Nobody likes an unfinished story. TV shows and Radio shows often leave you foaming at the mouth with unanswered questions due to their episodic nature, like “Who was that person?” or “Why did she do that?”. Just like an exciting cliffhanger, you should leave your podcast listeners wanting more! Here are a few ways of how it’s done right and how you can use them for your podcasts.
Listeners don’t stick around for long without peaking their interests. You have about 30 seconds (max) to dedicate some captivating words to the listener about what you are going to talk about in your podcast. Think of it like a very short interview where you have to showcase the best bits, for example:
“Hi, I’m Tim and welcome along to The Fishy Dishy Podcast! Today, we’re looking at how to prepare and cook bass in under 30 minutes, with a very special guest towards the end, so be sure to stick around!”
An introduction sets up the episode and what’s to come, essentially peaking the listener’s interests. There’s a few different ways other podcasters do this, for example, the Repeat Customer podcast introducers the presenter, what the show is about, and then dives straight into the episode with a line like “I’m about to go somewhere I’ve NEVER been before…”
There's a few other ways of doing this, like Welcome to Night Vale and the Cryptonaturalist's approach fo starting off each episode with some quirky, mysterious line to hook the listener, and then having the familiar jingle afterwards. Whatever you choose, the point is to hold your audiences attention.
If you think like a listener, you will start to understand what people want from your podcast. You need to be empathetic and know their different points of view. The middle ground between what you want to talk about and what listeners like to hear might be the best option. Let friends listen to your finished podcast before it goes live to get feedback.
Treat other podcasts similar to yours as like a canary in the mine. See what they’re doing and how listeners are responding to them. You never know, you could learn a thing or two from watching other people’s mistakes.
Podcasts come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are 10 mins long, whilst others are 2 hours long! Just take a quick listen to a usual episode from This Week in Tech from TWiT.
It’s super long right!? That’s because they have a lot to say. How long your podcasts should be entirely depends on what you have to say. If you’re not sure if you should condense your content down or expand on it, look to others to see what they’re doing. For example, the importantrecords podcast ranges between 5-20 minutes, The Daily and 99% Invisible stay between 20-30 minutes, and Internet History Podcast is around 50-60 minutes.
Although, podcasts with a runtime of an hour maybe interesting, it can be difficult for listeners to stay focused and engaged the entire way through. All of your episodes don’t need to be the same duration though. Varying the length of your episodes or splitting them into multiple parts is a better way to get more out of your content, just like TV does with regular episodes.
There’s a reason why podcasts and TV shows space out their content evenly. Regular episodes are a way to let people know when your shows get released. It’s habit forming and helps for attracting repeat visitors. Just look at TED Talks Daily, a podcast that releases episodes every week day.
On the flip side, releasing episodes randomly or not publishing for long periods can have a negative effect. As people don’t know when to expect an episode, they often move onto the next thing and may even forget about your podcast completely. For example, SuperMeta randomly publish episodes, which can seem off putting for regular listeners.
Publishing too often also has its downsides. Having an overabundance of something can leave your listeners lagging behind and sometimes drop off completely. As the old saying goes, there can be “too much of a good thing”.
Publishing episodes regularly, like every week, is a nice balance for your to plan episodes and keeps listeners in the know. Even once a month can work. Take the LSE IQ podcast, they upload shows (along with videos) monthly. Even though their content is pretty spaced out, it works for them.
Depending on your type of podcast you can have some fun with how you present content. Using cliffhangers, teases for the next episode, and leaving listeners with unanswered questions are all good ways to really leave listeners wanting more.
Take story based shows like Welcome to Night Vale. Episodes are treated more like dramas, so leaving listeners with lingering questions fits in with their narrative. Have a listen to this episode towards the end:
The best sort of ending is one with a strong finish. Take cinema as an example, they’re split into a three act structure:
1. Setting up the story.
2. Journey to the objective/confrontation.
Most people remember the start and end of films, but not the middle part as much. Podcasts usually work in a similar fashion, that’s why your episodes should have both a strong start and end. The latter is a good opportunity to inform your listeners, like if you’ve just released a new book (and where to buy it), an upcoming event you’re attending, or where they can go to subscribe to your podcast if they haven’t already.
Alternatively, use your ending as way to thanks those that helped out producing your podcast or guests that took part. For example, true crime podcast In the Dark does this every episode.
It’s a nice little touch to acknowledge the hard work that goes into making these types of shows.
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