FRQNCY Media Founder Michelle Khouri shares how 2020 has tested her sense of purpose, and how the podcast industry needs to change in order to reach its true potential.
Compiled by Becca J. G. Godwin
In uncertain times like these, it’s important to remember to balance news of what the heck’s going on with the positive and uplifting stories that connect us across the airwaves. That’s why we rounded up some of our team’s favorite podcasts to share with you.
The podcasts included in this list steer away from straight news, keep us well-rounded and inspired, and give our minds the mental equivalent of a scalp massage.
Read on for our list of podcasts that will help take the edge off of isolation, keep you from falling down those pesky rabbit holes, and hopefully even put a smile on your lovely face.
The Human Condition
Michelle Khouri, CEO & Founder: You might think this show would belong in our romance category, but it’s actually not just about romance. It’s really about the human capacity for, as they put it, “love, loss and redemption.” And it’s about the many kinds of relationships and connections that we have in our life that change our lives in these sometimes very small, sometimes very big obvious ways. So that one’s very inspiring to me; it’s also a tear jerker for me.
Jessica Olivier, Content Strategist: This podcast will take you on an emotional journey. It’s great to listen to once you’ve set the stage at home. I like to make a tea, or pour a glass of wine, and really sit down in a cozy spot to enjoy it — rather than listening while multitasking like I do so many other podcasts.
Sigele Winbush, Communications Director: This Atlanta-produced show explores everyday topics that affect so many of us, but from the perspective of Black America. Topics range from “Why HBCUs matter” to the importance of diversity in medicine to, one of my favorites, what it means to compete on the nation’s biggest racing stage, NASCAR…while Black. It’s funny, smart and enlightening. I never complete an episode without feeling a little more informed and greater sense of pride.
Becca Godwin, Executive & Content Support: Chris Gethard has been having phone call conversations to forge human connection since before it was forced into being cool again. He talks with an unnamed stranger from anywhere in the world about anything and everything, and the result is surely something special.
Let’s Not Meet
MK: This one takes a very polar opposite position of Modern Love. It is all about the underbelly of the human condition, and the very, very, very creepy, sometimes horrifying things people do.
JO: This podcast has always done a great job of scratching my curiosity itch! It’s thoughtful, compelling and well-produced.
We Also Love:
Peter LoPinto, Associate Producer: This is a podcast that I always return to. The sound design is unique and polished, and the stories combine science and philosophy without feeling dense.
Judith Hoffman, Business Development: This show is really well done. Back when Radiolab first started, it was much more science-heavy, and I miss those days when they’d really talk about research and weave it into narratives. Hidden Brain is a much more accessible version of that. They talk about all kinds of things our brains are doing, and I love the host.
MK: This show is phenomenal. There’s just so much that I learn from any given episode.
Your Undivided Attention
MK: It is so scary how eye-opening this show is about the Attention Economy we find ourselves in these days, and the things that we need to be more cognizant of in terms of the way data is being collected constantly by technology companies. And the repercussions, and also just like the general considerations of that.
PL: This show is another favorite. I feel like I should just call out the obvious here and say that I’m unabashedly nerdy (I’ve been known to give an overly impassioned argument as to why Pluto shouldn’t be a planet). Science Friday quenches my thirst for knowledge and makes me feel like I understand the workings of the world just a little bit better.
Masters of Scale
MK: This show is how I build my business brain — how I build my muscle as a business owner. It’s not a secret how much I love that show, and just really admire what the production company is doing across the board.
We Also Love:
MK: I love an audio fiction, especially because I have a wild imagination. Audio fiction is really fun because I get to make up the world. I get to basically see it exactly how I want to see it, as prompted by the sound design in the show. Earth Break is a favorite for an apocalyptic sci-fi kind of vibe. It only has one cast member, which is Jenny Slate, and she does a spectacular job with this role. It is unbelievably sound designed, unbelievably acted. It’s so good.
JO: I was really impressed with the level of writing and character detail in this podcast. Especially for 2017 when it debuted. Tonally, it stands out from a lot of the other fictions and it had a way of conjuring my imagination to go along for the ride.
Enna Garkusha, Producer: This is a great true crime parody podcast that makes light of all the true crime podcast tropes we know and love.
36 Questions: The Podcast Musical
MK: This show, starring Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton, is so much fun and has such beautiful music. It’s a twist on the typical romantic story and what happens to a relationship over time.
JO: The premise is very interesting and the episodes are short enough that I can knock out episodes between all of the homeschooling activities I am doing with the kids.
MK: One of our sound designers, Cooper Skinner, sound designed Tribulation. It was just recently bought by Audible. It’s this cult science-fiction written by Adam Jahnke, and it is so freaking good. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat. It’s also insane that Cooper is able to create these very complex electro-magnetic realities in this show. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s really good, and you should listen.
InCharge With DVF
MK: InCharge is definitely up there as one of my favorites. It helps that I got to be a part of the raw, in-person conversations, but even listening to the final edited episodes, it’s super uplifting and inspiring to hear how these women who oversee so many different things in their day-to-day lives have had to survive challenges of their own. They thrive through some pretty crazy obstacles.
JO: I know this is a FRQNCY podcast, but I really can’t help myself! I love how this podcast shines a light on the ups and downs, successes and failures, of some of today’s most inspiring women. After listening to an episode, I feel like I know the guest on a personal level and my respect for them skyrockets.
Behind the Brilliance with Lisa Nicole Bell
SW: Every episode of Behind the Brilliance is like a beautiful surprise. You never know who its host, Lisa Nicole Bell, is going to interview next, but she never disappoints. Her guests are wide-ranging, but, as the title suggests, consistently brilliant. I’m fired up after every conversation, gifted with insight, advice and guidance. Lisa, herself, is also a woman I admire, and I enjoy her solo episodes as much as I do her interviews. They feel like intimate chats I’m having with one of my favorite girlfriends.
MK: Unladylike is fantastic. It’s a big F-U to the patriarchy and it’s unabashedly feminist… which is me. And of course, local Atlanta hosts – the best.
JO: This show really tackles subject matter that I personally find relevant, but with a unique and nuanced perspective. Hosts Cristen and Caroline are smart, compassionate, funny, and forward-thinking hosts. I love exploring alongside them.
Dolly Parton’s America
JH: This show is amazing. My husband and I don’t have the same tastes in… anything really, but on a road trip from Pennsylvania with our kids, we listened to it the whole ride. Both of us were completely absorbed the whole time. They spent like four years and tons of money creating this.
How I Built This with Guy Raz
JH: There’s a specific episode – ActOne Group: Janice Bryant Howroyd – that inspired me. This woman came from a family of seven kids in the south and founded maybe the most successful agency in the world. She said things in this episode that still resonate with me today.
SW: As an entrepreneur, it’s empowering to hear how people have taken their once seemingly wild ideas and made them wildly successful. Their stories are also reminders that we all will make mistakes, have failures, slip-ups and stumbles, but what’s most important is that we keep going.
We Also Love:
Listening With Kids
JO: This podcast is just as much for me as it is for my kids! I always laugh. It’s a blast and full of talent. If you listen to the episode Humming/Time Trap, you will be singing the Humming song all day.
Vintage Sesame Street Albums
JH: Not a podcast, but the Sesame Street albums from pre-1980 that are on Spotify and it’s an audio experience you can’t get other places. They’re filled with songs and learning, and are perfect for my 3- and 5-year-olds.
JO: Super engaging, educational and interactive for the kids! Perfect length for my 4 year old’s attention span.
Stories of Romance
This is Love
MK: This is a really beautiful podcast that explores more and less traditional stories of romance.
Rose Reid, Co-Executive Producer of Total Refresh: I especially love the episodes Blue and Nothing Compares To You. I listened so many times – these are incredible stories about the depth and compassion and beauty of the spirit and imagination and creativity, and relationships that go beyond romance – true connection.
JH: There’s a specific episode on breakups where writer Starlee Kine interviews Phil Collins. It’s more than a decade old, but it’s a really amazing listen. She opens the story by saying breakups are one of the most ubiquitous things, and pretty much everyone experiences one, but we don’t spend enough time talking about it or exploring it publically outside of friends and family. It’s a universal experience, but there’s not enough depth applied to it.
MK: This is a new company focusing on Nora Ephron-like short form narratives. It’s a cute little one for romance fans.
You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes
EG: He’s a comedian who sits down with other comedians, actors, musicians, etc. and records their conversations. Each episode is two to three hours long and unedited, and the conversations always end up centered around the guest’s beliefs about the universe.
EG: This series recaps all the things we love: Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and even the Harry Potter book series. I would not have understood half of what was happening on Game of Thrones if not for this podcast explaining everything to me. The Harry Potter one is great too – they recap a chapter or group of chapters of each book in every episode, I’ll go back and relisten whenever I’m feeling an HP vibe.
PL: Binge Mode Harry Potter is great because I’ve been a big fan ever since the 3rd book. I used to reread the entire series in preparation for every new release. I remember finishing a couple books at 4 a.m. the day they came in the mail. So, getting to relive the series in such zoomed-in detail with literary analysis as the cherry on top is wonderful.
Game of Roses
EG: This Bachelor recap podcast analyzes every episode as if the show were a sports game. Since the reality show is essentially a game show, they break it down with terms such as ‘Play of the Game’ ‘MVP of the Game’ and ‘Error of the Game.’ This podcast is for those like me who love to hate-watch the Bachelor, and the two hosts don’t hesitate to point out how absurd the show can be.
Watch What Crappens
EG: Real Housewives is another reality TV series I love to binge, and this podcast is a hilarious recap of each episode of the franchise and all the subsequent spinoffs on Bravo. The two hosts do really great impressions of all our favorite housewives as well!
Hungry for More?
- Cry Power Podcast with Hozier and Global Citizen
- Money Girl
- 30 for 30
- Buried Truths
FRQNCY Media has added a new name to its growing and diverse roster of podcast partners: fashion mogul Diane von Furstenberg, the iconic Belgian-born fashion designer, businesswoman and philanthropist also known as DVF.
One of the things we love about podcasting is just how flexible it can be. Sara Koenig recorded updates for Serial’s first season from a hotel closet. Tim Ferris records from his home, his guest’s home, and really anywhere he can. Michelle Khouri records remote interviews and voiceovers for The Cultured Podcast from her home office.
There are countless reasons why you may need to record remote interviews. Sometimes it’s a simple logistical issue; other times it’s the bizarre realities of an unprecedented global self-quarantine. Rest assured, it is possible to keep your podcast on track while keeping yourself and everyone around you safe — and sounding like they’re right next to you.
Here are three ways to record remote interviews for your podcast while maintaining the quality of the audio.
Doing a Self-Sync for Remote Interviews
The self-sync is our favorite way to record remote interviews without sacrificing audio quality. It requires you to use a remote recording software such as Zoom or Squadcast to conference with your guest and record your conversation with them. In addition to that, you would record yourself locally on a high-quality mic AND you would have your guests also record themselves locally – either through a high-quality mic if they have one OR using the Voice Memos app on their smartphone. This results in two high-quality audio files from the host and guest called a “double ender.” These two audio files are then synced up by you or your editor.
What you need to record a self-sync:
- A remote recording software, such as Zoom or Squadcast, that records separate tracks for each speaker.
- Headphones to use with the remote recording software, both for the host and guest.
- Guests: a smartphone with a voice recorder app (like Voice Memos on iOS).
- Host: a high-quality microphone and a digital recorder, like the Zoom H6.
PRO TIP: Visit our free equipment guide for a menu of our recommended recorders.
The process for recording a self-sync:
- You and your guest use a laptop or computer to conference in to the remote recording software.
- Both the host and guest should use headphones plugged into your laptops to hear each other while using the remote recording software.
- Connect your microphone to the digital recorder to record yourself while you use the remote recording software to speak with your guest. Your digital recorder will only be recording you.
- Have your guest record themselves with the voice recording app on their smartphone. Make sure they hold the phone up to their ear as if they’re on a phone call (while they use their headphones to hear you), as this position yields quality audio.
- Record the interview via the remote recording software (as a back-up) while recording yourselves locally (as the main, highest quality source of audio).
- Once you’ve completed the interview, have your guest use WeTransfer to send you the audio file they recorded on their smartphone.
- If you have an editor, send them all four of your audio files: Two tracks from your remote recording software, the host’s local recording using the digital recorder, and the guest’s local recording from their smartphone.
- You or your editor can then sync up the two locally recorded audio tracks using the remote recording tracks as reference.
How to use WeTransfer to send audio recorded via self-sync:
- In your Voice Memos app, click the share icon and scroll down to select “Save to Files”.
- Select “On My iPhone” and click “Save” in the top right corner.
- Go to https://wetransfer.com/upload and click the blue “+” sign.
- Click “Browse”.
- Make sure that “Recents” is selected on the bottom tab so that your most recent recording is among the top options. Select that file.
- Type in the email address of the person meant to receive the files, and click “Send”.
The instructions for how to send files on an Android phone depend on the voice recording app you have installed on your phone. For instructions on how to share on your given app, consult the app’s manuals or technical guides.
PRO TIP: Follow our best practices and tips to capture the best possible audio when recording remotely.
Pros and cons of using self-sync:
Pro: This yields the highest-quality audio for remote interviews outside of a studio setting. There’s a good chance that your guest has a smartphone with a native audio recording app, and if your guest holds their phone up to their ear while you conference through Zoom or Squadcast, you’ll get crisp audio from the interview that’s a better quality than the recording done through an Internet connection.
Con: This requires a lot of reliance on your guest to make sure that they record themselves correctly, and for them to successfully send you long audio files. The advantage of the self sync is that you will always have the remote recording of your interview to use as a backup.
Using Recording Software for Remote Interviews
There are a variety of remote recording programs designed specifically for podcasters to conduct remote interviews. Here are two options we recommend you use to record remote interview.
Zoom: By now, Zoom is a fairly ubiquitous web conferencing service that has also become one of podcasters’ greatest remote recording tools because it’s able to seamlessly record audio and video on separate tracks. The $15/month subscription allows you to host up to 100 participants, host unlimited group meetings, stream to social media, and includes 1GB of cloud recording per license.
Squadcast: This is very easy to use and requires little effort for your guest. You simply send them a custom link and you’ll be able to record them through a web browser. It includes features such as scheduling, video conferencing with a host and up to three guests, .wav/mp3 formats, and no audio drift. 2 hours of recording is $10/month, 5 hours is $20/month, 12 hours is $45/month. This is not a good option if you need more than four people on the line at any given time.
There are several other remote recording software available. It’s up to you to decide what to use. Ultimately, the advantage of these programs is that they record separate tracks for each speaker. This allows your editor to have more control over the final quality of the interview.
What you need to use a remote recording software:
- A subscription for a remote recording software.
- Access to a laptop/desktop that has a native microphone built-in.
- Headphones for both the host and guest.
- Host: a high-quality microphone
The process for using a remote recording software:
- You and your guest use a laptop or computer to conference in to the remote recording software.
- Both the host and guest use the headphones plugged into your laptops to hear each other using the remote recording software.
- Set up your microphone and recorder to record yourself while you are using the remote recording software to conference with your guest.
- Make sure that both the host and guest take the necessary precautions to ensure that you’re recording in the right environment to yield the best audio.
- Conduct your interview using the remote recording software (and local recording setup for the host, if applicable).
- Once you’ve completed your interview, send your audio files to your editor: two tracks from your remote recording software, and the host’s local audio captured by the digital recorder. Your editor will sync up your local audio track to the remote recording tracks.
PRO TIP: If you decide to use a remote recording software for interviews, it’s always good practice to also record yourself locally to a digital recorder and with a high-quality microphone. That way, even if your guest’s audio isn’t the best, you as the host sound crisp and clear.
Pros and cons of using a remote recording software:
Pro: Remote recording programs are easy to use, affordable, and record decent quality audio for your guest while requiring little effort from them.
- Zoom relies heavily on a good internet connection. If the connection is bad, the audio can be unusable and may result in a lot of the interview getting cut. If you use Squadcast, audio drift isn’t as much of a problem.
- The audio you get from remote recording software is better than phone audio, but can sometimes still sound robotic and hollow.
Recording Phone Calls for Remote Interviews
You can record a phone call by hooking up a Zoom recorder to your cellphone using an AUX cord. You can read more about how to use a Zoom in our FRQNCY Tech Guideline.
What you need to record using a phone:
- A digital recorder.
- A high-quality microphone.
- An Aux cord that can plug into the headphone jack of your cell phone.
- If your phone does not have a headphone jack, you’ll need an adapter.
- A headphone splitter.
- Headphones for the host and guest to use while on the call.
The process for recording with a phone:
- Plug an Aux cable from your phone’s headphone jack to the AUX outlet located on the side of the X/Y capsule. You can use a headphone splitter if you’d rather hear your guest using your headphones.
- Make sure your L and R red lights are on (the zoom automatically toggles between your X/Y mic and the aux in when something is plugged into it).
- Plug your mic into input 1, this will record your audio as you speak into the phone (remember that the interviewee is hearing you with the phone mic and you’re hearing them through the zoom).
- Do a mic check and adjust your levels using the numbered knobs for input 1 and the dial on the X/Y capsule
- Record as usual, make sure you’re speaking into the phone as you normally would on a phone call. Make sure that your guest takes the necessary precautions to ensure that you’re recording in the right environment to yield the best audio.
Pros and cons of recording with a phone:
Pro: this is the cheapest, most convenient option if you already have a Zoom recorder, it requires no extra effort from your guest – just for them to get on a phone call with some headphones plugged in and good cell reception.
Con: the audio you get from recording a phone call is not great quality and can result in your guest sounding muffled and being hard to hear in the final episode.
Best Practices for Recording High-Quality Remote Interviews
Here are some steps that you can give your guests on how to yield good audio no matter how you decide to record.
Tips for all remote recordings:
- Schedule the interview during a time when you will not be interrupted (by colleagues, friends, family members, mail delivery, or pets).
- If possible, shut off A/C, heaters, fans, or anything that may produce background noise during the recording.
- Record in a small, quiet space with carpeting, curtains, and plenty of cushioned surfaces. A small bedroom, cozy sitting room, or walk-in closet with carpeting are the best environments to minimize echo.
- Completely mute or shut off all other devices during your recording.
- Speak with your head facing forward and try not to move around too much.
- Avoid tapping, slamming, or hitting surfaces around you while gesturing.
Best practices for using a remote recording software:
- Make sure you have a strong internet connection.
- When using Zoom, make sure you’ve gone through the settings to ensure recordings are saved to separate tracks. You may also choose to start recording automatically when the meeting begins so as to not forget.
- Squadcast works on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Brave – pretty much all browsers except Safari.
- Close all other apps on your computer that could interfere with Zoom or Squadcast working at its best.
- Wear headphones connected to your computer during your interview. Zoom and Squadcast use your computer’s audio output to record.
- Silence notifications on your computer.
Best practices for using a phone:
- Make sure that you have good cell phone reception wherever you’ll be recording the conversation.
- Wear high-quality headphones or a headset that includes a microphone.