The 2Bobs podcast that Blair Enns and I do is now just over 5 years old, with 150+ episodes, hundreds of reviews (averaging 4.9+), and a gratifying worldwide reach. Based on downloads, we are in the top 1% of all podcasts, all categories, worldwide, which is a bit remarkable given that we address a very narrow target. Enough people have asked about 2Bobs that I thought I'd give you a peek behind the scenes.
We try to record every Thursday at 11:00 CT. Even though it's only released every second Wednesday, early, this allows us to keep 2-4 episodes "in the can" in case Blair or I can't make a recording session because of our individual schedules.
We take turns suggesting a topic. If it's my turn, I'll come up with one and let Blair know—usually one or two days ahead—so that he can begin rolling the topic over in his mind. If I'm unsure if there's enough to fill 30+ minutes of discussion, I may check with him about that, or suggest multiple topics and let him select the one that seems to hold the most promise.
After the topic is settled, I'll generate a short outline in a Google doc to which Blair also has access. That usually takes me 10-15 minutes. I'll bold/highlight sections and try to organize it so that we can step through the topic in a way that a listener can absorb. The key is simple, progressive statements, and Blair will review the points as we work our way through the outline. All of this is reversed if it's his turn.
My equipment includes:
- SoundDevices Mix-Pre 6 II audio field recorder ($1,060)
- DPA 2028-B-B01 Supercardioid Condenser Microphone ($600) I've just switched to Earthworks ETHOS Broadcaster mic but all the sessions you hear are on the DPA.
- Ultimate Ears Live 8-Driver custom monitors ($2,200). These are total overkill but I use them for something else, too.
- O.C.White ProBoom Ultima Gen2 Ultralos-Profile adjustable mic boom ($500)
- Rolls MS111 MicSwitch for temporary muting ($50)
- MacBook Pro 13" w/ M1 Chip + 16GB Ram ($1,500)
Each of us is capturing very high quality audio to our digital recorders, separately, but we are syncing up the conversation via CleanFeed. This is an Israeli firm that makes flawless, high-quality, and very simple software. This audio only makes it on the final recording if we need a backup.
Here's a picture of David's setup (and another) and one of Blair's setup. And a shot of Blair when he think's I've chosen a lame topic.
I'll illustrate this with a recent episode that we recorded on May 5. Two days before, I texted Blair that I was working on an outline about service offerings. I wrote this roughly one-page outline and sent it on Wednesday, a day before we recorded. That outline expanded an article I wrote for my readership way back in October, 2016. I've rethought a few things since then, plus I figured that I could simplify it. But I've counseled about 260 firms on their service offering design since that article was published, and so I've come to see how important the concept is and a few of the concepts have become really clear to me. The final episode is here.
Time to record! I fire up my workstation about 5 mins before the hour, log into my CleanFeed account with Google Chrome, and issue Blair an invitation from within the system. All the ringers are silenced and the dedicated audio workstation is put into "Focus" mode.
We do a little testing, usually say some smart ass thing to our producer, Marcus DePaula, since he's a captive audience. We make sure the other person is recording to their MixPre and then it starts.
We launch right in. We do a little chit chat, and then Blair will ask me what prompted the topic and how to summarize it. We think a little chit chat is good, but not too much, since that can become a string of obtuse inside jokes. Of the 150 recordings, I'd guess that we'd had to take a second run at the start maybe twice, and we've had to pause during the recording maybe a half dozen times. In other words, we just talk and whatever happens is what you're going to hear. No redoes and hardly any stopping/starting. Both of us will keep an eye on the clock: we try to keep every episode at 30 minutes or just over that.
When we're done, each of us will upload our high quality WAV audio file to a shared Dropbox account, along with a copy of the notes, and there it will sit until we're ready to publish the next one.
As mentioned, Marcus DePaula is our producer and audio engineer. He will choose which episode to edit and then do his magic, using the following tools. Most of you are not audio nerds and should just skip past this section!
- iZotope RX 9 Advanced (for Voice De-noise, Mouth De-click, Phase rotation, and gain optimization of each WAV file)
- Apple Logic Pro (for mixing and editing with Varispeed set to 1.75x playback)
- Softube Console 1 (with hardware controllers), Weiss De-ess, and iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced plugins (for compression, EQ, and limiting effects processing)
- iZotope RX 9 (again for Phase rotation and then Loudness Control to nail -16LUFS with -1dB loudness levels of the final mix)
- Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2021 with M1 Pro processor and 16GB RAM
- Kali Audio LP-6 powered studio monitors (which he wants to upgrade soon)
- Ultimate Ears UE18+ Pro in-ear monitors
- Universal Audio Apollo x4 audio interface
- Sound Devices MixPre-6 II recorder/interface
- Earthworks ETHOS and 3 Shure SM7Bs microphones (soon to be replaced by more Earthworks mics)
- Elgato Wave Arm LP (4)
- Custom-built Mogami XLR cables with low profile Switchraft connectors he built himself
- Elgato Streamdeck XL
- Contour ShuttlePROv2 (for speedier editing left hand control)
- Here is Marcus' setup (while editing this specific episode, below) and his official website.
All the editing decisions are his, and we never hear the finished episode until you do. We don't even know what episde is coming out. The actual audio file is uploaded to LibSyn, but it's made available on Apple, Google, and Spotify. The SquareSpace website for 2Bobs is updated with the new episode, along with the transcript.
Marcus adds this: "Now that I’ve worked with a variety of clients, with you all being my very first, the system that you all have developed (with a bit of my guidance) does make it one of my easiest shows to edit and mix. And it’s mostly due to the effort you both put into not just the information/conversation, but the recording quality itself. So much of the quality of the show on every level comes from who you two are and what is clearly important to each of you: quality tools that are easy to use and developing a great process that doesn’t just save you time, but also gives the listeners a better experience."
The audio bumpers were recorded by a professional band, scored and directed by my cousin Tim Lauer (his IMDB background is here). We recorded them in an old house with lots of wood floors. Each band member was in a separate room so that we could control the mixing.
We have received probably 50 requests to sponsor the podcast and have turned all of them down. The money would be interesting, but we just want you to have an uninterrupted, friction-free experience. We completely understand why other podcasts use sponsorship to offset costs—it's just not a good fit for us. The extra money isn't worth a degraded experience for the listener.
Most people have figured out why it's called "2 Bobs" but just in case you are one of the 27 people who haven't, it's a reference to the cult classic movie "Office Space". Both of us have been called "one of the Bobs" over the years, as advisors to the space, so we just leaned into it. One of the funniest instances around this occurred in a high-rise office building in Manhattan. I was riding the elevator up to the 17th floor, which was occupied entirely by the agency I was visiting for the next two days. So the elevator-mate I was riding with knew I was going to the agency where he happened to work. He extended his hand and said, "Oh, hi! You must be Bob?" Without missing a beat, I shook his hand, nodded, and said, "Yes. And you must be Milton?" He was crushed.
Back to the recording. Do we ever not publish an episode? The answer is yes. Some early episodes had audio issues. (Not counting the live recording we were doing in London when I neglected to hit "record".) A couple were just boring. And then some addressed topics we (thankfully) realized should never see the light of day. One was self-aggrandizing and another was too personal. We've also published some that we were very hesitant to make public: one after George Floyd's murder, and another about my own struggles with mental health.
Are you thinking of starting your own podcast? Stay tuned for an upcoming article about the pros/cons and how to create a podcast that works for your business.