Most of the art of making a good podcast is also the art of making good radio, and I’m not here to teach you that (but please use a decent microphone, edit it at least a bit). However, there are a few important things that are specific to podcasts. Some of these may seem obvious, but they’re all things that a lot of people get wrong.
There is almost no benefit in giving a spoken word mp3 at a higher bitrate than half a megabyte per minute*, and there are plenty of disadvantages. Putting out a podcast twice as big as that wastes your bandwidth and ours, and many people thinking about downloading it will be pushed for space on their devices. Until I upgraded my phone’s storage I hardly ever downloaded podcasts bigger than 50MB for this reason.
- Episode titles
If at all possible, give every episode an informative and concise title. The date it went out is not informative. You don’t need to include the name of the podcast in the title of every episode, and you definitely don’t need to include the word ‘podcast’; bear in mind that podcatching software often truncates titles if they’re too long, so if you want to tell us which episode number it is, maybe just put ‘#73’ instead of ‘Episode number 73’.
- Podcast titles
Your potential listeners are likely to be looking up your podcast in an alphabetical list, if they ever actively feel like listening to it. So only include the word ‘The’ or the name of your broadcaster or production company in the title if you’re really convinced we’ll expect it to be there. If you call it something completely different from what we think of it as being called, we will be confused.
- Episode descriptions
Try to come up with a couple of sentences describing every episode. It doesn’t have to say much, but if it just says ‘Analysis of news and current affairs’, your audience will be sad. If your description is just a transcript of the entire episode, it’s really great that you’ve got a transcript up, but I don’t think that’s the place for it.
This one’s arguable, but be aware that – much more than for radio – quite a lot of your audience will be trying to get to sleep, if not during the episode then shortly afterwards. If you’ve ever been jolted back from the very edge of sleep by sudden jangling noisy music, you’ll understand why I wish more podcasters would either ditch their end-of-show jingles, or at least swap them for something short and gentle.
I hope these tips are helpful. My list is doubtless coloured by the fact I use Podkicker to listen to podcasts, and other software will make different things seem like problems. I’d be curious to hear about other people’s experiences, especially if you think some of these things are not mistakes at all.
I comment on most of the radio and podcasts I listen to: @OolongListens
* Audacity exports mp3s this big when set to 64kbps, although I can’t make sense of that mathematically.