The intimacy of earplugs. Image: mattlowenmusic.com
From the foul-mouthed chew-the-fat comedy of award-winning podcast WTF with Marc Maron to a really serious conversation with a good book in World Book Club, podcasts cater to all tastes and are fast becoming the weekly habit of millions globally.
According to RawVoice, which tracks over 20,000 shows, the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million in the past five years, and last year iTunes eclipsed one billion subscribers.
But as more people are listening to podcasts, thousands more are creating their own. Advances in technology has meant that people are embracing podcasting as a low-cost, time-friendly alternative.
‘Starting a podcast appealed because it was something that we could write with a pretty quick turnaround – none of the months involved with mounting a live show or writing, funding, filming a short film,’ said Peter Taggart who co-hosts pop-culture podcast Bring A Plate with Rebecca Shaw.
But it’s not simply a matter of build it and they will come. Although podcasts have seen a resurgence of listeners, new podcasters on the block are battling seas of over 250,000 unique podcasts on iTunes alone, with 8 million episodes published in the iTunes Store to date.
‘Getting people to listen was a challenge, but I think the biggest challenge is actually retaining listeners. There are so many podcasts out there… So there's always a lot of competition,’ said Taggart.
So how do you get your voice heard? ArtsHub asks local podcasters to share their insights to help get your fledgling podcast program noticed.
Know your who, what, and most importantly why:
Technology has practically dissolved the barriers to recording your own podcast – anyone with a smartphone is now capable of recording, uploading and sharing their views, tips and conversations with the world. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should. Successful podcasts are about something, not just a soapbox for your inane ramblings.
‘Finding and sticking to a niche is definitely key, as is ensuring that what you're talking about actually works best in audio form rather than written down in the form of a blog post, for example,’ said Tess McCabe of The New Normal, a podcast for parents she co-hosts with Emma Clark.
Find a unique subject you are passionate about and develop a mission statement to make it clear to yourself – and your listens – what you aim to communicate.
Research, research, research:
Second to the mistake of not having a clear direction for your podcast, is not having put in ample research. Fumbling through your notes or dispersing factually incorrect information can have your listeners tuning out quickly. Planning your podcast in advance ensures you aren’t left scrambling to cover all that you intended, or reversely trying to pad out the episode.
‘I thought it was very important to have a structure for the show – even podcasts that seem very free-form have a structure, if you look hard enough,’ said Taggart.
Be abreast with current news and trends on social media to attract new audiences, but make sure it is relevant to your overall mission.
‘We talk about stuff on the podcast that has caused a lot of debate on social media – but it has to interest us too. I wouldn't ever want the show to just be about things that have trended on Twitter in a desperate attempt to get a larger following – there are plenty of people doing that already, in podcasts and on YouTube. I think people can see right through that,’ said Taggart.
Lateral thinking can be valuable when it comes to research. When interviewing founders of The Great Discontent, podcaster Chuck Anderson of Life and Limb scanned his guests Twitter to find their very first, often somewhat humiliating tweet. Surprise and delight your guests and listeners with original questions and thorough research that suits your overall mission.
Invite guests on your show to expand audiences:
Many popular podcasts make interviews the centre of their episodes, including How Was Your Week with Julie Klausner, but even if your podcast has a different structure, having guests on your show can add depth. Inviting other podcasters, bloggers and public figures in your industry can give you access to their audience and help you to build genuine relationships.