What Do The Best Podcasts Get Right?

This article is an old favorite from 2013. Catch up on my latest stuff here.

I’m a total podcast junkie.

I just love this medium for publishing content, building connections and fostering community.  A podcast is a mix of topical content, personalities, stories, production value, and one-on-one / one-to-many interaction, all in one medium.

Part of the attraction to podcasts is their practicality.  I can listen to them in the car, on my daily hikes with the dog, when I’m waiting for a train, etc.

I just launched my new podcast, Bootstrapped Web, which I spent several weeks preparing.  That gave me the opportunity to give lots of thought to this question:

What makes a podcast great?  

What are some common elements that the best podcasts tend to get right?  What are some reasons why I might stop tuning in?

Here are few things I came up with:

Consistency

Every Tuesday morning, I look forward to a new episode of Startups For The Rest of us.  Every Thursday, it’s the Lifestyle Business Podcast.  Mixergy is almost every day.

Keeping a consistent posting schedule is super important for podcasts.  While a blog can be updated whenever there is news or inspiration, a podcast is a program.  Podcast listeners have different expectations than blog readers.  Keep them hooked by delivering on schedule, every time.

Structure

Every podcast approaches this in different ways – which is another reason I love the medium so much.  No rules!

Content, length, segments, topics, advertisements, guests/no guests, and so on…

I like it when a podcast establishes their structure and sticks with it for every episode (again, consistency).  It helps me as a listener know what I’m getting into.  The first listen is always a gamble.  But if I like it enough to stick around for a few more episodes, then I’ll know what to expect.

Pre-Recording Preparation

After tuning into so many different podcasts over the years, it becomes clear which ones take time to prepare the episode content beforehand, and which ones just press record and wing it.

Some podcasters prefer the latter, keeping it loose and spontaneous.  Like a couple of friends shooting the shit, and we as the audience get to eavesdrop on their conversation.  While this might be OK as background content to an afternoon work session, I tend to prefer something more organized and prepared.

We all know of the extensive pre-interviews that guests on Mixergy go through before getting on camera with Andrew Warner.  This operation Andrew has put together is truly best in class and it shows.

Others prepare topics, talking points, and interview questions beforehand.  Again, it’s easy to spot evidence of this because the conversation flows nicely from one topic to the next.  No stopping to consider what to talk about next.

Vulnerability

There’s something special that only a few podcasters do that seems to resonate and propel their program to greater heights than all that rest.  That is, they make themselves vulnerable.

Podcasting is a very intimate medium.  You’re really putting yourself out there to the world.  It’s easy for anyone to stick to a script and cobble together a program.  But going off-script and showing your true self — your opinions, your insecurities, your emotions — is what people will really connect with.  Having the balls to say that thing that you might not even tell your closest friends, but blurting it out on the internet airwaves… That’s the secret sauce.

Marc Maron’s WTF podcast is one of the most successful out there.  Why?  Because his brand of comedy is all about his raw, introspective honesty.  Listening to WTF, I get to hear about all the insecurities, failures, triumphs, and emotions that a professional comic goes through.  And because of the way Maron puts himself out there, his guests put down their guard and get into the nitty gritty too.

Andrew Warner of Mixergy takes it to that special level as well.  He often talks about the “mental chatter” that all entrepreneurs deal with — the insecurities that come with taking risks and not being afraid of (public) failure.

Check out Brené Brown’s TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability.

What do you think?

Please comment or tweet me and tell me what you think makes a podcast great?

By the way, here’s my current list of podcast subscriptions:

Those are just the ones that I’m actively listening to (nearly every new episode) these days.  The list goes on with a few older favorites that I check into from time to time… Freelance Radio, Founders Talk, The Frequency

And a few new ones I just started getting into: Empire FlippersEntrepreneur on Fire.

Like I said.  I’m a total junkie for podcasts 🙂

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