How to Create a Blockbuster Podcast

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alex

“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 (!!!).

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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).

This episode is sponsored by OnnitI 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…

Enjoy!

Selected Links from the Episode

StartUp | Reply All

  • Learn more about Pro Tools
  • Pick up Alex’s recommended equipment for field recording:

AT8035 Microphone | Tascam DR-100KII Recorder

Sony MDR 7506 HeadPhones | XLR Cable

Show Notes

  • 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]

People Mentioned

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How to Be In My Next Big Book

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Photo Credit: Sarah Dippity

Photo Credit: Sarah Dippity

The 4-Hour Workweek is coming up on its 10th anniversary in a few years (insane), and the time is ripe for a killer companion.  Therefore…

My next book will be a monstrous encyclopedia of success stories from readers of The 4-Hour Workweek.  There are innumerable stories I couldn’t have predicted. Taking multiple companies to IPO? Getting to the Super Bowl? Building a seven-figure muse and traveling the world with a family of 3-7…as a single parent?!

That’s just the beginning.  Now, I want to hear your story.  And I want to put you in my next book.

If you don’t yet have a success story, keep reading and I’ll show you how to create one.  I’ll also give you a benevolent kick in the ass (i.e. amazing bribe).

Please read this entire post.  To start off, there are three ways to share your story with me:

1) If you already have a success story to tell, please fill out the form at fourhourworkweek.com/success.  Easy peasy.

2) If you joined the latest Shopify Build-A-Business Competition that started last year, you can select the “Muse Category” and compete. Read below.

3) If you haven’t yet created a “muse” (automated cash-flow business), keep reading.  Things are about to get very interesting for you.

The prizes for sharing are simple: potentially be in my next book, and (if in categories 2 or 3 above) get flown to Richard Branson’s private island for billionaire coaching.

And here’s how it all works…

If you have not joined the latest Shopify Build-A-Business Competition, do this:

  • Read The 4-Hour Workweek if you haven’t.  
  • Still not sure what business to start, or which product to choose? Read this guide from Shopify and then come back to this post.
  • Create a new business: Launch an online store with Shopify by using this link. You *must* use this link or I can’t track you properly.
  • Start selling, change your life, and keep records: After the eight-month competition, Shopify will calculate your best two months of sales. From there, based on a $5K-per-month minimum, Shopify will compile a list of 20 finalists. Tim Ferriss and his magic elves will judge each of the 20 finalists using the following criteria: gross sales during the top two months (60% weight), Lifestyle Design (25% weight – i.e. how much your improve your life), and recording (15% weight – This could include YouTube clips, blog posts, Instagram pics, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, or whatever, but it should track your experiences and lessons learned. Use #4hourlaunch and link back to this blog post.)
  • Get support: Use all of the Shopify support resources, how-to guides, and community forums to learn how to grow, grow, grow.

If you’ve already entered the Shopify Build-A-Business Competition, and you want to join the Muse Category:

  • Just click this link. Enter your Shopify URL there, and you’ll be added into the Muse Competition.
  • Read The 4-Hour Workweek if you haven’t.
  • Follow the above steps from “Start selling…”  Same rules and criteria apply.

The Prizes (For Those Building Businesses and Competing):

For all competitors who sign up:

  • Private Facebook group. On February 15, 2015 at 5pm ET, Shopify will send me a list of all the email addresses of people who’ve signed up. Each person will then be invited to an exclusive and private “Muse” Facebook group, where I’ll also make occasional appearances.  It’s free, but you must sign up by Feb 15 at 5pm ET to be invited.

For the ultimate winners:

  • 5 days of mentorship on Necker Island, Richard Branson’s private island in the British Virgin Islands
  • A private jet from New York to Necker Island. Shopify will also cover the cost of getting you to NYC.
  • You can invite a guest (!), and their costs are similarly covered.
  • You’ll be joined by 5 other winners, and you’ll be mentored by Tim Ferriss, Sir Richard Branson, Daymond John (founder of FUBU), and Marie Forleo. You will get plenty of one-on-one time with every mentor.
  • Complimentary nearly-everything: meals and drinks, as well as all the island has to offer, including water sports, tennis, pools, and jacuzzi.
  • Seth Godin will hold an private group workshop on the island.
  • And many other surprises!

Timeline:

  • You must enter your Shopify store into the competition no later than March 31, 2015.  Obviously, good to get started ASAP.  Just click the damn link and get started. If not now, then when?
  • Last day to generate sales for the competition: May 31, 2015

Restrictions:

  • Entrants must have opened a Shopify store after June 1, 2014 in order to be eligible
  • The competition is open to legal residents in any one of the United States, excluding Arizona, Maryland, Vermont, Delaware, Louisiana and Montana (sorry!). The competition is also open to legal residents of the District of Columbia, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Spain and Canada.
  • BUT — Even if you’re not eligible for the Branson-related trip, you can still join the Shopify competition, get support, and join the private Facebook group!

Videos, Just for Fun:

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?  Sign up here and get started!

Look forward to raising a drink with you on Necker :)

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How to Think Like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos

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Dr. Peter Diamandis floating with Elon Musk, James Cameron, and others.

Dr. Peter Diamandis (center) floating with Elon Musk (r), James Cameron (l), and others.

Dr. Peter Diamandis has been named one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine.

You asked for an entire episode with him, so here it is!  The subject is simple: How to think big, and how to use the key strategies of Peter’s friends and investors, including Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Larry Page. How do they create maximum leverage? How do they think differently? We explore all of this.

In the field of innovation, Diamandis is Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. Among many other things, Diamandis is also the Co-Founder (along with Craig Venter and Bob Hariri) of Human Longevity Inc. (HLI); and Co-Founder of Planetary Resources, a company designing spacecraft to mine asteroids for precious materials (seriously).

If I could ask one person to write one book, it would Peter and his new tome, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World.  In fact, I have been asking him for years, and now it has arrived.  The back cover alone gives me serious envy. Check out these testimonials from Bill Clinton, Eric Schmidt, and Ray Kurzweil. Ray says simply: “If you read one business book in the twenty-first century, this should be the one.”

There are a few ways to listen to this episode, and I highly suggest a notepad:

This podcast is 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.

Also, how would you like an all-expenses-paid trip to Richard Branson’s private island for a week of mentoring with Sir Richard, yours truly, and other teachers? It’s coming up soon, and it’s going to be amazing. Click here for all the details.

Enjoy!  I didn’t have time for show notes on this one, but — as usual — I’m happy to include the first comprehensive show notes (with links) that any reader leaves in the comments. I will gladly link to your website in appreciation.

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QUESTION OF THE DAY:  What books or resources have most inspired you to think BIGGER, to 10x your results or impact?  Please share in the comments by clicking here.

Subscribe to The Tim Ferriss Show on iTunes.
Non-iTunes RSS feed

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Pavel Tsatsouline on the Science of Strength and the Art of Physical Performance

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Tim Ferriss and Pavel Tsatsouline on Strength

This episode was a real treat. It was one of the most enlightening and lucid conversations about physical training I’ve ever had.  If you want strength, power, endurance, and flexibility, it’s all covered in this one interview.

[UPDATE: Pavel also answered your 15 most popular questions in a follow-up episode, now below]

Pavel Tsatsouline is Chairman of StrongFirst, Inc. and was born in Minsk, USSR, which is now part of Belarus.

In the 1980s, he was a physical-training instructor for Spetnaz, the elite Soviet special-forces units. Pavel is now a subject matter expert to the US Marine Corps, the US Secret Service, and the US Navy SEALs. He is widely credited with introducing the now ubiquitous kettlebell to the United States.

Over the last several years, Pavel has become a friend, and his input was critical to the success (and experiments) of The 4-Hour Body.  His massively popular post on 80/20 Powerlifting and How to Add 110+ Pounds to Your Lifts appears on this blog.

Whether you’ve heard of him or not, prepare to have your mind blown, and I don’t say that lightly :)  Enjoy!

This podcast is 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.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What’s the most valuable exercise tip you’ve ever received or learned? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes… Read More

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What My Morning Journal Looks Like

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History is littered with examples of successful (and unsuccessful) people who kept daily journals. It ranges from Marcus Aurelius to Ben Franklin, and from Mark Twain to George Lucas.

But what on earth did they write about?

Or perhaps you’ve seen examples of their writing and thought to yourself, “Goddamn, that reads like the Gettysburg Address!” and become demoralized.

In this post, I’ll show you what my raw morning journal looks like.

Why?

Because it’s easy to imagine our heroes as unflappable juggernauts, who conquer insecurity with a majestic mental karate chop every morning. This is, of course, an illusion. Most people you see on magazine covers have plenty of mornings when they’d rather hide under the covers all day long.

A while back, I bared my soul in a post about “productivity” tips for neurotic and crazy people (like me). I was overwhelmed by the hundreds of heartfelt comments, letters, and more that I received.

Many of you have since asked about my “morning pages,” so I’m oversharing again… Read More

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Are We Really 10% Human and 90% Bacteria? Exploring The Microbiome…

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By popular demand, an entire episode dedicated to exploring the human microbiome!

Are you really 90% bacteria and 10% human? How can you manage or optimize your own microbiome? Should we do fecal-matter transplants from “untouched” indigenous tribes to reverse chronic illness? We tackle all this and much more…

Jessica Richman is co-founder and CEO of uBiome, a startup backed by Y Combinator and Andreessen Horowitz, which uses citizen science to understand the human microbiome.

Jonathan Eisen is a Full Professor at the University of California, Davis with appointments in the School of Medicine and the College of Biological Sciences. Dr. Eisen’s research focuses on the evolution, ecology and function of communities of microorganisms.

This podcast is 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.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY:  What’s the most interesting or helpful thing you’ve ever learned from a medical or biological test? Please share in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes… Read More

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Ed Cooke, Grandmaster of Memory, on Mental Performance, Imagination, and Productive Mischief

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Ed Cooke on the Tim Ferriss Show

One tiny favor! If you’re enjoying the podcast, could you please take 30 seconds now to leave a brief review on iTunes? Just click “View in iTunes” under my pic here. Once I pass 2,000 reviews, I’ll reciprocate by writing a massive, behind-the-scenes post on everything I’ve learned about podcasting. I promise tricks of the trade galore, just as in-depth as the “Hacking Kickstarter” post. Speaking of which…

Ed Cooke is a dear friend and a Grandmaster of Memory.  In 2010, he was interviewed by a journalist named Joshua Foer. Under Ed’s Yoda-like training, Joshua became the very next American Memory Champion in 2011.  It took less than a year for Ed to transform a novice from unknown to world-class.

But how?!?

Aha… This interview explores Ed Cooke’s brilliant techniques (many of which I use), strategies, and practical philosophies.  To boot, he’s also a wicked funny bastard!  If you enjoyed the epic interviews with Kevin Kelly, Josh Waitzkin, or Maria Popova, you’ll love Ed.  He’s one of a kind.


This podcast is 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.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What’s one mental feat you’d love to accomplish in 2015? Any tips or tricks you can share? Please share in the comments by clicking here.

Scroll below for links and show notes… Read More

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