When Launching A Podcast, Pick Your Format Carefully
May 17, 2016
I launched my first podcast when the Occupy Wall Street movement broke out. I was curious about why so many people were gathering at these protests, so I picked up a mic, went down to the camps in San Francisco and Oakland, and started conducting interviews. I edited the interviews into episodes and posted them online.
Within weeks, over 35,000 people in more than 80 countries around the world had downloaded episodes. Without spending a dime, my interviews were being heard around the world. In retrospect, it's not all that surprising. "Occupy" was a hot search term at the time, and when you typed it into iTunes, you found my podcast... and a bad Rap song.
But producing that podcast was a lot of work. For a single episode, I had to travel to the protest site, record several episodes, edit them, and publish them. It required so many hours of work that, ultimately, I couldn't keep up. My podcast "podfaded" - fizzled out, much like the Occupy movement itself - after a dozen episodes.
Creating quality content that attracts a large audience is a lot of work. Unlike a typical commercial radio morning show, podcasts like Serial require much more research, storyboarding, and post-production. NPR's Invisibilia reportedly took two years to produce a handful of episodes.
While we should all aspire to create podcasts as compelling as Serial and Invisibila, is that realistic in an era when every commercial radio employee is overworked?
When I set out to launch my second podcast, I chose a format that I knew I could produce on a regular basis. My Taste Trekkers podcast is for "foodies who travel." In each episode, I talk to a culinary expert from a different region about their local food scene. Instead of me traveling to meet my interview subjects, I conduct the interviews on Skype or on the phone. As a result, I was able to produce episodes on a bi-weekly basis, and eventually I increased it to a weekly schedule. (The pace has slowed since I started working at Jacobs Media.)
If your radio station is looking to delve into the world of podcasting, you should carefully consider the sustainability of your inaugural podcast's format. We'd all like to produce Ira Glass-quality material, but this is something you have to work up to. In the beginning, set modest goals. Start with a format that it easier to produce: one-on-one phone interviews, roundtable discussions with regular hosts, or a limited run of episodes. Once you experience some initial success, you can raise the bar.
If you swing for the fences during your first time up to the plate, you increase your chances of striking out. Instead, when your station prepares to launch its first podcast, be realistic about your resources. Aim to get on base, and you increase your chances of winning the game in the long run.
NEXT STEP: This Thursday, I am hosting a webinar titled, "How to Launch a Podcast: An Introduction for Radio Stations." You can register here.
ALSO: The third annual Podcast Movement conference will take place on July 6-8th in Chicago. This is the largest gathering of podcasters in North America, with over 2,000 attendees expected. I will moderate a panel discussion with on-air personality Tom Leykis, talent coach and author Valerie Geller, Rob Greenlee (Head of Content at Spreaker), and Doug Berman (executive producer of NPR's "Car Talk" and "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!"). My session is called, "Podcast Makeover: A Live Critique Session with Broadcasting Legends."