Du Malone writes: I like podcasts as a medium. In my professional work, in the field of research and communication, I listen to podcasts a good deal, as a way of learning about such topics as communication and business.

So when I discovered that there were some FM podcasts available, I looked forward to listening to them as a source of learning and entertainment.

And, indeed, from listening I have picked up some good ideas about FM.

Overall, however, I confess that I’ve been rather disappointed. It feels to me as though, when it comes to media for FM content, podcasting lags behind some other forms.

Certainly, I find over the years I’ve done much less listening than I expected to, though I do still do some regular listening.

So I’ve been reflecting on what has turned me off and what that might imply about ways to do things better.

But before running through the list I should explain how I came up with it. My suggestions aren’t based on experience: I’ve never made even a single podcast episode.

They’re based merely on working out what I don’t like and then working out how the problems, as I perceive them, could be avoided.

Suggestions

  1. In English, we can use a phrase like ‘Hi, how are you?’ in two ways. It can mean either (a) ‘Hello’ or (b) ‘I’m enquiring about your health or well-being’. I suggest that in podcasts the meaning should definitely be restricted to the latter, especially when there are more than two speakers. Otherwise, if each person feels obliged to give anything other than a cursory response the intros can take an age. For my money, something along the lines of ‘Welcome to the XX podcast. I’m YY. This week’s topic is ZZ and with me to discuss it are AA, BB, and CC’, followed immediately by the beginning of the discussion proper, would be great. We could all be underway, and engaged, within seconds.
  2. There follow three mini-points that I think are related to each other:
    1. Where possible, it would be good to hear female voices. I’ve heard it suggested that female players of FM might have different perspectives from male players. I don’t know whether that’s true. But it’s certainly true that female voices sound different and would provide greater variety of pitch and tone.
    2.  Bantz. Perhaps I’m showing my age here, as a grumpy old man — but it strikes me that, as a rule, banter does tend to be rather more entertaining to the in-group performing it than to others.
    3. Bad language and innuendo. I’ve written about this before, so rather than repeat myself I’ll just give the link here: https://blackseafm.com/2020/03/10/the-language-of-online-fm-content-a-practical-tip/. Here I’ll just add that, when I go to podcasting site to see what episodes are available and regularly encounter a flag saying something like ‘Explicit’, I do find myself asking ‘Why does it have to be so?’
  3. Music is governed by copyright. Fortunately, thanks not least to Creative Commons licences, it’s often possible legally to play music that you don’t own and for which you haven’t paid permission. (Dan Slee has written a good post on this general topic: https://danslee.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/free-sites-how-to-find-royalty-free-music-for-your-next-video/.) But many such licences require attribution and I can’t remember the last time I heard such attribution given. If you’re using somebody else’s music, surely inserting a ‘Thanks to XX for making that music, YY, available’ is the ethical thing to do?
  4. My main suggestion is simply to impose a time limit. With most podcasts, less would be more. If everyone involved in a discussion knows there’s a limit, they’ll focus more on saying what most needs to be said. As a result, pace and quality are likely to improve. Opinions will vary on what the optimum length might be. My suggestion is that 30 minutes might be about right.

To avoid misunderstanding, I should say that, though the above suggestions are offered with the aim of making things more more professional, I’m not suggesting that podcasts should become totally so, like some slick radio show. If they were to become so, they might well lose charm.

In a nutshell

But overall it seems to me there are two parties involved in a podcast — the producers (broadly defined) and the listeners — and that, since the value of any communication must surely lie not in what is said but rather in what is conveyed, it is the latter party that matters more.

Most of my suggestions, therefore, are based simply on an ethic of respect for listeners and their time.

I dare say that opinions on these matters will vary.

 

Image credit: Læring rett i lomma by Bent Kure, generously made available under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

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