Designing for Purpose and Produce-ability
What are some of the levers that you can work with that are going to help you do a show that you actually wake up wanting to do and that you can do with the capacity and the skills that you have and the resources you can muster?
Before you start working on the first episode of your podcast, there are some questions you may want to ask yourself: how long are the episodes, how often are they released, and who is listening to you? Podcasting expert Rekha Murthy explains why thinking about the design of your podcast can be just as important as the content.
I’m Tanzina Vega, and this is Werk It: the Podcast, a compilation of some of the best moments from the live event. This was part of I Know How to Do That, a series of presentations by leading hosts and producers where they shared tips, stories and knowledge about all aspects of podcasting.
Rekha Murthy: So welcome. My name is Rekha Murthy. I'm a radio and podcasts expert. That's how I prefer to go by, but in practice I'm actually a consultant who works with clients organizations and individuals of all sizes and -- organizations of all sizes and individuals -- who are at the various stages of their podcast design process, launch process, audience development process, distribution process, and so on.
But one thing that I really find has helped so many people I've worked with is the design part of the process. You have an idea you have a hunch it's good but now you really need to get it into something that's actionable something you can make. So that's what we're here to talk about today. Now some people like to just dive in and make and that is totally fine. I actually have a lot of respect for that but that's not the kind of podcasts we're here to talk about today because today what we want to talk about is kind of a level of planning and thinking that is flexible that doesn't add any drag or it doesn't feel cumbersome to the process which I know sometimes design goes in and out of fashion because some people think it slows things down. But this is a kind of design that just sets you up to get where you want to go. Whatever success means to you audience, or impact, or simply finding the right partner, or being able to play better and not have too many budgeting surprises that kind of design. And when I say “produceability” that basically means sustainability. Like what are some of the levers that you can work with that are going to help you do a show that you actually wake up wanting to do and that you can do with the capacity and the skills that you have and the resources you can muster.
So you know as I said before, flexibility in the design process is key. Any creative work when it balances structure and ambiguity is doing its best is at its best. So what we're talking about and this process that I'd like to walk you through none of it is fixed. It's more -- it's not a recipe for a fixed podcast of your dreams. It's more like a wide meandering path that gets you there. And the “there” may also change. So take everything that we talk about here is: the process of designing in some ways is as important as what you come out with on the other end.
So I guess to get a sense of what's going on here how many of you in this room have launched a show or helped launch a show? Oh nice. How many of you went through a design process or what felt like a design process even if it wasn't called that? This is great. You playing right into my hands. How many of you wish you had maybe gone through a little more? Great. And you know what. It's never too late by the way. I work with folks who've been doing podcasts for a couple of years and are just ready to rethink and recalibrate. So that's all good. So I would love your experiences during the discussion at the end.
But let's get into it for now. So it's this easy. Bang bang bang.
I'm going to I'm going to go through this relatively quickly and again let's you know I just I mean the interests of really getting to the discussion time where you can really ask the questions and we can drill down into the things that seem most relevant. But you know the first step is stress test the idea.
Go through your key themes, do a show roadmap which is basically an episode list, work on your brief memorable sentence and then there are a bunch of nuts and bolts that we'll get into and then you can also see on the right side of the screen there are things that you should be doing throughout thinking about your listeners. That's a big one. Making stuff and testing and we'll go over all of this relatively quickly now. OK.
Stress testing the idea you had let's just assume for now you have the idea. OK. That's not what this session is going to be about. It came to you and a bolt of lightning or friends and family have been begging your colleagues have been begging you to do this show for ages. Whatever it is. So first there's some internal reflection that you should do. Why a podcast. Like, why that medium? Why now? Why are you the person to make it? Would you enjoy making it? That's critical because you're going to have to do a lot, you're going to spend a lot of time with this idea so you really want to like it. And why would people need or want to listen?
So these these all sound obvious but it's amazing how many times I feel like people haven't fully thought that through. So once you do that though there is some actual actionable actionable things that you can do. And the first is what I call the non-competitive landscape review. Basically you look for shows out in the podcast land that are adjacent or even doing very close to what you intend to do. You listen for inspiration. You listen -- you listen for caution for the things you don't want to do. You also listen to see who could be a good partner in the future. You listen to see if there are indications that there is an audience for the kind of thing you want to do. That's why I call it non-competitive. It's a pretty congenial field. In fact, I'm looking out in this audience and I'm seeing like a lot of people I know. And fortunately all of you I adore so that's good. But I feel like generally that's been my experience in this field. And so really you actually want quote competition because you are all going to help each other get audience by cross promotion and inspiration and things like that.
Another thing you do is ask friends and family and subject matter experts if your show is specialized. Is this a good idea? You know really you'll hear a lot very quickly about that especially from people you trust. And then the other thing that's really actually more like feels like homework but it's really essential is the research: Map the space. Read up on the topic that you're going for. Talk to the subject matter experts ask them: What are the big questions? What are the big issues? What are the observations? Basically what's the topography of this space that you want to operate in? You may choose to address some of it or all of it or maybe just one tiny corner of it but you should know what it is.
Now I was going to say here don't assume you know it all, but I'm talking to a roomful of women. We never assume we know at all and I can't tell you. I also I do have an anecdote that supports this mapping this space, but I also have a counter anecdote which is several women I've worked with recently...one on a climate change podcast, one on a podcast about a major literary figure. They have done so much research they actually couldn't proceed and they came to me to help them find the way through. So there are limits to this. However, where it can be helpful -- one podcaster who I worked with who's actually in this room has this great idea that is about her own experience as a woman who has had what are considered like working class jobs that are undervalued, underpaid and that was her experience of the work that she had done and for her podcast that's how she went in framing it right down to the title. You know it just that this work is undervalued and as she started doing test interviews with friends and family and subject and other people who she thinks she might want to actually have on the show she realized that there's a whole other role for pride, for pleasure, and for self-respect even if sometimes the perception is that your work isn't valued and that it helped her really reframe how she talks about the show and also how she conducts her interviews. So you know mapping this space is really essential and it sets you up for the next stage of design.
The key themes. Now this this can be anything you want and I'm going to actually just jump right. Do not feel like you actually have to take this all in but this is one sample of what I mean.
It's a brain dump. It's a brain dump of the things that you want to encounter, think you'll encounter, want to even avoid, as you explore the space that you're setting out to explore. And what this does is it really helps you prepare when you hear a theme come up in an interview that you're doing or when you're out in the field and you know you're researching a topic or you're having a conversation the studio or whatever it is you will have remembered writing down that theme and it will help you decide whether or not maybe at that moment on the spot you're going to drill down into it further. But this list can be pages and pages long.
It can be a free write but then you'll start to see certain subcategories emerge and that starts to become what I think of as the palette. That's why I picked that emoji.
And you know balance is this like value in the visual arts and I think it's kind of underrated value in podcasting. I've worked with podcasters. Well actually, so this show that these sample key themes this show is no longer running but when I first started working with them they said that they were a show a public radio show, a podcast, about race, pop culture, and politics, but actually most of the recent episodes had been very specifically about white appropriation of black culture. And when we stepped back and we look at that we say okay well that could be its own podcast but that's not the podcast that you said you wanted to do. So how do we make sure that all the palette is being represented? Another show about (I'm going to actually have to look at my notes here) women. Women, social justice, and smashing the patriarchy. But like her entire upcoming season was very focused on self-care, mental health, and reproductive health. Again all incredibly valid topics but they didn't really encompass everything that she was trying to accomplish. So she recalibrated. That's all it took. But the key themes really give you something to come back to. Over the course of your show not just in one episode. So I know I'm speeding through this.
Each one of these could be its own talk but: The show roadmap. This is basically a list of your episodes. But to get there there's this, one thing that I find that is helpful for thinking about this is what I call the through line or your organizing principle. This may not apply to all of you and to all of your shows but it's really a question of how will you define each episode. And the best way for me to actually explain this by example. And I'm going to actually name a few shows: America's Test Kitchen has a show just launch a show called Proof. Well there are throughline is one mysterious food question per episode. By the Book, one of my faves, is well and I think that the producers are either at the conference this week so you should check them out. They basically follow a self-help book for two weeks every episode. Song Exploder an artist talks about a song. The Daily, one major story of the day.
You see that there's a certain pattern recognition. The frame stays the same while the painting changes and that can help you as you're trying to make and visualize what an episode should be. It helps you stay focused as you gather the material as you script. And it helps the listener tremendously.
I like to say (I'm not happy about this) but I do like to say that we basically as podcasters have the world's tiniest storefront. Three quarters of listening is on a mobile app. Smart speakers have no visual. You basically get this tiny logo, a title, a short description, and if you're lucky a few of the episodes shown. You want your listeners they're going to make a judgment about whether or not to hit play based on very little information.
If you can give them some pattern recognition that really helps. Now I do want to emphasize we can go into this more at the end because I know for some people it can be a challenging concept for their particular idea and it doesn't really apply to everyone. It's really ok for each episode to be a topic but where you can do this it's nice. Then you list out 10 to 15 episodes that really test out that throughline is this going to work for you. So that's your show roadmap at that point. Again all of this is provisional. It's never fixed in stone.
This one's pretty self-explanatory and I'm sure most of you have done some version of this and it's something that people besides me talk about regularly. You know the brief memorable sentence. One sentence that encapsulates your show. It's more of an elevator pitch. It may or may not be your tagline but don't expect it to do the work of the tagline. It's hopefully for now just a mission statement or a guiding statement for you and for the people you may want to partner with or you may want to hire or work with in some way.
How's everyone doing? Well good. So we're number five now. The nuts and bolts. I actually put control knobs instead of the obvious emoji here because there are things that you can tweak to help you fulfill your vision with the resources at hand. And I would say if you're looking at the left column right now on this slide format, episode duration, episode frequency, and show duration, like is it an ongoing, limited, series, seasonal? Those are the kinds of things that you can tweak to activate your vision in a way that's not going to kill you but that's going to help your idea shine.
My god. I have so many talks about people who just really generally want I worked with one client wanted to a weekly top shelf show, co-hosted people who -- two co-hosts travel all over the place, live on different coasts. And I said great well as we're doing this design process I really urge you to start making as soon as possible. Let's start testing because I had a hunch and sure enough the first time they could reconcile their calendars to get two hours of studio time in the same place was six weeks from that day. That immediately chilled us on you know the possibility of weekly show. Don't set yourself up. Weekly can be great and sometimes it's necessary depending on your topic if it's a current events topic then you find yourself at it The Daily but then you need a staff of 12. So think about all of these things and these are nice ways.
You know there's somebody I work with who actually works for the American Red Cross. And during hurricane season she's not going to be putting out any episodes. So she's going seasonal and that can work for her. So it's OK to be realistic about you know what you really can do and work with that. That said, if you're an unbelievable sound designer and you can make a Radiolab go for it. This isn't only about calibrating down. This is about calibrating up and realizing once you have a vision just how much you can actually accomplish because sometimes that surprises people. And then the right column: these are obvious things but it's nice to have a checklist: title, tagline, your short description, which may be that brief memorable sentence, a longer description remembering that on mobile platforms you're not going to see all that much, and the logo again. The world's tiniest storefront. The reason I have this relatively late in the process is because I have seen situations where somebody got really excited and they needed to visualize the show. So they came up with the title and forgot to call it a working title. And then they came up with the logo and forgot to call it a working logo and at that point actually so many people had weighed in and approved that it was pretty fixed but then they went to actually execute on the first few scripts and realized that the show, the look of it, and the title was very true crime. But in practice it was more like subcultural romp.
So not totally off and they're going to figure it out. And they you know it's all good. But like that's why actually hold off on some of these things it may feel good to check it off your list but try to work on points 1 through 4 first. OK so. We've done it. You're done. You've got a podcast design.
You know work through this. This just gives you a roadmap. This sets you up well for a pitch. And I know that, I believe it's Allison Behringer is going to be doing a pitch session later today. And we have communicated, so we will not be redundant. But this gives you a lot of the materials for that.
It also gives you materials to work creative agreementing out. Like, you can you may go to a possible network or possible funder and say you know what design is really important here. We've got a lot of things we need to test out. So let's do the agreement for the pilot. Let's not try to make an agreement for a full on show. And I'll tell you that has worked out. I worked with an author, very media savvy, but they worked on a pilot with this network. They did it probably way too spent too much time and it actually ultimately agreed to part ways. But that was embedded in the process and that was OK.
So there are a few you know a few other things here that you’re set up for, that you can start thinking about -- budget. You can also start thinking about other nuts and bolts like if your design is going to have film or music how are you going to acquire that?How are you going to get the rights. How much time do you need for that? So all of a sudden a weekly show isn't going to serve you well if you need to license music. Do you have the budget? If your hosts, if you have two hosts and they're in different places how will you deal with that? And will the timing work out? But in the end I think you can see that it's really about getting things down on paper and there are people again in this very room who have said I wish I had done it sooner. Again, the act of designing is as important as what you come up with.
But there's three more things -- sorry. And then we'll get to discussion. I could do a whole thing on thinking about your audience because it is so tempting when you're making a creative work to keep thinking about yourself. It's actually harder than it seems to remember the audience. Especially if your audience is not the typical podcast listener, which, by the way, is a really good strategic move. There are a lot of platforms these days who are actually saying that they recognize to grow the overall podcasts listening space they're going to need to bring in new listeners. To do that they're going to need shows that are actually made for the new kinds of listeners out there because no one's going to come and stay and that's what we really need. So you need to think like a listener to design for a listener. Think: Who is this show for? How we'll learn about those listeners? How will I reach them? And for me relatability and authenticity are key values of a good podcast. And we actually we see that play out just in the fan world of fandom and loyal listening. And authenticity and audience are really connected. How much are you going to explain certain topics? There's somebody else in this room who mentioned cuffing season. How many of you know what cuffing season is?
Okay, so I don't feel like such a loser. Well, you know what, for her show and her audience cuffing season is great. Include it. Talk about it. Maybe you explained it through the context. I'm glad I don't know about it because I'm not the target audience.
So you know public radio I think is an example where I think generally it tends to explain the rest of the world to a narrow demographic. You don't have to do that here. This is podcasting. You are not broadcasting, so you just want to reach and be authentic to the people that you want to reach.
Making stuff. Just know -- and many of you here probably sadly already know -- the first time you get behind a mic will suck. Even if you've done tons of media. That's the weird thing because you're not going out you may be really good like you know the TED talk or whatever. But getting behind that podcast mic is a whole other thing. I mean, if you if all you have is your phone start recording, start interviewing. It's amazing how quickly you can get better too. So you will suck the first time but you will get better and you will get to the sound that you want. I've seen that so many times so just do it all along. Don't wait until you have a plan. Just do it.
And then for testing: So I was a user experience designer in one of my past lives and there's this I have a link to this data from, like, I think it's like 20 years old. But if you want the link ask me later. Basically you do not need focus groups. Five users or listeners will reveal 80 percent of the issues in a product. But I think it really applies for podcasting. So sit down with five people in your relatively targeted audience and ask them to listen. Play them something. Run them, run by your brief memorable sentence. Play some sample audio. But also just show them your episode list.
And actually this study also showed that if you ask 15 people you've pretty much you're pretty much going to know everything you need to know. That's not counting like the annoying Apple podcast for viewers out there who are just like hate it, one star. But I'm sorry that's so demoralizing. I don't mean that -- they're all going to love it.
So I really want to get to discussion. But I think in closing of this I think we've all listened to shows that we can tell pretty quickly didn't respect our time and again there's nothing wrong with that. Everybody has their own reasons for making their thing. And so I'm not trying to shut that down but a well-designed podcast does show people that you've respected their time. And it also shows that you respect your own time because it will make the making easier. You have a plan even if it changes. And I hope that I've respected your time and I really look forward to the discussion so thank you. Am I good on time? Great.
Question: So I want to hear your thinking on the seasonal approach to podcasting. How often do you need to come back to your audience to maintain that connection and what can you do in between seasons to make sure they're still engaged in the say subscribed?
Answer: That's a great question. I mean I think probably a lot of people in this room have experiences with that. And I think you should feel free to share it. What I see is absolutely seasonal is a really valid way to do things especially for example I'm working with a show right now called Tiny Spark which is an investigative show about philanthropic issues and she needs time, like she's doing some heavy reporting.
I find you want to have a minimum of eight to ten shows per season. How you release them, I mean I think that varies, but I think you know a weekly release of those is nice because it gives people time to digest. If you dump them all at once which occasionally we all would like to be in S-Town. We're not all going to be in S-Town. You probably wanted like help your numbers and also pace things out.
So weekly tends to work. I work with The Longest Shortest Time, I'm on the editorial board. And oh my god I'm going to get this wrong.
I don't know if Hillary is in the audience or Andrea but I think they do three seasons a year. I, you know, I think probably leaving more than one to two months between seasons is less than ideal and but there's yeah, you're right. Like occasionally putting something out in your feed although maybe somebody here has seen some numbers on what the bonus episode how that performs but if it's something that really serves your listeners that can be nice to put something out once in a while.
Question: If you've got those five to 15 test listeners what type of questions would you ask them in your test?
Answer: Well so that's that's a great question. I mean it really is very topic dependent I feel. So I was thinking of coming up with this, like, sample show. For me it would be. Fashion in your 40s in the gig economy especially for media professionals.
I don't do really well with it. So what would, you know, if I think of that like if I sat down with any of you who seemed to be doing a lot better than me, what would you want to know? So I guess the you know if it's a topic like that what would you like to know?
Here are the five topics that I'm thinking of addressing. Who are the guests you'd want to hear from? If it's a guest kind of show. How long? I would also I tend to ask people what other podcast they listen to especially similar ones. And what do they typically do when they're listening. Because that can also tell you a lot about how long it should be and things like that.
Question: Hi, thank you so much. What one piece of advice would you give to someone telling a personal story? Answer: You mean as far as how to design? Question follow-up: Just in terms of I think that that kind of story can have such a different type of audience that you're looking for or you don't even know how to define your audience, like who would be interested in this personal story that you have to tell? And just sort of, yeah I don't know if you have any clients that have told personal stories and what helped them.
Answer: I mean actually I find the biggest issue with personal stories is how much you're comfortable sharing. That's something that people hit up against. And actually Kristen Meinzer, By the Book, tells a really good, has a really good example of an episode that was particularly hard for her and how she had to work through that. So actually I think in that case being prepared for yourself and how authentic and personal you can get is important. Beyond that I think it really depends on the subject matter.
I mean, if you can connect with other people who share that story you may be on message boards and things and see what resonates see, especially on message boards and Google Groups or Facebook groups you can see who the big participators are. If they have a story that's similar, see how that resonates.
Question: I was hoping that you could speak a little bit more about non-traditional audiences and how if your target audience is non-traditional how do you bring them into podcasting or into listening to podcasts? I'm working on a show for older adults, baby boomers, and senior citizens and the one the biggest, I think it's a great show, and our biggest hurdle right now is figuring out how to bring them in to put on the headphones and listen.
Answer: This is such a good question and actually I worked with a client who wanted to reach working class women of color age 35-55 who track a really heavily for smartphone usage but not necessarily for podcasts usage. You basically had first you have to start by pushing your non-podcast channels that would be the big one website listening can be huge. Serial, Seth Lind the production manager told me that the website listening was off the charts. I mean it was way ahead of anything they had expected. After Apple Podcasts. I mean that was still the biggest, so website and he’s not the only one. I mean, there are plenty of non Serial podcasts that find web listening actually serves them well. So you reach them through newsletters, you reach them just in the channels of where they're at. It may be physical media. I think also working with some of the big platforms because like I mentioned before they are interested in reaching new audiences as a way to reach new podcast listeners. So you know partnering up with Google or Spotify or Apple or Stitcher and saying like -- they will they will actually be very open I believe to you know featuring you and really getting you out there.
But it is a real issue and it takes a lot of slog and legwork. Like, you may have to find the trade newsletters you may have to like go to the public library. But I really really believe in that and I think that people who are currently podcast listeners especially like in an age group that isn't typically addressed -- when might when I finally got my dad to listen to a BBC show. It was like 50 lives that shaped India. There's one about a mathematician and all of a sudden he was listening on his podcast app. So you just have to be really creative and be prepared to slog and have a lot of time and resources devoted to that. Thank you. Thanks.
Question: I have a question about episode duration. I'm Chion Wolf from Connecticut Public Radio. And we take all of our live shows and we turn them into podcasts which is cool, but we also have a lot of really creative people at our organization that have ideas for new podcasts and we haven't yet figured out what to make of them. Whether they should be something that's designed purely to be listened to online or on podcast platforms, or something that would be aired on a half hour, forty nine-minute-thirty slot on our public radio show. I've also started my own production company with a live advice show I do. I'm going to turn that into a podcast so I'm thinking: personally how do I think about episode length? And I know it must vary depending on what we're talking about, but what do you think about when you're trying to figure out what that sweet spot is depending on what the topic is?
Answer: It's a great question. It's a very recurring question. The obnoxiously coy answer is as long as it can earn it. So Dan Carlin will go on for two or three hours and he earns it but he really is pretty much the only one I think please if there are other examples of the two to three hour podcast that earns it let me know.
But, uh, we find typically in the 20 to 25 minute range. I don't know. You know some people say that's because that's the length of a commute although in the Boston area commutes are longer. And my husband turns to audiobooks at that point. So, you know, is there something you can emulate about audiobookness that will buy you more time? Shorter than that I don't typically see unless it's like really creative and specific like for a smart speaker like Chompers. Two minutes. My kids are brushing their teeth. They're told when to change sides. They're told a little quiz and then you're off.
But smart speakers aren’t great for podcasts discovery. So if you were to design for a smart speaker you'd want to be really specifically for the smart speaker and work with the platforms to feature you. Does that does that help?
Yeah but broadcast you know I mean it's true fitting into a broadcast zone. I mean there I think there are other people in this room I can see who would have some really great insights on that too. Yeah thanks. Yes.
Question: Hi. Thanks. My question relates to vetting your idea with that group of five or maybe 15 people. Do you recommend speaking to these individuals individually or as sort of a focus group? Which is more practical and would yield the best results?
Answer: Practically: one-on-one. And besides I mean your podcast's relationship with them with them will be one-on-one. Right. I mean there are going to be listening to you through their headphones. I don't see any particular reason to do a group unless they feel like you feel like the audience that you're reaching out to would feel more comfortable in a group. Right? Like if you know for various reasons if somebody if the one-on-one dynamic might not get you be like truly frank answers that you need then maybe invite people to bring a friend. Yeah.
Question: Hi. The mission of my idea. I really hope that my audience will evolve quite a bit as we go. And so I'm wondering how often you recommend revisiting the design process? And what, you know, if you do all the steps, if you do some of the steps, if you do different kinds of steps. But I assume there's some kind of revisit to this as you go?
Answer: I mean. Yeah absolutely. Thanks for setting that up. That's great. Yes. You know print your key themes on the wall so it's like never even about revisiting it's like always there. You know but.
So if you're lucky, if you don't reach the audience you initially intended, you may discover that there's a whole other unexpected audience out there. This happens a lot with mobile apps and I feel like I know I can't think of the anecdote now but there are shows that I've heard that it turns out like all sorts of people were listening they didn't expect. Well I mean actually The Longest Shortest Time it started out as being a show for parents of really young children babies and young children. But then it turns out there were a lot of people who were listening who didn't have children and may never intend to. So I mean I think it depends on your topic and it depends on like what you're going for. A lot -- there's so little audience data so you're not going to you know a lot of it will be anecdotal. So as you keep track of your other presences online and see who's listening or maybe you put out a survey or an ask. That's going to just tell you when it may be time if you're starting to feel lost if you're feeling like I don't know what my next set of episodes should be, or if you can tell that the balance is off like you've been doing too many. About this one topic when you were supposed to get the whole palette. So no I don't think there's a hard and fast rule. I have encountered a fair number of shows about a year or two in. Or -- sorry one last thought on this: pilot seasons are great. And so if you launch a pilot season telling yourselves at the end of that season you will definitely plan to revisit. That's a really good time as well. Thank you.
Question: This kind of actually piggybacks off of that. Maybe my question has to do with pilot season, I don't know. But I was just wondering like if you have examples to point to of shows that really did work well as just a single season and maybe the makers intended it to be a pilot and then just decided didn't have gas after that. But a lot of what we're talking about is things that repeat. And I wonder, you know, what are the kinds of considerations to look at in having something that's going to iterate versus something that might just be a one off?
Answer: Well I mean the biggest question is does the topic have legs and if it doesn't have long legs that doesn't mean it's not worthy. I can think right now of a few shows like Heat and Light. I worked with The Conversation which is a news organization and they did a six parter marking the anniversary of 1968 from a really fresh perspective. I think they put out six episodes in the end and that's all they needed. In their case, though, that was a pilot and they learned a ton about hosting and production and team listening. Although I feel like they did a great job out of the gate.
They will probably put something else out in the future, but it may not be the Heat and Light feed. And I actually am a firm believer that that you shouldn't feel like your podcast has to go on forever. I think the trick though there is making sure that your marketing and your building that audience like before and right out of the gate.
But I think it's a really valid thing to think about. And even in this design process it works for that as well because actually I worked with somebody who thought she was going to do an ongoing series about various literary figures and then she realized she just had this brilliant three parter for one. And so she did that. There aren't a lot of great venues. Like Radiotopia has a showcase which is a great way to do limited run and build on somebody else's audience. But even in the absence of that, again with the world's tiniest storefront, you just want a logo and you know a title so you might as well go with the one that you've done not somebody else's. Either way. Thanks.
Question: I just launched a podcast over the summer and I'm doing a monthly format simply because I wanted to get going. I have another full time job and that's kind of how what I figured was manageable. But I was wondering if you would recommend doing the season format? Like maybe stopping collecting a few episodes and releasing it weekly that's better for growing an audience.
Answer: The conventional wisdom is definitely you need more regularity than monthly. I mean I get it. It depends. I mean I could imagine some outlying shows where monthly like because of the topic monthly's fine. Like a companion to my period or something -- I don't oh god that's going to go on the audio. But. But otherwise I think if you need breaks because you can't make constantly because a lot of people here have day jobs then yes seasonal is probably better putting out more frequently but then taking a longer break in between.
Question: So I have one second question. In terms of the throughline, I had been thinking of my format as my consistent sort of what tied my episodes together that I would have a mix of personal interviews from women and then also experts and sort of starting out with a question that I had. Do you think that's enough to be a throughline or that's more my format. What's the difference?
Answer: Well so yes format tends to be more like you know, is it an interview show, is it interview with rich narration, field reported, things like that. So that format I think is through line. I don't know about your show specifically but the throughline typically is a little more focused. I'll give one example and then I think we have to wrap. Right? Sorry. So I was working with a social justice organization that wanted to do. They’re very intersectional, so they had all sorts of topics they wanted to hit: voting rights, labor, Black Lives Matter, all sorts of things. But they were going to do one topic per episode and then I was like then you're going to use up your voting rights because I mean I guess you could repeat it.
But like that's a huge thing to try to accomplish in one episode. Like one episode should ideally be about one thing. So I looked at their media various media appearances read up on their other materials and realized an emotion was a really important through line and characteristic of a lot of their other work.
So we explored actually doing an episode each episode was one like emotion or feeling like courage, resilience, despair, you know anger, hope. If you can see something like that and what you're doing, but otherwise if you feel like it's the gas if the guest is really each guest you're going to have is really well-known then you know that can be your throughline. It's not really an answer. It really depends on the topic. We have one more time for one more. Thanks for having faith.
Question: I just had a question you were talking earlier about building your audience. I was wondering how much time you should plan before the launch of your podcast in your opinion to build your audience, market your show and whether or not it's worth putting a little bit the launch to make sure that you built that audience before hand?
Answer: That basically typically yes.
I feel like you so you want to have some audio or some action, like subscribe, before you start building directly with your listeners. But there's other audience building that you can do. And I find like giving yourselves at least two months is really nice if you can. I was definitely working people who called me the week before launch. But you know if you can start thinking about who your partners might be with cross promotional partners other podcasts and this non-competitive landscape that's a really good outreach you want to start doing. If, depending on your subject matter, there are other media like newsletters for discussion groups or blogs or other media that you can alert these publishers in advance and let them know. Ideally maybe you have a trailer or some sample audio.
There's no harm in putting out a trailer well before the actual show. That said it's nice especially when you start doing your direct listener outreach to at least have preferred. Definitely the trailer but even preferably one full episode. So they really can get into it because most people aren't going to wait around and go ooh. I heard the trailer when's the show coming out. But yeah definitely spending, front loading some time for audience development before launch is a great idea and it can affect your design. Last point on that: If you may find a partner who says hey I would love to you know haven't let's do a cross promotion literally put a piece of my episode in one of your episodes or have me on like interview me and then I'll alert all of my listeners. Those are things that are actually going to affect the design of your show or at least your show roadmap.
Thank you all so much for coming. This was really fun.