Artwork for podcast Pod Chat - Insights and Trends from Podcast Experts
Hari Gopalakrishna on Audio Quality in Remote Recording, and Building for Your Community
Episode 727th May 2022 • Pod Chat - Insights and Trends from Podcast Experts • Danny Brown
00:00:00 00:38:37

Transcripts

Hari:

What we're seeing with the production quality of whether it's agency produced or even independent podcasters are producing. The quality is top notch and it is only going to get better. And what that means is the expectation is going to rise rapidly. And if the production quality isn't good, you're not going to get as many listeners today.

Danny:

It's my pleasure to welcome Hari Gopalakrishna to the shop, someone who's making waves in the remote recording space. Hari is the founder of Boomcaster, a remote recording platform built for indie podcasters to help take away the pain points when it comes to recording great audio and video. It's also used by businesses for online interviews. Hari has a long history in the SaaS space, as well as building next generation solutions and cloud platforms. It's an experience that he brings to his latest project, Boomcaster. So welcome to Pod Chat.

Hari:

Thank you, Danny. Thanks for having me.

Danny:

Now, I first heard of Boomcaster when I was recommended it by one of your early users, actually, Raf Los in a Facebook group. And I think if I recall, it was on a live stream that Captivate was doing in our Facebook group when Raf actually mentioned it. And for such a new platform because you've only been around since I think second half of last year when Boomcaster officially launched. That early advocacy must be pretty sweet to hear.

Hari:

Yes, thank you. And yes, Raf had been an early supporter, and we met at one of the independent podcasters conference, and that's where I first introduced Boomcaster. But I had started working on Boomcaster in 2020, and the product itself did not officially launch until September October of last year.

Danny:

And the genesis you mentioned it had been at one of the indie podcast events, but you'd been working on it beforehand. And the Genesis, it's something that a lot of podcasters will be familiar with, and that's quality audio and recording quality audio when it comes to remote interviews. So how does Boomcaster approach this problem?

Hari:

Yeah, that's a great question. As you probably know, the quality of podcasting in general is improving, and the expectations of audience and listeners are also going up. And that's pretty visible from in general, the quality of podcasts that you listen to. My objective and my vision for Boomcaster is to make podcasting accessible to all, meaning I want the high quality video and audio recording accessible to all of the indie podcasters out there that are trying to tell their stories. I mean, audio and video has tremendous potential in influencing social, cultural, and our business landscapes. And we all know that podcasting is also a level playing field. And so having the ability to tell that story and allowing them to be able to tell their story and enabling them to tell their story, that that's my mission.

Danny:

And you'd mentioned there that it crosses obviously, podcaster stories, cultural barriers, and it's very open source. And the barrier to entry is getting lower, obviously. And when you mentioned that you're looking to fix an issue with sound quality and video quality when it comes to remote recording. And originally, I remember back when I was using, say, Skype or Zoom, and that was basically the two platforms that you could choose from and maybe some from Microsoft, possibly. I'm not sure. But now you've got a lot more players in the field of remote recording. And I'm wondering, did you feel that Boomcaster was coming into a crowded space, or was there something that you were looking to fix that hadn't been fixed yet?

Hari:

Yeah, that's another great question. When I started building Boomcaster, that was out of my own need. I had originally started a podcast back in April 2020, which was a technology podcast. And my cohost was based in Houston, Texas. And this was around digital transformation for industrial companies. And I've been in technology all my life. This creation of this podcast really got me into the technology of podcasting. And I recognize nothing around creating a podcast is easy. It still continues to be a complex and overwhelming effort for most creators. And so at the time, I found myself trying to find a good platform to create audio and video and stream at the same time. Now, my desire at the time was to stream maybe some of the podcasts, not all of them, and record the others. And I found myself juggling multiple products and still not being able to have good quality recording on both ends. And that's what set me on a journey to create something that's super simple. And I come from a fairly technical background. And if I couldn't figure this out quickly, I knew this was going to be a challenge for many people. And so my objective at the time was to create something simple, easy and accessible to anyone to be able to record.

Danny:

And you'd mentioned there that you want. Obviously, Boomcaster as a remote recording, is known for remote recording video and audio, but it also livestreams. And I'm curious about the challenges of approaching two very different, I guess, mediums and what's harder, trying how many features you have to put in place to support streaming versus remote recording and what you do with that.

Hari:

So when I first created even the brand Boomcaster, my vision was Boomcasting to be a combination of all three, meaning being able to record while streaming. Now, there are tools out there that either does one well and most everyone takes a shot at the other and does an okay job at it. But my objective is to create something seamless where recording or streaming while recording is Boomcasting.

Danny:

Right.

Hari:

And I want that to be a single act. It could be a single act if someone wants it to be a single session that's both streamed and recorded. Now, in terms of challenges, there are plenty of challenges. We're doing this inside of a browser. We are trying to make sure that there is no complexity around someone being able to join. It should be one, two, three clicks. You should be in, even for a host, the process of making it simple enough that you're not juggling multiple pages and screens and buttons, being able to do this in a seamless way, and within one or two clicks, you should be able to stream or record. And I believe we're there. Of course, there's always ways to optimize and improve and do better, but I've been super careful about adding functionality, and there are several that are even coded that I have not pushed, partly because it is complex. It's really complex to throw features at a product without understanding how that's being used or how that's going to be enabling someone. Right. And be able to be productive with whatever that product or software is.

Danny:

It's a very major approach. I know, like, I'm part of the Captivate team and watching the Dev team there, working what they're working on and how they're bringing it to market. And one of our mantras, if you like, is not to release anything that doesn't benefit the podcast or whether it comes down to time saving or making money, for example. So it sounds like you've got a very measured and similar approach where it doesn't make sense for the end user to actually release this as opposed to release and say, hey, look what I've got now.

Hari:

Absolutely. I mean, sometimes you overthink just one button, one drop down, one line, right. You've definitely spent a lot of time thinking about it. And I'm also able to get feedback on some of these. And I seek out actively the feedback on the features I've released so that I know what part of it is confusing and what part of it is helping them. And if I get negative feedback, I immediately either pull back or change what's released. So I believe the product is evolving entirely from feedback and I want it to be that way. This is an independent company, and I intend to keep it that way. And I want this to be driven by the podcast using the platform.

Danny:

And as a boomcaster myself, I use Boomcaster. I love the platform. You mentioned simplicity, but you also mentioned feedback and actively speaking out feedback. And I know you've approached myself a few times. I'm sure you spoke to RAF. I know you spoke to Jeff Over, indie podcast, I believe. And it's really good to see a company and a founder and do that and get that. It's clear that community feedback is a big driver of broomcaster. And, you know, you're very open to that. I'm curious, what feature or features have you released based on community feedback and user feedback?

Hari:

Very basic things like what you see on the dashboard, what needed to be seen there, how to be presenting that data, simple things like what's in that drop down do I want to see what's upcoming do I want to see everything. At one time, I've had one podcast to share with me that, hey, I get distracted when I see too many things in one place, and I want a way to organize it. So it's very simple. But being able to segregate podcasts that are fast and active and upcoming, very simple. I mean, it's nothing complex, but even something as simple as how the data is presented on a dashboard. I've been seeking feedback from multiple people. Even within the dashboard, I constantly worry about are people able to intuitively look at something and say, hey, this is where the recording is. This is where I need to click to share. This is where I need to click to download. Is that intuitive enough? And I keep asking these questions over and over. And of course, there's a range of users, professionals like yourself. And then there are folks that are starting, there are folks that have experimented with other platforms and are coming to bloomcaster because of simplicity. And so I really seek out feedback from them because for them, it's usability, right? It's simplicity and usability.

Danny:

And speaking Pod Chat. I mean, you mentioned it yourself there. It's an independent company, bootstrap company, but you've already got some big partners on board. Dolby one street out of the box. That caught my attention as soon as I was checking Boomcaster out for the first time because I know some companies have been talking about the partnership to Dolby, but they've been around for a little while and got funding, et cetera. So I'm curious, how did the Dog Be partnership come about? What's the involvement with the Boomcaster process?

Hari:

We use Dolby communication platform. When you actually communicate on the platform, we use Dolby. Of course, there's other things going on. So in terms of local recording, that's an entirely separate process. Dolby has no involvement with it, but the experience of talking to someone, the visuals, the live streaming, all of that is from Dolby. Now, there are companies out there that build this platform themselves. Now, you don't have to rely on a company like Dolby or others. There are several players in the market. My objective wasn't to recreate something, well, you could do that. There's technology available to do that, and you could save money doing that. My intention was to build on a proven platform and then worry about the things that I need to worry about to help podcaster stories. In choice of all of the technologies that I've used in Boomcaster, I've chosen strong partners, strong technology providers that can give the foundation that's necessary to then build very specific podcast centric capabilities into the platform.

Danny:

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Danny:

Two, just search for it in your Smart Speaker app.

Danny:

And now back to this week's episode. And obviously, sound is important, which is why you have local card and which is why you have Dolby. It was interesting. I was speaking with HR. I think it was episode three, maybe of Apollo podcast app. And his background is in audio production and sound production. That was his background before co founder Apollo. And even with his background, he mentioned that while obviously audio is super important, as podcasts, we always want the best audio, best sound, which is why we hate editing, but we do it. But for the average listener, they might not be listening on the optimum setup, so they might have on monitor headphones, for example, they might not have. And it's quite a room to listen and enjoy the podcast back. And I'm curious with that kind of knowledge that the listener might not have the experience that you're doing as a podcast when you're creating the podcast. Can podcasts get away with just average audio, or should we always be ascribing to be as best as we can?

Hari:

Denny, that is a great question. I think maybe the early days of podcasting, you could have gotten away with that. I think what we're seeing with the production quality of whether it's agency produced or even independent podcasters are producing, the quality is top notch and it is only going to get better. And what that means is the expectation is going to rise rapidly. And if the production quality isn't good, you're not going to get as many listeners. I'm a good example of myself. And if I find myself listening to a podcast that doesn't have good production quality isn't good enough. And again, I'm not expecting a corporate produced podcast, but I'm looking for good quality, good listening experience. And if that isn't there, whether it's leveling, whether it's noise, whether it's breaking audio, I mean, if you can't listen to it, you just simply are going to lose your audience. And whether it's over time or you're just missing your opportunity to be reaching a much broader audience. And I think this is only going to get much more important going forward.

Danny:

And one of the things I noticed by surprise, actually, because I like to go through all the feature lists and stuff like that and play with files once I receive them. And I noticed that you automatically export and -23 last, which is pretty cool because that's pretty much the recommended audio level when you're recording to get to radio level, and then you bring it down to whatever you need for podcasting. So how much of stuff like that do you sit down and plan out and say, this is what I'm going to set. So podcasters don't have to worry about the record and lost. Now it's up to them while they're doing post production, for example.

Hari:

Yeah, definitely. That's an area that I need to put a lot of effort into. I do some, and which I think you have observed. I've done our best to ensure that the audio, for example, is only recorded in Wave and PCM, and there is absolutely no manipulation of that audio file. And for that reason, I've also restricted the browsers that can be used so that can be as pure as we can get it. Right. But to your point, not all podcasters have that audio background or engineering background that your guest had. So that puts a lot of onus on companies like Boomcast to be able to help them produce good quality podcasting with just a few clicks. And I'm not there, but I need to be there. And I strongly believe we can help. Of course, that isn't going to have the quality that Danny you would produce in. Right. But for someone who doesn't have either the expertise or the time, we want to be able to make that accessible. And that's definitely one of my goals.

Danny:

It's one of the things I really like about the Hindenburg editor. You upload the file and it can sound whatever level it is, but they'll normalize it for you and then make sure you can export it. And so it takes a lot of stuff away from the podcaster who just wants to create content, I guess. And that's what I like again about Boomcaster. It's very much I said at the start and you've mentioned a few times now it's very much geared towards the indie podcaster. There's a crowded marketplace, but I feel sometimes a lot of tech and not just in remote recording, but a lot of tech. So it aims itself towards more than mid tier, upper podcasting level. So it's nice to see platforms come out. Like, I use Podium for my transcripts who are awesome bootstrap company, one person doing it. So it's awesome to see. Do you think the indie podcaster space is a understood by tech and B deserves to be better served by the same tech?

Hari:

If you like, yeah. I believe strongly that Boomcaster will continue to focus on the independent podcaster or the indie podcaster community, and that is our target market. And that's for many reasons. But the top one being that is why I started Bloomcaster. I want to enable anybody to be able to tell their story. And I think we've had some side conversations about certain communities in remote areas wanting the ability to tell their story so the rest of the world can learn. That's my vision. So for me, it's clearly my number one objective is to make it accessible, whether that's from a cost perspective, simplicity perspective, usability and stability perspective. All of that to me is focused on the indie podcaster. And it's easy to kind of slip away from that focus because there is a lot of money in corporate podcasting. Right. Just like, yeah, it is nothing to take away from them. And I'm sure that's a target market folks are after, but that's not my focus.

Danny:

And you said earlier it's a self funded project. Boomcaster bootstrap. Yeah. So what are some of the challenges then in bringing a platform? Because there are a lot of moving parts. I'm not a coder, I'm not a developer, but I work with developers and I know how many moving parts can be on a project and that's with a team of developers that's not with just one person. So what are some of the challenges and in bringing up a project like Boomcaster self funded to market? And would you ever look for funding as a goal to continue bootstrapping as far as you can?

Hari:

I think you pointed out there are many funded products in the market today and by of course they have to be driven by certain objectives when funded and that is not something I'm looking for. I love the freedom and the objectivity in my decision making when it comes to what this product is going to have and what I'm going to release, when I'm going to release it, what the podcast is, what the users want and when I'm going to do it. So of course I may not be as fast as a multimillion dollar, well funded organization, but I do have the flexibility and I do have the freedom and I do have the speed at times to change the path that I'm on, just like any bootstrapper would. But it does come with its own set of challenges, right. It is expensive and sometimes you have to trust yourself and trust the process and trust the users that they are guiding me the right way. I believe in what I'm doing and I trust in what I'm doing because I've been doing now this for almost a couple of years now and I chose to not make it public for a very long time because I wanted to build this in private with a very small set of users that worked out really well for me. And so for many people that come to the platform for new and they're surprised that they haven't heard about Boomcaster because it's fairly mature and it's been in production for a while. And I've also talked about challenges. When you have a well funded product, there is a significant amount of money to be spent on ads and marketing activities and so when you're building it yourself, you're bootstrapping it. There is significant reliance on word of mouth and of course the trust that your product is going to lead the way. And I believe in it.

Danny:

I know one of my favorite reactions I think was Marcus when you had to chat with Marcus and he's like an immense background in sound quality and engineering and audio production and that's what he does for a living, obviously. And obviously he came into the meeting and I wasn't on the call with you guys, but I know, he came to that call with a whole bunch of tech questions and stuff like that, and he was super impressed with Boomcasters. I love to see that reaction from Marcus. He's someone I respect and mentally, and I lean on him a lot for audio tips and stuff. So to your point of trusting your users but also believing in your product, I think that was a prime example. You've got someone like Marcus singing as praises.

Hari:

Yeah. And Marcus gave me a lot of feedback. I also have another gentleman just yesterday send me a very long email, and it was through chat. And he said, oh, I just realized that chat was super long. I should have sent you an email. Instead, I said, Listen, I love these, whether that's a chat or an email. And this is absolutely important to building the product because an expert, an engineer, a specialist like an audio specialist like Marcus is going to be able to quickly pick up on things that I could work on. And I can learn from him in that one conversation. I learned a lot from him. So I don't claim to know that I know everything, but I'm definitely learning every day from folks like yourself and Marcus and others.

Danny:

And Boomcast has taken it back to the beginning. It was started because of limitations on the technology at the time and your own frustration with these limitations. What limitations do you think still exist today in the remote recording space? Especially because that's where Boomcaster sits. And what's Boomcaster's approach to whether you can speak about it or not? I understand as you can. But what's Boom Castle's approach to fixing these limitations, if that's the right word? Yeah.

Hari:

I think in general, all remote recording platforms that rely on browsers also rely on the companies that put out updates to those browsers. And they rely on web standards like WebRTC that's in general, one of the biggest challenges anybody would face is ensuring that your product is always staying up to date with all the browser updates that are taking place. And the other opportunity could be and I've had folks request mobile access to booncaster. I don't mind discussing it. It's definitely a consideration for us, but I also think there are some challenges associated with it and it needs to be addressed appropriately again. It's one of those features that I started building, and I had a beta and I thought long and hard about whether or not I should push that version out. But yeah, there are a number of challenges that comes with recording locally in general, because recording locally means you're recording super high quality, and that means the file size is very large and you do rely on the local desktop to download that file and rely on the network to upload that file. So there are some dependencies that you, as a product owner or a founder, is unable to entirely control. And this is not just a Boomcast limitation. I would say this is a limitation for any product that operates in the browser tries to handle heavy files.

Danny:

Yeah. I recall when I first started watching YouTube a few years back, and I was just impressed if I got more than like 30 frames per second, I thought, that's awesome. But that was, again, limitations in the browser. But I guess at the same time, you don't want to be going the route of installing a downloadable desktop app, because that takes over the whole simplicity of get a link, log in and you're good to go.

Hari:

Yeah, and you're right. And beyond the simplicity, there are times when you cannot install something because of restrictions on a laptop. For example, there are folks that are recording from, let's say, a work laptop that may or may not allow any sort of installs. But I'm happy to share that there's significant advancements in these web standards and the browser technologies, and it's constantly improving. And so as broadcasting gets more popular, I am confident that some of the technologies behind it would help us propel this forward as well.

Danny:

Now, speaking of technologies, Boomcasters obviously driving a lot of good stuff in the remote recording stroke livestream. And let's not forget live streaming, because I tend to forget that when I use Boomcaster, they got an awesome livestream solution to it as well. I need to use that more. I'm going to use that more over the summer. So let's not forget that. So I'm excited to see what comes down the line for Boomcaster, obviously. But I'm curious about you as a developer, as a builder of a platform. What got you excited, either in the podcasting space or the tech space that's coming down the line? It's going to impact what broadcasters don't.

Hari:

Or optimize it specifically in the advancements in podcasting. Is that what you're referring to, or just any technology?

Danny:

Anything? Obviously, this is about podcasting, but anytime I find it all kind of ties together at some stage.

Hari:

Yeah, that's a fantastic question. A lot of areas. Right. I think in general, audio as a medium is fast expanding. You mentioned live streaming is a key part of Boomcaster, and my vision is that it is one of the same. And let me explain today, even if you look at YouTubers, some of the most famous YouTubers are now starting podcasts, and they're crossing over many podcaster stories, crossing over to YouTube either through livestreaming or through videos, because I see a ton of reasons. But in general, YouTube continues to be a pretty large medium and a way to access your community, the community that you're trying to reach. So whether you decide to live stream every episode or one in every six episode or you record video on once a month, it doesn't really matter when you have options and when you have choices, that makes it all the more important and that you also need to get used to doing this, right? If you never come on video, if you never live stream, it's different. And the first time I did it, it was different. I'm no live streaming expert still, and I don't have a big following. But the times when I did live stream, it was a little strange, right? But at the same time, that's a huge target audience that you're missing out on. And YouTube, for example, is still one of the best search engines outside of Google. And so discoverability of your podcast is likely to be improved. Inside of YouTube, for example, within Bloomcaster, you can choose to hit record. And if the live streaming is checked, you can live stream. It's that simple. There is no complex steps involved. You just click connect to YouTube or Facebook or LinkedIn and you hit record. And when you hit record, you're streaming and you'll see that you're streaming, you can chat, you can see the comments coming in from the social media platform you're streaming to, you can highlight your incoming comments if you want. And as you've already seen, you can customize the screen so you can display your brands, you can display your messages in the appropriate way through stream. Pod chat was all part of the initial vision that I had and I feel confident that I'm able to accomplish that already.

Danny:

And I wonder if you do. I know you mentioned you've been asked about mobile connectivity to Boomcaster. I wonder if you do that. If there's an option. I have no idea how the back end works, but if there's an option to connect to Ticktok, for example, because obviously I see a lot of podcasts now talking about TikTok and how that's driving a lot of traffic for them. And if that's a live stream option, someone's on the phone, someone's on their laptop might look weird on TikTok, I'm not sure, but yeah, so the Ticktock.

Hari:

The formatting is different, but honestly, I don't believe TikTok would allow third party platforms to stream. So in order for you to stream to a social platform, they have to provide the appropriate SDKs or API's to do that. And not everybody does it. Today YouTube and Facebook, where the YouTube was the first one to do it and Facebook does it just as good. And you can stream to a page, you can stream to a group you can stream to. If you have the appropriate permissions, you can stream to your own profile. With LinkedIn, we've also integrated LinkedIn, so within a click you can stream to your LinkedIn page or your profile. I have not attempted to integrate others like Twitter, although that is possible. Again, I'm mostly driven by what my users have been asking me. Linkedin was definitely one of the top requests and it is a different type of streaming platform. They are still in beta, but as you know, it's much more of a professional platform and they're very careful in approving live streamers on LinkedIn, so you have to get approval first. You can really stream to any platform that allows you to do streaming from a third party software.

Danny:

You just see a Twitch gamer at midnight trying to stream to LinkedIn. I don't think that would come across as like the right audience driver.

Hari:

Yes, absolutely.

Danny:

That's awesome. I know. Like I said, I'm a Boomcaster user story and I have been now Pod chat long, actually, maybe five months or so. Six months. But I love it. I've used a few platforms and this is definitely one of the best I've used and like the ease of use to get it going into optimization. It's awesome. So I'm looking forward to what's coming down the line. I can't wait. I know we'll probably have discussions again about what's coming down. A whole lot of back end conversations via email, such as for anybody that wants to check out Boomcaster that wants to connect with yourself and talk about Boomcaster and what's coming down, or even pick your brains or offer some tips and advice on what they'd love to see in Broomcaster, what's the best way for them to connect with you?

Hari:

I'm on Twitter, but I would say the best way to reach me is Hari@boomcaster.com. Hari@boomcaster.com, the company is on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn. Everywhere you're on, you can just search for Bloomcaster and you'll find us. But yeah, I would love to hear from anyone who has any feedback on remote podcasting, what they're missing, what they want to see, where they want to see this type of solutions lead to. Like I said, I'm Super passionate about this. I've invested myself, my time and resources into this because I believe in it and I believe in the business of podcasting and I believe in the storytelling element of podcasting and the ability for anyone to reach a mass audience in this medium. So, absolutely, I'd love to hear from anyone who would have any feedback or thoughts or anything to share with me.

Danny:

And I'll be sure to leave the links to Paris online accounts and everywhere that you can find it, as well as Boomcast yourself. And you'll get a 30 day free trial if you want to try it out. I highly recommend if you're a podcaster that does remote recording, and I feel most do know or most have done since 2020 for a reason I can't quite think of at this moment in time. But I'm sure that a lot of people are doing more remote podcast and recording. So check it out. It's an awesome platform. And as I mentioned and Harris mentioned before, very open to feedback. He's always got an openeer and he genuinely looks forward to feedback that can implement the platform. So again, Harry, I appreciate you coming out today and talking about Boomcaster.

Hari:

Thanks for having me, Danny. I really appreciate this.

Danny:

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