Tips for podcasters: Be passionate, genuine and vulnerable

Peter Wells shares tips for podcasters with radioinfo readers.

Over the last year I’ve had a chance to interview some of the world’s most interesting podcasters for a weekly column in ​The Age and Sydney Morning Herald​.

A few months back, I approached acast to help turn this column into a podcast, and the result is ​Meta, a podcast about podcasts​.

After countless hours over Zoom, Skype or whatever was available, I’ve learned what inspires my favourite podcasters, so I will share it with you here.

For independent podcasters like myself, it’s a hell of a lot of work, with no guarantee of success. But that never stopped​ Sarah Steele​, who turned her curiosity of cults into a successful podcast over time. ​Kate and Mandy of Too Peas in a Pod​ never planned on making money, they just wanted to connect with mothers in a similar situation, but their show has found a much larger audience.

I’m happy to see Meta is finding an audience but that wasn’t my motivation for starting the show. To steal a thought from ​Amanda Palmer​, “I use the podcast as an excuse… to just go very very deep with someone I wanted to befriend anyway, and I use it as my excuse to talk to them and cut through all of the small talk and the bullshit.”

Case in point; my journalist idol is Kara Swisher. For the last year I’ve tried to interview her for the column, ​but she only found time for the podcast​, and in amongst her trademark searing insights, she offered these words of inspiration.

“If you have a passion for something [do it], and I know you can’t eat with passion, but you really can. Any decision I’ve ever made in my career where I pick what I like has always worked out, something I enjoy doing versus not. And anytime I picked something that I didn’t like, it never worked out.”

Tom Merritt has often said he’d prefer one thousand dedicated listeners than a million fair-weather fans, and that’s what shapes his decisions as an independent podcaster.​ His advice is​ “be very genuine about what you’re doing. [Don’t] just play a role…”

It is a sentiment echoed by almost every podcaster I’ve spoken to. The most common word used when defining podcasting is intimacy; intimacy between the host and guest, intimacy between the host and listener.

Podcasters who have come to the medium from radio or television, like ​Sandra Sully​, Meshel Laurie,​ or ​Glenn Robbins​ will talk about how much they will reveal about themselves on a podcast, and in turn how much their guests are willing to share. If you’re not prepared to be vulnerable, podcasting may not be for you.

And with the millions of podcasts available, the only hope of standing out is to lean in to your personal idiosyncrasies, because in the end, that’s what will turn a listener into a fan. As Richard Parks III of ​Richard’s Famous Food Podcast​ says, “I think that you have to be different if you’re going to make a show. Why would you make a podcast if you didn’t have something different to offer in this incredibly crowded static world that we live in?”


About the Author

Peter Wells writes about technology and podcasts.

He interviews Australia’s best podcasters every week on his podcast, Meta.




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