This series is all about showcasing Libsyn podcasters. Its sole purpose is to introduce these awesome podcasts to the world as well as share their podcasting insight to empower the community!
Q & A with Paul from Fighting Through
March 19, 2018
When did you start podcasting?
Why did you start podcasting?
To promote my Dad’s war memoirs and to provide access to blind people
What’s the name of your show and what is it about?
Fighting Through. Unpublished memoirs and first hand accounts of veteran comrades connected to my Dad Bill Cheall’s war.
I’m Paul Cheall, the son and editor of my late father Bill Cheall’s WW2 memoirs, Fighting Through From Dunkirk to Hamburg.
Since Dad’s memoirs were published by Pen and Sword, many former comrades have sent me stories of their own.
I started podcasting in 2013, partly because I like playing around with new technology and partly to try to promote my Dad’s memoirs as well as giving expression to the many war stories I’d been sent.
The show was originally called Fighting Through From Dunkirk to Hamburg but I’ve now shortened this to just Fighting Through because I wanted to be able to make use of any war story in time, not just ones exclusive to my Dad’s story.
Dad fought at Dunkirk, North Africa and Sicily and was in the first wave landing on Gold Beach on D-Day. And he won seven medals and a wounded-in-action stripe.
So – the aim of my show is to bring all these memories to life and honour the soldiers and civilians who were connected to Dad’s story in some way.
I’ve got letters home, anecdotes, memoirs, photographs, interviews with veterans … and there’s both comedy and drama in abundance.
There really are some staggeringly good tales to tell, about flying Lancasters, winning a military medal on D-Day, captaining a ship during Dunkirk and many more and they’re all great unpublished history.
My Mum, Anne, who features occasionally in my show, has a degenerative eye disease so she can’t read anymore – but she does love listening to my podcasts which I download onto a disc for her and which she listens to again and again.
So I hope I’m playing some small part in bringing this rare history to an audience who would otherwise so often be the last to hear it.
What’s your podcasting set-up?
I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to the technology so all I have is a PC with Audacity, fed by a Blue Yeti mic and that’s it.
No mixer, no nuclear-powered processors, nothing else really. I’ve never interviewed anyone over the phone or at home so my needs are basic.
I’m hosted at Libsyn and bless the day I joined them. I was seriously wound up with my previous provider but since I joined Libsyn my troubles were over and I think the team behind it are just first rate guys whom I’m sure would record your show for you if you asked them nicely!
And the big thing for me with Libsyn was the ease with which they feed you into all the big podcast players, which grew my audience by a massive amount compared with my previous provider.
So I sit at home in front of the mic and record direct into the PC in Audacity. I recently downloaded the latest version of Audacity, 2.2.1, and I have to say it’s improved a lot over the last few years and the way the latest version is set up has actually saved me a serious amount of time in editing, because now when I recommence speaking the cursor starts off on the same track I was working on rather than in a new track and without going into detail it does help a lot.
I dare say I could have done this in settings before now but I didn’t know. There are other improvements in the latest version but the good folks at Audacity haven’t messed with the menus so don’t be afraid of upgrading.
For testing my edited recording, I export an mp3 from Audacity and pull it into iTunes as a WAV or you can do an MP3 if you prefer. I synch this over to my iPhone so I can have a test listen to the show, usually whilst driving somewhere!
For going live I export a WAV file from Audacity and feed this into Auphonic to do all the file conversion, volumes, leveling and noise reduction, though I try to avoid needing the latter as I find it can do more harm than good to your sound quality.
I once had trouble sounding like I was speaking underwater and it took me weeks to realise it was overuse of noise reduction, so nowadays I just try to record a clean sound in the first place, though I don’t get too worried if a lawmower zings by outside or a jumbo jet crashes into the house next door. When I hear it on other people’s shows I just think it adds character and makes me far more relaxed about my own sound quality. But I’m allergic to cats so that’s where I draw the line!
I have to say I feel much more confident with my output since I’ve used Auphonic, especially as it’s free up to a certain level of usage. So my final output from Auphonic is a mono, 80 mbs mp3. I’ve tried 64 mbs but I reckon 80 mbs just has the edge for sound quality, especially with my voice. There’s another sound processor out called Alitu from Colin Gray which sounds cool though I haven’t tried it yet.
The Recording Studio
I keep my PC unit underneath the desk in my study and stuff pillows around the edge of the desk to keep any fan noise down. It sounds farcical really but my latest Auphonic report advised that there was no hum to eliminate so if it’s good enough for Auphonic, it’s good enough for my listeners ears!
I’ve bought some intro and outro music from Premium Beat and find their web site very easy to navigate and their product quality superb. It cost me around $40 for each track but that’s a one-off fee and I can use the track as much as I like forever.
I have recorded stuff on location occasionally – videos and periscope. Once I was on a windy beach and I found a Rode Lavalier lapel mic plugged into an iPhone superb for this though it helps if you keep your back to the wind.
I’ve also used an Olympus LS–12 handheld digital recorder to record an interview in a noisy cafe (I always choose the best places!) But this was a location which my interviewee chose and I think their comfort and ease brought out the best in their answers despite the background racket!
The device coped OK but it’s worth playing with the settings to limit some of the more extreme noises encountered and above all practice with the set up before you need to use it in anger or you might just get angry!
I also have an Olympus DS 40 voice recorder which has also performed really well but is easier to set up. So these are probably fairly basic tech but my needs are simple and I don’t work for a news station! I would buy both these products again.
And I now set both these machines to record simultaneously so if settings, memory or batteries let me down on one, then hopefully the other will save my skin as it did on one occasion.
How have you promoted your podcast?
Promotion of my show has been the usual tweets or Facebook posts to announce the launch. I always try to include a photo whenever I post as I feel it offers more value and attracts more attention. I find these media quite hard work for not a lot of gain to be honest and it’s a tough grind gaining traction.
But I keep at it and find Facebook attracts a slightly more engaged user and occasionally I can actually have a nice exchange with someone who’s posted a comment. But I religiously respond to anyone who has posted on any media in the appropriate manner either with a like or a retweet or a reply.
With very little effort, I’ve found Pinterest to be a very passive way of engaging with potential listeners and am really impressed at how much activity it generates. One of my next projects is to work harder with it to monitor if I’m actually gaining listeners through it or is it just pic collectors.
I’ve been blessed with some really great feedback on my show and have around 30 five star reviews on Apple Podcasts. I recently started using My Podcast Reviews from Daniel J Lewis. It’s free and gives you regular updates when you get a review on Apple Podcasts, which is very handy if like me you get the UK platform, which means I otherwise miss out on any reviews on the US or other international platforms.
I personally believe reviews and ratings will gain far more relevance in search rankings as time goes on and artificial intelligence will be used to better determine the authenticity of reviews the likes of Trip Advisor will lead the markets on that I reckon. So I do encourage my listener to post feedback and my goodness how great it feels when a nice comment finds its way to you.
But it does take time and patience. I recently started a “my relative was in the war spot” on the show and that’s brought in quite a lot of short stories.
I’ve also put myself around numerous war related discussion forums and posted genuine research questions or tried to answer other people’s questions and join in any discussion. This is a subtle way of promoting awareness of the show without spamming.
Probably half my episodes have come from people who have written in and sent me the memoirs of their parents or grandparents etc and I’ve developed great relationships with all of them, who are now fans of the show.
I think my favourite is the story of Dunkirk little ship the Bee which started off as a short memoir I found on a web site, having got permission from the site owner. The memoir had been written in 1940 by Fred Reynard, the engineer aboard the ship.
Helen wrote in, tearfully, shortly after, to say how heart warming it was to hear her own grandfather’s memoir being read out loud. And not only that but she offered me the full version of the memoir, as it seemed the version I’d got was an abridged one. She then went on to say her Grandfather not only sailed this ship through the brutal war zone that was Dunkirk in WW2 but he’d also fought in the battle of Gallipoli in WW1 … and he’d written a memoir about that, and would I like to use it. Would I!?
That piece of writing is some of the most riveting piece of writing you could hope to find, describing vicious hand to hand fighting in one of the most fierce battles of WW1.
The lesson here is I have to keep searching for new ideas and material and in this case I turned one 20 minute memoir into an additional three hour long shows.
I go very strong on show notes and always put up as solid a set of notes as possible, with links, pics and play buttons as well as a full show transcript when I have one. Before I post the transcript I usually insert a number of key words here and there to feed the search engines. It’s safe to say I spend far more time on the show notes than I do on social media but I find the effect of social media quite transient whereas my show notes are around permanently and I currently get around 15 visits a day to the site, which is seriously more than the number of likes I’ve ever got in Twitter. But I guess depending on your subject this experience will vary.
I build my web site with a facility called Moonfruit which I find very competent and I’ve never found it lacking to do any of the stuff I want to do, and it’s very easy to use, with absolutely no programming expertise required. If you can do Word and spreadsheets, you can do Moonfruit I’m sure.
I’ve tried in vain to establish a mailing list using several tried and tested methods and have singularly failed so I’ve concluded that again depending on your subject this experience will vary.
Email is probably my weapon of choice when people write to me, which they do, but I also offer Speakpipe, and I’ve had several messages on that. Unfortunately all from me.
Libsyn player on all pages
I recently started trying to cross-promote my episodes so if I can find a reason to mention a previous episode whilst recording my latest one then I do so, but only if I’m mentioning it to genuinely help the listener. It’s not about offering myself free advertising, because I think that would turn people off.
I started off with just three episodes produced in 2013 then did nothing for three years but did a steady 5 downloads per episode per day for the entire period, which I thought was kind of OK.
Since mid 2016 with Libsyn I produced more episodes. Into 2017 and I’ve just published episode 26 and am now averaging around 200 downloads per episode per month overall, so that includes all the old episodes too.
My latest few episodes have been doing around 250 to 1100 downloads per month, with earlier episodes still downloading at around 125pm.
I am playing a long game here because I know I’m in a niche market with huge untapped potential as podcasting grows.
My stats did suffer in the reporting changeover but have since steadied and I’m actually finding them much more stable now, when in the past they’ve been very volatile, going up and down all over the place.
The one thing I’d love to have more certainty on is the number of actual subscribers and how many subscribe but then drop off, or listen but don’t subscribe.
I still think everyone is playing a guessing game at the moment and I hope Apple Podcasts stats platform evolves into something that will allow us to stroke our own egos or not – as the case may be – but we producers do seem to thrive on praise, in the absence of money! I once had a boss who used to say that feedback is the breakfast of champions and I’ve never forgotten that. Quite recently I’ve begun to incorporate my feedback comments into the show, especially if they include some comment about a relative being in the war, and I almost feel I’ve got to the point where I don’t actually need to ask for feedback because my listeners are getting the message just by listening to the show.
I’ve just started to monitor Spotify stats and last month out of around 5000 total downloads, 500 odd were through Spotify 10%? So to echo Rob’s sentiment about Spotify it’s definitely worth connecting to them, especially as the Libsyn platform makes it so easy.
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN AT THE OUTSET THAT I KNOW NOW
I started out with a host who most people have probably never heard of and found their model very poor. Their pricing model was confusing and expensive. After 3 years I discovered Libsyn and it was like chalk and cheese, with the support from libsyn being light years ahead. I wish I’d known this when I started! The moral of this story is to make sure you understand what’s on offer and what you need before you commit to a provider.
I think the other thing I wished I’d known at the outset was how hard it was going to be to set my microphone up for best results. Looking back I should have got professional in to guide me. It’s been a lot harder to get things right than I expected.
Fascinating, no??? Now, how about it? Are you ready to subscribe to Fighting Through? There’s nothing better than getting into the source of these incredible stories!
If you want to tell the stories of your family, or want to give another layer to telling stories, why don’t you start a podcast? We can help you get started with our free monthly podcasting quickstart or if you want to go for it, we have awesome hosting packages!