Monthly Archives: October 2017

11 essentials for the modern podcast

So what are the elements of the new wave of ‘symphonic’ podcasts? Here’s an incomplete list of things you need to do, podcasters:

  1. Do bold, generous promotion. Podcasters give whole episodes to friendly podcasts and encourage them to tear them down and re-edit them for their own purposes – This American Life uses a cut-down ep from Gimlet’s ‘Heavyweight’. Radiolab carves up a whole ep from NPR’s ‘Rough Translation’. Edits can be really radical, an episode can be totally remade and feel very different but this is great promotion and very flattering to the source.
  2. Tease cleverly. Podcasters are publishing a ‘season preview’ or an ‘episode 0’ ahead of the main series. Heavyweight just did this and it really builds excitement. This would also work for returning on-air podcasts from broadcasters – i.e. episode 0 would be online-only, so could have a different tone and maybe a looser format and throw forward to ep 1.
  3. Publish a ‘making of’ episode (and a blooper reel and a cast interview and a story follow-up etc. etc.). Major productions like Gimlet’s ‘Mogul‘ and ‘Bronzeville‘ have done this – wringing the maximum possible value from their expensively-created content.
  4. Commission music. Whatever your podcast is, whatever the theme, no matter how unnecessary music may seem to your theme or format. It will amp up your podcast, make it feel more grown-up, more symphonic. I love the clever, lightweight music they use on The Daily, for instance.
  5. Mine the archive – and other people’s archives. You’ll need permission but, if it’s there, this is essentially free content. 99% Invisible resurfaces old Public Radio episodes that happen to fit a current theme. Radiolab routinely fills gaps with older eps, minimally reworked or updated.
  6. Invent formats – and give them funky names. Like Mogul’s ‘Cameos‘ – mini-episodes between the main ones that don’t carry the story.
  7. Oh, and do mini episodes in between the big ones. Minimal effort, possibly built from unused tape from the main eps. Be cheeky about this, don’t feel you always need to create original content, don’t be uptight about your publishing schedule. People will be excited when they see an unexpected ep land.
  8. Put on live events – it turns out this will work with literally any podcast. Seriously. It will add energy, provide material, excite contributors and suggest new approaches.
  9. Find a way to include the voices of listeners – even if you just get them to read the credits. The NPR Politics podcast gets people to read out the bit about the podcast probably being out of date by the time you hear it (they call the ‘timestamps‘).
  10. Do ’emergency episodes’ – and not just for news podcasts. Any time there’s a real world event to respond to, get into a studio and lay down 20 minutes of chat. It connects you with the news, makes you seem up-to-date. Here’s one from the excellent FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast.
  11. Provide credits – name everyone! It gives your podcast weight, makes you look like a player.