Welcome to the latest edition of The Entrepreneur’s Tech Stack. I’m your host, Simon Owens. For those who don’t know me, I write a media industry newsletter you should definitely check out.
Today’s featured entrepreneur is…well…me. I began writing my media industry newsletter in 2014 and then launched a podcast in 2018. In 2020, I pivoted to creating content on a full-time basis. Today my newsletter boasts over 12,000 subscribers and is read by executives at just about every major tech and media company.
Serving my audience, paid subscribers, and sponsors requires juggling a lot of balls in the air, and over the years I’ve adopted a number of tech products that make this process much easier. Here are the tools that I’ve found to be absolutely essential to my work:
For a long time, I waffled on whether I actually needed a personal website. After all, I had accounts on just about every social media platform and also a newsletter. Operating a personal website on top of that just seemed redundant.
But ultimately I decided that it’s important to have a home base – a place where you can point to all of your other accounts on the web. I wanted just a simple landing page that included my photo, a short bio, and my contact information, so I went with Squarespace. It’s a perfect point-and-shoot platform for when you want something sleek and well-designed. You can check out my website at simonowens.net.
I’m both a journalist and an entrepreneur, which means I spend a significant portion of my week on phone calls, often with people I’ve never spoken to before. For most of my career, this necessitated an annoying back-and-forth email exchange until we could land on a time that worked for both of us. If one of us had to postpone the call, then that kickstarted a whole new round of email tag.
Occasionally, someone would just drop me a link where I could peruse their calendar and book a call. While I understood the utility of such a tool right away, I dragged my feet for years before signing up for one myself. Then one day I created an account on Calendly, and it was an instant gamechanger. Not only did it simplify the phone scheduling process, but it also allowed me to have much more granular control of my schedule. Before, I’d get super stressed out when I didn’t have enough time set aside to perform time-intensive tasks like exercise or writing. Calendly is definitely one of those tools I wish I’d adopted several years earlier, and it’s well worth its $100-a-year price tag.
One of the most consistent questions I get asked as a media industry journalist is which newsletter platform is the best. I always respond that it depends on the level of control you want. If you want the maximum level of control in terms of design and functionality – including automated drip campaigns and a/b testing – then you should choose a platform like Mailchimp or Convertkit. But if you just want to focus on the content and outsource all the design and tech to someone else? Then Substack is perfect.
I fit into this latter group: I want to spend as little time as possible worrying about the tech side of my newsletter, and I’m more than willing to pay 10% of my subscription revenue so I don’t have to think about it. I also love that Substack looks really good on the web; it’s considered a newsletter platform, but it’s also a great blogging platform as well.
I set aside a sizable portion of my week for consuming media industry news and then curating it on my social media channels, usually in the mornings. Because I want these posts to be spread out throughout the day, I utilize a social media scheduling tool to space out the posts.
For several years I relied on Hootsuite, which performed pretty well for basic social media scheduling. But then last year it more than doubled its prices – I guess in an effort to target larger enterprise customers – and so I switched over to Buffer. Most social media platforms now let you schedule posts natively, so I might just do away with this tool completely at some point.
If I were to launch a podcast today, I’d probably just use a free hosting service like Spotify’s Anchor or Substack. When I launched in 2018, however, there were mainly only paid options, so I went with the OG podcast host Libsyn. It’s mostly been reliable and I can’t say I have any major complaints.
I’m often astonished by how many podcasters – including professional podcasters who create audio for a living – record remote interviews using Zoom. The audio sounds terrible, especially if any of the participating parties have slow internet.
What you should really be using is a tool that records natively to each person’s machine. In the old days, everyone would literally open up some kind of audio recording program on their computer and then email the files after the interview was done. These days there are a number of SaaS tools that do this for you.
For years, I used Zencastr, but I later switched to Squadcast. Not only does it produce high-quality native audio recordings, but I’m also able to do the same with video. I wouldn’t say every recording is perfect – the video versions can sometimes be glitchy – but if both sides have decent microphones then it can sometimes almost sound like we’re in the same room together.
Unless you’re doing super sophisticated audio engineering, you don’t need an expensive audio editor. I use Audacity, an open source tool that would get the job done for 99% of podcasters.
Given the explosion in video podcasts, I decided to start producing video versions of my podcast last year. So far, the results have been pretty positive.
My approach to editing is pretty unsophisticated, so I didn’t bother with the high-end video editing programs. Instead, I went with Filmora, which costs a lot less and covers most basic editing needs.
For most podcasters, the Blue Snowball is an adequate and affordable microphone, and I used it for the first several years of my show’s existence. Then this year I decided to finally upgrade to the Blue Yeti and saw an immediate increase in audio quality. At $82, it’s still pretty affordable.
I constantly see journalists complain on Twitter and other mediums about how many browser tabs they have open at any given time, and sure, I was once in that same boat up til about a decade ago. But then I discovered Instapaper, and now I don’t know how we can be in the year 2023 and these otherwise smart people don’t know there are very simple bookmarking tools that can save their browsers from crashing underneath the weight of so many open tags.
As I mentioned, curating industry news is a major part of my work week, and so anytime I come across an article that might be even remotely relevant to my audience, I hit the “save to Instapaper” button on my toolbar and then immediately close the tab. As a result, it’s been over a decade since I’ve had to hit ctrl – alt – delete just to unfreeze my computer from its ad-tech overload.
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