What are the five essentials that make a great podcast? originally appeared on Quora: the place to acquire and share knowledge, allowing people to learn from others and better understand the world.
As a podcaster, producer, and storyteller, I have a few questions that I love to ask myself to help me be a better creator. I have just spent the past two years working on a long, personal story called Trail weight and referred to these questions throughout the process.
- Is it in my voice?
- Is it entertaining?
- Is this informative?
- Is it edited?
- Is it good?
Is it in my voice?
Only you are you. There is no one else with your experiences, life story, point of view, thoughts, favorite things, etc. I want to hear your voice. Honestly, there are very few “original ideas” out there, but there is no shortage of “original people” because we are all unique. I might discover a new podcast because there is an interesting topic or a big name guest, but what will get me to listen to each episode is the host. Sometimes it’s their charisma, their charm, or their sense of humor, but it doesn’t have to be. Watch SongExploder. Hrishikesh Hirway introduces the episode, then goes on to guest for the rest of the show. But Hrishikesh’s voice shines through in the production, editing and storytelling. Your voice is important and I want to hear it (whether it’s what you leave or cut out).
Is it entertaining?
The following two questions go hand in hand and asking them helps you distinguish your podcast from a sea of other shows. One of the goals of a podcast is to get people to hear it. Otherwise, why would you have created it? To prevent people from skipping, unsubscribing, or ignoring your show, sometimes you need to find an entertaining way to share your content. It’s not just for comedy shows. RadioLab found that adding music and sound design helped understanding scientific theories. Editing an excerpt from the TV show you are talking about helps the listener not to trust your story. Having a recurring “segment” creates something to look forward to for people to come back to hear new episodes. Entertaining doesn’t have to mean comedy or cheesy. Just watch the barrage of multi-part documentary series on Netflix and HBO. What can you do to move a listener to a subscriber?
Is this informative?
Why is someone listening to your podcast? “Informative” doesn’t mean you have to dive deep into an esoteric or nerd topic on some overlooked fact (unless you want to). Think about educating your audience as an opportunity to provide a service to the listener. There are many things vying for our attention; why am I choosing this podcast over another, or over a book or an article, or a TV show? Another way to think about it is: am I adding something to the conversation or am I making noise?
Is it edited?
When people think of editing podcasts, they tend to be on either side of the spectrum. For some, the edit means This American Life, an NPR-style narration. For others, editing means adding music to begging and ending your show before posting. But editing is a spectrum and can live somewhere in between. I listen to and love conversational and documentary type podcasts, so I don’t push on each other. Don’t think of editing as something that happens after creation. Editing is part of creation. The editing is the same as the writing, the same as the interview, and just as important as any other aspect of the production. Maybe you are lucky and record a perfect episode, maybe you cut two minutes or move things around to help tighten up and clarify what’s going on. No matter how your show works and whatever your need, don’t forget to change it.
Is it good?
It might sound obvious, and I appreciate that we don’t always have to create something for as many audiences as possible. In fact, one of the joys of podcasting is that you can find your audience no matter their size. But is the show you are creating something that you would listen to if you didn’t? Do you like to? You don’t have to try and make the best podcast in the world, but create the best podcast you can. This applies to everything from concept to production, from audio quality to output frequency. I firmly believe that good content trumps bad audio quality, but if you are able to have a compelling podcast and it sounds good, even better. Bottom line: enjoy your show.