Rockin’ Libsyn Podcasts: Brookings Cafeteria

This series is all about libsyn’s 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 Fred from The Brookings Cafeteria

When did you start podcasting?

I and my colleagues in the Office of Communications at the Brookings Institution launched the Brookings Cafeteria Podcast in August 2013. It was (and still is) the only podcast I have ever hosted and produced.

Why did you start podcasting?

I had been managing editor of the Brookings Institution’s website for 14 years. My then-new vice president thought I should try something new in digital communications, and since Brookings didn’t have a podcast, we decided to create one.

And then, due to my long-time service at the organization (nearly 17 years by then), everyone in the office thought I should be the host! Someone even said I had a good voice.

What’s the name of your show and what is it about?

On the Brookings Cafeteria, I interview expert scholars at the Brookings Institution about their research and analysis on public policy challenges and solutions facing America and the world.

Since Brookings has a book-publishing arm, about once a month we have an interview with a book author as well, and sometimes these are not Brookings scholars, but are experts in their field.

(The Brookings Podcast Network also produces and promotes two other hosted shows: “Dollar and Sense: The Brookings Trade Podcast,” with host David Dollar (a Brookings Senior Fellow); and “The Current,” hosted by Adrianna Pita, which allows scholars to comment on fast-breaking news.)

What’s your podcasting set-up? Hardware, software, CMS, etc.

We have a dedicated studio in our office suite consisting of sound-proof recording booth and a control room.

The booth is equipped with three Shure SM7B microphones (plus a silent-running Dyson tower fan to keep things cool!).

The mixing board in the control room is a ProFX16 with a Zoom H6 as backup. Our audio engineer, Gaston Reboredo, uses Adobe Audition as our audio management tool.

Also, we have five mobile recording kits to lend out to traveling scholars and staff. These include three H6 and two H4n Zoom recorders, and 12 ATR2100 USB microphones.

Gaston provides training on using this equipment, and thus far our mobile kits have been taken to Houston, Colorado, Denmark, Switzerland, and Vietnam. This has, naturally, expanded the range and volume of our content.

How have you promoted your podcast?

My department at Brookings has a dedicated social media team that promotes episodes on Twitter, Facebook, and email. Every episode has a page on our website, I also manage a Twitter handle devoted to the podcasts produced in my department, @policypodcasts.

Additionally, I have attended every Podcast Movement conference since it started in 2014, not only to learn about podcasting, but also to expose this show (and shows from the nonprofit sector generally) to the wider podcasting community.

I should add that I first learned about Libsyn and other podcast hosting companies at Podcast Movement. Moving from hosting our audio on our own server, and distributing the RSS feed from there, to hosting on Libsyn was one of the first major changes I made to the show after attending PM’14 in Dallas.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

When we started, there were only two of us working on the show: an audio producer and I. And, podcast creation was not the only job we had.

Two years later we did an audit of how much time it was taking us to create one show every other week, and what it would take to move to a weekly schedule. Short answer: more staff.

We were able to secure the time of some of our colleagues to expand the show to weekly, and then also to think about launching other programming.

So, I wish I knew when we started how much time it would take to launch a weekly show, instead of bi-weekly. That said, the slower pace allowed us to learn and grow in a more measured pace.

Interested in nuanced and important conversations about public policy, the challenges and possible solutions? You must subscribe to the Brookings Cafeteria!

Also, at the end of September the Brookings team launched a special five-day takeover of the show by their Global China project. It’s a multi-year endeavor drawing on expertise across the Brookings Foreign Policy program that aims to understand China’s regional and local ambitions, and to look not just at how China has changed on the world stage, but also where the U.S.-China relationship is headed.

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