6 Podcasts to help you learn how to Podcast
Audio is a medium we are constantly engaging with. Otherwise we would be deaf. Their are a tonne of times when we can listen but not watch or read(trust me I have been listening and making my own podcasts for years). So lets say you want to jump on the Serial bandwagon(this must be our third bandwagon, second being the comedy podcast boom, the first being the very birth of the podcast. When will media commentators just see that actually podcasts are kinda sexy); here are few tips and shows that you should pay attention to if you want to make a podcast worth listening to. This is part of a series of articles that shows how to make a great podcast by looking at shows that work and do things well or not.
1. The Bulletin with UBS.
The Bulletin with UBS is a 15 minute weekly ad. It is a show that promotes UBS financial analysts, produced by the Monocle 24 team. The programme breaks down what happened in the world of finance for the week and gives you the experts at UBS, though not always, take on the week. If you are not interested in finance or it frightens you, why should you care? Its structure is why.
Its structure takes advantage of the simplicity of audio. Fundamentally, its a presenter with a script that cuts to soundbites of UBS experts. What it achieves however, is a narrative and story that you can follow. This structure could not only be applied to finance but other disciplines. What it creates is a whimsical but comprehensive take on the weekly financial news. For instance if you wanted to a create news warp up programme, you can have a presenter with the script weaved with soundbites from guests. Creating a flow and a sort of meta narrative for the week that was.
2. Reasonably Sound.
Better known for his YouTube channel, PBS Idea Channel. Mike Rugnetta’s Reasonably Sound is a podcast about the aesthetical and technical aspects of sound. Its a podcast I have yet to unsubscribe to. I find myself tuning out of the content but I don’t remove it because of the presentation style. This might be easier to explain with contrasting PBS idea channel.
Mike’s delivery for this channel is mildly energetic, pacy and upbeat. If you let me conjecture for a bit, that is the YouTube House Style(though his is much more refined and less shouty than some I can’t un-watch) which Mike and his team feel they should be in the shape of to discuss the channels topics in a meaningful way. Whereas with Reasonably Sound:
Mike is slow, measured, deliberate and quiet. As if whispering in your ear(which if you pull your earbud out, he kinda is). You are aware of the emptiness of the room. Their is only Mike and no mike. It sounds infectious when its in audio. Video not so much. You should also note his use of sound. It is sparing and demonstrative but his use of sounds doesn’t make him a teacher instructing in front of you but rather sitting beside you and showing you what he is talking about.
For a list of shows to listen to for making a podcast, how could I not mention Radiolab. NPR’s New York affiliate, WYNC makes this show. Radiolab is show about curiosity and mystery. Starting off by looking at the intersection of science and philosophy, it has expanded to encompass history, politics, sports, music and so on.
What makes Radiolab extraordinary is that it could not be done in any other medium. Radiolab distorts space. By mixing and overlaying sound with the interviews, the presenters’ voiceover and sounds to illustrate and augment what is being talked about. Its like being in a vortex with everything spinning slowly with the two presenters, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, chatting casually about an amazing story; a college of sound, coming from all angles that creates a formless, engrossing and addictive storytelling style. Unless you are a former conductor like one of the presenters, Jad Abumrad, do not mimic this show but take inspiration from it and see how you apply it in your show.
4. Monocle 24.
Ok not a show but their are two points to note from this internet radio station
- Jingles and Intros/Outros: Just start listening to the station or any of the programmes. All except maybe The Foreign Desk have a unified sound. I’m afraid I can’t be specific of what instruments were used but the aesthetics invoke a worldly cosmopolitanism. If you know this media brand, this is the essence of Monocle. Consider what your podcast essence is and put that into your podcast music. Radio stations and some podcasts have this mishmash overproduced sound that is just awful that doesn’t say anything about the station or show. Its just to wake you up into listening to them. Don’t do that. It sucks. I do also just love the giggles and music (sadly more than the programmes) of the station and thinking everyone should listen to see what can be done.
- One issue I have with this station is that their shows aren’t shows, they are containers for reports and interviews with nothing relating to anything else. It hinders listening because you have no perspective or sense or purpose when listening. Nothing to hook into. I find it hard to listen to the programmes because unlike say with Radiolab’s shows, they aren’t connected or you not given a compelling reason to keep listening. It could also be that I have listened to too much of Monocle 24 and am just tried of them. Regardless, you need to justify your length and give a reason for you show to be 15 minutes or 2 hours.
5. Slack Variety Pack.
Slack is a hot start up that provides a chatroom with hashtags for businesses. Why they are doing a podcast is only known to them but it is an interesting show to look at. Slack Variety Pack is a variety show of things that relate to what Slack is about (office life, productivity, technology are some of the topics in its editorial scope). Over its half hour runtime, we get a few stories or segments on those topics. It sounds like a 90’s MTV show. Tons of audio effects and music that goes all over place that is just to be exciting and not much else. This show and its overproduced sounds is usually the kind of thing that in media production courses and as a general rule when making audio are what you should not do; yet it just(and I mean just) about gets away with it.
Although I should note that they seemed to have toned it down since the first episode. Listen to the second episode to see what I mean.
A audio show shouldn’t be just the facts as you can get that in much better forms. Most podcasts should show personality from their presenters or some colour or small talk in some form. However make sure you rein that in though otherwise you get something like Isometric. Isometric is a video game podcast which takes video game news and issues of the day from three difference perspectives: a developer, a journalist and an games enthusiast. A strong premise for a podcast but when you listen to the show, who is the developer and who is the enthusiast is not so clear cut despite the premise saying it is. Each episode opens with some banter between the presenters which is good however when it takes over half of the show, you should cut it short. Click here for example
There are six shows to take a listen to for making a podcast. I have two more articles in this series that look specifically at two genres of podcast: Comedy and Design.
Words: Sebastian Stephenson