directory

Whether you are a podcast producer or a podcast consumer, you most likely know that iTunes is the most popular directory of podcasts in the world and therefore has a huge reach. As a consultant, I highly recommend producers to list their shows in iTunes for that very reason. But iTunes has its shortcomings too. It seems that since Apple does not make any monetary profit from their podcast directory it’s not a real high priority for them. Sometimes listings can take several days to be updated and support for podcasters is almost nonexistent.

Steve Lee, owner and producer at NetCast Studio, recognized these and other issues with the various podcast directories and decided to address them. His answer to this problem is Two Thumbs Up Media, a brand new podcast directory that launched this month. The great benefit of TTUM is the fact that the show listings are completely controlled by the podcast producer. If a listing needs updated, you simply log in to your account and make the necessary changes. There are various listing types offered, both free and paid. Some of the options you can include in your show listing are show promos, social media links, podcast cover art, and much more.

If you are a podcast producer, I highly recommend you take a look at Two Thumbs Up Media and get your show listed there. If you are a podcast listener, then you should also check out TTUM to find some great new shows to listen to. Steve and his team have done a great job of making it easy to sort through listings by category and keyword. So check out Two Thumbs Up Media and then share it with your friends.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Podcasting as an Apparatus of Communication

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"...if it [radio] knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him." - Bertolt Brecht

I just came across this quotation and it is absolute gold! It is from a German poet and playwright, of whom I know nothing other than this article that I am citing, which was written in 1932. 

His feelings about the medium of radio are now realized in podcasting! This is exactly what podcasting should be. A conversation. Podcasters should be having a dialog with their listeners; both as a component of their podcast as well as in comments on their blog and/or on social media platforms.

This man's vision for the then relatively new and emerging technology of radio broadcasting is now being realized (albeit in a slightly different way than he imagined) in the 21st century. Now I realize that the talk radio format has existed since the 1940s and it brought about somewhat of a conversation, but podcasting can and does take this a step further.

How? Well with a podcast the level of interaction and relationship with an audience is much deeper. For instance, one need not be an expert in a given discipline to host a podcast on it. He must only have a passion and enthusiasm for the topic and can use the podcast as a catalyst for bringing together a community of like-minded individuals who can each contribute their own thoughts, expertise and ideas to the discussion. 

Another example of the enhanced interactivity of podcasting over terrestrial radio is the fact that it is "time shifted", or on-demand content. This may seem counter intuitive so let me elaborate. In radio, in order to participate in a given program, one must be tuned in at the precise time in which that program is airing. And assuming that it is a show which takes phone calls or listener feedback via some other method, there can then be a conversation. But if you are not present at the correct time, even though the opportunity for audience involvement was there, you missed it. But with a podcast, one need not be present at a specific moment in order to participate in a discussion on the topic at hand and can choose how he/she wishes to interact with the content; whether it is by phoning in to a feedback line, posting a blog comment, sending an email or connecting via Twitter. And the conversation can be indefinite, as long as those involved wish to keep it going.

There are many more things I could say on this topic, but I think you understand where I'm coming from. I understand that radio has been around for a very long time and I'm not necessarily suggesting that podcasting should replace it. I'm only saying that in a lot of situations podcasting can be a more satisfying experience for all involved.

Here is a paragraph from Brecht's article entitled The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication that really resonated with me:

"It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication. The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organize its listeners as suppliers. Any attempt by the radio to give a truly public character to Public occasions is a step in the right direction."

So what do you think of these thoughts? What are your opinions on this topic? Please post them in the comments below.

You can read the full text of Brecht's article here.