Perfect Ten: Lessons I’ve learned doing the MOP Podcast

    
5

It’s been well over a decade since I began to operate a podcast covering MMO news and opinions — originally the Massively Speaking podcast and now the Massively OP Podcast. It’s mind-boggling to me to consider that I have over 700 episodes under my belt, a vast majority of those with my co-host Bree. (Editor’s note: Sup. -Bree)

In doing all of these hundreds of podcasts, I’ve learned a thing or two about doing this. In some ways, it’s very different than the actual writing that I do for MassivelyOP. So I thought I’d share 10 of those podcasting lessons with anyone who’s curious about what goes on behind the scenes of our show!

It’s not as professional as you may think

If you have visions of us sliding our way into $75,000 recording studios with a steely eyed producer giving us the nod before the “ON AIR” light illuminates and we read off a teleprompter… then you’ve got a good imagination.

But honestly, this is a pretty homespun podcast where two parents try to squirrel themselves away from their respective kids for an hour to record at home. We record every Monday afternoon at 1:00 pm, and I try to have the finished product in Bree’s hands by 3:00 pm so that the Patron supporters can get the early episode.

We’ve learned through a lot of trial-and-error how to make the show without sounding like complete fools, but sometimes we goof up, or a kid wanders into the room, or my dog decides that this is a great time to raise a ruckus.

It made me invest in a good mic and learn mixing

In the early days of doing the podcast, I think I used a headset mic and depended on someone else to mix every show. Eventually I had to step up to become a shade more competent. I splurged a bit on a Blue Yeti mic (I actually have two, now) and taught myself how to mix each episode using Audacity.

The latter’s been a good skill to know, as I’ve used it in my main job and in doing other podcasts. Usually through necessity I’ve learned several little tricks to make the podcast sound better and fix various small issues.

The hardest parts are the intros

You might not think about it, but the start of any podcast is — in my experience — the single hardest part to pull of without sounding awkward or boring. Sometimes we’re ready to record and I end up sitting there in silence for a couple minutes trying desperately to think of some interesting way to kick off things. Bree almost never has any idea what I’m going to say here, so she just goes along with it.

One way that I occasionally employ is to start recording in the middle of our pre-show discussion (which helps us loosen up) and then kind of fade into the talk, inviting the listener to join us. That’s hard to predict and time right, but when it works, I think it’s very engaging and less forced.

We (lightly) wrestle with which news stories to cover

Every normal show we do has four segments: an intro, a time where we share our personal adventures playing MMOs, the news highlights of the past week, and some reader mail. Generally, we stick to four to five pieces of news, which means that we don’t get to everything from the week prior.

Picking those news segments can sometimes be easy and sometimes very difficult. I’ll usually take first crack at the list, and Bree either gives it a thumbs up or suggests some changes to it. One of the key things that we look for is how “discussion worthy” the news piece is on top of being important to relay. If it’s boring as dirt, it’s not going to make for good podcasting patter.

We have to be mindful of time

Any time we record, part of my attention is stuck on the time and what we have left in our show notes. An average episode of the MOP Podcast is 60-70 minutes, and I don’t like going over that too much because we try to respect our listeners’ time and because we have lives and other things that need doing on Monday afternoons.

So we’ve got to keep things moving and not get too bogged down in any one segment or story. Spending, say, 20 minutes on the first news piece is going to make the rest horribly rushed and possibly kill any time for mailbag. Loosely, the intro shouldn’t be more than three minutes, the MMO adventures more than 15 minutes, the news 20-25 minutes, and the rest to mailbag.

You get to know your co-host’s rhythms well

In my experience, it’s always better to have more than just one podcast host because you create a back-and-forth dialogue that’s more interesting for the listener. It can be a little awkward at first, but after a while, you get to know how your co-host works.

I view podcasting like playing a casual game of catch. Whoever has the “ball” has the mic for that part of the conversation. It’s best not to hog the ball for long periods of time but to keep tossing it back and forth. Once you get to trust your co-host not to dominate the conversation, you get more comfortable passing the ball to them.

I love picking out the intro/outro music

Unlike some podcasts, ours doesn’t have a single music track that we use ever week. This is mostly because I like video game music and like to start off with some variety. It’s also a lot of fun to pick out the particular track that bookends the episode. Typically, I’ll pull a track from one of the games that we’re covering that week and make sure it’s got enough energy to be immediately engaging.

Every so often, something terrible happens

Most weeks — most weeks — the podcast process goes smoothly. After all, we’ve been doing this for well over a decade! But every so often, something goes terribly wrong and sends us into a scramble.

We’ve had podcasts where we get 20 minutes into it and I realize I didn’t start the recording (d’oh!). There’ve been times when the audio gets borked, or kids barge into the middle of our recordings, or we reveal something we shouldn’t have. Sometimes the uploader isn’t working for our host. Sometimes I’ve got to spend an additional hour doing editing trying to fix a problem. It happens, we roll with it, and the podcast almost always gets out on time anyway.

It’s usually untouched and unedited (mostly)

There are two types of podcasts that you’ll encounter. The first is highly produced, where an editor pours over the whole recording to remove all verbal tics, dead air, and unnecessary bits of conversation to tighten it all up. That sounds slick but a tad artificial — and it takes a long time to do.

The other type is the podcast that hits “record” and publishes it mostly untouched. That’s the MOP podcast. It’s not just an issue of time (although there is that for a news-centered show that is largely rendered obsolete in a week or two) but also because we think it sounds more natural for the listener to hear two geeks kick back and chew over the topics without heavy editing.

I do a light pass to remove background noise and some other small problematic areas, but for the most part, what you hear is what we record from start to finish.

It’s surreal to think that thousands of people listen to this weekly

Just like writing for Massively OP, producing the podcast is more a labor of love than it is a desire to be internet famous or something. In fact, my brain has a hard time thinking that anyone actually listens to us, even though our weekly downloads say otherwise! I guess it’s that disconnect between what you see and what you don’t.

It’s definitely so cool and so humbling that many of you spend an hour with Bree and me as we fumble, joke, and analyze our way through the current week of MMO news and opinions. I do feel more of a connection with our listeners in the mailbag section, but it’s still pretty surreal!

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
Advertisement
Previous articleLost Ark’s Summer Heat is live, daring players to confront Echidna in the latest endgame raid
Next articlePredownloading for Tencent’s Tarisland begins tonight for North and South American players

No posts to display

Subscribe
Subscribe to:
5 Comments
newest
oldest most liked
Inline Feedback
View all comments