Here are a few clues to what the Sony judges looked for in a good podcast (these are based on comments about the winners).
- Have "pace and energy"
- Capture "the intimacy of internet radio"
- Choose a niche which would "never be accommodated on a mainstream radio station"
- "First-class radio production techniques"
- "Have an intelligent and witty tone"
Many low-budget podcasts fail on point number 1. They go on for far too long! I recently downloaded a chat show that was over an hour and a half long and the file size was massive. Perhaps I get bored easily, but a show has to be pretty good if I listen to it for more than 20 minutes.
Point number 2: At risk of stating the blinkin’ obvious, most people listen to podcasts on iPods (or in my case, a cheap Creative Zen Micro). Until the technolgy develops, podcasts are a one person thing. Individuals rather than groups listen to podcasts. It’s very personal and the presenter has a direct line into the listener’s head, normally via some poor quality cans from Mr. Jobs. It’s a more focussed experience than having the radio on in the background whilst doing the washing up.
Point 3: Podcasts should give a voice to people and subjects that don’t traditionally get heard on the BBC, Capital, etc etc. The kind of voices you hear on mainstream radio in the UK is incredibly narrow – the industry is white and hideously male dominated.
Point 4: Podcasts are easy to do, but tricky to do really well. As a minimum, invest in a good microphone and a load of RAM for your PC or Mac. My seven year old Dell laptop just isn’t up to it. Thankfully, you don’t need to invest too much in software – Audacity is pretty good for production.
Many podcasters want to make money, but Heather Green of Business Week argues that whilst a few indie podcasts may do well, the majority won’t. Podcasts are growing in popularity and the graph looks very positive over the next few years. But Green says that as with blogging, the market is too fragmented.
But I listen to podcasts from the US that do have sponsorship and many make ‘on-air’ appeals for donations. MyLife2015 blog has some useful tips for bringing in the cash.