Archives for April 2016

Smokestack Lightnin’ Blues Band Rocks The Lyric

Hailing from Snow Creek, Virginia, Moonshine Capital of the World, Smokestack Lightnin’ Blues Band had everyone tapping their feet on April 20th at The Lyric in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia. For anyone who thought The Black Keys were the best of modern blues, be prepared to experience the full power of these blues songs, brought to life by Smokestack Lightnin’. These local musicians play with passion.

Smokestack Lightnin Band

Members (not in order of picture): Jeff “Sunshine” Criner (Guitar/Vocals) David Gregory
(Drums/Vocals) Marcus Morris (Bass/Vocals) Harry “Buster” Sink
(Harp) Henry Lazenby(Guitar/Vocals)

Podcast produced by Laurel Sindewald of Handshake Media.

What Makes a Good Podcast?

Zoom-H1 by Handshake Media, Inc.A podcast, much like other media, is most popular when it entertains or enriches the listener’s life in some way. In answering the question of “what makes a good podcast,” we decided to take a peek at what people are already enjoying, and investigate why these podcasts have captivated listeners. Other articles have listed popular podcasts, but in this post we break a handful of different podcasts into the elements that make them engaging.

Serial by This American Life and WBEZ Chicago“One story told week by week”

Serial began as a true crime story of a girl who was murdered in Baltimore in 1999. Much like a TV show, listeners were kept in suspense as the host, Sarah Koenig, interviewing local people, family members, and dug deep to document what happened. The full story is told through Season One. A dedicated audience awaits a new story in Season Two.

Serial features:

  • Several musical themes to introduce the episode, ease transitions, and to cue the listener into important parts
  • A brief, compelling introduction with music telling the listener who is producing the show, who is speaking, and what the podcast is about
  • Interviews with many different people
  • Interesting, true subject matter
  • A common theme and a question to answer
  • An engaging storyteller
  • Professionally edited audio (no filler words such as “um,” and no background noise)

Embedded by NPR – “Takes a story from the news and goes deep”

Kelly McEvans chooses a story she finds intriguing and investigates the story further. Stories are varied and shocking, including coverage of an HIV epidemic due to prescription opioids in a small town in Indiana, a recent biker shootout in Waco, and how gangs stopped buses in El Salvador. Kelly asks the hard questions, such as what is it like to experience withdrawals from pain pills. She takes a story and makes it personal.

Embedded has some of the same features as Serial:

  • Music to introduce the episode, for transitions, and for emphasis
  • A brief introduction of the show producer, the speaker, and the topic
  • Interviews with people involved in the story
  • Interesting, true subject matter
  • A common theme
  • An engaging storyteller
  • Narrated parts are carefully edited (no filler words or background noise)

Freakonomics Radio by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt – “The podcast that explores the hidden side of everything”

Covers the enormous economic relevance of ideas that may have been obscure or unpopular in the past. The show is hosted by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, who supplement their own research and insights with excerpts of recordings and interviews with the major players in each topic. Examples of the subject matter they have investigated include whether the world is ready for a guaranteed basic income, the economics of sleep, and the real-world effects of payday loans.

Stephen and Steven’s initial partnership yielded a book first, described on their About page; “Levitt and Dubner wrote Freakonomics, a book about cheating teachers, bizarre baby names, self-dealing Realtors, and crack-selling mama’s boys. They figured it would sell about 80 copies. Instead, it took up long-term residency on the Times best-seller list, and went on to sell more than 5 million copies in 40 languages.”

  • Music backs the entire episode, with a variety of excerpts of songs from artists the hosts enjoy.
  • Each episode is introduced with music, the episode’s sponsor, speaker, a little bit about what the show covers before introducing the episode’s topic.
  • The hosts interview relevant people and leaders for each episode.
  • Hosts have vibrant, engaging speaking styles.
  • Topics are highly relevant to modern professional Americans.
  • The channel has a common theme.
  • Voice tracks and interviews are clearly edited and mastered to remove “ums” and improve audio quality.

The Joe Rogan Experience by Joe Rogan

Joe Rogan, an actor and comedian, hosts long conversations (two hours!) with various prominent people, including “comedians, actors, musicians, MMA instructors and commentators, authors, artists, and porn stars.” According to his about page, “The Joe Rogan Experience was voted the Best Comedy Podcast of 2012 on iTunes.”

  • Podcast is introduced with episode sponsor and the speaker. The channel, as well as each episode is sponsored by multiple companies, who are introduced at length before the podcast starts.
  • The entire show is videotaped, presented as audio and video on the podcast site. The video is also available on YouTube, while the audio is available on iTunes.
  • Episode audio is professionally recorded and mastered, but fillers such as “um” are not removed.
  • Though the show has a wide variety of content depending on the guest, it does have a common theme: two different personalities and minds chatting casually about the world

Radiolab by WNYC

“Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” Various hosts from Radiolab interview experts and prominent figures sharing stories on interesting topics, such as two prominent scientists discussing the earliest evolution of multicellular life. The Radiolab website also has a blog and a collection of videos.

  • The episode begins with an introduction of the show, the host, the guests, and the topic.
  • Episodes are professionally recorded and mastered.
  • Diverse, theatrical music and sound effects are added in different places to illustrate the topic being discussed.
  • Guest speakers and hosts are tonally expressive and playful with their speech.
  • The show has the feel of a performance rather than simply an interview.
  • Sponsors are showcased at the end of the podcast.

2 Dope Queens by WNYC

Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams have made their show popular with their incredibly funny and vivacious personalities and relaxed repartee. 2 Dope Queens is an increasingly popular comedy podcast featuring primarily Phoebe and Jessica, “with their favorite comedians, for stories about sex, romance, race, hair journeys, living in New York, and Billy Joel. Plus a whole bunch of other s**t.”

  • The episode begins by introducing the sponsors, a joke, music, and the hosts.
  • Jokes and pop culture references are continuously woven throughout their content.
  • A live audience is present for their show.
  • The show is professionally recorded and mastered in a studio.

Common qualities from all of these great podcasts are clearly great content, professional quality audio, and reliable, themed content. Podcasts reviewed here also bring in a variety of voices and minds, indicating that the best podcast shows, while consistent in content and hosts, keep things fresh with new personalities and human voices.

For more great podcasts, take a look at Buzzfeed’s review of podcasts in 2016, Time’s analysis of the best podcasts in 2015, and’s top podcasts.

Inspired? If you would like to start your own podcast channel, take a look at Handshake Media’s Podcast Services.

Valerie Kinzey on Essential Oils and Farm Life


Doterra Wellness Advocate and New River Valley, VA resident Valerie Kinzey sat down with Handshake Media Executive Director, Laurel Sindewald for this episode to share her know-how on essential oils. A newer farm owner, Valerie also had some entertaining stories to share about adjusting to farm life and some very odd chickens. Valerie lives on her farm near Blacksburg, VA with her husband and her three sons.

Valerie Kinzey with her family on their farm

She blogs about her life on a farm on her website, The Enchanted Homestead.

Podcast produced by Laurel Sindewald of Handshake Media.

How Does Handshake Media Price Podcast Channels?


Zoom-H1 by Handshake Media, Inc.

Handshake Media considers a number of variables when we draft an invoice for a new podcast channel. Creating a channel can take a great deal of time depending on how you want your channel to look and what features you want. The start-up fee for creating your channel includes:

  • creating your channel on Libsyn where it is stored or “hosted,”
  • customizing your channel’s appearance with images, logos, and text,
  • customizing where your channel’s RSS feed is sent, such as your website or blog, and
  • setting up an iTunes account and/or syncing your Libsyn account with your iTunes account if you wish to sell your podcast episodes.

We use Libsyn for podcast channel hosting, and storage costs vary depending on:

  • how often you wish to post,
  • how long you want your episodes to be, and
  • whether you want your episodes to be available for download in .mp3 or .wav format (.wav files are much larger than .mp3).

We may need to charge more for episode production and editing if you would like to add music or other elements to your podcast episodes because it will take more time to create each episode.

We drafted an example invoice for how these variables play out in pricing a podcast channel with weekly episodes of up to ten minutes long: Anne Giles Podcast Channel Invoice.

To see prices of all of our available services, visit our Pricing Page! If you have any questions, please feel welcome to contact us.

11 Facts on Women and Addiction

When we look around at the women in our world in the U.S., what are we likely to see with regard to women and addiction – her co-workers, her neighbors, the parents of her children’s friends, women in line at the grocery store? How many of these women abuse drugs or alcohol, how many have addictions, and what’s going on with them if they do have problems and/or addictions?

  1. flower by Nancy BrauerAccording to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, to maintain “low-risk drinking,” women should have no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week. Over 48% of women in the U.S. are at that maximum level of a drink per day.
  2. In the U.S., 15.8 million women aged 18 or older, or 12.9 percent, have used illegal drugs in the past year.
  3. According to the World Health Organization, in developed countries like the U.S., 1 in 12 women develop alcohol dependence during their lives.
  4. Addiction occurs more often in men than in women, but this gap is closing. Also, once women start substance use, they are more likely to develop dependence than men are, a phenomenon known in the scientific community as telescoping.
  5. Women are more likely to experience negative social and physical effects of addiction, and faster, than men.
  6. Women encounter more barriers to treatment for addiction than men do, such as childcare difficulties, social stigma, financial difficulties, and relating to predominantly male staff.
  7. Female smokers have greater health risks than male smokers, including double the risk for heart attack. Research suggests that quitting smoking can be more difficult for women, particularly during the first 14 days of their menstrual cycle (the follicular phase) due to hormonal changes.
  8. Co-occurring disorders are prevalent in women with substance use disorders. 29.7% of women with substance use disorders in a particular study (24,575 individuals) were diagnosed with mood disorders, and 26.2% with anxiety disorders. Additionally, eating disorders co-occur in 40% of women with substance use disorders.
  9. Over 50% of women in the U.S. experience trauma in their lifetimes. Rates of physical or sexual abuse range from 55% to 99% of treatment-seeking women with substance abuse disorders. 20-25% of people who experience trauma develop PTSD, putting them at elevated risk for a substance use disorder, which in turn can exacerbate their PTSD symptoms. Up to 3/4 of people who survive violence or trauma have drinking problems. About 80% of women in treatment for addiction experienced sexual or physical assault in their lifetimes.
  10. Women are especially susceptible to developing alcohol substance use disorders due to lower levels of water in their bodies, higher fat content, and lower levels of the protein that metabolizes alcohol. Women are also, particularly due to slow metabolization of alcohol, more likely to develop health problems due to alcohol use, and faster, than men.
  11. Most of the women who enter substance abuse treatment are mothers. Mothers are more likely to complete and comply with treatment if they retain custody of their children. However, of the women who quit smoking during pregnancy, 65% relapse within 6 months of delivery. Between 2005 and 2009, 1,015 infant deaths per year were caused by smoking tobacco during pregnancy. Overall, risk of stillbirth is 2 to 3 times greater for pregnant women who smoke tobacco or marijuana, take prescription pain relievers, or use illegal drugs during pregnancy. Yet a pregnant woman who withdraws suddenly from alcohol or drug use, legal or illegal, without medical help, puts her baby at risk.

Women may become addicted to substances less often than men, but the consequences are potentially more severe for them when they do. On the whole, this information suggests that women may have better treatment outcomes in programs tailored to the specific challenges of their gender. Mindfulness of child care, menstrual cycles and menopause, treatment of co-occurring disorders, and a prevalence of female treatment providers are some ways in which addictions treatment could be improved to help women.

Photo credit: Nancy Brauer

Laurel Sindewald is Executive Director of Handshake Media, Incorporated, publishers of the free addictions recovery smartphone app, New2Recovery.

Catherine Fae Shares Her Blue Ridge Marathon Experience

The Blue Ridge Marathon is one of the toughest street marathons in the United States. Throughout the 26-mile run, marathoners traverse 7,430 ft of elevation gain/loss. Only 750 intrepid runners are able to participate in a given year. 

Catherine Fae is a master storyteller, and finished the 2016 Blue Ridge Marathon just last week! Listen to her short tale in this episode, set in her lovely home garden with its soothing pond and inquisitive cat. 

Podcast produced by Laurel Sindewald of Handshake Media.

Sarah Beth Jones on How to Empower Others

Sarah Beth Jones

Sarah Beth Jones, the NoBS Biz & Empowerment Coach, spoke at the 2016 Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Women’s Leadership Conference at The Inn at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia on April 3rd. We recorded her full speech in this podcast episode, on how to empower others by first empowering yourself.

If you would like to sample her speech, we excerpted one of our favorite parts!:

Podcast produced by Laurel Sindewald of Handshake Media.

Laurel Sindewald On the Origins and Purpose of Coffee & Contemplation

 Laurel Sindewald, Executive Director of Handshake Media, shares the story behind her weekly discussion group, Coffee & Contemplation. She also shares one of her favorite aphorisms by Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greatest Weight.

Laurel welcomes drop-in visitors every Saturday from 2:30-3:30 pm, at Lucie Monroe’s in Christiansburg on the first and third Saturdays and at Our Daily Bread in Blacksburg on the second, fourth, and fifth Saturdays. For more information about Coffee & Contemplation, see the post she wrote about it on her blog.

Laurel Sindewald Coffee & Contemplation


Podcast produced by Laurel Sindewald of Handshake Media.

Preface to Phoenix Rising by Anne Giles

What’s a nice girl to do when she discovers she can’t stop drinking? Instructor, counselor, businesswoman, and Handshake Media founder Anne Giles found herself asking just this question. In Phoenix Rising: A Journey of Self-Discovery Through Addiction Recovery, Anne paints vividly the rebirth of her identity as she sorts through the ashes of her past to understand the origins of her addiction, and as she seeks to understand addiction as a larger problem.

In beginning the preface aloud in this episode, Anne is creating an audiobook of Phoenix Rising in much the same way as she created the written book. She first explored her story in a series of blog posts; now she presents her story, Phoenix Rising, in a series of podcasts.

“We don’t know how this story goes,” she writes. Stay tuned for the next episode.

Phoenix Rising-ad-300x480

. . . . .

Podcast of Phoenix Rising: A Journey of Self-Discovery Through Addiction Recovery produced by Laurel Sindewald of Handshake Media.

Invitation to Take Our Podcast Survey

Handshake Media has been in the publishing business since 2008 – blogs, books, and, most recently, mobile applications. We’re excited to expand to publishing podcasts and would welcome your feedback and guidance as we move forward!

If you would please take this quick survey for us, that would be fantastic!

Sarah Beth Jones

A podcast is a way you can tell your story in your voice to reach your
audience and target market. It’s your show. Listeners can hear you anytime, anywhere, on a mobile device or computer.

Many people want to do podcasts. But they don’t have the equipment,
tech savvy, and editing skills to make it happen quickly, even at all.
We do.

Here’s an example of how your podcast might be featured on our
site. You can also embed the podcast on your website or blog. Thank
you, empowerment coach Sarah Beth Jones, for helping us create our first demo!

Note the quality of Sarah Beth’s recording – with an audience present! We have top equipment and Handshake Media’s Laurel Sindewald is a musician and professional soundtrack editor.

If you care to offer suggestions as comments on this post, those would be welcomed.

Thanks for helping us explore how to best meet your needs with our new podcast production services!

With appreciation,