No one was more surprised than me to find out that podcasting is a… thing.
Didn’t podcasting die out back in the mid-2000s? Whenever I conducted user interviews back then, NO ONE ever listened to podcasts.
But then in 2014, I added the “do you listen to podcasts?” question back to my discussion guide template. And to my surprise, I’ve since interviewed lots of people who regularly listen to podcasts. Not only that, but most people I know in real-life listen, too.
2 Things I’ve Learned About Podcast Listeners
During my official (and unofficial) research about podcasting, there are 2 things I’ve learned:
- People either listen to them consistently or they don’t listen at all. I meet very few “casual” podcast listeners.
- People usually listen to podcasts about their profession or hobbies. If no [industry here] podcasts exist, few people in that industry seem to listen to podcasts in general.
15 Tips for Improving the Podcast User Experience
Quick confession. Since re-discovering podcasts, I have become a little obsessed. I listen to them in the car, on my walks, while I’m eating breakfast, and when I’m too tired to read a book. Over the past year, I’ve probably listened to 200+ podcast episodes. (There were a few very long road trips last year.)
Here are my thoughts on how B2B podcasts could be better from the point-of-view of a user experience designer:
1. Choose short, peppy intro music.
I’ve stopped listening to new podcasts simply because the music is drawn out too long or is too melancholy. I think of it like a website that takes too long to load. Check out Tim Ferriss’ intro as a stellar example. It’s short, it’s upbeat, it’s memorable.
2. Front-load your keywords in the podcast title.
- First, ditch the podcast episode number. Bloggers don’t do this (Blog Post #123: UX Tips for Better Podcasting). Besides, including it in the episode title just wastes valuable real estate.
- Secondly, the way that I find new podcasts is by searching for interesting people featured in other podcasts or authors of books I like. Don’t tack on the interviewee’s name at the end of the title… no one will ever see it.
- Thirdly, write descriptive titles. “Big Data” as a podcast title is practically useless. Better? “Big Data Trends in Retail” or “Big Data Tools for Marketing Managers.”
3. Be actionable or interesting.
- Know your audience very well. Invite your listeners to submit topic ideas, or pitch your ideas on Facebook or Twitter to see what resonates.
- Ask your interviewee for actionable tips your listeners can use today. One of my favorite examples of an actionable podcast is WDW Prep School. Each week, Shannon packs in tons of specific advice for first-time visitors to Disney World.
- Do your homework, and don’t ask the same interview questions everyone else does. Dig deeper. If I hear one great interview, I’ll go find that same person on other podcasts to see what else they have to say.
4. If the episode ends up being boring or the guest is obnoxious, don’t publish it.
Give yourself permission to not publish every episode you record. If the interview made you uncomfortable or yawn, tank it. Live and learn, then do more due diligence next time to ensure your interviewee will be upbeat and interesting.
5. Hire an editor.
A good one, if you can afford it. Having the podcast interrupted by barking dogs or ringing phones in the background is tolerable every so often, but not every episode.
6. Don’t sound like you’re about to fall asleep.
(I’m not kidding, this is a common problem.) No matter how interesting the topic, you won’t hold anyone’s attention if the podcaster isn’t buoyant. Smile while you talk. We’ll be able to hear it.
7. Make audio quality a top priority.
Find out which equipment top-tier podcasters use. Beg or borrow to find as good quality. Too often it sounds like the podcast interview is being conducted on an old cellphone or in an airplane hangar. Test the sound quality before hitting record, then reschedule if it’s not perfect. Check out this Julian Treasure TedTalk if you think background noise isn’t a big deal.
8. Don’t start podcasting unless you plan to stick to it.
I think it can erode your brand if fans see you abandon the medium after just a few attempts. Audience-building and “finding your voice” takes time. Perhaps plan to commit to it for at least a year. Or “bank” several episodes before you even launch.
9. Publish your podcast on a consistent basis.
If you publish new episodes on Sunday mornings, publish every Sunday morning. When my favorite podcasters don’t publish consistently, I go off in search of new favorites.
10. Cut out the small talk.
The “banter” between co-hosts at the beginning of too many podcasts is rarely endearing. Inside jokes and references to people you both know make your new listeners feel like outsiders.
11. Include resources and links in the show notes.
“Show notes” is podcast-speak for “summary of the episode.” Also, always write show notes — but be descriptively succinct. Often, if I find a new podcast that doesn’t have show notes, I move on.
12. Don’t repeat tips shared from other popular podcasts.
Always assume your listeners are avid podcast users. It’s a big turn-off to hear one podcaster steal — word-for-word — ideas from another (especially in the same week).
13. Have an angle.
If your industry or niche is already crowded, you have to stand out by making it clear how your podcast is different. Help new listeners get a sense of what your show is about with descriptive titles, show notes, and podcast topics within a distinct theme.
14. One introduction per episode please.
I don’t understand why so many podcasters do this… They introduce the show topic, then a “professional” announcer introduces the show topic, and then the podcaster comes back and introduces the topic a third time.
15. Skip the cheesy clip art on your podcast thumbnail.
I see this less and less as new podcasts come on board, thank goodness. Put your best foot forward with high-quality design.
If you already podcast or your organization is planning to start one, make sure the listener experience is baked into the strategy and also aligned with your overall brand strategy.
What do you want your listeners to feel and think? What do you want them to do? Share it with their friends? Take an action? Laugh aloud?