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Host AMAsAMA with Cody Gough, Executive Producer & Cohost of Curiosity Daily
AMAs >  Cody Gough

Cody Gough

show Curiosity Daily
When November 20 2019 @ 07:30PM (EST)

Radio and podcast veteran Cody Gough is the executive producer and co-host of the award-winning Curiosity Daily podcast from Curiosity.com. His role has involved extensive science news writing and scripting, booking and interviewing academics and researchers, coordinating live events, and growing the podcast organically with no marketing budget. Curiosity Daily is consistently ranked in the Top 200 Educational podcasts on Apple Podcasts, and was recognized as the Best Science & Medicine Podcast at the 13th Annual Podcast Awards.

Additionally, Cody has spent more than a decade working in on-air and production roles with Chicago’s 720 WGN Radio, where he has produced the Brian Noonan Show for 11 years and has filled in as a host for various shows. He’s also a seasoned podcaster with the WGN Plus and GonnaGeek Podcast Networks, and an accomplished commercial actor.

Cody graduated with a degree in Radio/TV Production from Drake University and has worked in several professional production roles since, including working off-air as a distribution assistant and board operator at a classical music station in Chicago, and in various advisory roles as a podcast consultant for academic institutions and multinational corporations. Outside of podcasting, Cody spent several years working as a social media manager developing and executing marketing strategies for both consumer and B2B brands. He’s passionate about human psychology, history, and helping people understand why the humanities are so important. An Illinois native, Cody spends most of his free time critically listening to podcasts and immersing himself in role-playing games.

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Questions now closed.

9 Questions
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1
Tom Slack Staff asked this question 4 months ago

Hey Cody, you have such a fascinating background and work history — What have been the highlights and lowlights?

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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Hey Tom, thanks for asking! It has been a total roller coaster. I’ve been really fortunate to be able to work on radio shows and podcasts that reach a really substantial, international audience. It’s an extreme privilege, and something I try not to take for granted.

That said, the highlights have been the personal moments. I remember one particular night when I was producing WGN Overnight with Brian Noonan. On that show, I was on the air with Brian a lot, so listeners heard me constantly. An elderly woman called into the show around 3:00 a.m., not because she wanted to talk to us on-air, but because she wanted to thank us. She explained to me that her husband of many years (I think around 50 years) had recently passed away, and she hadn’t been able to sleep since. She said she called to thank us because Brian and I made her laugh for the first time in months. I have goosebumps just describing that phone call. I’m positive that over the last decade, literally hundreds of thousands of listeners have heard me on WGN Radio. But when I think about my time at WGN, I never think about those numbers; I think about moments like that.

On a much smaller scale, something similar happened with my video game podcast, which was originally called Unqualified Gamers. That show never had a lot of listeners; I mostly did it to have fun with my friend Jon, who was one of my best friends growing up in high school. We knew we’d never be big or famous. But one day, I received a package in the mail, and a listener had shipped me a video game (Wonderful 101 for Wii U). I was floored. I had never expected to make any money off our show or really even have any listeners beyond my family and friends, yet one person found joy from hearing our obscure little amateur gaming podcast. I don’t know if we ever had more than a hundred or so listeners, but I’ll always remember feeling super special from that one interaction.

It’s not the number of downloads or listeners that keep me going, but moments like those. It makes the tough times worth it — the times my shows failed to be recognized for awards, or when a guest has said no, or when a sales team hasn’t come through with a sponsorship. Knowing I’m creating something valuable truly keeps me going.

Christopher Leuton asked this question 4 months ago

What are some of the more interesting stories that have come across your desk at Curiosity.com? 

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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Thanks for the question Christopher! Hands-down one of my favorite stories was the story of Bryan Davis from Lost Spirits Distillery. He figured out a way to change the chemical properties of rum to age it 20 years in just 6 days. It gets even better: he taught himself chemistry using the internet. I’m serious! His story was just amazing; on top of the top-notch chemistry lesson he gave us during our interview, we learned first-hand what it’s like to be an autodidact (basically, a person who is self-taught). That interview is pretty old, but available here: https://curiosity.com/topics/teaching-yourself-the-history-chemistry-and-business-of-spirits-curiosity/

I’ve been particularly interested in psychology lately, especially social psychology and group psychology. With the rise of the internet, I believe these fields warrant more research than ever. So I’ve generally found our stories on psychology very interesting, particularly on a couple of psychological quirks known as motivated reasoning and reactance. We never touch politics at Curiosity (we’re your little oasis from that kind of thing!), and that’s really cool because that means we’re able to talk about these issues and let people draw their own conclusions. It makes me feel like we’re teaching a person to fish, while other current events / new sites are more about just feeding you a fish. Articles below in case you’re curious!

More on motivated reasoning: https://curiosity.com/topics/teaching-yourself-the-history-chemistry-and-business-of-spirits-curiosity/
More on reactance: https://curiosity.com/topics/reactance-is-why-you-act-irrationally-when-your-freedom-is-threatened-curiosity/

Yolan Van Weike asked this question 4 months ago

which microphone do you use? which do you recomend for new starters to podcasting?

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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Hey, great question! In my work at WGN Radio and in the early days of Curiosity Daily, we used an Electro-Voice RE320 Large Diaphragm Dynamic Vocal Microphone. That retails for about $300, though, so probably not the best microphone if you’re just getting started! In my earlier podcast days hosting the video game podcast Game/Life Balance U.S., I used an Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone. It’s still not the cheapest microphone you can find, but it should still cost you less than $100 and will give you a really great sound.

For more in-depth microphone recommendations, I recommend checking out microphone reviews from my friends over at Better Podcasting. They do a great job! https://www.gonnageek.com/tag/microphones/

Amit Singh asked this question 4 months ago

Which podcasts are you into as a listener and what do you like/dislike when you’re listening to othe rppl’s shows? 

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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Oh wow, I love this question. I listen to a pretty broad variety of podcasts, from some of the more popular ones like This American Life and Freakonomics Radio to some less well-known ones like What Makes Us Human?, Respect Our Authoritah, and Citations Needed. I enjoy everything from interviews to casual conversations to more highly produced shows; the only genre I really stay away from is true crime, but even then, I enjoyed the first season of Serial, and I love Darknet Diaries.

In terms of things I like/dislike: I really enjoy when shows get straight to the point, and when I know what to expect when I listen. It’s really helpful when at least one host describes what the focus of the episode will be near the beginning of the podcast, because otherwise the listener is left wondering where the conversation is heading. That can be really distracting.

I have a lot of nitpicky pet peeves, but one that I’ll focus on is “over-production.” In my opinion, music should be used sparingly, and only to add value to a story being told. Shows produced by Gimlet, of course, do this expertly. But some other major podcasts seriously miss the mark. Occasionally I’ll hear a music bed suddenly appear behind a straight interview for no discernible reason. If two people are having a conversation, then music should only be inserted if it’s driving toward a point or fading out from a previous segment. There is no reason to be adding extra signal to a listener’s ear, because it serves only to distract. Same with having a theme song that’s too long; I tuned in to hear your content, not to listen to your theme song for 2 minutes! Most podcasters are pretty good at avoiding these pitfalls, but it’s tempting when you’re in the editing room to want to throw some music onto your show just to “liven things up.” I think sometimes producers would do well to fight against that urge!

Michael Taylor asked this question 4 months ago

It would be nice if there was a link or something to listen. Wow

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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You can always listen to Curiosity Daily at https://curiositydaily.com — enjoy!

Wendy Serrino Staff asked this question 4 months ago

Hey Cody what are your thoughts or experiences on using guest podcasting to get listeners quickly?

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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In my experience, this can have very mixed results. A few major factors you should keep in mind:

-Does the guest have a podcast, and if so, then will they promote you on their show?
-Does the guest have a large email list or social media following, and if so, then will they leverage it to promote your show?
-Does the guest have a following that would be likely to check out your episode just to hear them, and if so, will they stick around to hear more episodes?

The first one is particularly key. I’ve executed several social media and email marketing campaigns to promote podcasts, but by far, the most effective way to get people to listen to a podcast is by promoting it on another podcast. This is because if you’re marketing a podcast via an email or social channel, you’re effectively asking potential listeners to do two things: 1) be interested in podcasting in the first place, and 2) actually check yours out. It’s not like blogs or video content, which you can easily link to or embed anywhere online. Remember, many people around the world still don’t know what a podcast even is, let alone how to listen to one. I’ve met people who thought you had to pay for podcasts (!). So promotion is particularly hard in this medium.

If your guest doesn’t have a podcast, then that’s fine — but be clear up front about your expectations for cross-promotion, and be familiar with their audience. I recently turned down an interview with a well-known TV host, because although he was well-known, he had no social media or email marketing presence, and wasn’t in the same vertical as the show I was producing.

TL;DR — I think it CAN be effective to get listeners through guest podcasting, but I have not noticed astronomical results from the majority of my collaborations. Still, if you can be strategic and feature other podcast hosts and make sure to tap into your guests’ social media followings, then you may be on the way to getting a bigger audience.

Jess Kiely Staff asked this question 4 months ago

Thanks for doing this Cody, it’s great getting so many different perspectives on podcasting. You seem to be very productive and get lots done so I want to know how you structure your time and what little hacks you do to keep productive?

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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Hey thanks for asking! I’m glad I seem productive, because honestly, I have been more productive in the last 2 years than in any other time in my entire life!

At Curiosity, we generally use Trello to manage workflow and article/script scheduling. For guests, I’ve found that a simple Google Sheet is a really effective way to make sure guests aren’t being double-booked. I created a sheet with a column for each 30-minute block during my show at WGN Radio, and the host I work with and I insert a guest’s name highlighted in yellow whenever we invite them to join us at a certain time. We change the color to green once they’re confirmed, and add their contact information. That way, if I get sick or something (unlikely, fortunately), I can just send the Google Sheet to my fill-in producer, and all the information is right there.

In terms of other life hacks, I’ve found that the Pomodoro technique REALLY helps. Basically, set a timer for 20 minutes (or for me, 15 or 25), and ONLY focus on a specific thing (a script, or editing audio, for example) for that period of time — no phones, no social media, etc. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break. Rinse, and repeat! It’s been extraordinary for scriptwriting. You can learn more about it on this podcast episode (or in the article linked to in the show notes): https://curiositydaily.com/pomodoro-technique-to-stop-procrastination-where-medicine-goes-and-baseball-physics/

Sham Si Staff asked this question 4 months ago

Hey there Cody, do you prefer hosting shows or producing? How come?

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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Hi Sham Si! This is actually a really complicated question for me, haha. When I was studying radio and TV production in college, my professors always told me that the real storyteller was the editor. It’s true in many ways; when editing audio, I can adjust a pause in speech by as little as a few milliseconds to achieve the comedic or dramatic effect that I want, whether it’s me speaking or it’s someone else. It gives me an extraordinary amount of control.

Hosting, on the other hand, is more of a performance, which uses a very different part of your brain. I have to be very quick when I’m live on-air at WGN Radio, while I have to bring life to a script on Curiosity Daily (on top of coming up with funny ad libs, of course). On top of knowing what to say, it takes a ton of practice to understand *how* to say it — even seemingly simple things like enunciating words clearly, pronouncing words correctly, and using the right intonation. Not to mention conducting interviews, which is an extremely challenging skill to cultivate.

I wish I could give you a solid answer, but it’s like comparing apples and oranges! Here’s my philosophy at the end of the day, though: I exist to create something people want to listen to. That’s actually very different than “I exist so people can hear me.” I can conduct an interview and edit it in such a way that the listener barely hears me talk, and honestly, that’s okay with me. The listener’s enjoyment does not rely on hearing me specifically; it relies on them hearing something interesting and engaging and intelligent. I think that some podcasters miss this, and it’s important to remember that not everything a host says will be audio gold. Sometimes it’s about letting a guest talk and backing off so they can shine. It’s a lesson I’ve taken from my past improv training: make everyone else look (sound) good, and you’re doing a good job!

Tom Slack Staff asked this question 4 months ago

Thanks again for doing this, Cody. Something I often ponder over when I launch into a new project – like a podcast – is how to maintain the enjoyment for it when the inevitable onslaught of work and routine tasks descends. How do you combat this and maintain the enjoyment?

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Cody Gough replied 4 months ago

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Thanks for having me! This is a great question. I’ve always firmly believed that you have to truly enjoy creating your podcast if you want anyone else to enjoy it. Which means that the #1 priority is to find a way to make it more fun — for yourself!

Everyone faces different challenges in terms of what “gets old” for them, but I do have a general piece of advice: don’t assume that things need to stay set in stone. I was a guest on Dave Jackson’s School of Podcasting last year, and talked to him about how we switched the weekly Curiosity Podcast to the current 5-day-a-week Curiosity Daily format. We did it because it made more sense for the Curiosity brand in general, but at the time, it was terrifying. I felt constrained by “sticking to the format,” but our listeners made the transition with us — and we’ve only grown since then! Later, I was obsessed with this idea that we had to cover exactly 3 stories on our show every day, but one day I simply couldn’t edit an interview to make it short enough to fit with 2 other stories… so we ran an episode with one slightly longer story, plus the longer interview. And guess what? Our listeners didn’t mind!

My point is that if you want to try something new or unique, then do it! Do what you WANT to do. That’s also why it’s vitally important to love the podcast you launch in the first place; after all, what’s the point in becoming successful doing something you don’t even enjoy doing? So my advice is to switch things up and find the fun for yourself. Your listeners will catch on, and based on my experience, they’ll really appreciate it!

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