If you’re reading this, you probably already know how massive podcasts have become. But just in case you’re on the fence about starting a podcast, here are some facts PodcastHosting.org uncovered this past month. According to the site’s research, there are over 2 million podcasts and 48 million episodes. Half of Americans consider themselves to be podcast fans, with 37% listening to podcasts every month and 24% every week. American podcast listeners subscribe to an average of six shows and listen to the entire podcast episode 93% of the time.
If this is the pool you’re diving into, you should be aware of five critical keys to running a successful podcast. There are many factors that go into this, but these five are non-negotiable.
HAVE CLEAR AUDIO
Imagine you have scheduled the perfect guest. You have your questions prepped. You have an intriguing subject to discuss. And you just flat out have a great conversation.
And then you give your episode a listen in post-production, only to discover the audio is scratchy or sounds seem canned, the volume jumps a lot, and you can hear irritating clicks and pops throughout the recording. This is the sort of thing that happens when you don’t have the right equipment, particularly your mics. Look, I’m not saying you have to spend beaucoup bucks for high-quality gear—plenty of podcasts succeed with much less. But if you want to be certain your recording is up to snuff, at least select your mics with care. You can always find a mic in your price range. Just make sure it’s a solid one.
DON’T SKIMP ON THE RESEARCH
I get it, we all have busy lives. For most of us, a podcast is a side venture, something we do in and around the “bill paying” job we have. And that is on top of family and social obligations, working out, eating and sleeping– you know, general life stuff. So, it is easy to go light on the research before a podcast. You figure you know enough; you can wing it. That is a mistake newbies make. Don’t be the newbie. Read the book. Learn about your guest. Go over the sites your guest is associated with or runs. Understand what the topic will be and do some research on what it’s about. Know what conventional thinking is and how your guest ties into all of that. Understand why it all matters. There is nothing more pedantic than a host who is scrambling to look something up, or an interview dominated by a guest who has to explain basic subject matter points to the interviewer. Your audience won’t keep coming back for dead air or lectures.
FOLLOW A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE—AND STICK TO IT
In order to have a successful podcast, it is critical that there be trust between the podcaster and the audience. A big part of that trust is being consistent with your schedule. Your listeners will want to know that when it is time for you to post a show, you will do so. They want the comfort of knowing they can count on you to provide them with regular entertainment or escape. If you never post a schedule, or you fail to follow it, your audience will fail to follow you. They will seek out other podcasts that consistently provide them with what they’re looking for. So, no matter what happens, set your schedule and do not fail to meet it.
FOCUS THE CONVERSATION
This should be paired with the research side above.
Listeners don’t want to listen to a meandering conversation that goes nowhere. So you need to come in with a plan. While doing your research, prepare questions to ask and topics to broach. Plan out the path of your podcast, from start to finish. You should know going in how long you will be podding. Tie each general topic to a time frame, so you will know when you need to re-focus the conversation. It’s okay to let things go a little off-schedule, especially if the topic is a lively and interesting one. Tangents do happen, and part of being a good host is recognizing when to allow them to play out. In the long run, however, you must be prepared to swing the podcast back on course.
EDIT YOUR CONTENT BEFORE POSTING
You may think everything sounds great. And indeed, after the show, it may even actually sound great when you give it a listen. But we are all human. No ad hoc, extemporaneous conversation happens without its fair share of umms, ahhs, and dead air. That is where editing becomes so important. Even if you tweak just a touch here or there, it will just seem more professional. This is also when you can add intro music or digital effects to the show, in addition to cleaning up the conversation. When your podcast sounds like it is professionally produced, your audience will presume the rest of your operation is high-end as well.
See you on the air!
*Podcast Center LA provides a professional podcast studio, high end equipment, and years of production and editing expertise at a price which can’t be beat. They are based in Los Angeles, where they can serve the podcast needs of both local Angelenos and visiting podders from around the world. If you are interested in starting a podcast, check them out here.