Australia’s national broadcaster has been leading the way in the quality and variety of podcasts. We speak with the head of ABC’s Audio Studios, Kellie Riordan, who was pivotal in creating a new dedicated team with an audio-first strategy in content creation. Kellie shares her tips for producing a successful podcast.
I think it’s really good to do some work on casting a great host for your podcast. That doesn’t mean you have to go and find… You’ve got a great music podcast, you have to get Madonna to host it. It just means that, look for people who are an expert in the field but are relatable. Humour works well in the podcast space. We know that. We know so many comedians who do an amazing job. Does your host speak authentically one on one? Can they relate in a conversational way? That’s something that I really think is important to think about, and then really focus on the format.
In my view, there are way too many podcasts out there that are just two dudes sitting in a microphone nattering like they are down at the pub. I mean there’s a place for some content like that, but I think in 2019 podcasting has become much more sophisticated. And so even if you want to tell quite a straight story or have quite a straight conversation, there are still things that you can do to play with the format that make it engaging.
And the other thing I look at is where does the series go? Does the same thing happen every single episode or do you actually move forward in the story? How do you propel your listener along? And one of the questions I ask to my staff all the time is, “What happens in episode seven?” Because I get a lot of podcasts that yes, have thought about what happens in episode one and two and maybe three, but then where does it go? Is there enough content here to sustain a whole series of 10 episodes or 20 episodes? Does something happen? Do we move forward? Do we achieve something? Do we get somewhere?
And so if you are planning out your own podcast, I would really recommend that you sit down and you think, “Okay, my podcast is about bicycle riding. And so what are all the different topics about bicycle riding? There’s safety, there’s how you pick a good bike, there’s how you maintain a bike. What are all the great bike rides you can do in this area?” You could come up with a whole lot of topics. But then think about having a bit of a narrative structure to those topics.
And then really my last tip would be about the discoverability. I’m completely obsessed with episode titles and episode descriptions because people are concerned about their data. They don’t necessarily want to have an auto download function on every podcast. I mean, I’m subscribed to something like 65 podcasts. If I had an auto download function on that, my plan would be out of control.
Instead, I make my decisions and my choices about what I’m going to download based on those episode descriptions. It doesn’t matter how fantastic and wonderful your audio is and how beautifully you’ve crafted it. If a person hasn’t been compelled enough to hit download. I talk about sort of thumb worthy content. How does someone flick through with their thumb on a mobile phone and then hit download with that thumb based on how compelling and enticing and intriguing and surprising your episode descriptions are.
Because I think I see a lot of podcasts out there that have one sentence that describes a 45 minute episode and I think, “What a waste.” And then when I listened to it, I’m like, “This had amazing content from this wonderful expert or this is really useful content in my life because it’s going to teach me how to maintain my bike so that it’s in tip top shape for riding. And yet that wasn’t in the episode description so I just went to the next thing.”
Thinking about those titles, great artwork for your podcast tile, a really good episode description. I think we underestimate how important that is. And one piece of research that we did for OzPod, which is a big annual conference that we hold about podcasting, was we said to people like, “What makes you subscribe or download a podcast episode?” In the olden days when you said, what makes you listen to a radio station, it might’ve been, “I saw it on a taxi back or an advertising campaign, on bus shelters, or I might’ve seen a TV ad about it or I saw a newspaper ad.”
Those things don’t work anywhere near as well as episode descriptions and podcast to podcast promotion. Those are the ways people find new podcasts and you know that yourself. If you listen to any number of podcasts out there and they say, “Hey, you’re really into knowing about accounting. There’s this other great podcast that I really love called Accountants Are Us and it’s talk full of great information about how to do your tax return.” If someone that you trust recommends that, you’re going to go and look for it.
That podcast or podcast recommendation is really important. And so are the episode titles and descriptions that you put around that. Just really thinking through that discoverability and distribution piece is so important.
Kellie Riordan’s interview can be heard in full on Season 3, Episode 9 of Podcasting Essentials.