A Podcast About People, Places & Data

Tammy Armstrong
Mike Armstrong
Dec. 11, 2018 - "Don’t let fear hold you back. Until your show starts to gain momentum, opportunities won’t come find you; you have to brave the possibility of rejection and put yourself out there."
Since 2018
News & Politics

►Tell us about you and your podcast

My name is Tammy Armstrong, and my husband Mike Armstrong and I co-host “Bright Lights, Big Data”, which we like to summarize as “a podcast about people, places, and data.” We are based in Des Moines, Iowa, and interview local changemakers with using the same five questions every time:

1. What do you do and how did you get there?
2. What are some common misconceptions about what you do?
3. Why should the community care about what you do?
4. What are you most excited about right now?
5. What should we have for dinner tonight?

We then do some follow-up research on something that interested us in the interview, and discuss it from our unique pairing of professional backgrounds: Mike is an urban planner focusing on making the world easier for people to walk and bike in, and I am a data scientist.

Depending on how the logistics go, some episodes are heavier on the interview side, and some episodes don’t have an interview at all, but instead focus on a topic that interests both of us, such as problem solving.


►Why & how did you start this podcast? 

Mike and I moved to Iowa in 2014, excited to put down roots after moving around the country in the previous years. We had never been terribly active in the communities we had lived in, and had a lot of questions about how Des Moines worked. I remember voting in the 2016 general election, looking at the back of the ballot and feeling really uninformed about these positions, many of which I’d never even heard of. How does a person go about learning how all of these government positions work, and why they matter, and how they are interwoven with public employees and non-profits? There are so many people doing important work and we wanted to learn about all of it, but weren’t sure where to start. As we made friends and shared our eagerness to learn with them, we discovered we weren’t the only ones who felt this way.

Then I became a New Leaders Council Fellow in January 2018, learning how to be a leader in my community, meeting an amazing network of people, and needing a capstone project. Mike and I listen to a lot of podcasts together, so it didn’t take long to come up with the idea to start a podcast of our own to help others become informed members of the community.

We launched our first episode in June 2018.


►How'd you find the time and funding to do this podcast?

We both work full-time and have a toddler, so time was a big consideration for us when designing the structure and cadence of the show. We release episodes every other Monday, and have managed to stay pretty true to that except for one or two exceptions when one of us was sick or when our basement got flooded while we were recording in it.

We record our interviews separately from any follow-ups so that we have time to do research and prep in between. We record in the evenings while our daughter sleeps, which has serendipitously worked for our guests so far. We aim for about 35-minute episodes, which usually ends up with about 40-50 minutes of total recorded time if we are diligent about it. The closer we can keep the recording to that, the less editing we have to do. I do the editing and it usually takes me 2-4 hours to edit, upload, and post an episode.

Our podcast is a passion project and we fund it ourselves. We spent about $150 on a microphone and I used a website I already had to host the episodes, so the additional costs have been very minimal.


►What do you gain from podcasting?        

Podcasting has been a great side project for us, something fun we can do together as a couple while our daughter sleeps (that doesn’t involve Netflix), and a way for us to learn a ton about Des Moines and Iowa in general. It’s also good practice for public speaking, and an excuse to meet new people.

We don’t currently have any sponsors, but would love to have some local sponsors some day.


►How does your podcasting process look like? 

Mike already had a MacBook so we had access to Garage Band at no additional cost. We purchased a single Blue Yeti microphone that we set to Omnidirectional or Bidirectional for interviews. At some point I’d like to see us add a few more mics and a mixing board, but so far we’re really pleased with the audio quality and have gotten a lot of compliments on it.

We usually find guests by reaching out to them directly - either someone we already know working in government or the non-profit space, or someone we know through our network. Whenever I’m at an event and see a speaker I think could be a good guest, I try to introduce myself and ask if they’d be interested. We also get suggestions from listeners and have even had a listener reach out to us and end up being a guest on the show.

So far we have done all of our interviews in person at our home, but would like to experiment with Skype/etc for added flexibility.


►How do you market your show?

We market our show through word of mouth. We encourage our guests to share their episodes with their networks, and we ask to take a selfie after the interview so we can have a photo to post along with the show link.

We have a dedicated Twitter account and Facebook page for the show, and post all of our episodes there plus occasional content between episodes. I estimate roughly half of our listeners access episodes directly on our website without a podcasting app. About a quarter of our traffic comes from social media, with Facebook pulling in about twice as much as Twitter.


►What advice would you share with aspiring (new) podcasters?

Don’t let fear hold you back. Until your show starts to gain momentum, opportunities won’t come find you; you have to brave the possibility of rejection and put yourself out there. The dirty little secret is that it doesn’t actually have to be that scary. So many good things have happened for our show simply because we thought to ask, and not a single person has turned us down yet (knock on wood!). From guests for us to interview, to Regina Spektor giving us permission to use one of her songs as our intro music, a simple phone call or Tweet can go surprisingly far.

Also, it’s okay not to have everything figured out right away. Just six months in, we are so much better at doing interviews, sound checks, editing, and are still refining the structure of the show. I’m sure in another six months we’ll be even further along.


►Where can we learn more about you & your podcasts?

Website: blbdpod.com
Twitter: @blbdpod
Facebook: facebook.com/brightlightsbigdata
Email: [email protected]

Updated: 9 months ago