Hi there, Rob Matheny here, writer, blogger, and podcaster. We’ve been doing our show for a few months now, and it’s been a growing process for sure. Things had to be learned, mistakes had to be made, yet things are coming along. Granted, yes, we have less than 20 episodes under our belts. So does that qualify me as an expert podcaster? Well, it remains to be seen. What I do have is 15+ years of commercial radio experience, with a degree in broadcasting and career experience to boot. I have spent countless hours engineering and editing and producing broadcast commercial radio, in most cases behind the scenes. But also, I’ve been a podcast listener for a minimum of five years. I’ve heard many, many podcast. Some good, some great, and some no so fantastic.
This post isn’t a veiled attempt to get traffic to my show. My goal is to simply help those who already podcast to do better podcasting, and those who may wish to endeavour a podcast to be equipped with a few important basics to consider before diving in. That’s it. I think as podcasters that we can raise the bar with the content we’re providing. I guess I could relate it to the trenches of indie publishing. You have some folks who set out to bring their A-game, doing things like a professional edit, professional cover, with an eye for every single detail, and blood, sweat, and tears being poured into making sure their book is at the highest quality it can be. And then, you have the folks who take a week to write the story, design a cover with MS Paint, upload it to Amazon, and spam the crap out of every possible social media orifice that’s open wide enough to paste and ad. Keep in mind that capability does not imply ability. And this is true in any art form. You may know how to work a camera, but that doesn’t make you Oliver Stone. You may know how to apply paint to a canvas via brush, but Bob Ross, you aren’t. You may know how to operate a word processor program and possess the knowhow to upload an eBook to Amazon, but that doesn’t make you E.L. James… scratch that… back up… That does NOT make you the next Stephen King.
And when it comes to podcasting, just because you have a brand new dell laptop with mic included and a decent internet connection, does not mean you should dive right in and start podcasting. There are an estimated 250,000 podcasts online available in over 100 languages with a subscriber base edging toward one billion potential listeners. It seems like every day that anything that has even the slightest niche following is getting its own podcast. Knitting, dog grooming, muffler repair, toenail clipping collectors, sub continental nudist vegan paragliders over 60, the list goes on. And it’s ramping up. More and more authors and celebrities are taking to the internet airwaves, and for many it can work. It’s wise to diversify platforms and tap into untapped audiences, with a potential to generate another stream of revenue.
There’s a thing in broadcasting we call “good radio”. What is “good radio”? It’s when the medium is utilized to the best of its ability, where all the factors that create compelling broadcasts are firing off on all cylinders. Compelling stories, contrast, flow, fidelity, personality, and engagement. Sadly, these qualities are lacking from a large number of podcasts that are out there. So what’s the big deal? I suppose it boils down to artists holding themselves to a higher standard. If you want start a podcast where the only thing you do is consume Mexican cuisine and capture the audio nuance of gastrointestinal digestion, by all means, let your fart flag fly. But please, don’t call it a podcast.
So today I want to share just a few steps podcasters can take to elevate their programs, to not only provide better content for their listeners, but overall contribute toward a concerted effort to take podcasting out of the realm of ambiguity, and into the realm of notoriety.
Stop settling for poor audio – Podcasts should be pleasant to HEAR. Not only pleasant to listen to in regard to content, but it should be soothing to the ears as well. When podcasts settle for low quality recordings, bad mics, and poor levels, you risk losing your audience. Folks who listen to podcasts on the regular know what good audio should sound like. We live in a digital age of crystal clear sound and video, and digital consumers demand a high level of quality. Take some time to objectively to review your podcast and listen for areas where the sound can improve, and take steps in that direction – even if it’s one step at a time. Get a decent mic. Learn some basics of sound and production. The energy you place into ensuring your podcast is pleasant to hear, the more listeners you’ll acquire and maintain.
Stop diminishing your already niche audience – Stay focused on what your show is about, and don’t deviate from that. Podcast audiences have many choices of what sort of ear candy they want to indulge in. A single smart phone can carry music, podcasts, live radio, audiobooks, Spotify, Pandora, on demand services, on and on and on and on. Yet you’re that one show that talks about that one thing they are passionate about. And what do you do? Talk about your dog. Or your paragliding trip. Keep the main thing the main thing. The sharper your focus, the more expectation you create for your audience, and the more listeners you will keep around, because they know when they listen to your show, you’re going to give them what they came for.
Keep it short – The average listener, at best, will stick with you 30 – 40 minutes. On the morning commute, or doing chores around the house, or finding a way to get the terrible smell out of the crawl space, whatever passive activity they engage in, you only get a certain amount of time before the magical click, and it’s done. Once they listen, and stop midway because they’ve lost interest, the odds of them returning to finish the episode diminish greatly. We live in a social media age of an ever decreasing attention span. People need information quickly, concisely, and it better be informative, or entertaining, and ideally, both.
Bring personality – To pull off an engaging podcast, it must offer the listener reasons to listen, and one of the biggest has to be who is hosting the show. If you lack energy, lack focus, and never offer anything unique about yourself, you’ll lose listeners for the plain fact that you’re just the big B-word. That’s right. Boring.
Be confident – Nothing is worse than the podcaster who believes him or herself to be the collective total of a steaming pile of doggy doo (pardon my French). Podcasters need AUTHORITY. People listen to you talk, because you presumably know what you’re talking about. If you’re constantly referencing the fact that you’re a lumber-head, the audience will agree, and spit. Also, constantly berating yourself is simply unattractive, in podcasts or in person. Have some confidence in yourself and the words coming out of your mouth. If you lack authority, you’ll lack another important thing, listeners.
Show interest – Nothing really irks me more than the podcaster that sounds like he or she would rather be doing anything else but hosting the podcast you’re listening to. If you come across as uncaring or uninterested, your lack of enthusiasm will pass down to your listener, and they will find something else to listen to. There’s a time and a place to act cool and low-key and nonchalant, but it’s not during your podcast.
Edit, edit, edit! – I actually heard a podcast where the host proudly proclaimed, “We do not edit our show.” I didn’t stick around to hear the ensuing train wreck. One aspect that differentiates podcasting from radio is the live factor. Podcasts are not done live, for the most part. They are pre-recorded and uploaded to a server to be consumed by the masses at a later time. One HUGE benefit podcasters get is the ability to edit the program before it goes live. Editing is not a curse, it is a blessing. Cut out the ums, the uhs, the dead air, the flat questions, the off color remarks, the awkward transitions, and anything that detracts from the focus of the show. Make the most of your podcast, edit, edit, edit!
So there it is, seven simple tips that will help you make sure your content is sharp and to the point. You can decide to be a voice of authority versus a voice of disinterest. You can decide to take the time to edit your show and make it the best it can be. Take it one step at a time. Get feedback from listeners on where they think you could improve. Find people who will give you objective feedback. In the end, you will benefit your listeners, you will benefit yourself, and you will benefit the podcast community as a whole. So tell me, what other steps do you think podcasters can take to up their game, and what podcasts out there currently do you think are bringing their best?