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Posts Tagged ‘Podcast’

Secrets to Podcasting Success

death-sex-money-1400In May 2014, Anna Sale launched the podcast “Death, Sex & Money” from the studios of WNYC. She had been working in news for public radio in New York City when they asked for ideas for podcasts and she was given a green light to pilot her concept.

In the 10 months that has followed, Anna’s podcast has hit #1 on iTunes and she’s learned a ton about producing a successful podcast. Lucky for us she shared her revelations at Radiodays Europe and with the Radio Stuff Podcast.

“If you’re thinking of starting a podcast just start recording,” Anna told me in the  echo-filled hallway following her session. “When I came up with the idea of “Death, Sex and Money” it was this idea on a piece of paper and I had a sense of what I wanted it to feel like, but the step between that sense and then making something that actually is taped and scripted — that’s the place where you need to be experimenting. So sit down, book an interview, tell somebody you’re in a pilot phase for your podcast, but just do it. That’s going to get you into using those muscles of learning how to make your podcast. I would not think about strategy. I wouldn’t think about audience growth. I wouldn’t think about anything before I started trying to make the show and making sure it was something that I could get really in to and that I’d be proud of.”

During a session titled “30 Ideas in 45 Minutes,” where we both presented ideas, she shared these ideas around the production of a podcast. (Here they are listed as documented by our friends at Earshot Creative.)

RDE2015-23701. Record everything. Always. Start your audio recorder before anything happens.
2. Not getting somewhere in an interview? Just… wait.
3. Edit mercilessly but keep the space. Take out whole chunks of dullness, but retain the human pauses that add to the dramatic tension.
4. Don’t suppress your natural reaction, even when it makes noise. It gives the listener permission to smile and it builds your personality.
5. End with a bold set of compulsory questions. Anna always asks standard, personal, powerful sometimes rude questions that could ruin the dynamic earlier, but provoke great answers at the end.

In our one-on-one discussion Anna and I talked about a few other lessons she has learned.

Podcasts are intimate. Be vulnerable. I asked her how vulnerable she’s been. Anna didn’t hesitate, “I’ve talked about being adrift in my relationships and not knowing if I was ready to commit and having real big questions about what I wanted my life to look like, because I’m a woman in my 30s figuring out if I’m going to have a family, if this was going to be the guy I was going to be with and that was one of the first episodes so that felt pretty vulnerable.” Listen here.

Podcasts are what grow other podcasts. Despite being featured on NPR radio stations across the country through “This American Life,”  the “Death, Sex, and Money” podcast didn’t see an audience impact until the “This American Life” podcast was posted. In hindsight, it makes sense to Anna, “Podcast listeners know how to use podcasts. And so why not go to those listeners first? People are still learning how to use on-demand audio. If you’re not already a podcast listener figuring out that you need podcast player on your phone and how to search and how to download and how to subscribe — there are some steps to that.”

People are still discovering the world of podcasting. Case and point; this was tweeted out this week by “P!nk” who is familiar with radio, but brand new to podcasts;

Podcasts are not broadcasts. Podcasting gives you permission to “go there.” You can presume the audience is ready to go there with you. When doing a radio show you have to assume there are kids in the car, mixed company, and there are the FCC guidelines to consider. Not so much with podcasting. And those weren’t the only differences for Anna, “The thing that was hard was losing all the constraints of radio. A clock is your friend in radio, because you know at a certain point — you just have to talk until 12:01 and the next show is going to come on. And you just have to avoid dead air for that long. In podcasting, you can go for however long you want. You have the freedom to make the podcasts as long as they need to be instead of filling the clock.”

Sharability matters more than news hooks. “I never knew how long the tail of episodes can be, because coming from news it is like you put something up, it goes out and that’s its moment,” Anna said.  “In podcasting, the discoverability is so much longer. So, the idea of making something evergreen and when someone is going to find your podcast — you can’t presume they’re finding it right around the time it comes out. Because, what I’ve noticed is when people discover the podcast then they’ll listen to several episodes and binge listen.”

Add your podcasting tips, insights and secrets to the comments below. Check out all the Radio Stuff Podcast interviews from Radiodays Europe by listening to Episode 94 and Episode 95.

Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

 

 

Don’t Be a Serial Hater

serialThe Break Up

It’s not news that our society and media love to build things up and then tear them down. The latest example is the This American Life produced podcast “Serial.” As the final episode of season one is about to post, there is a ripple in the force of “Serial’s” success.

“Serial” captured magic in a bottle. It’s a podcast that investigates a 15-year old murder case and the conviction of Adnan Sayed. Millions are listening, some even waiting in anticipation for its weekly Thursday release. Personally, I’m a fan. In my house, it was a topic of conversation at Thanksgiving with friends, fodder for the weekly Skype call with the in-laws, weekly hypothesizing with radio clients in Cape Town, Los Angeles and Ithaca and one night my wife and I chose Serial over TV and listened together. It’s even beginning to influence the way I’m telling stories and using audio on my podcast Radio Stuff.

The Deal with Ramsey

Despite the early positive press, my own tongue-wagging, the very successful season two fundraiser, and the ever-growing audience for the show there are some in the media who seem to want it to go away now or pretend it’s no big deal.

I’m not sure why.

Mark Ramsey of Mark Ramsey Media is one of them. He dismisses it as “overrated” on his Facebook page with a link to an article by Variety. I rebutted in the comments of his post suggesting his comment was shortsighted and he encouraged me to read the article and listen to his podcast. I’ve done that now. It inspired this post.

The Case Against “Serial”

“The podcast is really no more or less engrossing than the countless other true whodunits common all over movies and TV. Even an average episode of a relatively low-profile TV staple like NBC newsmagazine “Dateline” routinely features cases like Syed’s; you could even argue recreating these crimes for TV is a more sophisticated form of storytelling.” 

Variety criticizes “Serial” for being unoriginal and using tried and true storytelling methods. And then later declares “Serial” irrelevant to the success of future podcasts, because it’s too unique and difficult to recreate. Oh, and there’s more.

“The problem with “Serial’s” success is that it won’t represent an inflection point for podcasts for one simple reason: Even if the hype for this show grows to a level where it brings podcasts exposure to a new audience segment perhaps even more sizable than that of current core podcast devotees, there’s little else like “Serial” for this wave to listen to that will keep them around to sample more content.”

In their podcast “Media Unplugged,” Mark Ramsey and Tom Asacker decided to rebuke one article’s claim that on the heels of “Serial’s” success this is the golden age of podcasting. Here are some of their arguments. (My comments are italicized and in parenthesis.)

  • “I was met with a splash page asking for donations to fund a second season.” (Crowd sourcing worked! Not sure why that is a negative. If pop ads bother you I might suggest exiting the internet altogether.) 
  • “Only 15% of Americans are listening to podcasts, it’s not a dramatic change from before “Serial.”” (That’s 47 million people and growing. The golden age of TV was the late 1940’s and 50’s but there are far more people watching TV today than then. This seems irrelevant to “Serial’s” success or the argument against being a golden age of podcasts.)
  • “Being #1 on iTunes doesn’t mean it’s popular. The iTunes ranker is not a reflection of popularity it’s an algorithm – momentum and comments rather than raw popularity. Plus, the iTunes ranker is not the sum total of podcast consumption.” (For some reason this seems like a personal issue with Ramsey. I’m guessing if “Media Unplugged” became #1 on iTunes he wouldn’t parse popularity versus momentum and comments, which also seem like perfectly fine factors of popularity.)
  • “”Serial” has 18 million exposures less than an average episode of NCIS on CBS.” (NCIS is the #1 drama on TV. “Dateline,” which is probably more appropriate to compare, maxes out at 7 million viewers. But, since when are we judging radio/audio content success versus TV? We never have. It’s a ridiculous comparison.)
  • “There is an orgins story to this podcast: This American Life launched it. It’s a platform and all these distribution points called public radio stations.” (So, this is the old “don’t try this at home, kids” warning. I think most smart people in the radio/audio space realize the impact that had, but that shouldn’t keep them from trying or also launching podcasts on the backs of established brands)
  • “They used the “what happens next” method of storytelling, the genre “murder mystery” is as old as Agatha Christie, and the style as old as Dickens. Somehow in the world of podcasts it’s fresh.” (Excellent. We should be using every trick in the book. There’s no need to recreate the wheel. Good storytelling is good storytelling.)
  • “Most podcasts are like most blogs, most books, and most music; if they’re hitting maybe tens of thousands of downloads then they are lucky.” (This only further proves the growing success of podcasts. Two years ago experts like Mark and Tom wouldn’t have uttered podcasts and blogs in the same sentence as books and music. Now they’re putting them on equal ground. Either books and music have failed horribly or podcasts have risen in the ranks.)

The Opposite of Prosecution

Maybe I’m a glass half-full guy, but “Serial” makes me excited. And not just for podcasting, but for radio. I can hear a whole new wave of personal journalism on news-talk radio stations right around the corner. I can imagine newscasts with that familiar, intimate tone, personal asides and anecdotes (or “folksy” as Variety called it) that sucks you into the “Serial” narrative.

As a news-talk PD I was passionate and supportive of enterprise reporting and in-depth investigations and I believe “Serial” has cleared the way for commercial radio stations to move forward in that direction with gusto. Yes, there’s a risk it won’t work. Which means there’s a chance it will work. Go for it.

The model of launching a podcast off the success of a radio show is one that any radio station in the country could duplicate with varying degrees of success depending on the strength of the brands involved. You could also launch podcasts off of non-media brands or TV partners or local celebrities. Be creative. Use this as an idea starter.

I’m not sure why it’s a negative to borrow successful story-telling techniques. Regardless if it’s from CBS, Agatha Christie or Dickens, it all seems like good company to keep. Look at cable news. They built 90% of their programming on the models talk radio created. I guess my point is sometimes we get so concerned with being original and unique or “innovative” that we forget about “cultivation” and “ideation” which allows you gather all available assets, ideas and thoughts and repurpose them to greater success. We should do more of this.

And finally, with all due respect to the naysayers, I think anytime any audio content captures the imagination of people or the media, we should celebrate it. Far too often radio and audio creators crossover onto print, digital and TV for all the wrong reasons. “Serial” seems like just the lightning rod our industry needed to regain our swagger and expand our personal definitions of what’s possible in this space as it pertains to content creation, monetization and our definitions of success.

Life is Show Prep

TopicsI work with several podcasters who are trying to impart expert information in a less professorial or lecture-type tone and want to have that personal, one-on-one conversation with the listener that great radio broadcasters do so well.

For one of them it clicked this week.

The gist of my advice that resonated with him was this:

Stop picking topics and let the topics pick you.

 

Here’s what I mean.

Most experts approach their podcasts like a lecture. The rack their brains for a theme, topic or some wisdom they want or should impart. And then they rack their brains for a story or anecdote that they hope helps personalize it.

Turn that inside-out-and-backwards.

Take notice of the things that happen in your life each day. Pick one of these events even if it’s seemingly mundane or routine. Tell it in great detail and allow it to help exemplify a common theme in your teaching.

For instance, the host I work with teaches foreign language. He realized during the week he was having trouble motivating himself to exercise. He’d lost his will power. This is also a common problem for people learning a new language. So in his podcast he relayed, in great detail and emotion, his struggles with exercise including how he identified why he’d lost his will power when he had it previously, what he’s doing to get it back and how listeners can apply the same technique when they’re finding it difficult to get motivated to learn language each day. It was personal, powerful, effective and entertaining.

By sharing your life stories with great detail and animation, you will come across as more authentic, relatable and vulnerable, which also gives you more credibility. Finding your lessons in your own life stories also gives you and your listeners an anchor to why you are talking about that topic at this time.

Six Tips for Co-Hosting a Radio Show or Podcast

Co-hosting a radio show or podcast seems like it should be easier because there are two of you, but that also means there are twice the problems. Here are some basic tips that I’ve collected from two-person shows I’ve coached over the years including; Mike & Mike in the Morning, the Ron & Don Show, Mason & Ireland and others.

taking-turns-award-certificate1. Creators and Reactors. The best shows alternate which host is creating or driving the segment and which host is reacting*. Knowing your role at any given moment of a show is critical or you’ll be simultaneously creating the segment. That leads to talking over each other and confusing the listener. A creator is developing the topic, telling a story, or creating the parameters of which the discussion will take place. The reactor responds to the creator, adds insights, details, color, emotion, and asks questions in attempt to build the topic and move the conversation forward – not poke holes.

*There are some exceptions to this rule, most notably KFI’s John & Ken who I characterize as “crusading hosts” – simultaneously pushing the same message towards the listener in an attempt to change thinking or behavior. This is much harder and takes additional preparation

Cocktails And Comedy Benefit for the Fit Community2. Improv Rules Apply. Once a reality is established by the creator you have to roll with it. The core rule of improv is “yes, and…” If the first thing out of your mouth is “no…” – YOU have killed the bit. Add to the segment/topic/story don’t dismantle it and start over.

3. Avoid One-upmanship. For some reason co-hosts have a hard time letting each other get the laugh, get the final word or own the spotlight for a moment. I hear this all the time. A co-host will have a funny line and the other host fires back with a zinger of his own and then she tries another line and then he tries another… It’s what my buddy Travis labeled “break degeneration.” Suddenly, the hosts have forgotten all about the listeners and creating content and they’ve entered a one-line comedy duel which gets less entertaining and less funny with each quip.

4. Establish Boundaries. Great shows have three to five rules in place to help establish boundaries of comfort and decency. “I’ll talk about my kids, but never use their name on air,” “My sexual adventures are off limits,””We’ll never put each other in a position to fail on-air,” We’ll never intentionally embarrass or humiliate each other on air,” etc. You need boundaries so you can trust each other. And you MUST trust your co-host.

Communication5. Communication. This holds true for any show but the hosts need to communicate with each other, the producer, the board operator and any other team members. Early and often! Establish the best means or communication for your group. It could be email, texting, a phone call, a Google Doc or something else. But figure it out early and use it!! The more your team knows what you’re thinking the more they can support your ideas and help bring them to life.

6. Have a Plan. This is critical. Know what you are talking about, when you are talking about it, what your resources are, and who’s leading the topic. All shows, every show. Map it out. Before the show you should hash out angles, ways to evolve topics and develop stories.

 

What If Radio’s Future Arrived and We Didn’t Notice?

Image

AM, FM, FM Stereo, AM Stereo, Surround Sound, digital processing, podcasting, HD Radio, DAB+, live streaming, a connected car that can access radio stations around the world for free, XM Sirius Satellite Radio, iTunes, iHeart, TuneIn, Slacker, Stitcher, Pandora, SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… 

Radio has changed. Listeners have changed. The people working in radio is another story.

Many of us keep waiting on a miracle proclamation from the heavens that the world desperately needs AM and FM radio. It doesn’t. New devices, new platforms, new prototypes – some good, some bad are being churned out daily. What the world needs is your content, your creativity, your ingenuity, your personality, your ideas and your willingness to fail and try again. If AM and FM are going to be viable for the future we have make it worth listening to. If you don’t like the future that’s been created, change it.

What’s radio’s autonomous driving car? Where’s radio’s Eric Snowden? How can radio serve listeners of 2014 who already have news, weather, traffic and their favorite music at their fingertips?

The fate of AM and FM is yet to be decided. There are many (profitable?) years ahead for many stations. But the evolution and revolution has begun. You can pretend it hasn’t. Many have.

Or you can pick up a microphone and us help radio win again.

You Are A Brand

Cowherd GraphicIn 2013, it is no longer good enough for talk hosts to be a faceless voice in a dark room talking into a microphone.

“I’ve got a book now, I’ve got a twitter account. I’ve got a radio show. I’ve got podcasts. I do a TV show on Sunday.”

Colin Cowherd, ESPN Radio Network host talked about the importance of developing your brand during an interview with the Radio Stuff podcast.

“I realize at this point and time in 2013 I’m not going to be your only source of information, I just want to be one of them. And so I’ve got to give you as many opportunities to find me as I can. We live in a multi-layered world of media. So, I’ve got to be on Facebook and twitter and radio and podcasts and TV and at different times of the day; morning-drive and afternoon. People are busy. My job is to find other avenues to connect with the public. And that’s what the book is and that’s what my Sunday morning show is.”

Colin’s book is “You Herd Me! I’ll Say It If Nobody Else Will.” He tells Radio Stuff it’s an important brand extension.

“I think, more than ever, now it is important — even Rush Limbaugh just came out with one (a book.) I mean Rush is making so much money it doesn’t matter, but he has the tea brand and the book. I look at twitter and I post a couple times a day. If I can get you to think about me once-a-day, when I’m off the air, that’s not a bad thing. I’ve got a book now, you’ll think about me during the holidays.”

So how does a guy like Colin have time to do it all?

“It seems like I put in these infinite, bizarre hours, but no more than an attorney, a doctor, or an executive. I’m very time efficient with things I do. I come in and grind my radio show and then I have time for a good 90 minutes a day to talk to radio stations and talk to advertisers. I think we all have time in our day; you just have to be more efficient.”

Luke Burbank’s Lessons from 1,000 Podcasts

Luke Burbank‘s podcast titled “TBTL” was named, because he thought his night-time radio show on 97.3 KIRO FM was “Too Beautiful To Live.” He was right. The show was cancelled after 395 shows, but the podcast persists and is thriving after over 1,000 episodes.

Last year, in 2011, TBTL was downloaded 24,085,650 times. He currently averages about 2,000,000 downloads per month. I sat down with Luke for about an hour and talked to him about the show. Even he can’t believe the success of the show.


Full disclosure: Luke is one-half of the Ross & Burbank Show on 97.3 KIRO FM, which as Program Director, I oversee.  

Luke is a radio veteran with an impressive resume including producing, reporting and hosting NPR shows like “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition,” and has reported for This American Life in addition to his employment at 97.3 KIRO FM. Transitioning from traditional radio to podcasting, Luke quickly shed the formatics and realized even the worst segments could be fodder for days, where in terrestrial radio he doesn’t feel that freedom.

What is it about TBTL that makes it work? work. Luke treats it like a “real thing.” His producer gets a real salary, they invested in broadcast quality equipment, they do show prep and produce the show consistently at that the same time.

Luke’s success isn’t without some direction. He got some early advice from Adam Corrolla. You’ll find Luke appearing on other people’s podcasts, he is a panelist on NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, and he recently did a commentary on CBS Sunday Morning.

One lesson Luke learned along the way is that the more obstacles you put between your content and your listener, the less they will listen.

So, after all of this you still want to start or continue your podcast? Cool. Here are the parting words of wisdom from Luke.

If you are going to launch a new podcast, be a narrow-caster. For instance, Luke says, “If someone did a podcast about just Marshawn Lynch‘s teeth, I would listen to that.” The more specific your podcast the better. Serve your niche and serve it better than anyone else.

You can watch the full interview here…