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Posts Tagged ‘podcasting’

The Future of Radio is the Past

95459-004-7DEC0D53In the Golden Age of radio, the 1930’s and 1940’s, radio actors created theater of the mind. Each night a different character in a different radio drama from Sherlock Holmes to the Shadow. Foley artists brought the shows to life. Game shows were launched. And news was the backbone bone of a growing entertainment industry. It was new, exciting and fun. Ideas were being dreamed and hatched daily and the industry was evolving even through the war years.

130424112409-alan-freed-c1-mainIn the 1950’s and 1960’s Rock-n-Roll took hold of radio and shook it up. The DJs are still legendary today for having the guts to introduce listeners to music most decried as sinful, distasteful, and obscene. Not only did the great DJs of Rock-n-Roll find new artists and spin their records, many become concert promoters in their town bring big acts to cities across North America: Elvis, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and hundreds more. It was new, exciting and fun. Ideas were being dreamed and hatched daily and the industry was evolving.

stuart8In the 1970’s and 1980’s, FM radio exploded. Despite having been patented in1933, FM radio didn’t exceed AM listening until 1978. Many AM juggernauts had FM sister-stations that station owner’s didn’t want to mess with. So, they let employees who were interested play around with it. Budgets were non-existent, no one told them what they couldn’t do and they re-invigorated radio for another 35 years or more. It was new, exciting and fun. Ideas were being dreamed and hatched daily and the industry was evolving.

serial-podcastIn the 2010s, Podcasting is exploding. Some are great, some are horrific. Some are theater of the mind mysteries, while others are based in news, music discovery, current events or something else otherwise indescribable. These podcast hosts are their own promoters, appearing on each other’s shows, creating events, selling partnerships and evolving what is possible in the audio space. It is new, exciting and fun. Ideas are being dreamed and hatched daily and the industry is evolving.

The future of radio (spoiler: there will be a future of radio) is in our hands. By the 2020’s, it is paramount that the industry discovers what’s new, exciting and fun. We need ideas dreamed up and hatched daily in order for the industry to keep evolving.

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.

 

 

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.

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…