Riverside and SquadCast have been close competitors in the remote recording space, but with SquadCast having shipped a recent apology update, which is the service to use?
Hiya, and welcome to the podcast. Owner's manual, your handy reference guide to taking care of your podcast and yourself. My name is Mark. I'm your podcast, producer, consultant, and coach. And I'm delighted to be with you today to talk about SquadCast. We're also going to look at Riverside as well, but this sort of focuses on SquadCast as they've recently updated their software. And so I want it to take a look at it again and also give you the spoiler right now as to why I'm still sticking with Riverside, recommending it for my clients, and using it for myself.
So I've gone back and forth. In recommending SquadCast and Riverside. I started using Riverside back in, I think 2020 to record my Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. And when the world ended and, um, more and more podcasts decided to move to the cloud and it became de rigueur for podcasters to start recording remotely, that was the, the tool that I initially started recommending.
And then as I started sort of hanging out virtually with more of the people from, from SquadCast, I thought, well, they've got a great tool here and what I like about it, which we'll get into in a little bit is their attitude. Just their attitude in general, but partly how they show up for their customers as well.
But then I started using it and that is why I'm still recommending Riverside. They made some updates which ultimately have made, SquadCast not the most reliable tool. So let's take a look at what they've done recently.
So they sent out an email a few days ago. One of the first things that they mentioned is that they've reintroduced time zones. So when you're setting a date to record a session, which you can do in either SquadCast or Riverside, you might say, well, this is the date. And obviously here's the time that we're gonna meet. But they forgot in their new interface, in their excitement to build a new interface, they seemingly forgot to add a drop down for time zones, which seems silly even in America, where there are what, three, four different time zones.
Guests will now know if that camera is going to be recorded. I think this is really important. So there's a, an indicator now, so that the guest or any of the participant will be informed whether their video is going to actually be saved to the cloud. So with both of these tools, the way they work is that you, you rock up, you enable your camera and your microphone, and then you have a chat and you can see each other as you're talking, and all the guests can see each other and that's great. But with both tools, you can decide whether or not to record that video. In 95% of cases I always say don't bother because the video files are massive, and what that ends up meaning is that you have to keep your guests hanging on the line or they've got to keep the SquadCast or the Riverside app open while that's happening, which is a bit more of a problem if they're using a tablet or something like that. Like it's just not that feasible. And for the benefit that you get, I'm still personally, not all that convinced about the viability or the demand for podcasts that are essentially just two talking heads, going back and forth.
I'm willing to be proven wrong about that, but I've yet to find that that's actually that valuable. I think you may as well, just have a dancing waveform and a couple of images for the amount of effort that it takes, not just for putting the episodes together, but also for the guests, because then suddenly they're not doing a podcast anymore. They're doing a YouTube video that, which means they've got to get their lighting set up, they've got, like, it's just a whole thing, isn't it? So I tend to recommend absolutely, like, get the video turned on because that's really important, because it's great for establishing, uh, eye contact and knowing when someone's about to come in or when maybe they're drifting off, but for the most part, you don't need to save the video and it, and it actually adds a lot of hustle if you do. So I think having an indicator that says it's okay, yes, we can see you, but you don't have to put your lippy on, I think is, is really important.
They've also added a setting. For community events, which I think is quite nice. So SquadCast as I said, and we'll get into, like, they're big on community and trying to bring people together, they have a community manager in Arielle Nissenblatt, uh, this is something that you can talk along from your settings, and it then means when they're running things like their office hours, you can jump in and you can watch and you can contribute and that kind of stuff.
So if you are really interested, like a lot of these companies now. not just remote recording tools, but a lot of people in the space are doing general podcasting advice because they all want to be as useful for podcasters as possible right? So, uh, Riverside. I've got that YouTube channel where they're doing lots of podcasting basics. Hosting companies have been doing this for years. Even places like, uh, Descript are now running them, and it's not necessarily always related to their products but podcasting in general.
So. their open office hours starts on September the 29th and they're going to be every Friday from 6:00 PM UK time. And that's a place where you'll be able to ask questions, meet other SquadCasters in the chat, check in with the SquadCast team as well, and then learn a bunch of stuff. So that's the promise.
They've also redesigned the dashboard, allowing for toggling of sessions, primary recordings, cloud recordings, and what they call squad shots, which again, I think for the most part for the kind of stuff that we do is isn't it's it's a nice sort of marketing thing for SquadCast and also it's kind of cute if you're into that kind of podcasting. Uh, where you're sort of hanging out on Twitter and talking to the podcasters, it's that kind of stuff which, you know, for most of the work that we do, isn't all that relevant, but it's nice that they've got it. It's just a way of showing a screenshot of all the participants on a call, basically.
But one of the things I'm starting to find with SquadCast is getting access to the recordings is a little bit strange, and downloading them and integrating them into a project is actually not the easiest, which is one of the reasons, again, that I'm sort of recommending Riverside. Uh, they've got this sort of hierarchy which is like a session, take, and then recording. And take is anytime you hit record, that's a take within a session. That's the wrong metaphor, right? The idea that, that within a single session, like an interview, you might hit the button to record everyone, then the guest can leave and then you might hit record again to do your intro and outro. Those aren't takes. A take suggests we're going to do this again, and I've fallen foul of that before. I've assumed when I've been downloading audio from clients that take one and take two means they've actually had a go at the same script, which is actually not what happens in most cases. So I think gets a little bit tricky there.
Um, They've got a new equipment info panel, uh, or an update to that to show what equipment the guests and other participants are running. That can be really helpful as well, especially if you're trying to guide someone through to say, right, okay, it says it's using your internal microphone. We need to change that to your Rode NT1-A or NT-USB or whatever, and to, to be able to see that change, or maybe even to see where the output is, and whether someone's wearing headphones, that kind of stuff can be really handy.
You can turn on echo cancellation for each participant. So you can turn that on and off rather than having to be across the whole call, which is really, really useful. So. If you've got one guest who you can't persuade to wear headphones or just isn't, or they forgot, you can turn on echo cancellation just on their track, uh, which could be really useful.
They're also integrating what they call a pilot program, which is basically, you know, you might see, uh, labs in other things, this sort of beta features. So if you are feeling daring. And you want to be able to test some new features, uh, and sort of submit feedback and stuff and work with them, then that's an option that you can talk on as well. But I wouldn't recommend it.
So those are the new updates to SquadCast. They've obviously recognized there are some areas that, where they need to make an improvement. But ultimately, it's too fussy a product I've found. Having recorded a few episodes when it, there are some things that are really like. I really liked the, the metaphor they have or the paradigm they have for scheduling recordings. It works a lot better than it does in Riverside. So with Riverside, you create a studio which is basically for your, your podcast or you know, any project, uh, you create a studio. And from there, you can invite people along. You can invite people on a schedule basis, or you can just share a link to each participant. And that link will last forever, essentially.
I also liked that it's very easy for a a viewer or a listenr to check in on a live recording. That's quite nice. That's the thing that they can do. So if you enable that, then in Riverside, it's almost a little bit like having a Crowdcast or, or a public Zoom or something like that. And people can jump in on the chat, which I think is quite a nice feature, although I've never used it in the wild.
But yeah, SquadCast has a better metaphor. You don't actually create a show necessarily in SquadCast. The recent updates mean you create an organization, and then from there you can schedule new recordings. And you can create what they call a, a recurring room, I think, which just means it's a, it's an open, uh, recording studio that anyone can jump into at any time. But it's really not by much of a deal breaker. It's a nice metaphor. But when you look at Riverside and actually just being able to share a single link, again, like I really haven't had the issue where someone has logged into a Riverside recording who shouldn't be there while I've been recording. You know, you can enable a waiting room anyway, within Riverside. So it's not really a problem at all.
But as I was saying, I tend to find squadCast fussy on a technical level. So the first episode or two of what was, What's Your Problem?, my audio was, was, was really bad because the way that their audio engine talks with the browser is not right. And what that means in practical terms. Is things like, so I have my audio interface here. Just like you might have a USB mic, and you plug the headphones into your mic, I have an equivalent, but it's just a big box and it does the same kind of thing. You can tell SquadCast all day long. I'm playing audio through my, through the headphones that are plugged into my microphone. And SquadCast will go yeah, that's great, cool. And then it will continue to play the audio from your internal speakers from your default output. It doesn't care. So you could sell it and, and, and squad customers say, yeah, cool. I'm going to play audio through your headphones. And then you jump in and the guest rocks up and the audio comes out of your speakers, or whatever your default output is. So you have to go to System Preferences, this is on a Mac. System Preferences and then change the setting, which is bonkers, and annoying and avoidable.
I've seen more destroyed and corrupted recordings with SquadCast than I have with Riverside. It's great that they have the cloud backup feature, and I think I've had to rely on that once or twice. Uh, actually a lot with one particular recent clients, all of their recordings were, were corrupted. There'd be just one side of the call for no good reason. And the fact that no one knew that was happening while the recording was going on is unforgivable. It's not unforgivable, nothing's unforgivable, but it's real bad, right? You know, you you've spent a lot of time sitting there with a guest, having a great experience, and then you find out that, you know, the audios and at least the audio is there, but just not of great quality.
Now I will say the same thing has happened with Riverside once in my experience. Now I've had lots of other issues with Riverside where people have sort of seem to have like logged in and logged out and stuff, but I've always had the audio from them. It's been in bits and pieces, but have always had the original audio.
When you find that a significant number of recordings are broken and you have to revert back to the backup, that's no bueno, right? That's a big, that's a big one for me. It just doesn't feel like this software has got my back.
Now, I absolutely feel that the people behind SquadCast have got my back and that's important. I do know, or I certainly feel that if I have a major issue. I can bring it up with the people at SquadCast, and they're good people, and they're doing their best. I say they're doing their best. That it's condescending. They're doing good work. But there are these fundamental issues.
Now flip, flip, reverse that, and look at Riverside, I've only had one time where one of the guest's audio was completely botched up. The problem though, is that when you do run into issues, you're much more likely for the customer support team to sort of blame the user, which is nev, it's not how you do customer support. So that, that I think is important as well. And will factor into your decision when you come to figuring out, okay, what one of these services am I going to use?
Riverside is also better priced, I think. SquadCast have been sort of changing their pricing and I haven't really paid that much attention to their latest pricing, but, I believe actually that, that Riverside is still a lot more competitively priced. And unless I'm very much mistaken, they don't differentiate between video and audio.
Now, squadCast as I've said, have great, not only, uh, support, but a great attitude towards community. If you are someone who is interested in being part of the podcasting community, then SquadCast is a nice place for that. I have found that not to be the case with almost everyone. I work with. We, we might label ourselves as podcasts. As part of a, sort of a healthy Twitter bio, or whatever, LinkedIn bio, right? We might mention that we have the podcast or that we, we might call ourselves a podcaster, but we don't necessarily identify. But if you do want to dive into the podcasting community, then SquadCast is, is a nice place for that.
And also the people who run it are good, nice people. And if that's where you want to put your money, then SquadCast is the place to go. If you want to invest in people based businesses, then SquadCast is absolutely the place to do that.
SquadCast do care about building a great product. As much as I've sort of wailed on them here and said there are fairly obvious technical flaws in the design, they care about making their product as good as it can be. On the other hand, Riverside, it's more functional. I think it's probably a little bit easier to use from a production standpoint or from you as the host stand point. I, I think it's probably a little bit easier to, to use Riverside than, than, uh, SquadCast is.
Also, if you want to share your recordings, the two services differ quite a bit here. So with SquadCast the, the way it works, and this is a, this is a great improvement that they've Uh, in the last couple of months over the previous version and that I, as a producer, working with a client, I can get access to the recordings. So I create a SquadCast account for free, my client can invite me to access those recordings. So I log in with my account and I can see their organization as well as others that I've been added to, and I can download the recordings and that works really well.
Riverside doesn't work the same way, but what I think I do like about Riverside is that I don't need an account to access your recordings. I get a secret URL which no, one's going to guess which you provide me. You as the host, you provide that to me. And I've got guides, on the website at origin dot fm that walked through how you do this. Uh, and it's actually quite, it's quite simple, but it's easy to make a mistake. It's, describing the steps is actually harder than just seeing a video and just, just click that link there and that'll do it. When you try it and explain that in a, in text It tends to, in my experience that those instructions sort of don't quite parse, whereas I can just say, just watch this video, do that and then I've got the information that I need and you only have to do that once.
So the big question then is what should you use? I think if you value customer service and community, then SquadCast is my recommendation for that. But if you just want functional reliability, maybe a bunch of buried settings that you don't need, maybe it gets a little bit technical, maybe the support is a little bit not what we'd love, but a tool that, you can turn it on and it kind of does the trick and it just works.
I tend to err on the side of Riverside. I don't worry about it. I don't think about it. And that is ideal, right? I click record and I feel, I can see the percentages. I can see if there are any issues. Yes, if it's going to get weird, if someone's, computer's going to freak out, someone disappears. I know we can deal with it, but I also am so much more confident that if there is an issue, the audio is going to be safe. Yes. I've always got the backup as I have with both services, but I'm far more confident that I will get every piece of audio through Riverside than I am with SquadCast. Your mileage may vary. Uh, but that has been my experience.
So, if you want to talk remote recording tools or anything else that I've brought up today, then drop me an email, email@example.com. Um, but you can also check out links and the show notes over at podcastownersmanual.com. Thank you very much for listening and I'll check in with you again next week.