The Art of the Podcast

The Art of the Podcast

What are the five types of podcasts? What is the common thread that connects each? How can you make your podcast better?

Yesterday, during the Craft Content conference in Nashville, I presented The Art of the Podcast. My goal was to leave the audience, who were a mix of current and future podcasters, with ideas on how to tell a better stories and produce better podcasts. I began my talk describing the five types of podcasts. 

The Five Types of Podcasts

The Five Types of Podcasts

1. Interview. An interview podcast is a program that features a guest and a host. Some of my favorites include; The James Altucher Show, WTF with Marc Maron, Marketing Smarts, and Six Pixels of Separation

2. Couples-Cast. A podcast featuring two co-hosts. I used to use this definition for podcasts with actual couples like Dawn and Drew, and my first podcast, Two Boobs and a Baby. I now use it to cover all co-hosted podcasts. Check out Marketing Over Coffee as a good example.

3. Ramble-Cast. A single host podcast. Any podcast with one person sharing what's on their mind fits this category. Tune into DicksnJanes and Up In This Brain to get a taste of what I am talking about.

4. Round Table. These are podcasts featuring a host as the moderator and a panel of subject experts. A favorite is The BeanCast.

5. Magazine. A magazine podcast is highly produced. It features multiple stories (like a magazine), and can also be referred to as a narrative podcast. I love shows like 99% Invisible, RadioLab, This American Life (admittedly this is a radio program first), and StartUp. I also have a new favorite, Neighbors, which I learned about from the host, Jakob Lewis, during Craft Content.

The online broadcasting barriers have dropped

While some of my favorite podcasts began as terrestrial radio programs, some favorites have gone the other way and become radio shows. The online broadcasting barriers have dropped with the advent of inexpensive production software (Audacity is free) and hardware like microphones, mixers, and headphonesAnyone can become a podcaster now. The point is to become a good one by telling and sharing stories your listeners will be interested in. 

What makes a great podcast story?

Each of the five types of podcasts has one thing in common: Storytelling. The interviewer knows when to remain quiet to listen to his guest's story. A couples cast will feature the hosts taking turns sharing and adding to their stories. A ramble cast features a single person telling stories about their day or from their past. A roundtable moderator will pass the mic to each panelist, she will ensure they stay on the same topic while each participant adds their own stories to the mix. Like a physical magazine, a magazine podcast includes narrative stories from guests and their hosts. All powerful podcasts include rich, vivid stories. 

What makes a great story in podcasting?

Four keys to podcasting an exceptional story

In The Art of the Podcast, I shared four keys to use in a podcast to relay an exceptional story. These don't have to all be used in a single podcast episode, but strong stories include one or more of the following; ambience (background sounds, music, sound effects), conflict and resolution, honesty, and humor. 

I included several clips during my presentation as examples. The sound bites came from 99% Invisible, RadioLab, DicksnJanes, and StartUp. I am truly passionate about podcasting. I hope my audience found my presentation helpful as they weave better stories into their shows. 

If you have a podcast please leave a link in the comments. I would love to tune in to your show. If you would like to see The Art of the Podcast live please get in touch

A Misidentified Shooting

Let me begin by explaining that I do not work in the film industry, nor do I shoot animals. Having come from Toronto, it's hard not to have learned a thing or two about how movies are made. I expect coming from Nashville, most natives know enough about hunting (whether they do it or not). 

In the film industry, Toronto is known as Hollywood North. At any given moment you can see multiple film shoots occurring. The city can easily be transformed to appear as New York or Chicago because of the similar architecture. Filmmakers get a nice tax break and there's that weak Canadian dollar that helps seal the deals too. In fact, Chicago, the movie, was actually filmed in Toronto. 

After I returned to Toronto from backpacking Europe, I worked nights and some days at a international youth hostel. My intention was to stay connecting with fellow backpackers, but also save enough money to return to Ireland for a year (which I did, and then some). 

I used to work Saturday or Sunday mornings at the hostel. If things were slow and we had vacancies, I would drive over to the local bus station to find arriving, international backpackers. I would happily approach them, show them fliers for the hostel, and give them a free ride if they needed one. Most people eagerly took me up on the offer. 

Officers swarmed out of nowhere with their guns drawn!

Photo from Flickr by dtstuff9. 

Photo from Flickr by dtstuff9

I clearly remember one Saturday morning as I waited for future hostel guests to arrive at the bus station. The sky was blue, the sun was shining down brightly at the busy downtown intersection. Suddenly, unmarked police cars swarmed the streets. Undercover officers swarmed out of nowhere with guns drawn at a man crossing the road. They each yelled, "Get down with your hands up!" The bad guy dropped to his knees, he knew they had him captured. There was no point in resisting or trying to escape. 

As a Toronto native, I knowingly glanced around for the cameras. Yep, I spotted it. There was a large crane at the corner with a camera facing down on the scene below. An action-filled shot like that was presumably a major scene of the film. The director yelled, "Back to ones, people", and they began to shoot it again - and again and again. 

Each time the police takedown began, unsuspecting pedestrians would duck for cover thinking it was all real. The pedestrians were usually weary travelers having just stepped foot into Toronto from hours of travel. Welcome to Hollywood North. Soon after they learned it was a film shoot, the embarrassed people would laugh about experiencing a staged police takedown, right as they stepped off the bus! Now that is a story to share with your loved ones back home.

The part where I got embarrassed...

When I moved to Nashville, I was taking a walk around the surrounding neighborhoods. As I walked past a house, I saw a man outside in a camouflage jacket and scruffy beard. There was a large, Ford F-150 truck parked in his driveway with a huge apparatus attached to the trailer. It was a large steel crane that could be elevated with a stand at the top for the camera. I instantly got excited at the thought that movies were being shot in Nashville too. 

I smiled at the man and asked him what he was shooting. He looked dumbfounded and yelled, "Deer!".  I could swear he added a "duh" to his reply. When I returned home to Heather, I told her the story. She laughed out loud as she explained what a deer-stand was. What I thought was a camera crane, was actually a tripod for hunters to get above their targets to blast them to bits. 

I had clearly misidentified the hunting accessory. At least I was correct about something getting shot from that thing. In my defense, nowadays many hunters film their victims from their deer (or tree) stands and post them to YouTube. So maybe I wasn't completely wrong. Okay, I was. :) 

Has this ever happened to you? What object did you mistakenly take for something else?