Listening Numbers Are Booming, But Even Spotify Doesn’t Know If It Will Make Money From Podcasts.

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I’m a bit old school. While podcasting occupies much of my time each day, a long-established habit of slowly leafing through the pages of newspapers continues to be a source pleasure. Print discoveries are made without digital nudges from algorithms.

Among my favorite finds last week was in the “C-Suite Strategies” section of The Wall Street Journal and a surprisingly revealing comment by Spotify CFO Barry McCarthy.

Asked by a reporter “why is podcasting an important medium for the company to expand into?”, McCarthy answered: “It remains to be seen whether or not it becomes an important medium.”

Huh?

His company spent approximately $400 million this year on three podcasting firms, in the expectation that these investments would increase Spotify’s growing subscriber base.

As more people discover the many rewards of podcast listening, many content producers and distributors are allocating a growing part of their media budget to podcasting. And for good reason.

“Frankly, if Spotify didn’t get into podcasts it would risk losing share of the audio listening market to other platforms,” said a recent post by the financial advice site, Motley Fool.

Despite soaring revenues from music subscriptions, the fast-growing streaming giant operated at a small loss during the first quarter of 2019 and for all of last year.

Podcasting is a big bet and McCarthy admits that “there’s a fair amount of uncertainty” about whether it will have a positive impact on profitability, “which is probably troubling to investors.”

Assuming that consumers will pay for podcasts that have, until now, been free may be a risky investment. While the most popular shows reach hundreds of thousands of listeners, most expensively-produced podcasts don’t make a profit. And compared to other media, podcasting’s share of the advertising pie is slim indeed.

One industry projection forecast that by 2020, U.S. podcast advertising would grow to $659 million, while in 2018, radio ad sales were $17.8 billion.

Overall digital advertising revenue last year surpassed $100 billion!

The numbers beg the question: How well-deserved are big podcast investments by venture capitalists and others? Will millions of listeners pay for monthly subscriptions to Spotify, Luminary, Pandora and other platforms?

While podcasters celebrate expanding opportunities, growing media coverage, dazzling new shows and a steady rise in consumer acceptance, the industry’s producers and investors must broaden their horizons.

“Some fear that podcasting has become a community talking to itself— a coastal thing like electric scooters and avocado toast,” wrote Gerry Smith in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Yes, the pod potential is huge. But competition is increasingly fierce. Obstacles remain. A little more caution and humility may be in order.

Richard Davies is a podcast consultant, media coach and former network radio journalist. His weekly solutions journalism podcast is “How Do We Fix It?

7 Reasons Why Good Podcasts Fail at Being Great.

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Podcasting today stirs up memories of the crazy speculation during the dot com boom in the 90’s, when vast amounts of venture capitalist dollars were thrown at wacky entrepreneurs who didn’t have a clue how to turn a profit.

As podcast consultant Steve Goldstein said recently about our industry: “The velocity at which this has shifted to a business of acquisitions and aggregation by big players is head spinning.”

The current podcast trend won’t end soon. Giant tech and media companies are still playing catch-up, chasing the growing audience. They will be pouring in a lot more money in 2020 and beyond.

But it’s a crap shoot with a lot of pain. Most large investments in podcasting will chase projects that fail to win a large or loyal audience.

So, with this in mind, here are seven reasons why good podcasts fail at being great:

  1. They’re Too Long. The average one-way commute time in the United States is 26.1 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Why ask your listeners to come back and finish the episode later in the day? If you have great stories to share, serve up more shows. One podcast fan told me: “My drive home from work is half-an-hour. When I pull into my driveway, I want the episode to be over.” 
  2. Most podcasts don’t leave you wanting more. Frequently, your listeners aren’t as in love with the content as you are. Producers who have spent many hours listening to their audio need a fresh pair of ears: A ruthless editor who goes through and knocks out repetitive or redundant thoughts and phrases. When making  podcasts, always remember that a listener’s time is precious.
  3. They fail the 30 second test. Make the urgent case for why listeners who stumbled upon your show should listen. Do it right at the start of the show. Each episode should have something interesting, funny or surprising within the first 30 seconds.
  4. Your Host Has Zero personality. This is an intimate, informal medium. Listeners have a deep connection with their favorite podcasters, but too often, compelling interviews and fascinating stories are served up as sound-bites without questions or input from a compelling, trusted host.
  5. There’s Too much noise. Who wrote the memo that said every interesting thought or podcast plot twist has to be accompanied by music? Too often a tinkling piano or sad notes from a violin are a distraction to the narrative. Ambient sound or clips from old newscasts have their place, but they are being used too frequently by many podcasters. Far too often, noise stretches 25 minutes of information into a 40 minute episode.
  6. No audience involvement. Live shows are a great way to build a fan base, but they’re not the only way. Loyal listeners want to feel loved. Ask them for their ideas. Offer swag. Even if your show is made by a big media company, invite your crowd to support you on Patreon or some other fundraising site.
  7. You Never Answered Question One. When launching our first podcast nearly five years ago, I failed on this one! We never seriously considered the question that all producers should ask before they make their first show: Who is your target audience, and how do you find them?

More than ever, smart and highly skilled producers, audio engineers, journalists, writers, dramatists and comedians are jumping into podcasting. Our medium is bursting with talent and ideas. But almost all of us can be better at our ultimate goal: forging a true connection with our audience, one listener at a time.

Richard Davies is a podcast narrator, producer and content consultant. He is executive producer and co-host of the weekly solutions journalism podcast, “How Do We Fix It?”.

Why the growth of podcasting is part of a much bigger trend: The microphoning of America.

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“Beyond $1 Billion” podcast panel at 2019 Advertising Week.

Not so long ago podcasting was barely noticed by the powers that be at Advertising Week, the annual mega-conference in New York for advertising and marketing executives. Our medium was just a little outhouse in the backyard of a mighty media mansion that was dominated by video, TV and print.

So much has changed. And much more is on the way.

Today, enthused Matt Scheckner, Global Chief Executive at Advertising Week, “the heat around podcasting is tremendous. 2019 was when the renaissance of audio really began to pick up speed.”

That’s a far cry from five years ago when a lone audience member at Advertising Week politely asked a question about the potential for podcasting as a way to reach consumers. I remember being politely waved away with a dismissive smile.

The annual Infinite Dial survey of digital consumer behavior “has changed more in the last four to five years than in the previous 17”, says Tom Webster, Senior Vice President of Edison Research. One third of Americans, or about 90 million people, have listened to a podcast in the past month, according to Edison. Podcasting is no longer a niche market that advertisers can afford to ignore.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) predicts that podcast advertising revenues will top $1 billion by 2021.

But with improving standards in audience measurement and discoverability, the increase in revenues may be far greater in the next few years.

“There’s been explosion from venture capital investment. Hollywood is now in the podcasting space,” Grant Durando, Growth Marketing Consultant of Right Side Up, told the Advertising Week podcast session, “Beyond $1 Billion”. “The variety of podcasts and the content on offer have grown tremendously.”

Podcasting’s overall share of audio listening has doubled in the past five years. Research reveals that regular podcast consumers listen more to podcasts than to radio, music, or SiriusXM.

The listening environment is also changing.

“Just as digital audio has become ubiquitous on phones, it’s becoming the same for cars,” said Webster. Dashboards now include podcasts.

Smart speaker ownership has grown extraordinarily quickly, changing the way people to listen to audio. Consumers are buying multiple smart speakers to put in their homes.

Research shows that “people are intentionally purchasing smart speakers to reduce screen time,” Webster told the Advertising Week audience. Smart speakers could be a threat to TV. “They are enabling audio consumption where it might not have happened before.”

Worldwide sales of smart speakers will almost double this year compared to 2018, according to new research by SAR Insight.

“We’re at the front end of a platform shift that will really change the world of marketing,” says Bret Kinsella, founder, CEO, and research director of Voicebot.ai, a company that provides news and analysis on voice assistants and artificial intelligence. “Microphones are everywhere and that changes the way people think about how they interact with technology.”

In recent years we’ve gone from click, to touch, to speak, says Kinsella.

“Every time there’s a platform shift, there’s a shifting of the deckchairs. The dominant players can change.”

The rapid adoption of voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google “has taken analysts by surprise and that exposure is flowing into more voice assistant usage on smartphones, PCs and through household appliances,” reports Voicebot.ai. “It is clear that voice assistants are heading toward both ubiquitous access and usage.”

The changes in technology that drive consumer behavior are of growing interest to the advertising industry. But despite growing awareness that podcast listeners are more engaged than average consumers, many marketers are not there yet.

“Many brands don’t have an audio strategy to transform a visual idea into an audio experience without just shouting and being aggressive,” Rob Walker Global Director, Creative Solutions at Spotify told a panel on audio marketing.

More insights are needed. As thinking about audio marketing evolves and becomes more insightful, some large consumer names are turning to sonic branding. Audrey Arbeeny, Founder of Audiobrain.com describes it as “the strategic and creative development of an authentic and consistent audio sound for a brand.”

Growing attention to “the theater of the mind” provided by audio is another recent shift at Advertising Week.

“The biggest thing for us is how to transfer a brand’s visual identity into a sonic identity,” says Janet Levine of Mindshare, a global media and marketing services company.” The challenge is help brands understand “how to shift from a visual world to a sonic one.”

Richard Davies is a podcast host and consultant. Hear him on “How Do We Fix It?”, “C-Suite Intelligence” and “Healthy Communities News.” 

2020 Democrats Debates Will Disappoint. Here’s Why Podcasts Are So Much Better.

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Welcome to the presidential debate season. This evening, tomorrow, and then over 16 long months, several dozen proposed debates will occupy much of the news media’s fevered attention.

Millions of us will tune in, but we may well be disappointed.

Instead of informed, insightful coverage of complex issues and character of the candidates, the debates will reinforce saturation coverage of contests, celebrities and clashes.

Sparks may fly, but don’t expect true illumination. Reporting and analysis will be limited to what were the most catchiest soundbites, who screwed up, and which of 20 Democratic candidates actually stood out?

“After a couple of hours, viewers and journalists can usually only remember a couple of genuinely interesting, unexpected interactions,” wrote data analyst David Byler in The Washington Post. These moments “often get lost” and “fail to really change public opinion.”

Despite the political theater of the debates, don’t expect them to tell us much about the men and women who want to be President.

Voters deserve better than this.

For deeper insights, podcasts may be a much better way to learn about their proposals, intellectual rigor, and ability to articulate how they would navigate many huge challenges that will be faced in the White House.

Some campaigns get it. According to the political newspaper and website, CQ Roll Call, candidate Pete Buttigieg has already appeared on more that 30 podcasts. Additional appearances are expected.

Politico reports that at least a dozen 2020 contenders have appeared on “Pod Save America”, a popular podcast for Democratic voters and political junkies.

“One thing that’s great about podcasts is that it allows for more in-depth conversation,” says Buttigieg communications advisor Lis Smith. “You feel like you’re friends with these guys, you feel like you know them,” Smith told Roll Call about podcast hosts. “You trust their judgement, you adopt their lingo… I don’t remember feeling that way about a TV host or a radio host.”

Elizabeth Warren was interviewed for more than an hour on “The Axe Files”, the podcast hosted by former Obama senior political advisor, David Axelrod. With podcasts, “I explore people’s stories and try to convey to the listener who it is I’m talking to,” he says.

During the two-hour TV debates the candidates may say a few worthwhile things.

But because so many Presidential hopefuls will be on the stage, they will only get about nine minutes each to speak. And “a certain amount of that is going to involve answering the inane questions that the moderators inevitably pose,” writes columnist Paul Waldman.

By contrast, podcasts allow us to go much deeper, exploring who the candidates really are and what are the principles that they stand for. Despite the risks of flubbing the answer to a surprising or insightful question, serious campaigns should jump at the chance to be taken seriously by podcasters.

Richard Davies is a podcast consultant at daviescontent.com. He co-hosts “How Do We Fix It?”.

Be Positive When You Send Texts, email, and Make Podcasts: That’s So Much Better Than Saying “No”.

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Podcasting, by its very nature, is an optimistic endeavor.

From venture capitalists and big media firms who’ve poured huge sums of money into risky podcast ventures, to small teams of independent producers, we are all making a big bet that our shows will reach their intended audience.

The enthusiasm and passion that we express for what we do provides fuel for the difficult times and dark days when it’s hard to pay the bills or hope for a better future.

As we search for growth, it really pays to be positive in all forms of our communications.

“Every time I’m writing an email to people that I work with, and I find myself using the word “not” or “don’t” or “shouldn’t”, I stop, look at it, and think: can you re-phrase that in a way that is not about “not”, and “don’t” and “shouldn’t”, and turn it into something positive?” says Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief at Random House and the author of “Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.”

During a long, entertaining, and highly informative interview with Preet Bharara on the latest episode of his podcast, “Stay Tuned With Preet”, Dreyer declared: “Honest writing is a kind of truth telling… Good writing is a kind of morality.”

And so it is with podcasting.

No other medium is so one-on-one. When we listen to a podcast it’s usually just that single voice in your ear. Nothing more. Hosts and producers should choose their words carefully to communicate exactly who they are, and what they want to say. It’s their most vital task.

We live in a time of anger and polarization, when hateful, fearful messaging is amplified by social media.

Don’t copy what may appear to work on Twitter or in the political arena.

As podcasters, our measurement of success goes much deeper than the number of followers, retweets or “likes” that we have. With each episode, we are trying to connect in a thoughtful, authentic way with people who may not have heard us before.

“When it’s in the context of love and grace, and somebody really cares for you, you can hear a lot from them,” former Congressman Bob Inglis told me recently on our podcast, “How Do We Fix It?

“If you don’t care from me, I’m not going to hear anything from you,” he said. “We need to reach people and say: We really like you. We think you’re good.”

Our industry is growing all the time, and changing fast. Facing others with a smile on our face and hope in our hearts is a necessary way to stay focused and balanced when things get crazy.

Richard Davies is a journalist and podcast consultant. He makes podcasts at daviescontent.com.

Why we listen to podcasts and what makes them different from radio and other forms of communication.

Podcasting is now mainstream and has just moved into a new phase. Let’s call it the 2nd Wave.

While most media content producers no longer need convincing that they should be doing podcasts, they’re also starting to realize that this medium is unique and that they don’t know how to make them.

Unique how?

– We’re the blue jeans medium: the most informal and intimate delivery system for compelling emotions and thought. Storytelling can take its natural course.

– Unlike video, ideas are delivered pure and without the distraction of a host’s unfortunate dress sense, wrinkles or bad teeth. There’s just that voice in your ear.

– Unlike radio and TV, which is often on in the background, podcast audiences aren’t usually distracted and don’t “tune in”. They’ve sought out your show, and are listening carefully at a time of their choosing. Parts of each episode may be replayed. Intimacy squared.

– Podcasts offer listeners more control. Episodes may be replayed. Many people listen on earbuds, encouraging a deeper connection than listening to the radio a speaker. The best podcasts are not passive and they often require listeners to bring something of themselves to the experience— their imagination and curiosity.

– Podcast hosts don’t have to “re-set” and remind the audience what they’re talking about. Listeners don’t tune in half-way through. They start each episode at the beginning, allowing for a more linear narrative.

– Unlike radio shows that have to conform to the clock (typically 25 or 50 minutes plus pledge breaks and newscasts), podcasts have no scheduling or timing restraints, and can vary in length. Episodes can be produced daily, weekly, monthly or in seasons.

– Podcasts can be made and distributed without the approval of an executive editor, radio program director, or some other gatekeeper. Many shows are produced at-home, without the need for expensive studio equipment. Creators have more freedom.

– While some podcasts are made with big budgets and are highly structured, with multiple layers of ambient sound or music, there is no single formula for success. This lack of established rules allows for a greater range of voices and subjects.

– Unlike broad-casts that must appeal to a broad audience, podcasts can target a much smaller slice of the population. With social media, hosts and producers have a direct dialog with listeners and can truly find what their audience wants to hear.

– Unlike radio, podcasting is rarely live. That may be a disadvantage, but many episodes are evergreen and have a long shelf life.

The requirements of doing a distinctive podcast require a different set of skills than its closest cousin. After decades in radio, I had to un-learn a great deal when we began podcasting during the 1st Wave in 2015.

“Serial” had just taken the world by storm, and the for the first time, many people had become dimly aware of online audio and were asking “what is a podcast?”

Over the next four years, as audience numbers zoomed steadily upward, almost everyone jumped into production— from individuals and celebrities to media giants, consumer brands and non-profit foundations. The result is a great big, glorious mess.

The 2nd Wave has arrived and to be successful at podcasting, producers must know why it is indeed like no other medium.

– Richard Davies is a podcast host, consultant and producer. DaviesContent designs podcast formats, edits and helps clients make excellent audio content.

Prep, preview, pivot: How almost anyone can ask great questions and do a great podcast interview.

Despite many recent efforts to debunk Malcolm Gladwell’s famous “10,000 hour rule”, there is a good deal of truth to what he says.

The New Yorker writer, author and podcaster claimed that the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task for 20 hours a week for 10 years. In other words, bloody hard work for a sustained period of time can make you really good at almost anything.

“Achievement is talent plus preparation,” Gladwell wrote in his best-selling book, “Outliers”.

Oprah Winfrey, who has spent way more than 10,000 hours on the craft of interviewing, agrees. Her biggest frustration with young people today, she told a British magazine editor is that “they think that success is supposed to happen” right away. “They think that there isn’t a process to it. They think that they are supposed to come out of college and have their brand.” 

After more than 40 years of doing radio, print and podcast interviews, I’m generally on the side of my fellow media vets.

But they’re not 100% right.

Shortcuts can be taken to improve the odds that your podcast interview is excellent, exciting and of true interest to your listeners. Experience is important, but true curiosity, attitude and empathy are vital.

I come to each podcast recording prepared, but ready to pivot: Always aware that no matter how much research has been done, or how many questions are written on a briefing sheet, the conversation could fly off in a completely unexpected, wonderful new direction.

That is the joy of interviewing. Spontaneity, humor and passion are your best friends.

Yes, of course, podcast producers should think of the story arc of each episode. And they should prepare ahead of time. But if essential follow-up questions lead you down a brand new path, be prepared to tear up your script.

In addition to the pivot and the prep, another way to improve your odds of hitting the audio jackpot is the pre-interview.

This does NOT mean a set of email exchanges with your podcast guests in the days or hours before shows are recorded.

Instead, pick up the phone and chat with them one-on-one for at least 15 minutes. Listen to what they’re passionate about. How easily do they laugh? Do they like being interrupted? Give them a sense of who you are, so that when the interview begins, you’re more friends than strangers.

Once in a while, Malcolm Gladwell’s rule is wrong.

That’s the thing with laws of human nature. There are almost always some exceptions. Just because you do something all the time doesn’t necessarily mean that you are really good at it.

For many years, I listened to the lunchtime host of a daily public radio show. He often had great guests, who were either in the news or had just written an interesting book.

Sadly, the guy was a dismal interviewer and a show-off, who tried to impress listeners with his knowledge and personal experience. He often sounded bored as he read the questions prepared for him by a team of producers on his over-staffed show. He rarely asked follow-up questions and instead stuck with the list in front of him.

The guy didn’t pivot. And while his producers probably did lengthy pre-interviews, they were no substitute for enthusiasm and empathy.

With those fresh ingredients, even an amateur with an unpolished voice and a less-than-dynamic personality can cook up a great podcast interview.

Richard Davies is a podcast coach and consultant. His firm, DaviesContent, formats, produces and hosts podcasts.

The Michelle Obama Example: Why Book Publishers Should Make Podcasts With Their Best-Selling Authors

I’m listening to Michelle Obama read her audio book to me. I’m on my own with my headphones and so is she.

I picture the former First Lady sitting upright and calm, with good posture, in a small sound-proofed recording booth with a cool glass of water by her side, alone with her thoughts and carefully chosen words, as she tells a 19-hour-long story that lifts a curtain on her utterly remarkable life.

What a quiet contrast to that night in 2016 when she rocked the hall and wowed the crowd as she gave her electrifying speech to the Democratic National Convention.

During a 16-minute address, Michelle Obama’s short, clear sentences and confident but never cocky manner impressed the nation. She won a jump-off-your-seat standing ovation from the crowd.

It’s no surprise that in a Gallup Poll, released last week, she was named the woman Americans admire most.

Her critically acclaimed memoir, released in mid-November is a smash hit, selling more than two million copies in the first 15 days after its release. “Becoming” is the #1 selling book of 2018.

Sentence-by-sentence the story reveals much about her upbringing in “a family of strivers” in a working class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Shore. For middle-class white readers like myself, the book is a revealing, fascinating and also humbling glimpse at her family background.

“One of the great gifts of Obama’s book is her loving and frank bearing-witness to the lived experiences of the black working class, the invisible people who don’t make the evening news and whom not enough of us choose to see,”  wrote journalist and author, Isabel Wilkerson in her powerful review of “Becoming.”

“She recreates the dailiness of African-American life — the grass-mowing, bid-whist-playing, double-Dutch-jumping, choir-practicing, waiting-on-the-bus and clock-punching of the ordinary black people who surrounded her growing up.”

The audio version of the book has the added bonus of Ms. Obama’s voice. Unlike many book authors, who vocal professionals to do true justice to their words, Ms. Obama reads well, with relaxed polish and warmth. We can hear the passion, precision and humor in her voice.

But I wish that “Becoming” was also a podcast, because the curtain would have been lifted a lot higher on a life that many of us want to know a lot more about.

If pushed to choose between a finely-crafted, well-edited audio book and the spontaneity of an extended series of podcast interviews, I’d pick the latter.

They would have been even more revealing, more intimate, and perhaps more honest than the book. When a good interviewer asks questions there are unplanned for moments.

“Podcasting is the slow food movement of the media world,” says RadioPublic CEO, Jake Shapiro. Our medium “treats listeners with respect, gives publishers a direct relationship with audiences, and gives voice to new talent and communities long missing from the airwaves.”

Here’s hoping that in the new year to come book publishers and their best-selling authors will use in-depth podcasts to establish deeper, stronger and ever more personal contacts with readers and listeners.

Best-selling books need podcast companions.

Daily podcasts are booming. But here’s why some will fail…

In an increasingly crowded field of Monday-to-Friday podcasts, “The Daily” from The New York Times is still the most popular news show, with about 1.75 million downloads per episode. According to one estimate, the number of daily podcasts has more than tripled in less than two years. The competition now includes news shows by NPR, Vox, Axios, ABC News and The Washington Post.

Ever since its launch nearly two years ago, The Daily” has been my daily habit. Here’s why:

The host, Michael Barbaro.

He’s my pal. A buddy in my ear at the gym, in the car, or on morning walks with our dogs.

I’ve never met Michael Barbaro, but he sounds like a genuinely curious, charming and friendly guy. Writing in The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead calls him the “winning, accessible interlocutor of his news-gathering colleagues.”

He has soul, and that’s surprising perhaps, because over the years The Times has been called “the gray lady”, and is widely considered to be a redoubtable pillar of the elite, mainstream media.

Unlike the newspaper, “The Daily” is informal, even intimate, with moments of spontaneity and humor, as Barbaro lifts the curtain on the bench strength of diligent, hard-working Times reporters who cover their beats with dedication, humility, and street smarts.

Unlike many radio or TV anchors, he never pretends to know what he doesn’t. “The Daily” host is also an ombudsman for listeners as he guides us through the latest perplexing twist of the Mueller investigation or the unfortunate saga that is Brexit.

Barbaro gives us this wonderful sense that he’s hearing each reporter’s insights for the first time.

Same thing with “Serial” host Sarah Koenig, who, despite all her research and carefully constructed scripts, manages to sound is if she’s uncovering the story with you right alongside her. At times we think she’s bemused or even a little surprised as she stumbles across another twist in a complex, tangled web of facts.

The journey is the thing. We know where Koenig’s coming from and that’s a huge reason why “Serial” continues to be wildly successful.

Podcast producers can put too much emphasis on building a show with interstitial music, sound effects, and a multi-layered story arc. But the best storytelling on earth can stumble at the final fence if the narrator or host doesn’t connect with listeners.

And so it is with daily news podcasts. Successful shows need heart and soul as well as a good elevator pitch or a sense of mission. Without them they will fail.

The same is true for small, independent productions who have limited budgets and a relatively small following.

“I cannot tell you how many podcasts I’ve listened to where the host rambles and rants on about their life, their misery, their week, or their kids and family,” laments John Dennis in his recent article in Podcast Business Journal. “You can’t expect to grow, or even retain, your audience if you’re wasting their precious time.”

In addition to adding value or benefit to listeners, podcast hosts must be willing to be vulnerable, revealing something of themselves as they answer the crucial question: “Why am asking you to share some of your precious time with me”.

Richard Davies is the co-host of the weekly solutions news podcast, “How Do We Fix It?” and a podcast consultant and media coach at DaviesContent.com.

Throw away the seatbelts. What I had to un-learn after a long career in network radio.

For more than three decades I spent my working life in network radio news, reading scripts and speaking to the clock.

As a journalist covering politics, wars and the financial markets, I had to master the art of the precis — telling compact, compelling stories using a minimum number of carefully chosen words. As a radio news-talk host, the “re-set” was a requirement. We had to remind listeners every few minutes what we were talking about and who we were interviewing. As a newscaster, I had to make sure that my four minutes at the top of the hour didn’t go as much as one second over.

However informal we tried to sound, there was a certain rigidity imposed by the strict discipline of the radio format. Podcasting is surprisingly different. There are so many radio lessons I had to unlearn.

First. Unfasten my seatbelt: replace the scripts with spontaneity. Many of the best podcasts are off-the-cuff and soulful, with moments of passion and humor. The best podcasters lift the curtain on their personal story and take full advantage of the medium’s extraordinary intimacy.

Second. The “clock” is gone and the need to “reset” also goes away. Instead of tuning in at random times, podcast listeners start at the beginning and usually stay with us for the entire show. Episodes can be as long or short as we want them to be. There is no ideal length.

Third. With other media, distractions are common, but podcasts are heard without the interruptions of timechecks, weather reports, pledge drives, and commercials. Most of our listeners are on their own and away from mobile screens with their instant messages and email reminders.

On our weekly solutions journalism podcast, How Do We Fix It?, my good friend and co-host Jim Meigs and I have found that the connection with our audience runs deep. And unlike TV and YouTube videos, audio listeners aren’t distracted by my crooked teeth, Jim’s beard, or our poor choice of clothing.

Another unlearning curve is that, as independent podcasters, we are the boss — our own program directors and content creators. There are no formats to worry about. Podcasters can develop deeper thoughts than broadcasters, and tell longer, richer stories. This leads to greater intimacy and allows for more innovation and creativity.

Who would have thought that four-hour podcast episodes told by a single-voice narrator could be a hit? With Hardcore History, former commercial radio talk show host Dan Carlin proved that a storyteller of great skill and knowledge can do things that are never allowed on radio.

Podcasts can also target niche audiences who are passionate about the topics being discussed. I am an art lover and one of my personal favorites, The Lonely Palette, lives up to its unusual promise of being “the podcast that returns art history to the masses, one painting at a time.”

While the entry barriers to podcasting are very low, and the equipment is cheap, all that freedom comes at a cost. It’s a bit like the Wild West. At last count there were more than 550,000 shows to choose from. Unless you are linked to a major brand, the challenges of attracting a sizable audience and finding sponsors are steep indeed.

Anyone with a new show has to learn how to be a marketer, come up with a 10-second elevator pitch, and in the words of social media marketing strategist Mark Schaefer, answer the “only we” of your brand — as in “only our podcast tells you this.”

The difference between radio and podcasting may appear subtle. However, professional broadcasters who move into this medium not only have to unlearn old habits, but learn brand new tricks.

This requires a mix of humility, curiosity, and no shortage of energy.

Richard Davies is a media coach, podcast consultant, and co-host of the weekly podcast, How Do We Fix It? at daviescontent.com.