I’m not going to start this blog with an appeal for patience from you. I’m not going to apologize in advance and ask for forgiveness. You do not care that this is my first blog. You do not want to read an “oh gosh” moment of sincerity from me where I highlight my vulnerability in an attempt to solicit some empathy from you.
So why is this so common in podcasting? Slate producer of The Gist Andrea Silenzi put together a little montage that shows just how common this trope has become in podcasting. Have a quick listen.
And now pick up your smartphone and gently rock it in your arms. Or if you are less fond of things that are cloying, smash it. I am not a fan of cloying but I, like Andrea, believe this particular affect is on its way out. And the reason it is on its way out is that podcasting is growing up and becoming professional.
Andrea describes a great scene where she and some other Panoply network producers are invited by a French media executive to lunch to talk podcasting. Andrea offers the exec this advice:
“You don’t have to be an expert to have a podcast, just be honest with your audience. Tell them, hey I’m new at this, bear with me while I learn how to podcast. They’ll find it endearing.”
The French media executive laughed and shook her head and said, “That’s a very American notion.”
The truth is, it’s not just an American or North American notion. There are plenty of European podcasts from professors and amateurs and institutions that have no structure, sound like they are recorded inside a water tank and are very often not interesting; at least, not to the non-specialist.
And there is nothing wrong with this. The great beauty of podcasts is their ease and accessibility. My father-in-law is an enormous train buff. He enjoys watching videos of various trains rumbling down a range of tracks. The videos aren’t high quality. Generally, amateur videographers record them for the enjoyment of amateur aficionados. He loves them. But he would be the first to agree they do not tap into the full power of video to engage an audience, to move it deeply and to tell stories that stick.
Podcasting is at a turning point where a natural sorting is beginning to occur between amateur and professional productions. Professional productions will have narrative structure, strong characters and program flow that builds in tension and release.
As audiences become more familiar with podcasts, their expectations will grow more sophisticated. This presents a tremendous opportunity for organizations ready to take full advantage of the power of audio programs.
On the flipside, it is becoming increasingly risky for organizations to signal they are producing an amateur podcast. The audience will come to the conclusion you are as you sound. And when they do, they will choose to not bear with you.