Maybe you got into podcasts because they were a convenient way to listen to your favorite NPR shows on demand. Maybe Serial caught your ear back in 2014, or your favorite late night host started one. Maybe you’ve never even listened to a podcast and you want to know what all the fuss is about. No matter what got you hooked, there has been a stunning boom in podcasts in the last five years. And, with now over 1 million podcasts, an entire industry has sprung up around them.
Whether you’re looking to target a niche audience, grow a thought leadership platform, or just start a fun project with friends, podcasting is an excellent vehicle for authentic, intimate storytelling. As a former audio producer for Boston’s NPR news station and current podcast producer for Inkhouse client podcasts, here are 10 key things to keep in mind if you are thinking about podcasting:
#1: Meet with your production team - whoever you’re planning to create the podcast with - and decide what you want the format of the podcast to be. Will it be an interview-based podcast or a narrative, story-driven show? What’s the best vehicle to tell the story you want to tell?
#2: Slate out your production schedule, organizing your podcast by seasons and episodes. Starting a podcast with no end-point is challenging for even the most seasoned producers. Instead, decide how many episodes you want to put out for your first season, and then plan to have at least three locked in and ready to be published by the time you launch the podcast itself. That will give you enough time to record, edit and review each episode before its publish date.
#3: While we continue to socially distance and in-person interview opportunities are limited, conducting interviews by Zoom works well, and even the most storied podcasts are doing it. While recording the Zoom interview works as a backup option, have your host and guest record their ends of the interview via voice memo, making sure they use headphones so only their side of the conversation is recorded. You can then put the two sides of the interview together in post-production. (NPR offers a great step-by-step guide here on how to easily record voice memos.)
#4: In an interview, aim to have as authentic a conversation as possible. While research and preparation is great, reading from a list of questions is a quick way to put a listener to sleep. Listen intently to the guest and ask relevant follow-up questions.
#5: Always put yourself in the listener’s shoes. If your guest references something that you understand, it doesn’t necessarily mean your listener will. Jump in and explain, or ask your guest to do the honors.
#6: Don’t be afraid of signposting. Audio storytelling royalty, Ira Glass, tells his audience something over and over again, and you should too! You likely listen to podcasts while working out, doing the dishes, in the shower, cooking, and guess what - your listener is doing the same thing. They may need a key piece of information shared a couple of times for it to really sink in.
#7: Don’t be afraid of upping up your production value, even if you’re a beginner. Awkward transition in the middle of the interview? Add a music bump to smooth it out. (Michelle Obama’s podcast does this simply and elegantly.) Or, use a teaser from the interview in the intro to spark the listener’s interest.
#8: Avoid the “Audible edit.” A podcast is not an audiobook. While cutting some filler words like “um,” “right,” “I mean” and “like” is an easy way to cut down an interview, only cut the filler words that stand alone and won’t sound like an obvious edit. If you lose them all, it won’t sound like a real conversation. Podcasts are compelling because they are intimate and authentic, and if your podcast subjects sound more robotic than human, the story won’t be compelling.
#9: Do. Not. Cut. Breaths. This was something I got into a bad habit of doing as a college radio producer, and was quickly corrected when I started as an intern at WBUR. It makes the conversation sound stilted and unnatural. You can, however, use breaths to your advantage. Looking to move something around, but the edit sounds awkward? Pull a breath from another part of the interview and have it precede the section you moved. It will sound like a new thought has begun and will create a natural flow.
#10: Look for a second pair of ears. Whoever does the editing, no matter how skilled, should not be the only person listening to a final episode before it’s published. At least one “editor” should be available to listen to the episode with a critical ear and provide both technical and content-related feedback.
Emma-Jean is an account manager at Inkhouse, focusing primarily on its real estate and tech practices. She utilizes her background in journalism to specialize in media relations, content creation, social media and the production of podcasts for clients.