Imagine my surprise with the recent expansion of the podcast format into the national zeitgeist. With the addition of bluetooth enabled radios in our automobiles the masses started using podcasts on iTunes, Spotify, and iHeartRadio to tune in during their commutes. What changed? Why am I back to my original idea? How do I leverage this time to get teachers to pay attention to developing their craft over the latest Armchair Expert or Joe Rogan.
The first three podcasts we tried to launch at Aldine TV suffered the same fate as the national average. On average podcasts don’t survive past three episodes, almost all but the most successful end between 10 and 20 episodes. That is a lot of podcasting dreams dead on arrival. What happens?
What format are you going to use? We have broken down formatting down to three general categories. Each has different expectations, issues and planning. The format most people think of first is an interview show. A successful podcast interviewing people revolves around the effort put forth in finding people to interview. The producer must schedule people to interview around the chosen topic in a timely manner.
Successful interview podcasts have a host who spends quite a bit of time researching the topic and person they will be interviewing. Questions are pre-written, information is located to discuss and the interviewer has done a lot of reading to make sure they are knowledgeable enough to support their end of the conversation. The word conversation is important. Am awesome interview podcast is a conversation between 2-3 people. Podcasts are typically a longer format than the typical TV interview. Often last between 30 minutes to an hour all parties involved must be willing to have a conversation. The listener must feel like they are in the room and can be a part of the conversation if you want them to keep coming back.
The next format is the serialized podcast. This podcast tells a story in a limited number of sessions for a series format. The current popular serialized podcasts are True Crime podcasts. Recording a set number of sessions, these podcasts are heavily scripted to narrate a story with interviews, research and discussions. The preparation for this type of podcast requires a lot of work to share a narrative to influence, inform, and entertain.
The final podcast type is the variety show. This show requires a lot of planning to appear to be spontaneous and humorous. The show has a lot of different elements scheduled for the hosts, guests, and audio to be combined to create the episode. There is quite a bit of planning required to ensure that the podcast flows and entertains without appearing forced or unprepared. This format closely resembles a morning talk show on TV. While popular this is a hard format that takes a lot of commitment to maintain over an extended period. The hosts must be truly committed to the program and the subject area of the podcast or it will quickly fade away.
After deciding your format you must choose your topic. Choosing your podcast topic must address something that someone besides yourself must enjoy. It is hard to create podcasts when no one else is interested in the same thing as you. If the podcast is just you talking about your favorite pet rock it probably won’t go anywhere. So let's talk about content.
Content has to be broad enough to allow you to have a discussion each week. If you are an interview show the questions should reflect an interview format that is consistent, probing and focused towards the purpose of the podcast. Serial podcasts start broad and narrow the scope of discussion as they march toward the end of the serialized content. The next season will start out broad and again narrow focus as the serial zeroes in on the subject of that arc.
Variety show content is usually structured around set behaviors. News articles, reviewer comments, quiz games, and hot topic items in pop culture are favorite subjects. The podcast follows a consistent format that the audience finds interesting, relatable and enjoyable. Deviate from this consistent format and the audience will rebel and stop listening.
The number one thing to remember in any format is content is the key. It must be delivered at a set time every week with fidelity to maintain an audience. This is why podcasts like mine failed. I lacked the time to plan, schedule, and edit the podcast to consistently deliver the content each week. This led to a such a small audience that I quickly decided wasn’t worth all of the work I was going to have to put forth to continue production.
Remember the content for your format must engage as well. The audience must have a genuine interest in what you are presenting. They should become caught up in your passion and interest for the topic of the day. Include the audience by asking them to leave questions and comments on your social media. Read the content from your audience in your show to continue that engagement. The more audience engagement you recognize the better your show will be as you learn from constructive criticism and the habits of your audience. To ensure you are connecting audience engagement that helps them will help you.