Kate Conroy is the creator of A Climate Affair – a weekly environmental podcast which is broadcast from Brisbane-based internet radio station Planet Radio 88fm. The show's been going since February of this year, when Kate decided to channel her passion for the environment and took the leap into internet radio broadcasting for the first time. Since then, A Climate Affair has become Australia's top environmental podcast, hitting number 5 on the iTunes podcast chart in April.
We interviewed Kate to find out more about A Climate Affair, podcasting and internet radio.
LH: I understand that Planet Radio was your first foray into internet radio. How did you get started in the studio?
KC: Our station manager taught me how to use the radio station equipment and gave me advice on how to conduct a good interview. My first job at Planet Radio involved recording environment news from online sources and editing them into short environmental news updates to be played throughout the week. From this I learnt sound editing. However, I was the first person in the studio to turn radio shows into podcasts and I had to learn how to do this myself. It took about a month to figure out how to get all the pieces in place for iTunes etc.
LH: What broadcasting equipment and software do you use in the studio?
KC: At Planet Radio we use a computer, mixing desk, and multiple stage microphones. We broadcast our signal directly to the internet and that is routed through open narrowcast radio signal across inner Brisbane and online via http://planetradio.camstreams.com. Interviews are recorded either with people in the studio or using a telephone connection into the mixing desk. I record the podcast by plugging a cable into the ‘tape out’ node of the mixing desk and hooking that to the ‘line-in’ input on my laptop computer. To produce the podcast I use:
Music file recording: Recordpad (made by Wavepad)
Music file editing: Wavepad
Blogging software: livejournal
Mp3 storage: internet archive and Libsyn
Xml hosting: Internode
Xml itunes feed generator: poderator
Xml feed manager: Feedburner
Podcast download statistics: Podtrac and Libsyn.
LH: A Climate Affair is broadcast live and appears as a podcast. Did it start as radio only, or was it always a live broadcast and podcast?
KC: It was always a broadcast and a podcast. I made sure to record every show from the beginning, even when I had no idea how to edit them or put them online.
LH: You edit the radio show into a podcast yourself. Was it difficult to learn how to do this?
KC: The station introduced me to basic editing. But I’ve gone on to experiment with different software, filters effects etc… In a perfect world I would do a sound editing course.
Quite a lot of editing goes on between the two. For example - no music can be put onto the podcast due to copyright restrictions which don’t affect radio broadcasting. The podcast is recorded as a .wav file and converted to .mp3 once completed. I also add advertising after the broadcast.
LH: How long did it take you to get up and running?
KC: A month to get up and running and about three months to iron out technical issues. It is amazing how steep the learning curve is at this stage in the business when no standards have been established. Luckily I already understood blogging and image editing. There were copyright issues, xml programming and podcasting advertising models to investigate.
LH: Do you record any interviews live outside of the studio? What equipment do you use?
KC: My laptop and a Shure SM58 microphone. I have had issues doing external interviews - I messed up my Australian Conservation Foundation interview when I didn’t monitor the recording. It only recorded the first 1 minute of a half-an-hour interview! I was heartbroken when I got home. I am hoping Santa will buy me a mini-disc recorder for Christmas. Technical issues are a really huge part of what I do. When you have no one there to help you, you have to figure things out or the show will not continue. There have been many disastrous lost telephone interviews due to problems in the studio!
LH: What about recording phone interviews – do you use the old fashioned phone, or VoIP?
KC: We use an old-fashioned phone plugged into the mixing desk. This means we can adjust the levels appropriately for the interviewee’s voice. I use wavepad to edit all sound files.
I’ve heard of people using Skype for recording phone interviews, but I have not figured out how to implement the technology. It would make life much, much easier to use VoIP. I dream of the day.
LH: A Climate Affair has been available on iTunes since February this year. How did you go about getting your podcast on iTunes? Was it tough to get accepted?
KC: If you use poderator.com you will have no issues getting your podcast on iTunes. iTunes has certain requirements, but they’re not onerous to meet.
LH: On 4 April A Climate Affair hit Number 5 on the iTunes store. Grats! Is that the highest you’ve gotten so far?
KC: Thank you! I think that’s the best rating I have had. When iTunes featured A Climate Affair on their front page for a month, I had a huge upswing in new subscribers.
I have about five thousand downloads in total. I’m not ‘big time’… yet. My most popular podcast has been downloaded about four hundred times.
LH: I understand you were considering joining the Podcast Network, is that right?
KC: A while ago I was in discussions with the Podcast Network. However, I have decided to maintain my independent status for the time being. I have forged all my own advertising and contra arrangements. Jackgreen energy sponsors my podcast, Earth Visual Communications designed my logos (both A Climate Affair and Whole Media), Green Pages Australia features A Climate Affair on their front page.
LH: How do you promote your show? I imagine being on iTunes helped a lot – what other things have helped you gain new listeners?
KC: I think iTunes has been the greatest source of new listeners. I do market the podcast online via blogging and podcasting sites. However, I don’t aggressively market my podcast. My focus is in establishing trusted connections and producing good shows. I hope that word-of-mouth (perhaps word-of-blog too) will bring new listeners to the show when they’re ready. I think being on the front page of Green Pages Australia will increasingly prove profitable.
LH: ACA isn’t your only online venture. What’s Whole Media?
KC: Whole Media is my internet marketing consultancy business offering promotion via podcasting, blogs, email, online forums and integration with traditional media such as radio, TV and print.
LH: You’ve interviewed a range of people including Don Burke of Burke’s Backyard and Ian Kiernan from Clean Up Australia. What’s been your favourite show or topic so far, and why?
KC: It’s hard to compare across interviews because a book interview with Mark Diesendorf will not be the same sort of thing as a discussion with the CEO of Greenplumbers or a government intitiative like Greenhouse Friendly. That said, I love interviews that involve philosophical discussions, quirky facts and unexpected outcomes, such as Mal Webb’s lyrebird impressions. My interview with Don Burke is probably the most philosophically interesting interview I’ve conducted so far.
LH: And what’s been the most popular show or topic with your listeners?
KC: My interview with game designer Jane McGonigal about her alternate reality game (ARG) World Without Oil has the greatest downloads
A Climate Affair is broadcast live from Planet Radio on Thursdays from 4-6pm on Planet Radio 88fm. Tune in at: http://planetradio.camstreams.com/, or you can visit ACA’s blog at: http://aclimateaffair.livejournal.com.