Have you ever listened to a podcast and thought:
OMG! This is sooo long!
Are they ever going to get to the point?
Are they ever going to get to today's topic?
Sheesh! I may need to fast forward because this isn't interesting.
These are reactions that take place due to the podcaster forgetting about a very important element to their show - YOU. Instead, they got caught up in a conversation, concept or segment, and they forgot to consider how much value it brought to the listener.
The hosts should always think of a listener as the other person in the conversation. Otherwise, they might feel less like they are in the conversation and more like their eavesdropping on one. This is an important concept in podcasting that is similar to a qualifier the late Gene Siskel applied when watching a movie. He would ask himself:
"Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?"
When I was hired to improve the radio fundraising drives at the Dallas/Fort Worth Public Radio Station, I applied this principle to our live on-air breaks. Sometimes that would mean changing something as simple as saying, "Good morning". If two people open their live segment saying "good morning" to one another (which was common), without the acknowledgement of the listener, there is an immediate disconnect. It's another reason why pledge breaks can be so irritating to listeners. It sounds like two people interrupted your favorite show to beg for money. Instead, it should sound like two like-minded people that want to discuss the importance of giving with you.
It can happen on podcasts as well. The hosts are having so much fun talking, that they'll veer off topic and sound unfocused. They simply forget they're doing a show for a listener, and it becomes all about them and their fun.
The same can happen when you're forced to listen to a segment that sounds weird or unengaging. The problem is that the host thought it was brilliant, and that was enough for it to be on the podcast. They got so caught up in how great it was to them, and they forgot to determine why the listener would like it.
If you ask people why they love certain podcasts so much, you'll often hear them say it's because they love the hosts. Many times they'll go as far as to say they feel like they're hanging out with them as they laugh, learn and talk. That's how you want your listener to feel.
When you produce podcasts and remember your listener at all times, you'll find that it can improve the quality of your show.
Your audience knows when they're valued and ignored.
Being in the messaging and marketing space, I love watching shows like Shark Tank. I not only love learning about new products, but I'm also fascinated with how people attempt to convey messages to the investors. However, they can throw out the perfect pitch, showcase a good product and NOT get an offer. One reason tends to be the number of products in that space.
Remember this when you launch a podcast. In fact, think of your podcast as a bag of chips.
I saw a pretty successful pitch for a new brand of potato chips, but the crowded chip shelves at grocery stores deterred the sharks. Think about it, when you go to the grocery store...how likely are you to try a new brand of chip instead of going with what you already like? Granted, if your favorite BRAND launches a new flavor, you might consider it.
What about a brand you've never seen? What would they have to do in order to get you to TRY their food? If you try it out, would you compare it to your favorites?
A big part of your target audience are people who currently listen to podcasts, and they know what kind of shows (or chips) they like. If your ideal listeners are seasoned (see what I did there?) podcast listeners, they probably already listen to shows like yours. So, now you have to convince them to fit your show into their consumption habits.
In other words:
This is why you need to think less about doing what other people do, and work harder to be different or better than them. If you love Doritos or Fritos, you've probably seen similar brands of chips. Big deal. You don't have to have something "similar" because you already get what you like.
Don't be a Doritos copycat. You can provide your podcast audience with a something unique that gives them value (and a lot less sodium).
As many people know, I am a BIG proponent of podcast editing. In the first episode of Content Call, I loved how Chris Brogan's wife beautifully coined the process as "good manners". You should call it that because taking the time to edit a podcast means you care about respecting the listener's time. As I've said before, you can do some of the editing before the show starts recording by:
For the last 3 years, I've set the flagship show at Assembly of Geeks to run about an hour. However, there have been times when the recording session went 90 or more minutes. That means I have to work harder in editing, but I've cut 25+ total minutes off in post production in order to get it a lot closer to that 60 minute threshold.
It can be done.
How? Well, most people see editing as just cutting out the "uhs" and "ums" throughout the recording. Yes, you can do that...but you can also do so much more.
Cut out the stutters and stops/starts.
Podcasts are generally the flow of natural conversation, and not all of us are professional speakers. So, there are going to be times where someone stutters or starts a sentence, stops and then starts over. Cut that and tighten those moments into one fluid sentence. There are also times where someone takes a longer than usual pause before saying something, and you can tighten that as well.
Cut the rambles and less important comments
We've all been in conversations where one person has so much to say that we get antsy. We get that way because they dominate the conversation that we don't feel part of it anymore. Remember, the listener is part of your conversation...only you can't hear them speak. So, don't make them zone out or feel antsy. Listen to some of the longer commentaries during your conversation and find places to tighten it. In the end, they might say the exact same thing, only in fewer words. Or, they might just say the most important stuff. Here's an example:
Let's say you're listening to someone talk about the new Wonder Woman movie and they say:
"I thought it was easily the best superhero movie I've seen in awhile. I think Gal Gadot proves she was the perfect choice to play her because you fully believe she IS Wonder Woman from beginning to end. Which is such a relief because so many people questioned her casting, but I knew all along she could pull it off because I've seen her in several other movies. Fast and Furious being one of them. Love that movie. She is the embodiment of what we love so much about heroes, especially Wonder Woman. She stands for what she believes in...she's brave, courageous, intelligent, and she's a badass. It reminded me a lot of this girl that I went to college with. She was beautiful, but she also wasn't afraid to stand up for what she believed in. I think she could totally cosplay as Wonder Woman. After all the attempts to bring Wonder Woman to the screen...it's almost been worth the wait considering what we got. I want to go see it again."
We can cut a few things and turn it into this:
"I thought it was easily the best superhero movie I've seen in awhile. I think Gal Gadot proves she was the perfect choice to play her because you fully believe she IS Wonder Woman from beginning to end. She is the embodiment of what we love so much about heroes, especially Wonder Woman. She stands for what she believes in...she's brave, courageous, intelligent, and she's a badass. After all the attempts to bring Wonder Woman to the screen...it's almost been worth the wait considering what we got. I want to go see it again."
I've edited my co-hosts, as well as myself this way. The beauty of pre-recorded podcasting is that it's not live. So, you can record the natural flow of friendly conversation, then edit it for an audience.
Remove an entire conversation
If you have to pick several topics for your show, occasionally some will generate little in the way of engaging conversation. When that happens, don't be afraid to cut the whole thing out. I've done it.
As I mentioned, our flagship podcast episodes have run about 60 minutes. However, this past week, I attempted to tighten it a little more. I tried a new format that put the most recent episode of The Geek Directive at 40 minutes. It featured six topic discussions, a fictional story and the usual open/close/bumper/break/production.
If you incorporate these approaches to editing into your podcast, you'll be amazed at how it all adds up. After you're done, you will have effectively made better use of your listener's time, and you would've demonstrated good manners.
I'm a big fan of podcast hosting services like Blubrry, Libsyn, Buzzsprout and others like them. I am less of a fan of posting podcast episodes on Soundcloud and YouTube. To me, if you even consider these options, you need a great reason. Even then, I'd ask you to think twice.
Granted, it's easy and cheap to post your episodes on Soundcloud. However, you miss out on the analytics and other services that full service hosts can provide you. I also don't tend to see Soundcloud podcasts with huge followings, and I have to wonder how challenging it is to grow it. This is going to be especially challenging if it's one of the only places you can get the show (versus iTunes, Stitcher Radio, etc).
Also, there are constant rumors about shutdowns and acquisitions of Soundcloud. If that happens, who knows what changes could take place. How will it affect your show, the distribution or even the ownership of the content?
As for YouTube, if you have your audio podcast posted there and on iTunes...I'd like to know why. I would think the ideal scenario is to grow subscribers on iTunes. If that is true, putting the exact same show on YouTube is splitting that audience up. Some get it on iTunes...others hit YouTube. How do you quantify those stats? At least if you're using a hosting service like Libsyn, your feed can be sent to several podcast hubs and they all get those downloads counted.
Obviously, if you do a video podcast, that's different. Although, I have reservations there as well. If the "video" podcast is just a visual of you recording audio...I don't get why someone would actually WATCH it all at one time. What's engaging about that? A lot of people don't have that kind of attention span, and I think many people are inclined to just minimize it and listen. If that's the case...why have it on a video service at all.
Plus, you really don't see video podcasts frequently hitting the top podcast lists on iTunes.
Now, I'm not saying these services are totally useless when it comes to your podcast. I just don't think you need to post full episodes on them. Instead, post interview clips or memorable moments from your show. Tag the end of the audio file with a pitch to GET MORE at your podcast website.
On YouTube, you can do even more. If you upload a cut from the show that features a specific topic, you can keyword the title and description for people to find it. Plus, you can post links to your website and/or where to subscribe to the show.
So, instead of giving up everything, make YouTube and Soundcloud a place where you feature the BEST of your show, and and tool that can entice people to get your full episodes. It makes a lot more sense while also being a lot less risky and counter-productive.
Even in 2017, there are still plenty of businesses that haven't fully embraced social and content strategies that could help their bottom line. Many of the misconceptions include questions about how they benefit organizations and fear of time/resources needed to produce content. If you have concerns about launching a podcast for your business, let me provide some relief by wrecking some mental barriers.
BARRIER: Nobody is going to listen to our business podcast.
WRECKING BALL: Nobody is going to hear it you if you don't make one.
I remember when Amy Porterfield launched her podcast. Here's a woman who makes a living on the internet, and believe me - she has people who listen. Nonetheless, she felt inspired to launch her own show to the help her business and her brand. This was a new endeavor for her, so she shared her experience (obviously on Facebook) with her followers. One of the first things I remember her noticing was how it helped her reach NEW audiences. That's what podcasts can do - help you connect with people you might otherwise never reach.
Why do you think car companies are incorporating podcast listening into dashboards? Why do you think more online music hubs are trying to figure out ways to incorporate podcasts into their offerings? It is because people have smartphones and devices, and they love being able to play audio/video content right when they want it. If your business creates an engaging podcast, it has every opportunity to gain a valuable listener base.
One of the best things podcasting can do is personalize your brand and position it as a thought leader. Merge those two things together, and you can make a huge impression on a potential customer.
If your show features voices from within the organization, and they sound friendly, knowledgeable, credible, personable and/or ethical...a customer's comfort level with contacting or buying from you is going to go way up. Insightful interviews and conversations can also enhance your position as a trusted thought leader in your space.
BARRIER: We're not used to this type of sales/marketing strategy, and we just don't understand how a podcast will generate business.
WRECKING BALL: If other companies have made it work, why can't you? Do some research, and find out how it's worked for others. Develop a plan that fits your mission.
As far back as 2012, Entrepreneur launched their podcast. As with many businesses, they ask customers how they found them. Suddenly, seven out of ten said they discovered them through their podcast. Not to mention, they saw their web traffic grow by 46 percent in just two months - and this is a company that already has a pretty big audience. Yet again, podcasting brought them new people.
Here's a personal example. When I was got my first social media management job in 2012, I started listening to Social Media Examiner's podcast. It was great to hear so many amazing social media experts share their insights in one place. I was inspired to find their website and subscribe to their e-newsletter. Then, when they announced they were having a big social media conference, I told my company that I HAD to attend.
I was inspired to do this not because I was bombarded by sales pitches. Instead, it was because I valued the content, and therefore valued them as a resource. Your business could do the exact same thing. If people love what they can get from you for free (like content), they'll be very interested in the quality of something they can purchase from you.
BARRIER: It's very expensive and way too time consuming.
WRECKING BALL: No, it isn't. (So, take that!)
Okay, maybe it can be a little time consuming, but it doesn't have to be. It also doesn't have to be expensive.
You can purchase an inexpensive quality microphone like this or this to plug into your computer. You can get a free program like Audacity to record and edit the show. That's enough to get you started. There is nothing wrong with producing a podcast that's 20 minutes or less. You could even conduct a good interview in that amount of time.
I actually had someone tell me that you could not go in-depth in 30 minutes. Clearly this same person had never listened to Mike Rowe's podcast. He features interviews in podcast episodes that average about 10 minutes per show.
Look, I'm not suggesting that it's never challenging to develop a podcast for a certain industry. I've talked to ad agencies, healthcare companies, real estate companies and training organizations about podcast concepts. What I am saying is not to deny yourself the opportunity to get yourself in front of a new audience because you think it might not be possible.
Yes, the podcast realm can be a crowded space. However, let me ask you this:
How many podcast shows are there in YOUR industry?
If the number is pretty low...that's not an indicator of level of interest. It's a path to opportunity. Plus, several podcasts do not put an emphasis on format, editing, audio quality and creativity. Do that, and you'll already be a step up from several other programs.
If I can help you develop a podcast for you business, feel free to email me anytime.
When someone designs a website, a lot of work goes into producing the layout, navigation and copy in a way that engages the visitor. If one or all of those elements fail to engage someone who lands on the site, they can be gone before really getting to know you. I think you have to approach your podcast the exact same way. You have to care about making that first impression, or risk losing a potential listener.
As a podcast producer, I'm always thinking about how audiences (new and existing) will react to something they'll hear on my shows. When I listen to other podcasts for the first time, I get can a sense of how much they care about the way they present themselves. It's all about that first impression.
With that in mind, here are a list of podcaster habits I think will likely make a bad first impression.
There isn't an open to the show
If you're show starts off with just someone talking, I don't think it's a deal breaker. However, it does make your "show" seem like less of a show. Between free programs like Audacity, music/sound content hubs like Pond5 and affordable voiceover/production services on Fiverr, you should be able to produce an open for your program. If anything, it's a first impression element that signifies that you're serious about what you're offering to the audience.
The open drags or creates confusion
If someone reads your show description and wants to hear your commentary/discussion on a topic...don't keep them waiting. In other words, please don't attach an open that features music or a song that runs for an extended time. I've heard podcasts that open every show with nothing but a long music bed or a song. Don't do that! The listener wants to hear you, and if they tune in for the first time, don't make them feel like they accidentally got a radio station.
I've also heard podcasts that start with a bunch of clips from previous shows that are pieced together in what is supposed to be something that resembles an open. A lot of times there's no cohesion or flow to it, and the listener has no idea what they heard.
Keep your open simple. Give it music or flare, introduce the program and be done. If you currently have a long open that is 70, 90, 120+ seconds long...try to shorten it. Don't make new listeners wait forever to get to you, and don't make returning audiences have to get through that every week.
Do what it takes to make the sound quality as good as it can be. Doing so proves that you care about your listener and the quality of the show. Does it have to be NPR-style broadcast quality? No. The most important thing is being able to understand you as you speak. However, it boils down to the type of impression you want to make. It can be jarring to hear a high quality show open, followed by a host who is using the mic that is built into the computer. It just sounds bad.
If your new listener read that you were going to talk about summer movies, but you don't get to that discussion until 10-15 minutes later, that can be a problem. Again, this is a first impression. So, if someone wants to hear how you discuss summer movies, but you spend 10-15 minutes just shooting the breeze with the co-hosts for too long...you can lose that new listener.
I'm not saying to never spend some time letting listeners get to know you or learn something personal about you. There's value in that. However, there's also value in structuring the presentation in a way that doesn't waste time or become annoying.
It makes me a bit crazy when a show starts off with 2-3 people just laughing at each other or talking about random stuff as I wait for the content to really get started. You cannot forget the listener is there. Make them feel like they are part of the conversation and not eavesdropping on it. This perfectly leads us to the last first impression risk.
The hosts are trying to be something other than themselves
Look, I get it. It makes sense that if you listen to other podcast or radio shows, it can be easy to try to emulate them as you create your own program.
While it's easy to understand...just don't do that. Don't try to be like another podcaster or radio host. Also don't think you have to use overly excited or loud voices that overuse excessive amounts of broadcast diction (reporter/announcer-like fluctuation in the voice).
There are radio shows that have hosts that come on and talk about nothing, jabber on like they're killing time and laugh at each other. I've heard this happen on sports talk shows, and I turn it off because I don't want to hear that. I want to hear them talk sports. I've also never been a fan of a wacky morning show crew show, so it doesn't appeal to me in podcasts either. This is especially true if I find myself waiting to them discuss specific things promoted in their podcast description.
You don't have to be any of those things to "sound" like a show host. Just be yourself, remember who's listening, and show them you care enough to present them with something of value.
Granted, people's tastes in podcasts tend to vary somewhat. However, these are not only bad impression triggers for me. I've also heard other podcast listeners complain about them as well. At the end of the day, you don't really know how much time someone will give you to make that first impression...
The first words after the open?
The first indication of sound quality?
The length of time they have to wait before someone speaks?
Consider all of it as you develop the very first sounds a new listener will hear when they hit play for the first time.