Creating a podcast: what for? What do you want to talk about? What are your main goals? Let's talk about it!
Creating your podcast: what do you want to talk about?
What is your podcast going to be about? The answer to this question will give you the path to follow to stand out from the crowd. If you want to deal with the language diversity in Papua New Guinea or with the way to incorporate traffic cones in your interior design, you won’t need to set up a strong concept. These are niche topics – having an expert knowledge will make it easier for you to win the loyalty of your audience.
Paradoxically, it won’t be the same if you want to talk about TV or film because there are plenty of quality podcasts on those subjects; some of them having already managed to gather a wide community. And this applies to other topics, meaning that you will have to carry out a quick "market research" so as to identify the podcasts that deal with the same topic as yours.
There is no actual preemptive right with podcasting and nothing prevents you from treading on your competitors’ toes, but better than this offhand maneuver, a sound piece of advice would be to distance yourself from your peers as much as possible. This does not actually mean to change topics, but just to try and find a different angle to talk about it – you will hit two birds with one stone: not only will you show respect to those who were there before you, but also, and above all, you’ll be better equipped to win a wider audience faster. If you want to deal with a trending topic, you will stack all the odds in your favor by creating a strong concept.
Creating your podcast: what for ?
What is your main motivation for podcasting? No need to do a deep introspection to answer this; you know yourself pretty well so you know what you are expecting from this adventure. But to avoid disappointment, let’s go through some of the least reasonable purposes:
I want to make money through podcasting, that’s it.
Let’s be honest: there are simpler and faster ways to make money. Only a few of the hundred podcasts broadcasted today can decently be monetized. Most of them are quality shows, both in content and style, and finally pay off after years of consistency and efforts. However, even when they tick all these boxes, they make far less money than the most successful YouTubers.
To sum things up, making money should never be the main reason why you start a podcast; it should not even be your second or third motivation. Maybe in the end you’ll appeal to enough people to make it your new target, let’s hope so. But this only happens to a lucky few, and feeling driven by the outcome could be detrimental to the fun you have. All the podcasters whose shows have grown successful over time have one thing in common: they still enjoy podcasting every day. It should be the same for you: always try to enjoy yourself, entertain people, have fun, improve, etc. Then later, maybe, when things go well and you build an audience, you can plan to monetize your podcasts.
I don’t really want it to be my main job, I just want to top up my income.
Well, right, maybe not a proper income, but just enough money to compensate for my purchases and the time invested.
Drop it now! There is no exact data about it, but we can definitely assume that most podcasters have invested more money, time and energy in their project that they have gained in return. However, don’t be afraid to follow in their footsteps, as most of them are really happy with their lives and don’t regret anything. Once again, there is no exact data about it, but we can definitely assume that podcasters are happier with their lives than most people. It’s a fact: podcasting makes people happy... and not only the audience!
I don’t mind the money but I want to gather people really quickly. Who knows, I could become the Marc Maron of podcasting?
WTF with Marc Maron... from starting a podcast in your garage to interview the President of the United States. What a great thing to be! But let’s not beat around the bush: in 2019, the most famous podcasters have way fewer followers than their YouTube counterparts. Way fewer indeed; try and picture it – well it’s still even less that what you can imagine.
But once again, don’t give up! First of all, podcasting is booming; second, today’s data might change in the future and it is already possible to reach a wider audience through hard work, creativity and involvement... It just takes time. So don’t think about gathering people "really quickly" and rather set medium to long term targets.
I’ll give myself three months to get results and see if it’s worth carrying on.
We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and pretend you did not read the previous paragraph. One thing is for sure: three months is too short. It took one, maybe three, maybe even five years for some famous podcasts to take off. There is no precise rule but one: unless you rely on a pre-existing community, only your hard-work, your consistency and your self-denial will make the difference. What did you expect? We were definitely not going to tell you to take it easy!
Naming your podcast: when creativity meets efficiency
The name of your podcast is a major element of its identity, as it can be an asset to attract people and incite them to listen to your show. This is why you should take time to think about it and not pounce on the first thing that comes to mind. You can also ask your relatives what they think or suggest.
You will soon realize that you are left with two seemingly contradictory options:
- The unusual, creative or funny name based either on a play on words or an inside joke, or a catchphrase that may appeal to your niche audience.
- The down-to-earth name which may not raise smiles but will get good results in Google or Apple Podcasts search engines.
Either option has its pros and cons; with the latter, you will be easier to find for the audience whereas with the former, you might be able to set an emotional relationship with the listener. Actually, the smartest choice might happen to be a no-brainer:
- If you already have a community, some money or experience, then be creative; if you happen to be a beginner who wants to convince and conquer a new audience, then be down-to-earth and try to figure out what your potential listeners might look up with their search engine.
- If you feel that a certain keyword will both reflect the identity of your show and be searched by the audience, then be down-to-earth; if you can’t think of any strong keyword, especially if you plan to make non-specialized podcasts and change topics from one episode to another, then be creative.
But maybe you will be lucky enough to come across a unicorn – a short name which is as creative as it is efficient; if so, make sure nobody already had the same idea. This applies to both situations: always make a preliminary research so that the audience does not get your show mixed up with another one. By the way, as the word "podcast" will appear in the description of your show, no need to write it in the title too!
Choosing the format of your podcast: team work or solo effort?
Percy Bysshe Shelly used to say that a poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. Podcasters have more luck – they can be nightingales if they want to, but they don’t have to sit in darkness nor be all alone. Podcasting is the very opposite: it opens a window for the audience to read the podcaster’s thoughts and mood. In order to do so, the podcaster can walk alone or with one, two and even more partners!
Solo podcasting is quite unusual but could be the way to go for story-telling (such as Moth Storytelling, with real people telling intimate stories to strangers) or short podcasts (especially educational, such as NPR’s Planet Money). It requires the podcaster to be particularly good at monologues and to add value to their topic. Niche topics seem perfect for solo podcasting.
Duo podcasting allows for more diversity and is often driven by friendship or a shared passion, just like 2 Dope Queens (Comedy by Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams) or All Killa No Filla (Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean). In that case, what makes the difference is the bond between both speakers and their different opinions on the same topic. This duo format may also apply to another type of shows: interviews. Podcasting is indeed ideal for cozy chats, as we can often see with WTF with Marc Maron or Adam Buxton.
If you liked Percy’s quote, then enjoy Andy Warhol’s: "One person is a company, two’s a crowd, and three’s a party." From three people and more, then it’s a group/band podcast. In this case, it’s all about debates and opinion clashes. The tone may remain serious (as in NPR), but more often than not, the atmosphere is more relaxed and funnier. In this category, we can find I Am Rapaport, Comedy Bang Bang and You Made It Weird, among others.
Group podcasting may be tempting at first, but there are drawbacks to think about before starting. In the long term, every speaker must remain disciplined; everybody might be enthusiastic in the first place but get a bit bored over time, and such situation can be detrimental to the conditions previously agreed upon. Worst of all, the slightest changes in life may lead to some speakers being less available and eventually alter the course of your posts.
There is also a technical aspect to take into account. More people means more tracks to clean, cut and mix. It may not be obvious but the more speakers, the more time and energy spent for the leader, not to mention the extra complexity due to a potential long-distance recording...
To sum things up: two or three is okay, more is risky. Just take a look at the podcasts with four or more speakers: except for a few of them, they all work in studios with a specific equipment. If you are not in that situation, then be cautious and don’t call too many people too soon; there’s always time to do so once you are more comfortable and used to podcasting...
Duration of an episode: freedom versus consistency
How long should a podcast last for, ideally? Let’s get straight to the point: there is no rule of thumb here either. As far as the most famous podcasts are concerned, some episodes can be less than five-minute long while others last for more than an hour and a half. At the end of the day, it is all up to you, your content and your audience.
It is up to you, because not everybody has the time and energy to mix a one-hour episode every week; it also depends on your content, because some topics are short enough to be dealt with in 15 or 20 minutes; and it is up to your audience, because you have to find the perfect duration to fit in their daily routine. Once again, there is no rule. Some jog for 20 minutes, others for 50. Some spend 20 minutes in public transports, others 50; that’s why some might prefer 20-minute long episodes while others would rather go for 50-minute long shows.
Last question: should all the episodes of the same podcast be equally long? There are two options:
- Freedom: podcasting has no rules and breaks down the codes of traditional radio. So why not take advantage of this freedom to adapt the duration of your episodes to what you and your audience want?
- Consistency: If you want to become a part of your audience’s life, then your shows should keep the same format and never be 20 % shorter or longer than what you had decided originally. After all, a bit of discipline doesn’t hurt, does it, soldier?