Why Podcasters should avoid Free Tools for recording Interviews

Today on a Facebook Group for Podcasters, someone asked a frequently asked question about recording podcast.

“I want to start my podcast. What is a Free tool I can use for recording interviews?”

In other words, they wanted to ask, “How to record a podcast interview using a free recording tool?” This really is a strange and unfortunate question in my opinion. What I do not understand is this fascination with free services many of which are often compromised on features?

How To Record Podcast Interviews

Three years ago, I had written a post on Medium called 7 ways to record podcasts online. Today the list will have atleast 15 options. Even companies that offer streaming services, such as Spreaker, have created tools for podacsters to create content with. As for the paid options, the prices are lower? Podcasters should really take advantage of them.

If you are looking at podcasting as a serious activity, make it a point to invest in it. At gaatha story, we did this very early on. It was one of the most difficult choices or decisions, we had to make. At that time, there were no revenue streams, online options for recording were limited, and prices were high. Today, there are more options available than we ever did back in 2015. There are tools to record from mobile devices, tablets, online via web browser or app…

Capex and Opex Model for Podcasting

If an up front monthly or annual fee seems very high, look at the planned production volume for the next quarter or year. That will help you in justifying the investment. In the physical world, for a project in manufacturing or in construction, this is called investing in capital expenses or Capex. Next, measure the recurring expenses in terms of cost per hour of production.This is called operating expense or Opex. A simple way of calculating could be as follows:

Cost of production= Capex + Opex + Overheads

How to Translate the Capex/Opex Model to Podcasting

You can treat the cost of recording equipment and any investment in recording software or tools as Capex. Opex will be internet, electricity, editing, and license or subscription fees for music or podcast hosting, and so on. Overhead typically could be your time, and intangibles.

Let me give you an example. In June 2017, we subscribed to the annual pan for Zencastr at around US Dollars 180 annually. That works out to US Dollars 15 per month. At an exchange rate of 64 INR to 1 US Dollar (those were the days!), that amounts close to 950 INR per month. I am considering the costs for this online recording tool alone, let us exclude other costs for now. Namely, editing, production, marketing, and so on.

For a monthly INR 950, we could get 6 hours of finished production. Assuming a 2:3 ratio, that is, every finished hour takes 1.5 hours of ‘raw’ recording. Thus we used Zencastr for 9 hours a month. Which works out to 110 INR per hour of recording.

This is literally Peanuts! Now comes the twist: our narrators are in Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Using an online recording tool saved each of them (and us) time and expense in terms of commute. Assume an average of 1 hour of commute for each narrator for every 1 hour of recording. So, an hour of finished recording required 3 hours of narrators’ time. By using an online tool, we were able to get more output for the same time investment compared to the base case. (We compensate the narrators by the recorded hour, not per finished hour, by the way).

Summing it all up

A simple breakeven was achieved in the third month itself, and a couple of months later, the investment paid itself off. The paid version of Zencastr and many other tools offers basic editing such as cleaning and leveling. This means we could save on the editing effort, time and money as well.

There was one more advantage of our early investments that I did not mention. We could develop processes by which our podcast recordings were done from home or hoe office. In other words, we were already working from home for our narrations!. Therefore, it was and is business as usual for us at gaatha story when it comes to producing stories.

There is something called as being frugal and something called as being cheap. One should absolutely be the former, but definitely stay away from being the latter. You will lose out in the long run with the latter.

Resources: Some (paid) tools for podcast recording

Zencastr , Ringr, Cleanfeed, Squadcast

Creator- Gaatha Story- Podcast of Children's Stories. Cofounder Kamakshi Media and Author. Husband, dog lover. Country Manager for FSC, India. www.amarvyas.com