Audio content has come a long way, gone are the days where listeners have to exclusively listen to the radio if they want to hear content that speaks to them. Now, with podcasts, listeners can choose exactly what they want to hear when they want to hear it. However, radio has been around for much longer than podcasting and as such, the radio industry has a wealth of information and experience I believe many podcasters could stand to benefit from.
Here are some lessons that I have learned in my time working in radio, and I believe they could make your content more engaging to your listeners.
- Singular Communication (One listener at a time)
Some of the best radio shows and podcasts in the world make you feel as though you are sitting listening to a friend, and every radio programming manager worth their salt teaches this to their on-air teams:
“When you are on air you are not speaking to a giant crowd, you are speaking to just one person. Imagine that person sitting there in their car or with their headphones on at work, listening to you. Now, when you speak to this person, speak to them like you would a friend.”
Actual photo of your listener
On a subconscious level, when you address your listeners as though they are part of a crowd, you lose that personal connection you have forged with them.
- Just because you are having fun in studio, it does not (always) mean you are creating good content
This is something I personally struggle with when I have (typically inexperienced) presenters co-hosting a show. They get in studio, they choose a topic and then they have a long, raucous rambling discussion full of life and energy.
Don’t make your listener feel like this
While this might be an incredibly fun thing to do, it might not be a fun thing to listen to. These shows tend to get out of hand and inevitably the listener feels out of the conversation.
Now, obviously there are many examples of shows where presenters do exactly this and have incredibly interesting and engaging content BUT it is a very difficult format to get right. It generally takes a combination of engaging presenters with perfect chemistry and often some brutal editing to get the best out of this.
The most important thing is to listen back to the show and ask yourself “Who am I doing this for?” if the answer isn’t your listener, then you may need to re-evaluate what you’re doing.
- Cut the crap
Speaking of brutal editing, radio shows generally have very specific time constraints – needing to make time for a whole list of different segments every hour. Because of this, audio producers often have to make some difficult decisions when it comes to pre-recorded segments, and it always comes back to this question:
“How do I edit this to make sure only the best content remains?”
Obviously, podcasts have way more freedom when it comes to time (I’m looking at you, Dan Carlin), but this concept definitely still applies. Obviously this means cutting out “umms”, breaths and all sorts of annoying bits and pieces, but sometimes this also means making some difficult decisions – “Was this question really interesting?”, “Do I really need this whole intro?” and sometimes even “Was this interview really good enough?”
The point is, when you edit, make sure that everything included in the final product is amazing.
Just because you’ve recorded something, it does not mean it needs to be included in the final product.
- Listeners love hearing opinions, but not always from you
Many radio presenters have completely ruined their careers by making opinionated statements on air, but on the other hand – controversial content usually does really well. So how do we consolidate this?
Most programming managers will insist that presenters completely shy away from voicing opinions on controversial topics on air, as this can be incredibly damaging to the brand and can cause listeners to hate certain presenters.
Radio presenters are meant to be conduits for information, so they are meant to facilitate a conversation between the listeners and – usually – a panel of experts. This creates thoughtful, engaging content without placing the presenter and the station as a whole in jeopardy.
What this boils down to is balance.
In order to give your listeners a product that is fair, you need to ensure that every side of an argument is represented. This can be achieved in a number of ways including, but not limited to:
- Having multiple hosts taking a side on an issue
- Bringing in a guest with a different opinion
Or, my personal favourite:
The point is you run the risk of alienating, boring or even losing your listeners if you only offer your own opinion.
- Throw forward
Have you ever listened to the radio in your car and then when you parked you sat waiting for the presenter to say something? This is what happens when a radio presenter does their job properly.
A radio presenter’s one and only job is to keep listeners listening for as long as possible and the technique that we train them to use is called “throwing forward”: constantly telling the listener what is still coming up in the show so that they have a reason to sit through the ads.
Throwing forward in your podcasts can be an excellent way to keep your listeners listening longer and even can be used to get them to listen to future episodes.
One of the best things about prerecorded podcasts as opposed to live radio is that you have the ability to construct truly meaningful throw forwards just by adding a little narration and copy-pasting a clip from later in the show. This is an easy way to add not only production value to the show, but also create a deeper experience for your listener.
I think many podcasters often forget that without broadcast radio their entire medium might not exist. Obviously we want to create innovative content that doesn’t always conform to mainstream radio standards and conventions, but this doesn’t mean we should totally ignore the industry either.
The main thing that I want you to take away from this is, if you want to grow your podcast and create content that truly speaks to your audience, always think about your listener first. Speak to them like how you would wish to be spoken to and always put their needs and wants above yours.
If you would like to produce content more frequently and effectively without having to worry about the boring stuff, request a quote HERE.
Ethan Baird is an Award Winning Programming Manager with over 5 years of experience in radio. He currently works at GaySA Radio, Africa’s only LGBTIQ+ radio station. He also helps podcasters and other content creators by teaching them the secrets of radio production as well as by editing and packaging their content for them.