Things To Listen For When You Aircheck A Podcast
September 27, 2016
I just returned from the NAB and RAB's Radio Show in Nashville, where I had the privilege of speaking about podcasting with the NAB's Josh Miely. Together, we showed radio broadcasters the basics of podcasting. (For a similar presentation, watch my webinar, How to Launch a Podcast.)
Josh has been involved with a number of podcasts, including his role as host of The NAB Podcast, which focuses on issues facing broadcasters today. I also have a hand in many podcasts, including the recently wrapped DASH Podcast, which focuses on the future of radio in the connected car, and the Worldwide Radio Summit podcast, which features interviews with leaders in the radio broadcasting space.
As you listen to our podcasts and others, here are some things to make a note of, especially as your radio station starts to dip its toe into the world of podcasting:
1. The First 60 Seconds
Unlike radio, where listeners may tune in at any given point in time, everybody starts a podcast episode at the same place: the beginning. This means that the first 60 seconds of your podcast are crucial; people will decide instantly whether or not they will continue listening. Too many podcasts meander at the beginning instead of getting straight to the point.
Use the first 60 seconds to answer these questions:
- What is this podcast about?
- Who are the hosts and/or guests?
- What is going to happen in this episode?
It helps to script your introduction in advance. I begin every episode of my food and travel podcast like this:
"Hello and welcome to the Taste Trekkers podcast, the podcast for foodies who love travel and travelers who love food. I'm your host; my name is Seth Resler, and on today's episode we're talking to Joe Blow, the owner of Metropolis Food Tours. We'll find out everything you need to know about the local food scene for your next trip to Metropolis."
In addition to answering these three questions, you may have a produced introduction or a pre-roll sponsorship at the beginning of the episode. Many podcasters also give the episode number or offer a pull quote as a teaser at the top of the episode.
2. An Identifiable Show Structure
Each podcast episode should feel like it's going somewhere; you want to give it a sense of momentum. One way to do this is to give each episode a recognizable structure. Slate's gabfests do this very well. For example, the Slate Political Gabfest always includes a roundtable discussion of three topics from the news, followed by "Cocktail Chatter," a brief discussion of something that caught the attention of each host in the last week.
It's often a good idea to offer a "roadmap" at the beginning of the episode to outline this structure. On the Political Gabfest, host David Plotz opens by saying, "On todays' Gabfest, we're going to talk about A, B, and C, followed by Cocktail Chatter."
Some podcasts don't need a roadmap at the beginning because the structure is implied. This is often true when there is chronological order to the episode. For example, WTF host Marc Maron usually retraces the life of his guests from childhood up through present day, so there isn't the need for a roadmap.
Benchmarks, or standard "bits" that are repeated in different episodes of a show, can boost the entertainment value of a podcast in the same way that they do for a radio show. On Slate's Political Gabfest, "Cocktail Chatter" is a benchmark. On my food and travel podcast, I always end with a series of rapid-fire restaurant recommendations called "Out of the Frying Pan." (I was inspired by the series of questions that James Lipton asks at the end of every episode of Inside the Actors' Studio, which is also a benchmark.) When airchecking a podcast, look for opportunities to create benchmarks.
4. The Closing
When airchecking a podcast, always be sure to listen to the final minutes of an episode. Like the opening, there are some key elements to include in the conclusion of every episode:
- Thank the listeners for listening.
- Encourage them to subscribe to the podcast (they may be listening to a single episode in a browser; if they subscribe, they're more likely to come back for more).
- Give credit to anybody who is involved in the creation of the podcast, such as a producer or an intern.
- Offer a clear call to action: If you want people to visit your website, follow you on social media, leave a review for the podcast in iTunes, enter a radio station contest, buy tickets to a station concert, or do anything else, now is the time to say so.
- Include any final sponsorship reads.