‘This is not radio’: How to make successful podcasts

With 17% of Australians listening to podcasts, the founder of audio agency Eardrum, Ralph Van Dijk, has offered advice on how to make a successful podcast, starting with “length matters”.

“The optimum length is 35-55 minutes, in a fast news world podcasts do provide an opportunity for slow journalism and it’s a bit like character driven TV versus movies, you have an opportunity where you are able to love and get to know the main characters over a period of time.”

Van Dijk founded Eardrum in 1990 in London

Van Dijk shared the statistic with the audience at Mumbrella’s Publish conference, stating podcasts which are over an hour long will more than 50% of listeners stop listening before the 15 minute mark.

The founder of Eardrum said shorter podcasts are an opportunity for bite-sized content, which people can listen to on shorter commutes and when doing tasks around the house.

“This is not radio,” Van Dijk reminded the audience, “listeners have chosen to lean in, this is not passive, it’s active listening so it’s an immersive experience and people have chosen to focus, so tell them why it’s worth sticking with you right from the outset.”

The audio agency owner said giving listers a “road map” to the podcast will also assist in keeping their attention.

Wasting time with long introductions was a don’t listed by Van Dijk, saying podcasts should “cut to the chase and then cut back from there”.

Vocal delivery is pertinent to the success of a podcast and the engagement of the listener, he added.

“Even if it is scripted, it is a technique to sound unscripted, audio is such an intimate medium, you can spot insincerity a mile off”.

Making the words come to life is “vitally important” the audio expert told the audience: “It may mean recording the podcast 10 times before you start to sound spontaneous, I know that sounds contradictory, but it needs to be so ingrained.”

For interviewers, Van Dijk said “learn to shut up” because you can always add in your thoughts, feelings or opinions later.

Van Dijk also noted most podcasts will benefit from having music as they add “texture and emotion”.

“It helps the listener to know what to feel and the more they feel, the more they will be engaged it also gives the listener a moment to apply what they are listening to, to their own world.

“It gives them the time to actually digest what they are hearing and think about it for a beat,” he said.

However, Van Dijk said the most effective audio is when the listener is the co-author.

“If you can create pictures in the listeners mind, then they are so engaged they have something they are going to be carrying around with them, they are going to be visualising as they’re driving and that is more powerful than any picture you can give them.

“In TV and in any visual medium, you’re giving them your version of the thing that you want them to talk about, in audio they are creating their own version that’s the perfect version for that listener.

“They are able to think about how that storyline is relevant to them,” he emphasised.

Concluding the session on How to Make Good Podcasts (And How to Get Them Heard), Eardrum’s founder offered advice on building an audience for your podcast, beginning with “don’t suck”.

“No amount of marketing will work at building your podcast if it’s crap.”

Van Dijk said using Facebook ads to direct people to your podcast page is a wise idea as around 80% of podcast listening is on an iPhone.

“Target audiences when and where they are most likely to take action.”

Choosing a good platform was another tip the Eardrum founder left with the audience, which will allow for more access to analytics.

“It allows you information about total downloads and the technology people are using.”

Being constant will allow listeners to build a habit around the podcast and will help you become part of their routine quickly.

Finally, Van Dijk concluded “the bar is very high so if you can’t make it as good as it should be then don’t make it or find people that will help you make it good.”


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