Podcasts Skilled The Radio Star
(with apologies to Buggles)
There is a very clever man called James Cridland who curates the 'PodNews' website and newsletter who has spent the last decade logging the amount of lazy headlines in newspapers, referring to video killing the radio star - an easy go-to when it comes to articles about radio presenters and radio stations.
There's little that puts radio at any kind of immediate threat and the evidence so far suggests that the digital options available in 2020 actually complement the traditional radio offering and create additional audio consumption - either as an extension of the radio brands or completely separate streams of listener choice.
And the thing is, radio people know a whole load of tricks of the trade that amateur podcasts are often lacking. That's no surprise of course; radio has been around for 130 years or so and the pro's have learnt a thing or two.
Here's some radio tricks that you could apply to your podcast (or talk to us with a free half hour podcast consultation):
Be a tease
If your podcast publisher has the stats available, just go and check out when people stopped listening. I'm sorry to break it to you; many people don't make it to the end of the podcast. Many don't make it past the first couple of minutes. Radio presenters know how to keep the audience listening; the headlines keep you sticking around for the full detail of the main news bulletin, the pausing of a competition half way through to play a song keeps the listener engaged and hanging around for another 5 minutes and the promise of a big announcement at the beginning of the hour goes some way to keeping listeners hanging around for another 20 minutes.
All of that said, most people are listening to live radio and however engaging the 'tease' might be, if they need to go to work or their baby is crying, they may well be physically or mentally tuning out - and missing the 'life-changing' announcement that has been alluded to.
And that's where podcasts can build on that radio skillset. Give a compelling enough reason to come back to the podcast, and whether the listener pauses for 3 minutes, 3 hours or 3 days, a strong 'tease' will ensure they come back and consume much of the remaining podcast.
Consistency is good. A similar opener on a podcast creates a certain level of familiarity (in the same way that when you hear the theme to the Eastenders soap opera, you know what's coming). However, far too many podcasts have their lengthy pre-recorded, word-for-word, lengthy openers - and three episodes in, it gets a little wearing.
Consider the radio presenter. The Tuesday breakfast show is completely different in content (even though the structure of the features and the hour might remain the same) to the Monday breakfast show. That different reason to prick your ears up on a Tuesday is the reason people come back on the Wednesday, and for the rest of the week, and then for many years to come.
Consider that podcast opener. Is it tired and stale? And are you hitting the listener straight away with a great - and different - reason to listen. What is there in your podcast that will reward them for sticking with you for 20 minutes?
If you have adverts or a sponsor or a commercial read, then great. You're monetising your content! But is it damaging your time spent listened? The good radio programmer knows that a big ad break, just as a listener tunes in, is a killer - and will send the listener off to another station fast. The good podcaster knows that an ad break right at the beginning can severely affect the continued listening.
Equally, the un-engaging presenter-read commercial or non-commercial-but-lengthy bit of production at the beginning can be a massive turnoff.
The listener's plus point in the podcast world? They can skip 30 second ahead and miss the commercial. But the stats can show that - and if you're hanging your hat on ad revenue, skipping that ad means the commercial message doesn't reach as many people - and your revenue is lower, or non-existent.
And I will always go back to my basic premise that successful podcasts offer value to the listener in terms of content or entertainment. If your podcast appears overly sales-led or cluttered, they will treat you just like they do the commercial radio station with too many adverts - they'll switch away, unsubscribe and choose a different podcast.
Radio people are highly tuned to this kind of thinking so if you get the opportunity to work with one on your podcast, grab that opportunity with both hands.
More after the commercial break.