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WARNING: strong opinions ahead! Proceed with caution and please add your own thoughts, additions, or disagreements in the comments.
In my opinion, these are the top six clichés podcasters often forget, but that we should try hard to avoid with some creativity.
6. Ignoring international and time-shifted audiences
Remember that a podcast can be consumed almost anywhere. You may have an international audience who won't understand or won't care about your country's holidays (or certain regional sayings). Assume Christmas and New Year's Day are the only holidays almost everyone knows about.
Also remember that a podcast may be listened to immediately after your release, or years later. That's what we mean by “time-shifted.” So avoid relative measures of time, such as “this Tuesday” or “later this year.” Try to use absolutes when referring to time, such as “Tuesday, June 18,” or “late 2013.” It may not be necessary to say the year every time you give the date as long as you've set that context somewhere else in the podcast episode.
5. Having “podcast” or “weekly” in your show title
Yes, you are most likely producing a “podcast”—episodic audio or video content distributed over the Internet via RSS with enclosure tags. But is that the only way your show is distributed? When your show is available via website download, live-streaming, time-shifted streaming, and more, it no longer fits the technical definition of a podcast.
So why limit yourself by using “podcast” in your official title? You may think I made that mistake with my “ONCE podcast,” but that show's official name is actually “ONCE,” with “Once Upon a Time podcast” attached as a tagline.
Keep this same thing in mind with other media-restrictive titles, such as “magazine,” “blog,” “book,” and “radio” (more on that later).
Similarly, be careful with time-restrictive words in your title, such as “daily,” “weekly,” or “monthly.” If you publish your podcast weekly, then it's unnecessary to include that in your title. But if your show is about weekly events, then it may fit better.
You'll also hit a wall when you skip an episode or change your publishing schedule. Many podcasters (including myself) will change their schedule during summer or other busy times. This means their weekly podcast is no longer weekly, so should the title change? (No, but you see the problem this creates for expectations?)
4. Using an RSS icon, mic, headphones in your cover art
Podcasters like to be meta. After all, I host a podcast about podcasting for podcasters. Imagine if someone started a podcast about podcasts about podcasting (please don't)!
But adding a microphone or RSS icon to your cover art is a bit too far. This is like music albums having prominent music notes, or book covers showing a book on the book cover, or a movie showing a DVD or Blu-Ray disc on the poster-style cover; it's all too meta.
If your podcast is about microphones or RSS feeds (like mine), then that imagery works.
Consider a branding image that is unique; one that will stand out in directories. And if the old-style microphone logo pops into mind, you might want to think again.
Please remember that I professionally design high-quality, custom podcast cover art. I would love to work with you!
3. Listing in the podcasting category
This is such a pet peeve of mine, that both Ray Ortega and Dave Jackson have mentioned reshared my pet peeve in their podcast.
Look at the iTunes New and Noteworthy section of the podcasting category. How many of those podcasts are actually about the art, technique, knowledge, or skill of podcasting? (Also notice how many of them use a cliché mic, headphones, or RSS icon in their cover art.)
2. Saying, “best,” “the,” “only,” or “#1”
Podcasting is very different from other media. It's very hard to analyze cross-show statistics because most podcasters keep this information private. Be very careful how you position yourself and how arrogant you may sound.
“Best” is highly subjective
You may think it's the best and some of your listeners may write reviews that say it's the best, but your “competition” will have the same to show (they may even have more people that say they're the best).
“The” (emphasized) is a bit arrogant
If I say I'm “the podcast for ___,” then I'm claiming to be the definitive authority. Do notice the difference in emphasis, simply saying, “the podcast for ___” tells your listeners what you're about. But emphasizing the “the” says that you're the hottest, coolest, best, only, conceited, bloated, etc. This may not be how podcasters can intend this, but it can communicate that idea.
“Only” can be misleading
On Are You Just Watching?, we used to say, “the only podcast that shares critical thinking for the entertained Christian.” But that was totally true! How? It's a simple formula: “the only [unique tagline].” Likewise, I could say that I host “the only podcast that gives you seasoning packets of clean-comedy to flavor your day.”
“#1” can be misunderstood
When you claim to be the #1 in anything, you better have the facts to back it up. I can rightly claim that The Audacity to Podcast was voted #1 technology podcast in 2012. But I can't actually claim to be the #1 technology podcast in 2012 (and you've never heard me claim this).
I heard the hosts of DVMPE's Once Upon a Time podcast read a scathing email in which someone brutally attacked them for regularly claiming to be “the #1 podcast for Once Upon a Time.” They joked about being their podcast network's #1 Once Upon a Time podcast, which helps make this point.
When you claim “#1,” it should either be qualified with its specific truth, or else have broad confirmation. For example, is it the #1 on Google, iTunes, YouTube, Bing, have the most listeners, have the most reviews, have the highest rating, etc.? Only then can you probably claim to be “#1,” but do you really need to gloat about it?
Dan Miller's 48 Days podcast illustrates this well. His cover art says, “#1 career podcast in iTunes,” which is quite specific, but his description further qualifies it, “This show consistently sits in the top 50 under the Business category in iTunes and is often at #1 under Careers.”
1. Acting like radio
It's very true that podcasting is like radio, but it isn't radio. In radio, there are frequent (many would say obnoxiously obsessive and long) commercial breaks. When the host returns after a few minutes, it makes sense to say, “we're back” and remind listeners to whom and what they're listening. But a podcast doesn't need this.
Radio shows often have certain formats and styles because of the nature of live radio—station IDs, live call ins, daily schedule, commercial breaks, time and content restraints, the need to catch and keep attention, etc. But a podcast doesn't have to have any of these things.
Almost no one will accidentally “channel-surf” into the middle of your podcast episode. Your audience can pause and resume you at any time. And if they forgot or somehow don't know what they're listening to, they can usually glance at their media player.
Connected to this, podcasts are not radio shows. Just like I said in #5, “radio” is also a media-restrictive term. Yes, you can (and probably should) use “radio” terminology to help explain what you do. Here's a typical conversation I have with people:
Them: “What do you do?”
Me: “I'm an Internet broadcaster. Do you know what a podcast is?”
Them: (often) “No.”
Me: “A podcast is like a radio or TV show. I share opinions, answer questions, teach things, host interviews, and more talking. But to enjoy a radio or TV show, you have to tune it at just the right time on just the right station. A podcast is something you can subscribe to, often for free, so you automatically receive every episode on your smartphone, in your email, or even in your car. You can listen to or watch it at your convenience, and you can find shows that are about only what you care about.”
“Internet radio show” is similar to “neon black” or “Superbowl homerun”—it's an improper mix of terminology.
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Hey, some great suggestions! Something to think about during the production!
I’ve always had a hard time when describing what a podcast is. My friend always calls us Internet Radio, the exact term I try to avoid, but after that, people get it and then I can describe what we really are around that archaic term.
Yeah, it works. But I think using the word “like” helps prevent misuse.
we had the discussion with you about using a microphone in our podcast logo. I still believe that it can be the right decision if the podcast logo is a variation of the more general logo of the company/organisation/website.
In our case, we run “greenjobs.de” a job board for environment related jobs in Germany. And we have our own podcast. To me it still makes a lot of sense that we had you adapt our usual logo using also the picture of a mic. It signals: Here is not greenjobs.de the job board but greenjobs.de the podcast.
For those who are interested – you find both logos at http://blog.greenjobs.de/
Yes, I did like that logo. And that could be a great case for when it works better—an iconic change between strong branding for different media.
I’m not sure that I would call ignoring an international audience a cliche — the English major in me just doesn’t think that’s quite the right word for it — but it’s definitely a bad habit that a lot of podcasters have. However, I think that for some podcasts it’s not that egregious an omission if their topic is really specific to the U.S. (or any other country/region). For example, I have some friends who run a podcast about arts, food, and culture in a region of Northern Louisiana. It’s not an area like New Orleans or Baton Rouge that attracts a lot of international travelers, so the people who enjoy and listen to the podcast live in that area or visit that area often because they have relatives there, etc. It’s very much formatted as a community podcast. So while it’s always great to be more inclusive, the likelihood that they are alienating current and future listeners by not making more of an attempt to acknowledge international listeners is probably pretty small. But a podcast like theirs is definitely the exception rather than the rule.
Yes, cliché was a bit of a stretch for that one, but I could see that it’s something podcasters do all the time, making it almost a cliché thing. This is especially true when you consider Americans are typically perceived as only knowing or caring about America.
You nailed me on the mic in the cover art. I developed my cover art about 3 years ago when I was first starting and never looked back. I have been wanting to change it up over the last year but have not found the right stuff to replace it. Thanks for the reminder. I can do better.
Check out my Podcast Cover Art portfolio and you’ll see that I’ve done it before, too. 😛
Well I found some good things and bad things about my own clichés. I don’t have any problem with international listeners, and I don’t say I’m the best podcaster around. I was also happy with the absence of mics or headphones in my logo. And I’m such an enthusiast about podcasting that I have never ever thought about using the term “radio”, or acting as if I was on the radio, just because I think podcasting is so vastly superior to radio.
On the other hand, my show has “podcast” in its name, and I admit I regret that a bit, for the exact reasons Daniel explained.
That was a good show Daniel, don’t refrain from touching polemic subjects
After more feedback and consideration, I can see more cases for using “podcast” in the title, but I think “show” is more broad. Consider “The Dave Ramsey Show” and how silly it would sound as “The Dave Ramsey.”
So now I’m thinking that the more “generic” the title is, the more you can get away with adding “show” or “podcast” (if you really have to).
Great Episode! I am a podcaster in the formulating stage. Listening to what I like and don’t, watching for technical things that it would serve me to learn. Anyway everything here is helpful but I have a question regarding “imitating radio” I see it being very advantage to stick to a time framework that will lend itself to radio. i.e. A one hour show should last 59 minutes or less, it should contain areas for breaks at 20 minutes and 40 minutes. For my show on holistic health I plan on taking a break at those times (music segway) and then during that 60 second break insert a “one minute factoid (which would play through for podcast listeners) and I will say “we’re back” after the breaks. In this instance I think it is beneficial to “act like radio” because being picked up for broadcast by a radio station has to be a plus.
What do yo thinK?
Do you actually want to be picked up by terrestrial radio and think that’s a possibility? I’ve heard of many radio hosts who are finding far more success in podcasting.
Daniel, because of the great work that you do I have gotten better at using absolutes in relation to time. A significant chunk of my listenership is overseas. My audience is broken down between people living in New England, U.K./western Europe, and Australia/New Zealand. Every now and again I succumb to “later this week…the third week of June 2013 of course.”
#2 is something I am a victim of but on purpose. I co-founded and belong to a podcast network. In the intro to my shows I refer to the fact that my show(s) are the only whatever in the network. For example “Wargaming Recon is the only member of the Troll in the Corner Network to discuss historical and New England gaming.” Or, “Geeks Explicitly is the only member of the Troll in the Corner Network to discuss all aspects of geek life in a top 5 list format.” That’s a tad wordy but you get the idea. Other shows on the network cover other subjects. None of them cover my corner of the world. So, I embrace that and flaunt it. At the end of the episode I promote the other shows so that listeners can find other content they may enjoy.
As a rule I’d agree with you on #2. There are so many podcasts out there and so many people that it is hard to legitimately and factually make a claim using “the” “1” and “only.” I’d hope that nobody would ever use “best” in relation to their show. If a listener thinks a show is the best, then that is one thing. As you say it is too subjective. Besides, who are we as podcast hosts to toot our own horn? I’m simply grateful that anybody listens to either of my shows.
Great thoughts, Jonathan. Thank you!
Humm…. did you notice that when you where talking about “Ignoring international and time-shifted audiences”… you where speaking as though your audience was all american… Ignoring international audiences… LOL.
GREAT show love it… I found this podcast, just as I was feeling pushed into podcasting and it had been a great encouragement.
Andrew Drapper…. host of Bible Matters Podcast…. just two episodes in!
I just find it laughable that I was curious what your website looked like after finding you in iTunes and listening to this episode. You do know that you have a microphone and RSS symbol in your logo. Nothing like pointing out the obvious, right? I have missed podcasting and trying to develop going back to it. I have a podcast called GigglesTalk on Christian parenting. Topics, gear, and guests are not an issue. What I find to be issues is the fact that I have four young children so the only quiet time in our home is after 9pm. Do you have an episode I can listen to that may have tips on how to find the time to podcast when a quiet environment is limited?
LOVE the show – I’m eating up the episodes and can’t wait to get started up again (and redo my cover art as I have a Blue snowball mic pictured in it!).
Ha ha! Yes, I do have a mic and RSS in my logo, and I explained that in the podcast, too. I do talk about microphones and RSS, which are major icons to the art, technique, and technology of podcasting. So it makes good sense for me.
That’s a good suggestion for a topic! “How to find time to podcast.” I’ve referenced it here and there with tips like “create a schedule” and “don’t attempt too much.” But this would be good to dig into more.
Daniel J. Lewis