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Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to Fail At Podcasting: From a Listener’s Perspective

The great thing about podcasting is that just about anyone can do it. The bad thing about it is that a hell of a lot of people try it, but end up producing a product that is of low quality, even if top-quality equipment and top-notch audio editing skills are employed.

Some of the below has been mentioned before, but I’ve extended the list and updated it to be more relevant and more clearly defined. Regardless, below are a few new and expanded ways to fail at podcasting.

Bringing all your friends into the podcasting world isn’t a bad idea, in principle. But, there is such a thing as too many damned people on a podcast at one time. For the listener, having any more than three people in the same podcast is basically like trying to listen to twelve people in real life without getting confused or disoriented when person #10 interrupts #3, who is then interrupted by #5, who comments on something #7 said, who originally had responded to #8’s question after #10 and #9 said something to #4 and #2 about something #1 had said to #Z…I mean #6. See what I mean?

Pull back. Three people is enough. It’s less confusing for you, less confusing for listeners, and certainly less confusing for any guests you might have. Podcrowding is a disaster waiting to happen. Listen to the podcasts that do this. Count how many minutes are wasted on things that have nothing to do with the actual podcast (i.e. the hosts being confused about who’s next to speak).

Not everyone has a voice for radio…err, podcasting. It’s not the kind of truth anyone wants to hear, but it’s the truth nonetheless. For me, one of the most annoying things any podcast can have is a host who is boring enough to put me to sleep. These hosts include people with monotone voices, people who take forever to say a simple sentence, people who are impossible to understand (possibly because they mumble), or people who simply have nothing interesting to say. Some of this can be fixed with practice; some of it can’t. Accept your limits, though. There’s nothing wrong with having a regular old blog. Sometimes your voice is best served by the written word. Don’t put your audience to sleep.

One of my biggest beefs with the podcasting community is that it constantly repeats itself, particularly in the fiction aspect. I’ve stopped listening to a number of podcasts because they stopped being about fresh content and instead became devoted to being a platform for plugging other “big names” in the podcasting world. The thing is, most of what was a novelty about podcasting went out of fashion almost two years ago. It’s not “new” anymore, and anyone doing a podcast isn’t doing something that hasn’t been done before (unless you’re actually doing something new with the form, which is something to note). Podcasting has become, in some circles, a giant circlejerk. For some listeners, like myself, it’s a podkiller. Even if the repeat offenders have something new to plug, they often repeat some of the same things they said the last time. It makes for some rather dull content.

If a podcast is about you, then it should be clearly defined as such. Mur Lafferty, for example, makes it damn clear that her podcast is about her (though she has branched out to include interviews with authors and the like). Unless your podcast is actually about you, however, don’t use it as a secret way to plug yourself. Why? It’s frakking annoying. If you do interviews with authors, then make sure the interviews are about them. When you start trying to relate everything to yourself, it not only irritates, but makes you look like a self-centered jackass. If you want to talk about yourself, then make a podcast about yourself; otherwise, don’t waste the listener’s time.

When every single podcast you release begins or ends with you apologizing for something you failed to do in relation to the podcast, then there is a problem. Occasionally apologizing is perfectly acceptable; all of us have time constraints, personal problems, and the like that can get in the way with an extracurricular activity like podcasting. Still, if you’re going to promise something, and then never deliver, then you need to reassess your podcast model. Apologizing for some failure on your part every single time is both annoying and also drawing attention to the fact that you kind of suck. Either get with the program, or change the way you do things. Leave the apologizing to truly unexpected issues.

Now I want to know what you think is a quick way to fail miserably at podcasting. What has annoyed you in the past?

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  1. This begs the questions:
    1) Which podcasts are your favorites?
    2) Which ones have offended?

  2. Favorites:
    --Adventures in Scifi Publishing
    --Dead Robots Society
    --The Agony Column
    --The Dragon Page
    --The Future and You (I only listen to some episodes)

    I listen to a lot of other podcasts, but I wouldn't call them favorites.

    Offending Parties:
    Podcrowding -- Bookbabble

    Poddroning -- Off the Shelf (good god almighty)

    Podrepeating -- Mur Lafferty, Dragon Page, etc. The entire podcast community basically does this. I've stopped downloading episodes containing people I've heard five times before.

    Podplugging -- Ghost in the Machine (Gail Z. Martin's podcast: she runs it like an interview podcast, but then uses her questions to the interviewees to talk about herself. She sometimes spends more time talking than her guests. I've yet to buy any of her books.)

    Podologizing -- There were a few podcasts back in the day that did this (Dead Robots Society did it for a while), but they were all smart enough to learn. I think the podcasts that spend their time apologizing end up dying. Those that are destined to survive for a while grow up.

    There you go!