“What makes ‘good tape’? That is the question that has consumed my life for the past 20 years, and I have an answer for you…”
– Alex Blumberg
How do you create a blockbuster podcast? This episode explores the tips, tricks, and best practices of a master.
My guest is Alex Blumberg, who cut his teeth on the king of all radio shows (This American Life) and recently co-founded Gimlet Media. Gimlet swiftly conquered the iTunes rankings with two blockbuster podcasts: Reply All and StartUp.
Podcasters everywhere asked: how the hell does he do it?
This episode provides some answers. Part 2 also includes a sample of my upcoming episode with Arnold Schwarzenegger (!!!).
This discussion is split into two parts, and we cover a ton. Please listen to both parts, as they work together. We discuss what Alex learned from Ira Glass, his field recording gear, the nuts and bolts of producing world-class audio narrative, and much more.
Part 1 is my interview and conversation with Alex.
Part 2 is ~40 minutes of an amazing masterclass Alex taught on creativeLIVE, including the art of the interview, the power of the right question, and more (Get all 21 videos here).
- Listen to them on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here: Part 1 and Part 2.
- Download both as MP3s by right-clicking here (Part 1, Part 2) and choosing “save as”.
This episode is sponsored by Onnit. I have used Onnit products for years. If you look in my kitchen or in my garage you will find Alpha BRAIN, chewable melatonin (for resetting my clock while traveling), kettlebells, maces, battle ropes, and steel clubs. It sounds like a torture chamber, and it basically is. A torture chamber for self-improvement! Ah, the lovely pain. To see a list of my favorite pills, potions, and heavy tools, click here.
This podcast is also brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade. Give it a test run.
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What are your 2-3 favorite podcasts and why? What makes them unique? Please let me know in the comments!
If you like this episode, you’ll also love my episode with Neil Strauss, 7x New York Times bestselling author. He’s cray-cray like me.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Learn more and listen to Gimlet Media
- Learn more about Pro Tools
- Pick up Alex’s recommended equipment for field recording:
- Learn more about Chart Beat analytics software
- Hiroshima by John Hersey
- The Fog of War directed by Errol Morris (Watch it)
- Man on Wire, the story of Philippe Petit
- On the Run by Alice Gotham
- Want to master the art of storytelling? Check out Alex’s full creativeLIVE course, which is absolute gold.
- On the 4-5-month startup burnout phase [3:24]
- Defining tracking and work flow. What makes something worthy of being included in the show? [4:14]
- What makes good tape? [6:14]
- What makes a world-class editor? Acknowledging Ira Glass and his time at This American Life [12:15]
- Defining the role of a “producer” [22:17]
- The nitty gritty of producing high-level narrative podcasts. Includes: editing software, planning timelines, and much more [25:00]
- Tools for capturing tape in the field [30:00]
- The nuts and bolts of recording in the field, as well as tips for capturing the ‘vivid moments’ [31:14]
- Microphone tips: directional vs. omnidirectional? [34:20]
- Metrics used to define progress at Gimlet Media [36:00]
- The story of acquiring a position as a top radio producer [37:29]
- Transitioning from This American Life to Planet Money [49:12]
- Why good radio doesn’t apply to television shows [51:00]
- On the value of perfectionism [55:45]
- Good and bad habits picked up from This American Life and Ira Glass [58:20]
- Turning a bad situation into a good one – Deconstructing We Made a Mistake [1:12:20]
- Rapid fire questions: most gifted books, favorite documentary films, and more [1:21:10]
Posted on: January 29, 2015.
Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.
Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.