From time to time people will ask me about podcasting because I am the host of ARCast; our podcast for Architects and so today I thought I would answer one of these questions in the blog for all to see.
Q: Have you got any tips about podcasting?
Why yes of course I do! As a podcaster I'm amazed at how this whole phenomena has really taken off and I'm not surprised that many people want to jump on board. So here are my tips for podcasting.
Choose your audience
My audience for ARCast is simple... Architects (or more correctly) people who care about software architecture. I'm not doing a podcast for developers (even though many of my listeners are developers) so I don't do shows that focus on development topics like how to write a unit test with mock objects (a useful thing, just not right for my show). Whatever audience you choose you have to decide how best to serve them. If you are creating a podcast to reach out to people on a technical basis then you need to serve up shows filled with useful and interesting information. What does your audience care about? What do they want to know? How can you find out about your audience?
By the way, just because you start podcasting doesn't necessarily mean you will even have an audience outside of your close friends (and even they might not listen). You have to build an audience for the podcast and you will need a strategy for doing so.
Don't be boring, Do be informative
Listen to a few podcasts. Which ones do you like? Why? Which ones do you find boring or hard to listen to? I can take a lot of thing but one thing I will not do is listen to a boring podcast. Since podcasting is easy and cheap there are a lot of bad ones out there and you do not want to end up on that list. Decide what format you want to use and pursue it with passion and excellence. For ARCast I do a "talk show" format where I have guests who talk about the things that they are passionate about. I try to ask them interesting questions along the way and add my observations. I like to have a balance between informative and entertaining. I want to have fun doing this but if we go too far in the direction of entertainment my audience gets annoyed (again know your audience). In my view the listeners of ARCast continue to listen because they feel like they got some value out of the experience. That is my goal.
When I have a guest on the show I usually ask them what they are really passionate about at the present time and we simply chat about it. I don't prepare questions in advance and I let the conversation go where it will. Sometimes it goes in directions I could not have predicted in advance. The best way to insure that the conversation is interesting is to speak to interesting people.
One more thing... keep it short. So many podcasts go on and on. I decided a long time ago to keep mine down to 30 minutes because many of my listeners listen during their commute time. If you do something longer then people will have to try and remember when they left off and pick up there again etc. I know you are thinking that 30 minutes seems like a long time but trust me, you can easily go over 30 minutes once you get rolling.
I use high quality audio gear and editing software. I encode at 64Kbs for near CD quality sound because I wanted to make the show easy to listen to. Many podcasts sound amateurish or have one person much louder than the others. These are important considerations in my view if you plan on building a successful show.
There is an element to the success of a podcast that is hard to pin down. I guess I would just have to call it "talent". Just like some people are great singers and others are not great at singing the same is true of podcasting. Some people are just great at it. For example, Scott Hanselman has a show called Hanselminutes that I really enjoy. He is great at podcasting because he is easy to listen to, he is smart and has interesting things to say. His show is very different than mine (and longer) but I really enjoy it. The question is, how do you know if you have podcasting talent? It is the same way you know if somebody has singing talent. Is anybody listening? If they are then you might have it. If not, then do what you can to improve or maybe you just move onto the next big thing and start making videos for YouTube.