I wrote a post not too long ago about why you need to stop using Zoom to record your remote podcasts. I feel strongly about this now there are so many tools out there to improve your audio quality, and it's something that every podcaster should do to make the listening experience better for their audience.
In that article I compared a few different alternatives to Zoom, such as Riverside.fm, Squadcast, Zencastr, Cleanfeed and also recording completely locally. They were all pretty similar at the time, but since I've written that article one of the platforms has taken a clear lead, Riverside.fm.
Since I started using Riverside.fm more and more, I teamed up with them to make videos for their YouTube channel, teaching people all I know about running and growing a successful podcast. I'm doing this because I truly believe in their product and think the more people that use Riverside.fm, the better the quality of podcasts across the industry. This means more people will listen and enjoy as more podcasters are caring about upgrading their audio.
So what's all the fuss? Why can't I just use Zoom?
When you record with Zoom, you get a horribly compressed feed which sounds like you're on a call, not a podcast. Zoom are doing things to improve this but they're taking their time and it's hidden away in the settings. They do this because it makes a more reliable experience for people doing video and audio calls who don't have a podcasting setup. Features like harsh echo cancellation because lots of people use calls without headphones with their laptop microphone, causing a lot of feedback.
Riverside.fm, or the other similar platforms, record the audio locally. Meaning it takes the raw audio feed directly from your computer and uploads that to the platform, meaning you have a clean, uncompressed, separate audio tracks to import into your editing software. What makes this so good is the recording sounds exactly the same as if you were in the same room as each other.
What makes Riverside better?
So I mentioned that Riverside.fm has taken a clear lead over the other platforms, let me explain why. In terms of audio quality, most of the platforms will give you similar results but it's the other features that is making Riverside.fm the best option for podcasters.
I also said in the article the main thing holding Riverside.fm back was it's UI, which was frankly terrible. Since then, they've released a completely new version which looks fantastic - Nadav and the team have clearly invested a lot of time and money into this.
The first and most obvious feature is video recording. As podcasting becomes more competitive (there are over 1m now), you need to do everything you can to make your podcast stand out. Recording your podcast with video is a great way of setting yourself apart and it comes with a few other benefits. You can now utilise clips on YouTube and post them on social. Yes, you could argue you can make an audiogram (squiggly lines visualised) and post that on social media, but people are more likely to watch a video of a person than they are an audiogram. Riverside.fm allows you to record in up to 4k video, which is great if you've got an Elgato Camlink connected to a DSLR to really maximise the video quality.
Squadcast has suggested this feature is coming soon, but I've found they take quite a bit of time to ship features, so assume this will be no different.
I produce a lot of podcasts for clients. Before Covid, I'd go along to the studio and sit in my producer chair, monitoring audio levels and ensuring evening goes smoothly. I don't have a microphone, I'm just present. Riverside.fm brings this to remote podcasting! You can host a session with a few guests, monitor audio levels and ensure everything is running smoothly without your audio or video being recorded. Then at the end you'll have everyone's files there ready to download and start editing.
See mic and levels
Most of the other platforms again have this, but the execution on Riverside is much better. Squadcast (which I do view as Riverside's closest competitor) you have a few small dots which don't give you a huge amount of information in terms of levels. Riverside also shows you the microphone your guest is using in the virtual studio, something that has made my life as a producer much easier. You get 6 steps of monitoring on Squadcast and 30 on Riverside. Go figure.
Upload progress to the MB
A nice little feature that gives me peace of mind, is as the host / producer on Riverside you can see the total upload MB of your audio and your guest's. These platforms work by continually uploading your audio as you record and then finishing off the final ~10% when you stop recording. Riverside gives you a live count of how much data is uploaded vs how much data is left to go. This is very useful for me as I can see if there are any problems along the way.
What's not so good?
No platform is perfect, neither is Riverside. There is still some way for them to go to be the best but seeing how far they've come in a few short months since the platform launched, I'm confident they'll continue to go from strength to strength. Here's a few things I'd like them to make better.
This is my biggest gripe currently, Riverside.fm will only record the local audio on Chrome. It's not compatiably with other browsers yet, so you and your guests will need to make sure you're using Chrome. I find myself having to tell guests this before we start recording, and it can sometimes be a bit of a hassle to get them to switch if they don't have it installed or use it.
Since they updated the producer studio, the dashboard still uses the old design. I'm told this is being updated soon, but just something to note.
Will the platform be around in the future?
Often when a new platform comes along, I'm sceptical that it won't just fold away as the founder gets bored or they don't get enough traction as they'd like.
I'm sure the team at Riverside.fm are going to be working hard implementing new features over the next few months, as they've just raised $2.5m investment, a sign that they'll be sticking around for a while.
I hope this article clears up why I think Riverside.fm is the best option out there for remote podcasters at the moment. I'll be helping them out with making the platform even better for podcasters and posting videos on their YouTube channel along the way. If you're interested in having a look, here's my overview: