Welcome to Podcasting 101: Part 1

By Mark G. Auerbach

Maybe you’ve discovered podcasts as good company while commuting to work, exercising at the gym, or as an escape from news and current events while quarantining in place. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “How can my business get on the podcast merry-go-round?” In this three-part series of posts, I hope to help you answer that question.

As a part-time radio producer and anchor who hosts weekly programming, I realize that the podcast comes from the radio format. The word, podcast, is a portmanteau of iPod and Broadcast. Where I broadcast programming over the airwaves, and later post to YouTube, a podcast is radio programming in the form of a digital audio file that is made available on the internet for downloading to a mobile device—desktop, laptop, tablet, phone. Instead of finding the program on the AM or FM dial, it’s available as a series in new installments on a variety of platforms, ready to download and listen.

If you’ve never listened to a podcast, it’s like walking into a library or bookstore with thousands of subjects and topics. Podcasts are easy to listen to find and easy to listen to.

How to Geek offers a quick tutorial on how to listen to podcasts.

I’m not going to give the specifics on how to make a podcast, but there’s a wealth of knowledge out there. A couple of “go to” sources are:

Entrepreneur’s Podcast Technology: 10 things you need to start a podcast

NPR’s Starting a Podcast

Things to decide before starting a podcast

1) Why? Do you have something to say that can make a podcast informative and interesting? Can you create a series, or is this a one-shot deal? Will having a podcast better position your business in the marketplace or make you a better resource, so the media will call on your expertise when they’re doing an article or feature for a much larger audiences?

2) How? Assuming you can afford the time to research, produce, and record a podcast, will you self-produce, or seek a studio to help you do it? How much time will it take to produce it? How will you market it? How will you monetize it? How will you determine your ROI? How many will you produce and how often will you produce them?

3) What? What will make your podcast stand out in a crowded marketplace? Do you have an interesting topic? Good presentational skills? Fascinating guests? What is your competition putting out there than you can exceed? What and where is the audience you’re trying to reach?

Check out these possibilities

Time Magazine Best Podcasts of 2019

Atlantic: 50 Best Podcasts of 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/12/50-best-podcasts-2019/604165/

Vulture Best of 2019

From my perspective, the most important element is content. What perspective can you provide that hasn’t already been covered? How does this relate to you and/or your business? Is the podcast the right format? If your topic and format isn’t unique, you’ll get lost in the shuffle.

Here are several podcasts that have caught my eye. Their content stands out.

Miles Away. A travelogue produced by The Points Guy, a travel website that helps travellers maximize their airline miles, hotel points, and credit card rewards. They review airlines and flights, hotels and resorts, credit cards, and more. The travelogue offers personal insights into off-beat travel opportunities. The United Airlines Island-Hopper, which traverses the Pacific from Honolulu to Guam, with stops in Micronesia, is on my bucket list.

Valley Voices, a co-production of New England Public Radio and the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton, MA. Valley Voices is a story-telling event, generally held live before an audience and recorded tor later distribution. One recent episode caught my eye. Love Me Tinder is a series of tales of first dates gone terribly wrong. The two producers use the podcast format to reach a larger audience because the theatre only seats 800 people.

NPR Episode 1. Stories and portraits from NPR member stations that deserve a larger audience. This particular podcast brought tears to my eyes: Saying Goodbye

Content guidelines

1) Script your podcast. You don’t need to go word for word, but who will host? Who will be the interviewee? How will you format your podcast?

I use a one-hour format for each broadcast, which then gets loaded to YouTube. “One hour” is misleading, as the broadcast clock, where my programs originate, on both radio and TV, is 59 minutes long. There are four 3-minute breaks for underwriting announcements, station ID, programming announcements. There’s a one-minute program intro with music; a one-minute exit; 3 minutes of music at the end, and program credits. My 59-minute clock is now down to 42 minutes.

I always have guests. I’m not interesting enough to do it solo. If I have a guest that I know will be interesting, I may book them for the entire hour. Otherwise, I try to book two separate guests, each one per half hour (or 21 minutes).

Here are two of my favorite hour-long programs.

1) An interview with my former co-anchor, Patrick Berry, who “graduated” to becoming a co-host of the weekday lifestyle program on our area’s NBC-affiliate. He had been publisher of a local newspaper syndicate, but he’d sold it this past summer. He also started a live music series. I knew that the audience wanted to know how his world had changed, and I also knew that we had enough chemistry to make an hour pass by quickly.

2) An interview with actors and spouses James Barry and Tara Franklin, both seen regularly on area stages. I’d interviewed both of them before, and that program was one of the most highly-received programs I’ve done, so I knew they could carry an hour, and leave an audience wanting more.

My script breaks down the hour minute by minute. Having done this for years, I make a basic outline of what I want to accomplish; some introductory comments, and some questions to get the ball rolling. Often, the conversation evolves quickly if I know the guests. If I’m unfamiliar with a guest or their program or organization, I have some prepared questions to guide the discussion. I always write down phone numbers and websites, and am sure to repeat those during a program.

I’m also in the midst of taping a special series of ten one-hour episodes called “How We’re Doing,” a program that explores how people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, how they shelter in place, and for many, how they share their coping mechanisms. We’re chatting with four guests an hour, which essentially means a 10-minute interview. I’ve scheduled people who work from home offering tips; media people offering business solutions; actors and musicians and theatres shuffling their performance schedules, and moving their art online. I interviewed a high school math teacher learning to motivate his students while teaching with ZOOM, and a 20-year old first responder.

As you format your podcast, think of how people will listen. A 20- to 30-minute podcast can be heard in its entirety, while someone’s driving to or from work, or maybe sitting on an exercise bike or taking a brisk walk outdoors. A 30- to 60-minute podcast, if it has breaks, can be enjoyed in segments. Anything longer than an hour is too much. My programming has distinct breaks, so people can take a break, and then return to listen.

I begin and end my programs with music. I open with an upbeat snippet of music to capture attention, that can quickly fade as I begin my intro. I end my program, generally with either music connected with the people I’m interviewing (and I specialize in arts people, so it’s either from a show they’re doing or from one of their own recordings).

In the next Podcast 101 column, I’ll profile some people making podcasts, and offer some advice on how to market a podcast.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and 89.5fm/WSKB, and on TV at WCPC15.


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