While Nozomi and I were out for our evening walk, I did something different that would have likely appeared odd to anyone watching. When the weather is nice, the puppy and I generally walk over to the benches along the first base line of the nearest baseball diamond and just sit for a while. This gives her some time to observe the world go by while I get to rest my ears from all the noise that generally orbits an incredibly energetic young child. However, rather than sit in silence, I attached a Zoom iQ6 microphone to my phone, fired up Hindenburg Field Recorder, and spoke for 12 minutes about why I haven't made any of my own podcasts for well over two years1. The gist is that I'm boring and, until something interesting comes along, it doesn't make sense to plan, record, edit, and distribute a show.
What might make me more interesting to listen to?
When I used to put a podcast out several times a week one of the most common criticisms was that the topics were too varied. Aside from Discover ADN and the limited run from Dog Days of Podcasting in 2015, no show with more than 10 episodes had a consistent topic. Doubtfully Daily Matigo was by far the most egregious example of this and it was even part of the intro:
A short podcast, never longer than 24-hours, where I get to discuss whatever happens to be on my mind.
With this in mind, if I want to create a podcast for people to subscribe and listen to, it will need to meet some criteria.
A Limited-Run Series
Several years have passed since I was last heavily invested in a personal podcast project. Having a show with no specific end date in mind can allow a person to ease into a show and build a rhythm, but this can also result in a lot of aimlessness. This is what I feel killed a bunch of the shows I used to enjoy from 5by5 and Relay.fm back when these networks started to wane in popularity. Having a show with a planned ending point generally results in a better-focused show with new episodes building on the previous conversations.
A Niche Topic
A common topic like current events or sports can certainly appeal to a wide audience, but generally results in an over-crowded market. A good, niche topic can allow a creator to explore a subject without feeling rushed or as though they're competing with hundreds of better-funded, well-staffed productions. One of the downsides of going with a niche topic, though, is that the largest audience will likely not learn of the show while it's running. This means that the episodes will need to stay online long after the series comes to an end to allow the highest number of listens.
Hosts with Chemistry
This is a hard one to "manufacture", which is why podcasts generally work better when its friends or colleagues working together. When hosts know each other well, conversations can become incredibly interesting to listen to as there's little reason to speak in a guarded fashion. Playful teasing can also come across as more natural and add a bit of fun to a show.
The hosts need to care about the niche topic a little more than the average person. The hosts need to have opinions — ideally opinions that are at odds with each other on occasion. From here there can be a healthy debate about the subject where, hopefully, arguments can be laid out and explored. If one person can walk away having learned something, chances are someone listening to the show will do the same.
A Defined Target Audience
For the kind of podcast that I've been describing, having a clearly-defined target audience will make it possible to know the kind of language the shows should have and generally who it is that will be listening. If a person is going to create a show for beginners in a subject, then it's important to ensure buzz words and other topic-specific language is defined in a way for new people to quickly understand and learn. The inverse is also true, as professionals may not want to listen to a show that is too simplistic or shallow.
Which means …?
I'll admit that I've been thinking about starting up a limited-run podcast that looks at the use of modern technology in education and what challenges need to be overcome. This is a topic that I've been involved in through work for a number of years and is something that I am quite involved with on a daily basis. I write software that gets used in schools, after all. The target audience would be people in similar roles, perhaps not software developers themselves, but actively involved in finding new and interesting ways of implementing tools that aid in the learning process. What I'm missing, however, is a co-host. Someone to discuss the subject with. What I would like to do is find someone with a different set of opinions and expectations, as this would result in a more meaningful debate. Ideally we'd have similar objectives while arguing the implementation details.
Would there be time for such a thing, though? Podcasting has certainly become easier in the last few years, but there is still a lot of work involved.