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.
Upcoming Podcasters' Roundtable about media hosting
We're planning to host another Podcasters' Roundtable on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. We have a great panel to talk about media hosting—when you do and don't need it, the expenses, and more. Please join us on Google+ or get episode 14 later from PodcastersRoundtable.com.
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