Starting a Podcast? Here's What to Consider.

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At the start of an AM&P Lunch & Learn talk that Chris Blose, VP of content for Imagination, gave here a couple weeks ago, he asked the audience of about 30—a fairly diverse group in most categories—how many had listened to a podcast that day. About 25 hands shot up. And it was only lunchtime! 

So the podcast revolution has truly taken hold. Blose pointed out that 69% of people who listen do so on their mobile phones, "so keep that in mind when you are setting up your podcast." Almost half listen at home and about a fourth listen in their car.

(One aside: I learned yesterday about something called flash briefings, where publishers or associations can now be part of Alexa's early-morning summaries. Definitely has potential.)

Here are more takeaways from Blose's talk:

Include these four key elements:

  • Powerful storytelling—a phrase we hear often today;
  • A hook to re-engage—does anything today truly end? Episodic storytelling creates loyalty and engagement.
  • Industry expertise—"Your insider knowledge is critical to success," Blose said.
  • Strong calls to action—"We need to inspire the audience to take action."

Know your purpose. Blose quoted from Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation: "Podcasting is not for direct response or lead gen. It's about social proof and showing competence in the market."

Define your goals. "Do you have data on what audience you are trying to reach? Are you trying to demonstrate thought leadership in your field or industry? That will determine the type of guests you have. How specific will each episode be?

Find your format.

  • The free-for-all is almost all discussion with little narrative and editing.
  • The serial is narrative-drive and ongoing.
  • The high concept has an overarching theme and basic structure.
  • The hybrid mixes those forms. (NPR's It's Been a Minute With Sam Sanders does that.)

Consider who your host will be. I've heard shows with all combinations of hosts, and they do set the tone for the content to come. Maybe you have someone on staff who would be good. I would probably avoid the Oscars' decision to go host-less this year.

Pre-plan multiple episodes for launch. It will help you get past any pilot jitters. I also just read a social media conversation about the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and each person talked about binging. It's what we do now. So be ready.

Decide on the right type of guests. "The answer depends on the topic," said Blose. "Source a podcast very much like you'd source a magazine or digital feature story. Who can speak eloquently, and who represents the issue best?"

Use a pre-interview. It can be a short call with sources before the actual recording. It's beneficial both for reporting and for putting sources at ease. Also, it will give you a chance to test the sound if you're doing the real interview by phone or skype.

Choose your music wisely. "Music matters," said Blose. "Think about your audience. You can't please everyone, but aim for something that matches the tone of the discussion."

Leave time for editing. "Never underestimate the power of editing."

Plan enough time in advance to ensure you can be placed in iTunes, GooglePlay, etc. And find out first if your organization already has accounts with them. Blose said it's a little bit like the wild west out there now with where you can be. Even Spotify and Stitcher are possibilities.

Don't skimp on your own home on your site or content hub. Build a mobile-optimized podcast page with show notes, speaker bios and links, and relevant resources for listeners. (A separate tip I received is to set up a specific URL for your podcast to maximize the brand and make it easy for people to find.)

Send to your existing email list, both as a preview and in ongoing form with each episode. You can even use your podcast to help build your list.

Send an email to all guests of the show once it's live encouraging them to:

  • Share it on social (short-term traffic and listens)
  • Link to the episode URL from their blog if they have one

Share on appropriate social channels multiple times since only a small percentage of audience sees any single post.

Mention relevant old episodes in current episodes wherever possible. "To make this more likely, the host should have an updated cliff's notes of past episodes, who was in them, what # podcast it was, and what "short" URL they can send listeners to when referencing old episode on the fly.

Track your performance (e.g. downloads) everywhere your podcast lives: iTunes, GooglePlay, your website, etc. How long are people listening? Are they dropping off? Studies say that 23 minutes is the point when people start to lose interest.

Ask. "Chances are good you're performing reader research for other properties—add the podcast to the mix," said Blose.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…