New Project: Planning a Podcast

Podcasting has always interested me. Over the last ten years or so I’ve had the thought of starting one cross my mind. But two things have held me back: choosing a topic and the “usual podcast format/formula” has always struck me as a bit boring. While stories told on public radio held my attention, podcasts seem to leave the tedious parts in.

That’s one reason for the relative silence on this blog lately (the other being health related). I’ve been putting in serious thought about the type of podcast that I’d like to hear. And I think I just might have figured it out.

Most importantly, I know there not a topic that I could talk about weekly and hold anyone’s interest. This is partly because my interests are all over the place, and I’ve never mastered anything to the depth of being able to speak repeatedly on the topic. I’m also not someone who has a large audience from another medium that would translate into a large amount of podcast subscribers. (To those that do read this site, I am eternally grateful, and hope you’ll enjoy what I have planned.)

As for the show format, me talking about a topic (even with a co-host) doesn’t interest me. If just the idea turns me off imagine how boring a weekly episode of that would be. It also wouldn’t last long, and that would be a waste of everyone’s time.

Since I ruled out having a host-centered show, that leaves the interview format. One style of this is the highly produced “NPR-ish” show with seamless editing and production. The other end of the spectrum is the host introducing a prerecorded Skype interview with someone. The former is expensive and requires a team of people. The topics also tend to be national and require travel. The later is cheap and simple, and seems to be the staple of the current crop of podcasts.

One interview style that seems overdone at the moment is the “entrepreneur” podcast. In which a host entrepreneur interviews an entrepreneur about being an entrepreneur where the goal is to create more entrepreneurs who will buy the host’s product about how to be an entrepreneur which is usually a course about being an entrepreneur hosting a podcast that interviews entrepreneurs. Yeah, that was hard to write, but it’s even harder to listen to. Again I found a style I didn’t like: a podcast where the interviews are all on the same topic. This seems less like a true interview and more like an attempt to have a different co-host every episode.

But the interview has always been a staple non-scripted entertainment. The interviewee has information and it’s the host’s job to convey it to the audience. Good interviews inform and entertain and take the listener to places they’d never otherwise go. This is what I wanted.

So the question becomes, “Who to interview?” Which also leads to the next questions, “How to do the interview?” and “What to ask about?”

In trying to find ideas for interviews, I was drawn back to finding a theme that could tie the interviews together. Once I let go finding a topic, the idea of a theme made it much easier to think about the show I wanted to create. A good theme provides a roadmap for choosing interviewees and the questions to ask of them. A good theme is also damn hard to find when I wanted to talk to people in a variety of fields.

One method that I found useful was to think about titles. I went through quite a few, and each one forced me to think about the show that had that title. I finally narrowed it down to a couple, and then started thinking about how the title would look as cover art. I’ve found a title and theme, but I’m not quite ready to reveal them. I want to let the idea sit for a while first.

Knowing I wanted to have an interview show, I had to decide how I was actually going to conduct the interviews. This seems like a simple question. “Just talk to people!” you might say. But even it’s just a Skype call, there’s logistics involved. In the end I decided that I wanted to interview people on-location. This would let me get a sense of the person and I could also get recordings of what their daily life sounds like.

Going on location is a big deal for me. As a home-based worker, I don’t get out enough as it is. Anything that gets me out of the house is good thing. It’s also equal parts exciting and terrifying. But I think it’ll be different enough to be interesting. It also brings back an old-fashioned limitation that we often forget about in our always connected world: geography!

I’ll be limiting myself to my local area, but the Phoenix metropolitan area has 4.5 million people. So I should be able to find a few interesting people here. I won’t rule out Skype/phone interviews but in-person local interviews are my priority.

The last thing was how to compensate myself for the time I’ll be spending pulling all this together. The usual method is to have sponsorships. In this case, I’m not opposed to following the crowd, and plan to launch with a couple of minutes of my own ads included. I don’t have “real” sponsors lined up. So I’m going with promoting my own affiliate links to start with. If the show catches some interest from the usual suspects of podcast advertisers (Square Space, Harry’s, etc.) I’ll worry about when I have an offer sheet.

Maybe in the future I might produce some ancillary products. But right now that’s way outside the scope of this project.

Stay tuned for follow up posts where I’ll be going into the details of how I’m setting the podcast feed, the field recording equipment I’ll be using, and most importantly: facing the fear of a hot mic.