Creating Powerful Podcasts
December 1, 2015
Everywhere you turn, in broadcast publications, general media and radio conferences, people are talking about podcasting. And talent's got the itch. Broadcasters and non-broadcasters alike all want in. Stations want to cash in, talent wants to paint on the new canvas, and everybody wants the chance to build their brands and grow new audiences.
I've coached and trained any number of podcast hosts, and I am a dedicated listener to podcasts. I have been a guest on podcasts, getting the word out about the new Beyond Powerful Radio audio book. Clients all over the planet in America , Canada, Europe and South Africa are all successfully podcasting, producing and building their audience base for "audio download on demand."
A couple of years ago, I started getting calls from stations and talent looking for help. At the time, there were four types of requests:
Top management at stations had been hearing the buzz about podcasting. They didn't want to be left behind, miss out on potential audience growth, or lose the possible money that a podcast could bring in. They wanted real estate in place, just in case this Podcast thing took off.
It was a good bet. Today, podcasting is woven into the fabric of listener's lives and considered a normal part of radio consumption. According to a PEW institute survey, one out of three Americans listens to radio online and downloads podcasts.
- Displaced DJs, personalities and talk hosts who did not have radio shows wanted to have a place to do new work or keep their previous on-air shows going. They needed an outlet to continue performing, and now, with the podcast, they enjoyed the freedom to play or talk about whatever they wanted without restrictions.
- Producers, or those who'd never been allowed the chance to be on the air... people who had been told, "If you want to be on air, go to Mooseknuckle, get some experience, then come back when you have proven yourself."
- BUT, the Solid Winners were people who had something to say and just thought podcasting was fun. There was no format. No boss. They loved the new platform: A blank canvas with complete freedom to talk about whatever they wanted, for as long as they felt like it, and put it out there for the entire world to hear.
So, You Want To Do A Podcast
When Chris Sacca was head of the Special Initiatives Department for Google, he said, "At Google we worry first about creating an application that will work to benefit a user, rather than worrying first about how it's going to make money." Think of the podcast not as a broadcast, but as a SHOW.
Don't do this because you think you SHOULD. Create a podcast only if you have a passion to try it. And then be willing to do what it takes to see it through over time. That's the key ingredient between success and those that drop by the wayside after a few episodes. Podcasting is not a hobby. And it's not a radio program. It's a new canvas, one that advertisers, who want to reach young people who make up the digital and mobile audience - want to be a part of.
The coaching work I do is based on just three things:
- Tell the truth
- Make it Matter
- Never be boring
These principles don't change, no matter the format or platform. Powerful storytelling, authentic self-revelation, humor, unique journeys for the audience and connection - 100% - it works.
On a podcast it's ALL P-1s. Imagine a theater of people who have gathered just to see you. People are there because they care about what you are offering and they WANT to listen to you.
Your podcast should contain what people can't hear elsewhere, including on the radio.
Some of the following points are also true for radio but are especially important to Create Powerful Podcasts:
- Only podcast if you have passion for your material.
- Start strong. Engaging an audience immediately has always been crucial, but in a podcast, it's survival. If you don't grab the audience's attention at the top of the show, they don't stick around. As I mentioned, you're narrowcasting here - not broadcasting - to people who WANT to hear you and this specific content, information or story.
- Avoid reading your open. Reading a long introduction is usually boring. Very few hosts can pull it off. Audiences would rather be communicated with than read to.
- Don't address "the group." Talk to one listener at a time. Avoid, "Welcome podcast family," "Hello to all my listeners," etc.
- Be consistent - and persistent. The podcast world is littered with people who did three podcasts and then gave it up. Whether monthly, weekly or daily, if you promise, deliver.
- Produce your podcast. Or get a producer. Edit, then go back and edit again. Don't post anything that isn't perfect. A podcast lives forever.
- Make your podcast as long or as short as works - no time restriction or constraint - but NEVER BE BORING. It's better to err on the side of brevity than go too long with anything.
- Take full advantage of the platform. Offer content that might NOT be right for on air, but can work here.
- Don't look at podcasting exclusively as a marketing platform. If that's all it is, it will fail. You have to have a quality show or you won't have an audience. Your podcast needs to be powerful... inform, entertain and inspire.
- Know who is listening. Take advantage of the analytics. The audience is trackable. Use all the data available to find out the size and demographic of your audience. Podcasts become sexy to advertisers when you can provide a hard-to-reach audience, including a younger demo or the digital-only consumer.
- Build your following by using both radio and social media networks. Use radio as a "driver" to send audiences to your podcast. That was the secret of the success of Public Radio's "Serial." The first episode aired on the popular "This American Life" radio show. If you wanted to find out what happened next, you had to go online and listen to the podcast.
- Create a community. Podcasts can connect people of like interests. That community can be offered the chance to gather at conferences, storytelling nights, concerts, live events... all with sponsorship opportunities.
Yes - But How Do We Make Money?
Making money with your podcast can happen when you develop and grow an audience for it.
By now you may have heard about successful podcasts and how they've become profitable, attracting unique sponsors who want to reach the digital audience (Grey Goose, Square Space, Stamps.com etc.) and through kickstarter funding or crowd sourcing. Podcasting offers an opportunity to reach those who might not listen to radio... listeners who are young, digital and mobile. If you're interested in learning more, my colleague Mark Ramsey interviewed Jake Shapiro who runs PRX - the public radio exchange. He shares his success story here.
There are also several podcast-only agencies (Scripps Howard's Midroll, Podcast One, etc.) that sell ads for podcasts and bundle clusters of podcasts, but the sponsors themselves are different from broadcasting sponsors. At the recent DASH 2015 conference in Detroit, Podcast One CEO Norm Pattiz explained that they attract sponsors by showing them exactly who is listening to each commercial. "The trick is filtering the download information into things that appeal to advertisers." We research, and Wide Orbit counts the number of times the commercials are served. So about 70% of our content is trackable and we extrapolate the rest with a 4% plus or minus. And the advertisers trust it."
Develop Tomorrow's Radio Personalities
There's another reason radio should be thrilled with this new platform. With cost cutting and consolidation, there are fewer places on the air to develop talent. Talent is our future. Podcasting can serve as the training ground for tomorrow's professionals. The RAB's Erica Farber once referred to the Internet as "Radio's new overnight shift." Stations on the hunt for talent, without resources to develop their own, look to the Internet for intriguing, successful podcasts to find new talent.
Looking For A Podcast To Listen To?
Got an overweight aging cat? There's probably a podcast to help. It's not hard. Google a search word and you may see a podcast about that very thing. For more, check out Neiman Lab's Podcast Concierge from public radio.
Is Podcasting For You?
Podcasting is hard work. Phil Hendrie, Tom Leykis, Ira Glass and Adam Corolla all proved that with good storytelling, uniqueness and persistence, it pays off. If you can offer something new, plus authenticity, fun, passion and consistency, you have a good chance for success. Podcast superstar Mark Marron even credits podcasting with saving his career.
If you're independent-minded, entrepreneurial, and burn with desire for your own platform for storytelling, entertaining and creative self- expression, podcasting could be right for you.