I’ve been asked enough times how to make a podcast or what makes a good podcast, that I’m going to try and put my views into this post.
Allow me a sentence or two as a disclaimer. These aren’t “rules,” these are opinions based on my experience producing and consuming podcasts. What you’re about to read is very much influenced by my personal taste and none of this is absolute, they all have exceptions.
Here’s what I tell people that ask how to do a podcast:
What is your value proposition? What are you going to do for your listeners? Are you going to inform them, make them laugh, tell them something interesting? What are you going to bring to your audience?
Podcasting is such a personal medium, just like radio but maybe even more so. Listeners get really attached to the host or hosts.
It’s an intimate form of media that takes an action from the consumer. The listener is choosing to subscribe and play your show. They are inviting you through their earbuds and into their heads. What people listen to takes residence in their mind and thoughts.
Let your sense of humor come through, let your personality out, share your likes and dislikes. Put yourself out there a little bit and give your audience something to connect with more than just the news and stories you’re discussing.
If you are just being yourself, and telling a story like you would to a friend over coffee or at a bar, you should sound human. I’ve written about delivery before. Podcasting isn’t a great place for an “announcer’s voice” or projecting like a capital “B” Broadcaster. Just be yourself.
Weekly, daily, monthly? How often will you publish your podcast? It’s up to you and what you think you can deliver, how “evergreen” the material is and the purpose of the show. There’s no right or wrong answer.
But once you promise your audience it will publish every “___” then do it.
The quality of the sound has to be great. It’s getting easier and easier to get great audio, and it’s costing less and less. If you’re new to producing in audio here are two tips before you go off and google “podcasting equipment.” Spend most of your money on a mic, and wear some headphones, ok?
HOW TO NEWS: GIVE CONTEXT, NOT INFORMATION
First of all, podcasting is not a place for breaking news. Breaking news is for live broadcasts, Twitter, and mobile alerts. Podcasts are not a source of breaking news. This makes sense to most people, but it’s still worth stating at the beginning because I take it a step further.
To me, news podcasting isn’t even about giving information. Podcasting is a great way for people to process and understand information.
A news podcast can help someone arrive at their own opinion without driving them to an opinion.
Now, here’s my first exception. A short radio style newscast that gives people the basic who, what and why of the news each day has value. NPR’s 7am newscast is a great news podcast, same with the CBS hourly.
YES OF COURSE, OPINIONS WORK TOO
I hope you don’t think I’m against opinions. The above advice about context and information mostly applies to podcasts that intend to be about news. I believe news podcasts fill a role of helping people digest facts and arrive at their own opinions. But if you’re an opinionated host and want to drive home your point of view, by all means go for it.
It’s all about the purpose of your podcast and the value you are going to deliver to your audience.
Do you have strong, informed opinions about politics, money, food, tech, movies? Great… podcasting is a fantastic platform to let the world know and find an audience.
STORIES vs. NEWS
This is a huge sweet spot for podcasts. Think about the difference between stories and news.
The huge hit “Serial” was an investigation into a 1999 murder and the following conviction of Adnan Syed. Was it “news”? Kind of I guess, but most of it was looking back at old news.
It actually follows the same path carved out by tv shows like Dateline NBC and 48 Hours Mysteries. Those TV shows re-tell the stories of past headline grabbing crimes, but it’s not really “news.” Sometimes shows like that make news, like HBO’s “The Jinx” when they caught Robert Durst saying “There it is. You’re caught.”
Here’s where the old phrase “news magazine” comes in. TV shows like 60 Minutes, 20/20 and the hugely popular radio show/podcast This American Life cover news subjects and topics, but aren’t exactly daily headlines.
What these shows have in common is story telling, learning and escape. They tell interesting stories in an interesting way, they give listeners an entertaining escape and maybe help them learn something.
It goes back to what your value proposition will be to your listeners. Almost anything can capture someone’s imagination and interest.
GUESTS AND INTERVIEWS
If your podcast is going to feature guest interviews, think about what the point of an interview is.
Are you trying to learn something from an expert guest? Are you trying to get to know someone (a celebrity) better? Are you trying to understand what it’s like to walk a mile in someone’s shoes?
What is your audience going to get from this guest?
Interviews are harder than you might think. It takes some understanding of what the guest has to offer, eliciting that something and listening to what they are saying.
How long should it be?
How long can you be interesting?
Once people have an idea of what it is they want to do, the stories they want to tell, or the people they want to interview, the conversation always ends with “how long should it be?”
The average U.S. commute is 25 minutes. Based on that, I suggest 20 – 25 minutes per episode. As long as you have 20 to 25 minutes of material.
That’s where I would start and you can change if the content and audience demands it.
THAT’S IT, I THINK…
That’s enough from me on what I think it takes to make a good podcast.
Oh, and for a really good “how to” I suggest this link to everyone that asks me. It’s MidRoll Media’s whitepaper on successful podcasting.
Let me know what you think below or on Twitter, LinkedIn etc.