Creating a Solo Episode – Recording and Editing

I’m working on a longer form series on how I create solo episodes, which will likely go on Medium. But I’d like to publish the parts here, as I write them.

As the baseball season winds down (for Yankee fans, anyway), I find myself thinking about the process of the sport as it relates to publishing my podcast.

Like many things in life, both have a number of moving parts and contexts in which you want to change your approach.

For example, in baseball, you have pitching coaches and hitting coaching. More granularly, they also have infield coaches and outfield coaches.

You don’t want your pitcher to take the same throwing approach as your right fielder.

The same thing goes for podcasting — I usually publish interviews for How I Built It. But once a month or so, I’ll do a solo episode, and the process is quite a bit different.

For one, I’m not scheduling with anyone, so I don’t need to find a set time to record. I’m also not doing a pre-interview…but that research is replaced with topic research.

Finally, I don’t usually send solo episodes out for edit.

I’ll cover every aspect of the solo show here eventually, but today I want to talk about recording and editing. 

Descript: My Solo Episode Workhorse

Unlike my guest interviews, I record my solo shows directly into Descript. I find it much easier to work directly in there, instead of importing audio recorded from somewhere else. 

I record in Descript because I also edit in Descript. I have a simple template with my intro and opening music, as well as the settings for leveling and ducking music. 

Because I’ve spent a bunch of time on the hardware for audio input, I generally don’t need to clean up my own input beyond the Descript presets. 

So the real reason I use Descript is because I edit a ton for content. I’ll get into planning and organizing in a different article, but I usually don’t fully script these solo shows.

So if I mess up a point, or forget something, I like to delete the text and pick-up where I left off. 

Descript lends itself very well to editing content this way, as you’re just deleting text…though sometimes it does get confused about where to place the cursor when I pick up — a minor thing that I notice almost immediately.

I will also add some audio ducking for background music, and possibly some sound effects, depending on how deep I want to go (though I do that more with the Podcast Workflows podcast that’s coming soon).

The last thing I’ll do, which leverages dynamic ad insertion, is create a gap between talking points (usually “Act 1” and “Act 2” and write down the timestamp so I can insert sponsor spots later.

Once the episode is recorded and edited, Descript also gives me some options: I can export it into a folder for my VA to upload, so I can upload directly to Transistor.fm, my audio host. 

It’s usually the former – but it’s nice to have the latter as an option, especially for members-only episodes. 


What I’m Working on (September 2023)

I thought I’d switch things up this week and tell you what I’m working on, since we’re at the halfway point of the month.

If you like this sort of format, let me know!

First up, it’s iPhone pre-order day! I got the iPhone 15 Pro Max in Titanium Blue, the Ocean Blue Ultra watch band, and…a Mac Mini! That’s a story for another newsletter.

This rest of this post is for members-only. I discuss the advice I got from Jay Clouse regarding the direction of my membership, a new podcast I’m working on, and how I’m integrating more storytelling into my content. Sign up here for just $10/mo


Why Descript Buying SquadCast is Great for Podcasters

Descript made a big splash on Tuesday by announcing they acquired the popular remote recording service, SquadCast.

Something I couldn’t stop thinking about after Riverside, SquadCast’s biggest competitor, launched edit via transcripts is how it felt like they’re trying to eat Descript’s lunch.

After all, Descript has made a name for itself as the easiest way to edit your podcast. Before that app, for most podcasters editing was a tedious fever dream of scrubbing wave files and hoping for the best.

Then Descript came along and made editing audio as easy as editing a Google Doc.


Riverside made its name as being an incredibly reliable, usually easy, way to record the highest-level quality audio possible…but they wanted to be a one stop shop.

Meanwhile, it was starting to feel like Descript lost the thread. Studio Sound is a revelation, but then they redesigned the app to be more video focused. They started adding more AI features…like Eye Contact.

What are they doing?

So when they announced this acquisition yesterday, I was happy to see a great return to form.

Descript + SquadCast looks like it’s going to be an incredible tool for podcasters to greatly improve their process. Record in SquadCast, automatically get those files in Descript, and use a familiar interface to edit AND publish…as seamlessly as possible.

The best part is that SquadCast is included in Descript’s plans (at least for now). That makes it a very competitive, very compelling offer.

Riverside is one of the few services I pay for annually, so I have until November.

But I have a hard time seeing myself staying with Riverside. SquadCast being part of Descript effectively cuts my costs in half.


A Moratorium on Business Books for 2023

As I wrote this article, I was on vacation at the serene Bethany Beach in Delaware. My mind clear and thinking about big picture stuff as my kids napped, I thought about how I’m consuming content.

In preparation for this trip, I made a decision: that I was going to stop reading business books for the rest of the year. Here’s the Tweet (Xeet?)


Well, they’re basically all I read. I’m pretty terrible at reading fiction books, and most of my non-fiction content I get from podcasts.

But after my conversation with Tim Stoddart on the podcast, I felt I should expand my horizons a little.

There are three other reasons:

This rest of this post is for members-only. I discuss why I’ve decided to stop reading business books, what I’m reading, and future plans for the membership. Sign up here for just $10/mo

7 Years

I got a little reminder from Transistor, my podcast host, this morning: How I Built It is 7 years old.

Over the course of 6 weeks in 2016, several life-changing things happened to me:

  1. I got married on June 11th.
  2. We found out we were having our first child on July 10th.
  3. I launched How I Built It on July 27th.

You might read this and wonder why I’m lumping in the launch of a podcast with marriage and fatherhood, and while I don’t think they’re equals, all 3 deniably changed my life.

By launching How I Built It in July 2016, and I don’t think I’m being dramatic here, I changed the trajectory of my career.

Sure, I started podcasts in the past, but this one felt different.

Less than a year later, I’d quit my full time job with a 3 month old at home, bolstered by the initial success of the show.

A year after that, I’d get the first piece of advice to focus on helping people podcast.

Today, I’m no longer a full time web developer. I’m a podcast and automations coach.

Podcasting has changed a lot in those 7 years. With the help of AI, better recording tools, and stiffer competition, the podcast space is more exciting than ever before.

I’m grateful I bought an Italian domain in June (got the idea from my honeymoon), that I decided to start having conversations later than month, and actually went through launching the show.

I’m also grateful for a supportive wife; I wouldn’t be where I am without her.

The show is enjoying renewed success thanks to some experiments I’m working on that I’ll share with my members (another benefit of launching the show) soon.

For now, I’m looking forward to the next 7 years.

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Why I Continue to Choose Airtable Over Notion

I’ve been using Notion more thanks to a little in-person Mastermind I’m planning with friends; to be honest, it’s pretty nice.

I don’t really know my way around Notion, but the co-organizer who set it up absolutely does, and it looks really fantastic. In fact, this is the closest I’ve come to wanting to use it more.

This rest of this post is for members-only. I discuss my main reasons for choosing Airtable over Notion (and why all hope is not lost. Sign up here for just $10/mo

Some Quick Thoughts on Meta’s Threads

At its core, a mostly tech-based social platform is child’s play for any competent developer…but the secret sauce is in people wanting to be there.

It’s why Mastodon isn’t the heir-apparent to Twitter. That platform is too hard and siloed to figure out. And since it’s not algorithm-based, it feels even emptier.

It’s why Bluesky isn’t good. That platform is a ghost town because of the Draconian invite system that was last effective for Gmail…a patently non-social platform.

It’s why Clubhouse, Apple’s Ping, and Google+ ultimately failed.

And it’s why I think if anything is going to replace Twitter1, it will be Threads.

First, Threads is made by Meta/Instagram. If you’ll remember, they tried to buy Snapchat for $3BN. When Snapchat declined, Instagram rolled out Stories and more or less ended Snapchat’s meteoric rise to social media power.

That also means they also have a TON of people…2 Billion I believe…who can easily join the platform, profile, followers and all. No invite needed…just an instagram account.

They reached 2 million users in 2 hours. That’s the power of leveraging their current Instagram user base.

Next, because it’s algorithm-based, it feels busy. Maybe a little too busy right now, but that will mellow out.

But it definitely doesn’t feel like a ghost town, which means people want to be there.

Finally, they timed it right. This was in the works for a while, but they launched after another tumultuous weekend for Twitter.

Every time Elon does something stupid, people leave (or at least threaten to). Without a suitable replacement, many end up coming back. Threads feels like that suitable replacement.

Expect them to iterate quickly. Threads already has some features Instagram users want, like clickable links. But I expect DMs (probably, sadly, through Messenger), hashtags, and a web-based interface to come soon.

Are you on Threads? Give me a follow, @jcasabona

  1. BIG if. ?

Thoughts and Lessons from the Apple Vision Pro Presentation at WWDC

Let me start by saying before the WWDC Keynote, I wasn’t even remotely excited about Apple VR product.

The Meta Quest doesn’t excite me, and when I had Google Glass, I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

Suffice to say, Apple blew me away with their approach to the Apple Vision Pro. And the early reviews do not disappoint.

From a business/technology/create approach, here were my initial thoughts:

Apple shows you can go cheap, or you can go impressive. Meta announced a $500 version of the Quest mere days before WWDC. Part of the reason I wasn’t excited for Apple’s version is I’m not even remotely interested in the Quest or the Metaverse.

But Apple went high end, making the Vision Pro a full $3000 more than the cheaper version of the quest.

Not everyone will be on board, but there’s no denying that their product is impressive in such a way that Meta is getting dragged on Twitter. Meta basically owned this space for the past 5-7 years and Apple just kinda blew them up.

The lesson: Don’t just race to the bottom. You can create a high-end service and charge a premium if you impress.

They are reusing Aux tech created in VR for other apps. Earlier in the keynote, they showed an iPad feature where they tell you if you’re holding the screen too close.

I can’t help but think this was tech they developed for eye tracking on the Vision Pro, that made its way into other parts of the OS already.

The lesson: use your sawdust. When you create, look at each part of your process and see how you can use it.

They are smartly taking familiar experiences and moving them to a new medium first. One of the problems with the Meta Quest, that Sara Dietschy points out, is the interface and experience is unintuitive because it’s unfamiliar.

But Apple took several things into account when they design the UX for the Vision Pro:

  1. We know how to use our eyes and hands
  2. We know how to use the apps they demoed
  3. The ideas behind the UX are familiar (make a call, send a text, browse a website, etc)

All of these combined means everything comes very naturally to us.

The lesson: Lower your learning curve, lower your barrier to entry, and you’ll create better, happier experiences for your customers.

They are never first to market, but they are much better when they enter. There’s a reason that post-1997 Apple is never first to market on a product.

They do a ton of research on real-world use. During the presentation, they used the term “cheek width” to point out they’ve studied faces.

But with the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods, they took care to truly understand how people use the current crop of products, and improved upon them.

The VR/AR space is so controversial already; even though it’s been around for 10+ years, there’s still a lot of mainstream pushback.

Creating a whole other world is weird, uncanny valley, dystopian nonsense to a lot of people.

But Apple focused on how their product augments your current experience. You can still see your environment. You can still see real people in the real space. And they can see your eyes.

The lesson: There’s a lot of weight put on being first to market so you can make a name for yourself. But you could just be better. If you impress, reuse lessons you’ve learned, and create better experiences, you can blow up the competition.

Since the Last Time I Saw Blink-182 (2023 Edition)

I’ve seen Blink-182 with my brother Phil in 2001 (our first time, and first concert), and in 2009.

When they broke up / replaced Tom with Matt Skiba in 2015, we weren’t sure if we’d be seeing the original lineup ever again. So we were both elated when they got back together. We purchased tickets ASAP.

It’s been 14 years since the last time I saw them, and a lot has changed. I:

  • Became a college professor
  • Got a job at my alma mater, The University of Scranton
  • Left that job for a WordPress agency
  • Started dating, proposed to, and married my wife, Erin
  • Started my podcast, How I Built It
  • Became a father of 3 kids
  • Left the agency job to start my own business
  • Bought a house
  • Pivoted completely from web development to podcast coaching
  • Published 5 books
  • Created dozens of online courses for colleges and online learning memberships

I was basically still a college student the last time I saw them, so I was wondering if seeing them live would hit differently.

It was like I was a kid again, and it was incredible.