Taking Phone Calls On Your Podcast

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While one of the coolest features of the podcasts is the ability to time shift. I can record this on 4/2 and you can listen to it years later. There is one element missing in this and this is live feedback. You get feedback, but it is later when your audience consumes it. Like most things, the more features you add to a product, the more complex it gets. Taking (and recording) phone calls is one of those things that its hard to do without adding more mixers, cables, etc.

First Words of Wisdom: Don't Do This

Unless you REALLY want to do this, don't. You will need to (more than likely) pick a time when your audience knows you will be there. Keep in mind when you first start out, you DON'T HAVE AN AUDIENCE YET. So you will be adding extra complexities that will burn you out as a new podcaster and make you want to quit.

How The Stars Take Phone Calls on Their Podcast: You Call Them

I know Jillian Michaels will announce on her Facebook page when she will be in the studio recording her calls. If you are free during that time you send her staff and email with your name and your question. They call you and get you on the show. I believe Ice-T does the same thing.

A Free Way To Take Calls: Google Voice

You can get a free phone number from Google (better known as Google Voice) and route that number to your smartphone (thus saving you from giving out your cell phone to the public). You then talk into your microphone and your phone at the same time. The microphone sends your voice into your mixer, and the phone sends your voice to the caller. To get the caller into your mixer,  you can use an 1/8″ to a dual  1/4″ cable (like this one – affiliate link). You then send the mix of you and your phone into your computer or portable recorder.

The Good News: It's free and it's easy to control.

The Bad News: There is no queue (a line of callers visible to you). Also, as this is your cell phone your wife may call into the show.

Reality: Not a bad option. The lack of cue is not an issue as you may not have any callers at first.

Skype in Numbers: $60 a Year

It's very hard to find pricing on the skype site. A forum post showed the price as $60 a year. Here again, you have no call “queue” and it is first come first serve. If someone has called in, the other callers will just hear the phone ringing and ringing.

The Good News: If you have a co-host this is an easy way to get everyone to hear everyone

The Bad News: Adjust sound levels is very limited. You will more than likely become acquainted with The Levelator software (free) and Auphonic.com

Call in Studio: An Inexpensive Call Queue

Callinstudio.com charges .03 cents per minute for every caller (you can limit the number of people who can call in at the same time). The phone number is $6 a month. My most expensive show was around $8.00 for the episode (meaning $2 worth of callers). If you do an hour long show it will cost you $1.80 (.03 * 60 minutes).  In a nutshell, it would take a LOT of calls to get close to the $40 that Blog Talk Radio charges.

Connecting you to the caller. Here again, you can use your smartphone to call into the callinstudiocom. You can use Skype (free) to call into Callinstudio.com. You then take that sound and send it into your mixer. From your mixer into a recording device. You may have issues if you only have one computer. Sending sound (the caller) out of a computer and back into the same computer to record is the definition of feedback. You are feeding the sound of the caller back into the computer. This is where you need a mix minus. This means you send the sound of the mix (you and the caller) back into the computer minus the sound of the caller (this is where a portable recorder comes in nicely – you can have the main out go to the recorder and use an auxiliary send to send the sound of just you to the caller.

The Good News: You have a call cue. You can have a screener. You can call guest.

The Bad News: You need an auxiliary send for everything you tie to the mixer. If it's you and callers. You need an auxiliary send on your mixer. If it is you, a co-host, and callers, you need two auxiliary sends. In other words, it's getting complicated. it's not impossible. But it gets complicated.

Blog Talk Radio: A Pretty Call Cue

Blog Talk Radio is working hard on updating their system. They have a beta system that produces CD quality sound. In a few months, this will come out of beta. This is great. According to their website, you can use their free account and have up to five callers. This may be the best solution for using their phone technology.  While they have made great strides, I would not use them as my primary platform at this point. My biggest issue is if you use them as a primary platform (per their terms) you HAVE To use their RSS feed (and there is on way to redirect it). Also when I played with their free account I can't schedule a show between 7 and 10:30 PM. The shows are limited to 30 minutes.

Blog Talk Radio DOES make recording easy, but it sounds like a phone. When they get their beta finished you will be able to connect directly from your computer. When you spend $40 a month you can do 2 hours of show a day. Most people don't need that much time. You also get advertising impressions. In general, it is my opinion that you are paying for lots of stuff you don't need.

Tools To Stream Live

Spreaker.com: Spreaker is a great media hosting provider that allows you to stream your show live. Their free service lets you do a 40-minute show whenever you want. You can store 10 hours of media. Their chat system is pretty cool. For $20 a month you can do a three-hour show, and store up to 500 hours (basically 9.6 years if you do an hour a week). When you reach your limit you have to pull some shows (I'm assuming older) off. They provide stats on your downloads. You can record via browser, or smartphone app, tablets, etc.

Mixlr.com

Mixlr is not meant to be a media host. They make it super easy to stream stuff. Whatever you send it, it streams. You can use a browser, a smartphone, etc. There are no real stats that you can check. They provide an email with stats, but in general, I would say they don't have stats. For free you can stream up to an hour any time you want. The quality is not as good as the premium plan which is $10 a month. I really like their chat.

Keep it As Simple As You Can

While you may think adding a certain element is cool, you REALLY need to ask yourself, “Do I need this?” The more you add the better the chance you will be purchasing things to play and record on. On my Ask the Podcast Coach show (Live Saturdays at 10:30 am or catch the back episodes ) I was using my cellphone to connect to the phone system (I've used both Blog Talk Radio and Call in Studio) and I played my intro outro using my iPad that went into my Behringer X1832 USB mixer (lots of auxiliary sends) that went into my Mac Mini where I sent it to both Spreaker and Mixlr (I would not recommend that I do that as I'm always testing).

Because of my Podcast: Jeff Steinman

Jeff is the author of How To Quit Working: A Simple Plan to Leave Your Job for a Life of Freedom and shares how over 60% of his customers have read his book. His book and podcast have now become a business. The one thing that the podcast has really delivered is key relationships. Find out more about Jeff at howtoquitworking.com/

Marc Maron of wtfpod.com got to interview one of his idols Mick Jagger on his podcast. Speaking of Marc Maron, if you have Netflix check out his TV show “Maron” and go to season two and look for the episode titles Radio Cowboy. Marc goes off on a morning zoo team and it's hilarious.

Podcast Rewind:

I appeared on episode 8 of Podcaster's Group Therapy

I also appeared on the Timelines of Success show.

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Leave A Reply (1 comment so far)


  1. Megan
    3 days ago

    Hello, thank you for the article. Helpful note for you, the word you are using to describe the virtual line of people waiting on the phone, “cue” is not the correct word. I believe you meant to use “queue” which is pronounced the same as “cue”. Check the definitions to see the differences.

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