One Stone Creative is a full-service agency that handles most of the non-recording work for the shows we produce, but the role of a podcast manager is such a new one, that we wanted to talk to someone who is specializing in it.
The podcast manager is a somewhat more nebulous role, in part because it’s so new in the industry, and in part, because the services they offer can vary so much—often they can provide strategic consultation, project management, freelancer management, and sometimes regular production activities like audio editing, asset creation and promotion.
My guest today is Ted Cragg, a fellow Canadian who has been a podcast manager for several years, with a special emphasis on the travel podcasting space. He is also the host of the Travel the World Podcast, and an experienced audio editor.
If you want to learn more about podcast managers and how they can help you achieve your business goals, listen to our conversation below, or continue reading the blog post!
Tune in to the full episode to:
- Know your options for podcast production
- Understand what podcast management entails
- Learn how to choose a production option for your show
- Pivoting to podcast management
- Know what to look for in a podcast manager
- Human intervention in AI podcasting
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The different options for podcast production
When it comes to creating a podcast for your company, you’ve got a few options:
- Do it all in-house, either by yourself or with the help of a colleague or two
- Hire a full-service agency that will take on all or most of the non-recording work
- Hire specific freelancers for specific jobs, like the editing or the promotion
- Hire a podcast manager to drive the project forward on an ongoing basis.
This is when everything, from show development to production, guest booking to show notes to promotional materials is all done by you or members of your team.
The pros include that it can be less expensive, sometimes by a large margin, than outsourcing some or all of the production work, and you’ll be able to control every detail which I know is important for many businesses.
For some companies, it’s also best to keep production in-house if the show is deeply integrated with other business areas and with multiple teams – having all of the information and workflows accessible by the many different people who need them can make outsourcing a more daunting than tempting proposition.
Cons – it’s going to take a lot of your time, and that may or may not be a resource you have in abundant supply.
Now, you can get a lot of time-savings with automation tools, and keeping your process and assets simple, but we’ve found that many companies that start in-house tend to want to hire a little help as soon as it becomes feasible.
It also takes a lot of different skills: figuring out the strategic role of the podcast in your business is a different skill than editing the audio, which is a different skill than promoting episodes, which is a different skill than managing guest booking which is a different skill than SEO optimizing the notes, which is a different skill than project management.
It’s a lot of different skills, that can lead you to the door of our next production option, a full-service agency.
Full-Service Podcast Agencies
They are pretty much what they say on the tin – they’ll handle all or most of your production process.
Now, this can vary a bit from company to company, and if you’re considering working with one, you should make sure to get very clear on exactly what is included, but most will do something like: take in your raw audio, do all the editing – both content and hygiene, write the show notes, create sharing assets, create a video version, schedule the episode for you, and drive the whole process so you don’t have to think about anything other than talking to people.
Some companies will do a little less, and others will do more like providing feedback, doing guest management, or even being live on your interviews capturing the recordings.
Pros of working with companies like this are that the main management of the show is off your desk – it is a huge time savings. You also don’t have to learn, or hire for specific skills like audio editing and show notes writing, you get to take advantage of a team of different subject matter experts working together.
With the best companies, you can also get strategic support around how to leverage your podcast within your business, tracking the impact of the show, and providing feedback so that you’re constantly improving your skills.
Cons can include that it’s the most expensive of the options – having a company take on the bulk of the work isn’t cheap, and having the production process out of your hands also means – it’s out of your hands: you’re depending on other people to keep your release schedule, and that can be scary – and in some cases, disappointing.
You also may or may not have your own dedicated account manager and other team members working on your show which can mean an inconsistent output.
If going full-service is a bit of a stretch, or you have a really solid team with the interest and the bandwidth to take on the areas of their own expertise, then hiring a freelancer who specializes in one or two elements can be a great option.
There are many highly skilled audio editors who just do audio that you can hire to take on that part of the show. The same is true of guest booking, social media management, writing tasks, and graphic design.
The pros of hiring specific freelancers are that it tends to be more affordable than full service, and you are just adding the amount of skill to your own team that you really need, while fully maximizing your internal resources.
On the other hand, a big part of working with freelancers is managing them and making sure that everything required from each provider at the right time can be quite a challenge.
It also means that each individual contributor’s bandwidth and situation has the potential to disrupt your workflow, which can be a little anxiety-provoking.
And there is a professional who can help bridge that particular gap—the podcast manager.
Understanding the podcast manager
What is a podcast manager?
A podcast manager is certainly a specialist when it comes to podcasting. You can kind of relate it to a virtual assistant or an online business manager, but someone who really is focused on podcasting and everything that goes into it.
They understand the industry, probably they’re probably very passionate about the industry. They inherently follow people and newsletters and these kinds of things to stay on top of it.
And that’s the kind of background and skill set that they’re bringing to the role, is that they really understand how to make a good podcast and how to make successful ones, and especially how to sustain them too.
What can they do for your business?
If someone has a business and they’re looking to start a podcast, it’s a great idea to look for a podcast manager because they’re kind of your go-to person who’s going to help organize and keep you the host, the business owner, focused on what you need to do, doing it well, comparing it to other things, and putting it into context in relation because they have that expertise, so they may in turn, delegate things.
It’s certainly possible. There are a lot of podcast managers who delegate editing or maybe graphic design or the audio, videograms, and stuff like that. They may do that themselves as well. But in essence, they really are the project managers who are going to direct the project for the host.
So the show is still the host’s. They’re the face and they’re the voice of the show. It’s the podcast manager who’s the one behind the scenes with that focus on the project itself.
The workflow of a podcast manager
A lot of podcast managers usually start at the very beginning of the project before the podcast has even started. So there’s kind of two phases.
There’s the launch phase where you’re really planning the show in itself. What are the objectives, who’s the audience, what offers do you have and how are you going to deliver those?
Thinking about content and making an episode plan, thinking at least a few weeks, if not a few months even. Planning the schedule: are you going to do this weekly or biweekly?
Arranging the cover art, the music, the hosting, a website—all of these components that go into the launch.
You get into the regular recurring production of the episodes.
So it is certainly possible podcast exists already. They’ve already done all that work. They’ve launched the show and now they’re ready to hire a podcast manager to kind of take the reins, perhaps level up and improve the quality and just the workflow and the structure of it.
When it comes down to basically putting and planning an episode itself, certainly if there’s a guest involved, then you have those guests lined up and a lot of podcast managers, that’s one of their tasks is to do the guest pitching.
They will pitch people to come on the show. They may pitch the host in turn to be a guest on other shows. There are lots of different tasks that they can do. Then, of course, the recording itself is done.
But if the podcast manager is in turn the editor, they’re taking the files, they’re putting everything together, they’re giving it back to the host for a final pass, a review, and then it gets published.
Usually, the podcast manager is the one who uploads the file, makes sure the RSS feed and all the technical stuff are working well, handles any bugs or glitches, and then they may certainly do the promotion as well, making those clips and other promotional things.
So in any one episode, as we all know, there’s a lot of work that goes into it.
Having the podcast manager at least the one who oversees that project is crucial again, whether they do it all themselves or maybe they delegate other things, but it allows the host business owner to obviously focus on other things and really zero in on what their expertise is.
What kinds of businesses would benefit more from a podcast manager?
The small to medium-sized businesses, but fairly small.
And the reason is really coming back to the very beginning of what makes a podcast manager different. It’s the relationship. It has to be a good, strong relationship and you build into that over time.
But the communication has to be there common vision where you feel comfortable bouncing ideas. And as a podcast manager, a big part of it, frankly, is keeping the hosts accountable and saying, what’s your plan for the next episode? Or plans and stuff coming together. That’s a good thing.
It’s a healthy, positive role because you’re the one that’s focused on it. The business owners got all kinds of things that they’re doing. The podcast is a big part of it, but they have that person who’s going to focus on this project itself and just be that second pair of ears is so crucial because there’s someone else who really knows the business, who understands the message, what they’re trying to do, and understands the podcast itself, who can then give that feedback and say, well, maybe we should cut this part.
Or here’s a good guest that you can have for sure and kind of just have that overall awareness of how it fits into the grand scheme of things, the message and the branding, and the appearance that you’re making through the podcast.
With that in mind, you can imagine if it’s a really big company, for sure, they can have a podcast, but they would probably have a team. And it’s a different scope, let’s say, of the project.
Podcast managers work well with smaller businesses, often online businesses where they’re really going to have that relationship with the host.
How to choose a production option for your podcast
Here at One Stone Creative, we’re an agency, we’re a team of seven now. But the relationship is such an important thing and really getting integrated with someone else’s systems—understanding their goals, being able to know enough about the business to be able to weigh in on whether something is appropriate or works.
A lot of people, a lot of companies, they know they want a podcast for whatever reason. It could be because the other firms in their area are doing it. Could be because they’re seeing the value that they love listening to their podcast in their industry.
But of the different options that are available for producing. Let’s talk a little bit more about how to make that decision. Because you’ve got like solo provider podcast managers, you’ve got agencies, you’ve got bigger companies that are more self serve, let’s call them the productized podcasting services.
What should people be thinking about or businesses be thinking about when they’re making that kind of choice, other than, let’s say we’ve established a good relationship with your point of contact.
It’s a fairly new role. I mean, I’ve been doing this for coming up on two years. It’s very new. And part of our challenge as podcast managers is simply popularizing. The concept that making sure people know that this thing exists, that it’s a specialized type of project manager, basically, who understands the industry because the tech changes so fast.
And we’re into this as managers. And I chose this because I’ve been podcasting myself. I enjoy it. I was already getting the newsletters, I was already following people and just learning about it. So it’s a passion for me to then share that information and that’s the type of thing that you’re bringing as a podcast manager.
And so if someone’s looking for that specialist from the project, then that’s what they should be getting, someone who really understands how things work and it makes them a little different.
If you were to hire someone from in-house or from a different agency, those are the questions I would ask. I need someone to manage my podcast and help me produce it. So how long have they been doing it themselves? Do they understand how things work, the tech and the skills and the industry and all those things? And you may have someone in-house who just does it anyway because they’re interested in their passion and maybe they can become your podcast manager.
If you’re looking outside of the house, though, or looking around, I mean, yeah, there are some agencies, I guess there are some of these websites where you can find people that know having their title. I’m a podcast manager. Often it’s word of mouth and networking and Google search and stuff is certainly possible just to find the people, the managers that are out there and available.
I think it often comes down to goals for a business. If someone’s main reason for podcasting or their primary benefit from podcasting is really just having conversations with people, then kind of all of those extra details, although it doesn’t necessarily matter as much as long as they’re having those conversations on a regular consistent basis.
And then any service provider who can reliably produce the outcome of your own scheduling work can be a really good fit. But yeah, having that more personal touch, especially if it is going to be like a really strong arm of your marketing as a small business.
Pivoting from podcaster to podcast manager – Ted Cragg
Initially, when it comes down to it, it’s really just kind of putting yourself out there and saying, I want to do this, I’m ready to do this.
I took a program called the Podcast Manager Program by Lauren Wrighton and she trains people to do this. There’s a really good network and community of podcast managers who help each other out.
That helped with some of the kind of background and getting ready. At the end of the day, you start with one client and fill in some of that experience.
In terms of the business and relationship side, I know a lot of the skills in podcasting because I’ve been doing it myself just for fun for about six years now, since 2017. So when it came to doing it, I was looking for a career change.
I wanted to work online, I wanted to have my own business, et cetera. And this was something I knew how to do. I had the skills. I like audio editing and the whole podcast production flow.
In the end, I knew that this was something he could do plus he also liked the variety.
And that’s a good point actually, because I know from my experience, and certainly for a lot of us, every client of course is different. Every relationship and every project is different.
So I have clients often where I just do the audio editing and that’s cool. It takes me an hour or two, a week let’s say, and it’s done and they do all the rest.
And I certainly have other clients where it’s the full scope and it’s really digging deep into what their objectives are and what their show is going to be like and all that content planning, lots of communication, fairly regular meetings, and all that kind of stuff. I love doing that too.
I wouldn’t want to do that all the time either. I like having the variety, a little bit of both. And that’s part of what’s appealing about doing this.
So it’s really just kind of if someone’s interested in becoming one, then if you already have that interest, for sure, in podcasts, you listen to them, maybe have one yourself, then there are opportunities because people really do need this kind of help.
Ted Cragg on transitioning from a podcast manager to a podcast management agency
I might get to that. It’s on stage, for sure. I mean, it’s a whole other kettle of fish. I know. I’m just curious about your outlook and your way of thinking about it.
The thing is, of course, this is not a passive income type job or business. I absolutely don’t believe in passive income. I’m so tired of hearing about passive income.
Fundamentally the job is very hands-on. It’s time intensive and that’s the nature of it. That’s what I want. I want that relationship, obviously. Therefore, I’ve realized that I could only really have myself personally, maybe four or five clients at a time, unless there are a couple of others that are really quick things.
But there’s clearly a limit. If I want to expand my business, if I want to bring other people into that circle, then I would need partners, I would need to outsource and that kind of thing and basically become some kind of agency.
And that’s certainly possible down the road. One thing for me, as we all know, in online business and stuff, it’s good to niche down generally, and you can do that in podcast management. There are podcast managers who really look for coaches, coaching businesses, let’s say, and those are the people they work for.
For me, my background is in travel and tourism. I love travel and I want to particularly look for people and businesses in the travel and tourism industry who want to start a podcast, of course, to talk about their business.
Maybe they’re a tour operator, a travel agency, maybe there’s some kind of attraction. A podcast is great for telling those stories if they’re serious about it if they have the budget, if they want to really see it, and if they have a business plan that this is not just kind of a passion project, but this Podcast is going to promote our offers.
It’s going to get our name and our recognition out there. They have the budget to hire someone like me and we can work together to really build this into something substantial. So that’s where I’ve niched down.
But what’s neat about this, again, is that as much as I try to find clients in that area, the skills are the same. So I do have some clients who are coaches and who have other topics and fundamentally it’s about editing their audio and just kind of giving them that support and direction.
So flipping it around. Let’s say someone’s listening to this and they’re thinking having this level of attention on the podcast is going to be really valuable.
But we’re not hiring right now, we’re not hiring contractors, we’re not hiring agencies, but I’ve got this team member who’s got 10 hours free a week. What kind of skills or qualities would someone need to be able to do this in general and also particularly within the house as a kind of upskilling in their own industry?
Turning an internal team member into a podcast manager
The biggest time-consuming thing certainly is the editing. AI is helping and I use AI services too, but they don’t do the whole job.
That might be like a first pass, a bit of an edit, and I still come through with my own eyes and ears to make sure it’s good, but that helps speed things up. Regardless, the editing is the number one thing and from there, it’s about all the other tasks.
If the promotion, the little clips for sure, and writing show notes are a big one, you could have a blog that goes with your episodes too.
So if you’re doing it in-house, start with what the skills and interests of your existing team are of anyone on that team who’s going to be interested in doing this and be able to kind of hit the ground running.
There are ways to kind of work around it based on the resources that you have.
The person who gets the podcast on their desk should be a strong project manager to start, they should have some tech aptitude or at least a willingness to learn and kind of comfort with getting used to it.
Audio editing software typically has a pretty steep learning curve. Once you get it, you got it, but it’s not easy to look at for the first time. And there should be at least some level of copy, an understanding of the marketing that’s going on, and what’s going to be important to communicate to listeners.
If you’ve got someone on your team who has some extra time and those things, you can have an internal podcast manager.
Red and green flags during podcast manager interviews
It’s tricky because it’s a newer industry.
So in terms of experience, you may have someone who really only has a few months of experience in podcast management, but you certainly want to ask about, well, what’s their background beyond that?
Do they understand the connection really between the marketing and the listener in terms of getting that message through and conversion? I mean, that’s an interesting thing with podcasts, because it’s not like YouTube or other things where it’s easier to measure those metrics.
So you want someone who really understands, at least has an idea of how to pursue that and how to improve it. And we’re all working together on that, really, to improve the kind of engagement in podcasts.
I think passion is really what comes across, especially in this day and age, this stage of this industry, because we may not have the experience because it’s so new, but if you have the passion, the interest, you’re keen to learn, you’re keen to improve your skills, then you’re on your way.
Human intervention in AI podcast editing
And we try almost every AI tool as it comes out. We try all of them just to be aware of what’s going on. And some of them are really cool. Some of them have amazing functionality.
I just tested Cast Magic last week, and it’s rad. But the problem I find with all of them and that’s the text ones and the audio ones, is that at least at the scale that we’re working at, doing 15 OD shows the amount of editing and quality assurance.
The time it takes to make sure that a weird little AI error doesn’t slip through is basically equal to the time it takes us to just do things by hand. I just haven’t found the time savings yet.
Even though my favorite AI use right now is Adobe Enhance, being able to improve someone’s room sound, has been really cool, but it still needs a full editing process by a human afterward.
Ted Cragg on AI apps that legitimately save time
A lot of it comes down to the recording, the quality of the recording, and it’s sad to say, but also the voices. I mean, I have a couple of clients. Either they’re Francophones or they speak English with an accent, and the transcriptions and so on don’t always pick up.
I cannot handle a French Canadian accent. No way.
So that’s one thing. If you do have people, again, if you’re the manager or just the audio editor, clients are sending your stuff. If it’s clear audio, of course, if it’s two people that they’re on separate audio tracks, that’s a good start to at least give the program the best chance to do its thing.
But it’s tricky with audio. I find that you always have to do a second pass. You might be able to edit a little bit. One thing I have gotten more into is transcription-based editing.
So Descript is a good example of this. Even Riverside has started to do that in a few other places, but the cuts are so choppy.
It’s getting better, but it is choppy. And I resisted for a long time, but at least with the transcription here’s, kind of my mindset is that if someone sends me like this big 75 minutes recording, and I know that we want a 45 minutes episode, so I’m going to have to cut out a lot.
I’m talking big paragraphs, five, or eight minutes at a time, which is a lot. Yeah, if I have the transcription, I’ll read through it and I know that I can cut this and cut that as a big, big paragraph.
And that alone is going to save me, I don’t know, at least 45 minutes of my own time, just skimming through to get down to at least something a little more manageable.
Now it’s like a 55-minute file, which I need to cut another 1015 minutes out. Descript is a good example. They take out these filler words, the uhms and the aahs, and things like that. You can set which ones to remove.
They also have a thing where you can add a little gap clip so it’s not too tight of a cut that you can’t really fix or it’s really finicky to fix.
I’ll often take the first pass from there into another digital audio workstation software and then do the micro clean up if it’s a word that’s really cut off, that just sounds just too abrupt, and things like that.
So it’s getting better. I’m kind of holding out. And that should help us with our workflow, for sure. In terms of speeding things up.
We use Descript for transcripts and particularly useful for pulling audio and videograms. Really, really amazing for that. But I’ll just see how their filler word removal is now.
You know what I wish they would do, and maybe just someone from Descript will listen to this. I wish you could set like remove 90% of filler words because when humans talk, they use filler words and it sounds human to have the occasional thing, but it’s nice to cut them down a little bit.
It would be cool to be able to have like a slider for how aggressively they were removed.
“…if you have the passion, the interest, you’re keen to learn, you’re keen to improve your skills, then you’re on your way.” – Ted Cragg
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Learn about what other business podcasters are doing
- Working with VAs for Your Podcast with Kristy Yoder
- Will AI Replace Writers? with Karl Sona
- Bringing Order to Chaos in Your Podcast Processes with Megan Dougherty
- Optimizing Your Workflows and Relationships with Jason Cercone
- How to Pitch Yourself as a Guest with Angie Trueblood
About Ted Cragg
Ted has been podcasting since 2017, primarily as producer of the group podcast, The MultiPod, which profiles The Puttyverse online community. It is a multi-faceted show which features numerous simultaneous co-hosts, new guests each episode, rotating features and segments, and occasional live field recording. The podcast has been produced on a regular bi-weekly schedule since January 2018, with frequent additional episodes and bonus spin-offs, and recently passed the 20,000 download mark.
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