I’ve been into audio ever since I was a little kid who slapped 45 rpm green, red, yellow and orange Disney discs onto the record player my parents gave me when I was six years old.
The stories, voices and jingles really were music to my ears.
Not long after college, to no-one’s great surprise, I landed my first job in radio. I spent well over thirty years at stations and networks doing the thing I loved.
Last year, with my pal Jim Meigs and producer Miranda Shafer, I started “How Do We Fix It?”– a weekly podcast. We’re having a fun ride and I feel privileged to meet a lot of great people along the way. Our 86th weekly show is currently in production.
At its best, podcasting is remarkably intimate and honest – without noisy distractions. Just you and another human voice in your ear.
Unlike broadcast radio or TV, listeners are the programmers, deciding exactly when and what they want to spend their time with. They give us podcasters their pure, undivided attention. In every way they are our equal – never to be manipulated, pandered to nor shouted at.
Sounds like the perfect environment for a content producer.
But let’s face it: many podcasts are crap – weeds in the ever growing audio jungle.
And not just the two-guys-in-a-garage kind of spontaneous podcasts. Even well-made, sophisticated shows are often way too long, self-indulgent and without a clear purpose.
Your audience is busy and has vast array of audio offerings to pick from. Many of us listen on the go – in the car or at the gym. The average American commute time is about 25 minutes. Most podcasts last at least half an hour. Mistake.
The first don’t of podcasting is never waste their time. Make a show with purpose that doesn’t last quite as long as you – the podcaster – want it to. Don’t be afraid to slice out a few minutes.
Leave your listeners wanting more after each episode. Also answer this question: “Who is your audience?”
The second don’t: Forget about making podcasts unless your brand, company or cause already has followers or subscribers. This medium is a great way to forge deep, authentic connections with your people, but on its own – without a website, blogs and other forms of content – you won’t make a splash. The only exception is if you’re already famous. Anderson Cooper, Alec Baldwin, Snoop Dogg or Shaq can operate by their own rules.
Podcasting is special – different from radio and certainly not merely the audio track of a You Tube video. Respect your audience.
Third don’t: making a podcast “live” or on the fly is rarely a good idea. Edit it and listen with a critical ear.
The fourth don’t is about lack of commitment. While podcast equipment is cheap and the launch costs are small, the process can be surprisingly time consuming. Unless you are prepared to go long and deep with your podcast project, don’t start.
A weekly show may not be necessary. You could release a new series every few months. But whatever the plan of action, successful podcasts require follow through.
Google “how to make a successful podcast” and you’ll get lots of enthusiastic ideas about equipment, theme music, social media and the need for passion. Much of the advice is helpful. But be wary of those who only explain the do’s and not the don’ts of podcasting.
Richard Davies is a podcast consultant and program maker. Find out more at daviescontent.com.