Have you ever noticed that some of our favorite podcasts follow a certain path on every show? For example, one of my favorite tech podcasts follows a very predictable pattern. There’s a small preshow banter, followed by any announcements or housecleaning issues. Next they go into follow up, then they get to the News or Featured Topics of the week. Finally, they have a Q&A segment, and possibly some post credit banter. Strangely, this format is also done by the majority of long form tech podcasts, and at least one comedy podcast co-hosted by someone who also appears on these same tech podcasts
I say all of this to say that this didn’t come along by accident. One podcast started this format, and a co-host or a guest on that show liked it, and used it on their podcast, and so on. It’s easy and predictable. Also, because a lot of these particular podcasts are produced on Macs, they can embed chapter marks in their podcasts so that the listener can scrub through things they don’t care about.
Using a template to map your podcast out may be one of the smartest things you can do for your podcast. Here are four reasons why you may want to consider it.
IT STREAMLINES YOUR SHOWPREP
I can’t tell you how many times I have sat down in front of my microphone, loaded up Audio Hijack, hit record…and nothing came out. My brain literally switched off the second I hit that record button. A lot of the time I’ll sit down with an idea of what I want to talk about, but it’s not fully formed or mapped out. Learning to fly by the seat of my pants was something I had to learn how to do early on. You never knew if you were going to be stuck on mic because somebody or something left you hanging, so you needed the ability to just go, and try to sound intelligent. As podcasters, we have the luxury of hitting stop if we don’t sound the way we’d like, but what if we don’t sound like ANYTHING? We draw a blank? Knowing that you have, say, four segments to your show that need to be filled with specific content makes your job easier when it comes time to find that content and plug it into your template. SHOWPREP becomes easier, and you’re not breaking your brain thinking of something to say out of the blue with no content to support it. I find — and you may as well — that it is easier to talk about something than it is to make something up to talk about.
IT TEACHES YOUR LISTENERS
One of the common bits of feedback I have received from time to time is that my other show follows no specific format. Now in the case of that’s show, it’s by design. I like RoleyShow to be as freeform as possible, and what I talk about on Monday may be 180 degrees removed from Tuesday’s show. I think my listeners have come to expect that my show is about as frenetic as I am, so they have learned that I jump around. Ive made that change after years of podcasting a different way. If you’re just starting out, or if you’re podcasting about a particular niche, then it might be a good idea to make use of a show template. It makes your podcast what some folks might call ‘snackable’. Maybe I don’t need to hear follow up, I can scrub right through that. Maybe I just want to hear the main idea of your show. Maybe I sent in a question or a comment and I want to skip straight to that. If you’re consistently using a show template, it helps your listeners go to where they want to go in your show for what they want.
Now, some of you might be saying that making the show skippable in that way hurts the show. I think exactly the opposite. Make your show as listener friendly as possible, and they’ll keep listening in the long run. That long run is much more valuable to you than today or this week.
IT PROVIDES NATURAL STOPPING POINTS
Unless you’re doing an interview show or another kind of show where you need to keep rolling all the way through, I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to do a podcast all in one take. If you’re using a show template, then you can hit stop, save your file and move on to the next segment. Take a short break or a stretch to get yourself back to center, hit record and keep going. That way you can sound fresh and engaging all the way through the show. Some hosts start blazing, but after about 10 minutes, you can hear the voice starting to get raspy, their energy level is fading, and by the time the show is ending both you AND the host are ready for it to be over. Don’t be like that.
Also, if you’re planning to monetize your podcast in some way, these stopping points are the perfect place for ads or other kinds of monetization alternatives. Back in the early days I remember one very big podcaster putting in mid rolls for their show, and it certainly lived up toit’s name: These ads would literally drop in the middle of sentences. But the time you got back to the show, you forgot what they were saying. That’s poor practice, and you’ll lose listeners that way after too terribly long. Create space for those opportunities by being able to finish thoughts before moving on to an Ad.
IT MAKES REPURPOSING CONTENT EASIER
What if those segments could be repurposed into blog posts, or Medium articles, or Linked in or IGTV videos? The larger your reach out from your podcast, the more attention your podcast will get. The way to do that is to consider making parts of your podcast — these separated segments — available in other formats at other places, with a link back to your website or wherever your podcast home is. Ideally, you’ll have your own dot com, but that’s a story for another day.