The f-word podcasters think the most about is….

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Friction is the thing.

It’s not as easy, convenient or simple as it should be to discover podcasts, or find shows that fit your range of interests. Confusion and complexity are holding us back.

The first barrier for wannabe podcast listeners is the prompt. iTunes and other platforms suggest that you “subscribe.” But this is a lousy name for it. Sounds like a loyalty program. Subscriptions involve paying for something, but podcasts are free.

That’s the first piece of friction.

Search is also a big problem. Our news solutions podcast, “How Do We Fix It?” is a show that asks experts about what works to improve civic and political life. But someone who searches for “how to fix it,” “solutions,” “fixes” or “what works”, won’t find our shows. Other podcasters have similar problems.

More friction.

Smart speakers are a huge thing these days. But the vocal prompts for podcasts are not as easy as they should be. Friction!

All this presents a problem and a great opportunity.

Podcasting needs its own industry association or trade group.

Investments should be made by Audible, Spotify, NPR and other big players to produce witty, creative and catchy public information videos and radio spots that would reach out to the tens of millions of people who engage online, but haven’t got a clue how to listen to podcasts. Facebook, where many non-millennials gather, is an obvious place to start. Then advertise on the next Super Bowl!

Big podcasters should launch a contest with an enticing prize for the best five YouTube videos that show folks how to engage with podcasts.

Fight friction with fun.

More than 550,000 podcasts are on iTunes– and the number is growing all the time. Two- thirds of Americans have heard of the term “podcast,” but fewer than one-in-five  are regular listeners. With nearly 50 million regular listeners, podcasting has come a long way in the past few years. But it’s time to take it to the next level.

The launch of the new Google Podcasts app may go a long way towards this goal.  Until now, Apple has been the dominant player. Google says its goal is to help listeners and make it “easier for them to discover and listen to the podcasts they love.” If the search giant uses AI to improve podcast script and voice search, this would be a major breakthrough.

At Podcast Movement in Philadelphia last week, Tom Webster of Edison Research said: “The key to moving from 48 million weekly podcast listeners to the 100 million mark is understanding why those people familiar with the term “podcasting” have never listened.”

48% the “I have’t heard a podcast” crowd say they’re not sure how to listen. A similar number believe, incorrectly, that podcasts cost money and suck up a lot of data. 37% don’t understand what they are.

The challenges are great, but so is the potential to reach into new, and often marginalized communities. Most early podcast adopters were white men. It’s time for industry leaders to be more diverse, and to reflect the country at large.

Fewer than one-in-four podcasts have a woman host. Thanks to Kerri Hoffman of PRX, Laura Walker at WNYC and others, positive, powerful efforts are underway to correct this.  Ethnic, racial, class, viewpoint and geographic diversity are also needed to boost the authenticity, reach and range of podcasting.

Nearly one-in-five Americans own smart speakers. They’re the fastest growing electronic devices since most of us got a smart phone. Smart speakers introduce a different way to listen. Others may be in the room with us. We are not on ear buds nor headphones. Podcast listening might become more social, and in some cases less intimate.

The future for podcasting may include more short quiz shows, games and drama.

How about a 12-minute soap opera with revolving characters that has audiences coming back for more every day? It’s already been tried in the U.K. “The Archers”  has been running for nearly 70 years, with nearly 19,000 episodes under it’s belt. It’s the world’s longest running radio soap opera.

With podcasts, what’s old can be new again.

“Can Podcasting Save The Planet” is the latest episode of “How Do We Fix It?’

Richard Davies is a podcaster, consultant and media coach. He runs DaviesContent.

 

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The beauty of asking dumb questions.

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How to ask questions (2). The third in a series on podcasting.

As soon as I published some thoughts on how podcasters can do even better interviews than they record already (my previous blog), I started getting friendly feedback.

Some of it comes from close to home.

Miranda Shafer, the senior producer of “How Do We Fix It?” — our weekly news solutions show — has several smart ideas that I include here.

While editing and improving the audio quality of our podcast, Miranda excises the “ums” and “ahs” from each interview. So, perhaps this one is aimed at me! “Don’t make small affirmative noises like “uh huh” or “right.” Nod instead,” she says.

Agreed. The people you interview know that you’re interested in what they are saying. There is no need for affirmation from the host in the middle of an answer. More than one or two “uh huhs” during an interview can be irritating for listeners.

If you think a response from you is a good idea, follow up with another question. Or simply say, “tell me more.”

There’s this from our friend and podcast consultant, Donna Papacosta: “Have you ever experienced premature interview termination?”, she asked in a recent post. “At the end of an interview… you thank the subject, snap your notebook shut and switch off your recorder. In the chatter that follows, your interviewee utters the most quotable quote of the last half hour.”

Ouch. That’s happened to me more times than I can count. Donna suggests: keep the recorder running, unless you need to go off-the-record.

When planning an interview, podcasters should try to think of how each question can build a story arc. You might want to begin a podcast conversation with an anecdote or an amusing aside that warms up the guest, lifting the curtain on the subject for your listeners.

Or you could start out with a few basic questions on why your guests are interested or passionate about what they do and what they have learned along the way.

Ask dumb questions, especially if the guest uses acronyms, slang or fancy words. Ask him to explain or define any term that the audience might not be familiar with. During an interview the host should always be on the side of the listener. What would she want to hear? What subject interests him the most?

Brief questions are often best.

Don’t spend a lot of time with your opinions, because the guest may respond with a simple yes or no answer. Then you have to come up with another question right away!

Don’t be afraid to appear dim. Before the recording begins, you can say: “I’ve read your book and understand the topic, but I’m going to ask you some basic questions for the audience.”

One more tip from editor/producer Miranda: Record on two channels. That makes your interview easier to edit and often results in better audio quality.

Richard Davies is a Podcast host, consultant and media trainer. Learn more at DaviesContent.com

What I Learned About Money, Personal Finance and Podcasts From Farnoosh Torabi

  
I’ll never forget the first thing personal finance journalist and podcaster Farnoosh Torabi said to me a few months before I launched our new weekly podcast, “How Do We Fix It?”.

“What is going to be your target audience?” she asked, looking me straight in the eye as we sat down for lunch at a restuarant in Midtown Manhattan.

Well, I have to admit that 7 shows in, I’m still working on that.  

Unlike many podcasts built around niche markets, such as health, wealth, relationships, or being a great entrepreneur, ours is general interest.  Our listeners don’t have exactly the same interests, or three or four favorite Twitter feeds and Facebook pages that they all go to.

The community we are building week-by-week wants solutions to many different problems that bug all of us – whether it’s the challenge of raising kids with good values and curious minds, the struggle of getting out from under a mountain of debt, or how to end boredom in the workplace. 

We’re not in the blame game.  Our show has a positive, independent point of view that shuns the old left vs. right mindset.  

I’ve been watching my friend Farnoosh rather closely to see what ideas we can learn from her about growing an audience.  

The first thing I learned is that she’s a brilliant marketer, who does a great job of using Twitter and the So Money website to promote herself, her guests and ideas.  Farnoosh is also the real deal who cares about her listeners.  In a medium as intimate as podcasting, being authentic is vitally important.

This week I was a guest on her daily show.  After years of interviews where I ask the questions, it was a bit of a shock to have the tables turned!  And Farnoosh was very clear about she wanted from me:  life lessons and good stories about my experience with money.

Her show’s example has helped Jim, Miranda and I (The “Fix It” team) with our podcast.  How Do We Fix It? isn’t just about good ideas and concise solutions.  We also need to tell personal stories.  And we want listeners to give us guidance and suggestions about where our show should go next. 

Unlike the old days, when broadcast and print journalists simply put out a well produced finished product, podcasts are more spontaneous and part of a conversation.

To build support, we’ve just added a pop-up page at our website, urging listeners and supporters to sign-up and suggest ideas for future shows.  Having subscribers who rate our shows in iTunes is vitally important to us.  

In the near future, How Do We Fix It? may launch a Kickstarter page to raise funds to get the message out about our big idea. Our show is about solutions.  We welcome lively minds with fresh ideas, who want to make our country better. That’s why we also picked Farnoosh to be our guest this week.

   

 
Five years after the worst of the recession ended, tens of millions of Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.  For many the assumptions of a comfortable life were swept away with the mortgage mess and near financial collapse in 2008.

 Because the subject can be painful, it’s easy to be in money denial.  Farnoosh makes the case for making financial management a part of your daily life. “A lot of us don’t even take that first step of acknowledging money is important and that it can be a means to achieving a lot of life’s goals,” she says. 

“If you have a story in your head that says ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not rich enough, I can’t work the job that will pay me enough money… Those are just barriers that you’ve created in your mind that are keeping you away from being able to reach financial freedom.”

Farnoosh is not suggesting that we obsess about money, and give it primacy over love, relationships and family.  “You don’t have to give up your morning latte to achieve your goals.”