Developing Your Show Structure
Now we're gonna talk about show structure and workflow, both of which are very important for weekly podcasts. So, you guys, I know since you're all here, you've listened to a lot of podcasts, so you're familiar with all the show formats, but I wanna run through them in kind of a, like, in a way where we can categorize them so that you can think, when you're developing your podcast, to fit yours into one of these categories. So, essentially all podcasts fit into one of these categories. I'm gonna go through them in a way where it's kind of like from least complicated production-wise to most complicated. The first one is definitely the easiest to produce. Host-on-mic is kind of self-explanatory. It's a podcast with one host, one microphone, very infrequently are there guests, and it's probably the easiest. If you're just an independent producer trying to make a podcast by yourself, this is a good option. So, it kind of is like, you can get a USB microphone and record yourself in a free a...
udio software, in Garage Band, and make a host-on-mic podcast, and it'll be great, you know? It's like a very, it's a relatively easy one to start out with. Examples of this are Akimbo, which I already talked about. That's Seth talking into the microphone for 20 minutes. He answers questions as well, some listeners are able to submit questions. This one does not have a title on it. It's called the Memory Palace. This is from Radiotopia, which Julie was just talking about Radiotopia. This is an amazing host-on-mic podcast. It's monthly, which is rare. It's really critically acclaimed. Basically, it features short and surprising stories from the past, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hysterical, often a little bit of both. These podcast episodes range from five minute episodes to sometimes they're like 30 to 45 minutes, so it's definitely an example of something where, as with all podcasts, you're not really restricted by the same rules that you might in other media, so you can kind of like, if one week you have five minutes of something to talk about, you can put on an episode like that, and if another week you have a lot to talk about, then you can put out a really long episode. So, these are host-on-mic. This is not as common of a podcast format, but there's a lot of success to be found there. Interview podcasts, probably the most common. Well, not the most common, I don't wanna say most common, but this is like what people think of when they think of a podcast, I think. This is a one-on-one interview between a host and a guest. For this kind of podcast, the rapport between the host and the guests is key, so if you're considering launching an interview-style podcast, it's definitely worth thinking about your interview skills, your interview tactics, and kind of developing those before you launch. I know there's sessions on this as well. So, that's something that, if you are the host, you need to spend some time figuring that out. Another thing to consider with interview-style podcasts, your editing skills, you don't need to be an amazing editor, but you have to know enough about editing to cut down the conversation. Honestly, even the most interesting and amazing talkers, two hours of their conversation can probably be edited into one hour or less and make it a little more concise. Again, on the contrary, there are definitely podcasts that the thing that people like about them, like Mark Maron's podcast, it's like two and a half hours long, The Read is like two hours long. So, it depends on your audience, but it's worth considering how to get kind of the best content out of those interview-style podcasts. Examples of this, probably the most legendary, iconic show of all time, Fresh Air with Terry Gross. This is a podcast that, is everyone familiar with Fresh Air? Probably. I mean, I think we all know, I mean, Terry Gross in her own right has reached celebrity status. I mean, the people who she interviews are honored and excited to be on her show, and so, she's, to me, whenever I am producing or preparing for an interview-style show, I listen to archives of Fresh Air, just for inspiration. WTF with Marc Maron. This is twice weekly. I love this example because he started this podcast in his garage, recording himself in Garage Band and not even editing himself. I think he just kind of would publish the file and send it to the people at Earwolf, and then he's interviewing Barack Obama and Paul McCartney in his garage. So, that's a great example of kind of you don't necessarily have to be an expert editor, you don't need to do a lot of sound design. If you're a great interviewer and you have great conversations with people, you can kind of just let that flow. Roundtable. This is, the roundtable podcast features more than one host, so it's basically any podcast that has more than one host. And often, a roundtable podcast will feature guests as well. So, these podcasts really, at their best, sound like a fun, entertaining conversation between friends. It's kind of like, when you're listening to these, you're just like a fly on the wall of a really fun conversation. So, with that in mind, the rapport between the hosts is really key, so if you're a producer or you're looking for a co-host for your podcast, if you're trying to develop a roundtable podcast, it's really worth finding a person that you have chemistry with or you think you can develop chemistry with, because it's really hard to fake that on air. It's like, you can kind of tell if the hosts are at odds or if they don't have chemistry. And at the same time, you can really, really tell when the hosts have an amazing chemistry, and when it's like two people that you just wanna listen to their conversations. Probably one of the first ones that I really felt that way about was Another Round with Heben and Tracy from Buzzfeed. They cover everything from race, gender, pop culture, to squirrels, mangoes, and bad jokes, all in one boozy show. The conceit of that show is that they get drunk at the beginning and throughout, which they do, and it's hilarious. I mean, it's like they could be talking about anything and it's entertaining. There was actually kind of, not a controversy, but having said that, even though they can just wind up and go because they have such an amazing rapport, that still requires a lot of production. Like, they prepare a lot for those interviews, they prepare a lot for the show. But it is a credit to them because I remember, at one point, critics were kind of like, this show is amazing, but it's just like two girls talking, like, it's not that deep. And they were kind of like, actually, we prepare for hours, and hours, and hours every week, so it's a compliment to them that it doesn't sound forced, that it sounds that easy, but even with shows like that, you still have to prepare and you have to kind of develop your format and your concept. Pod Save America, another really popular show. I'm sure everyone has heard an episode of this. Four former Obama aids are joined by journalists, and politicians, and they just have freewheeling conversations. That's another one that I think, when I listen to the best episode of Pod Save America, I just feel like I'm listening to my really smart friends talk, and it's kind of nice. And other times, that can kind of be irritating 'cause you're like, I don't need to be inside this conversation. But, at its best, they just sound like fun, smart, entertaining people. So, these last few that I'm gonna talk about, narrative style and, well, we'll get to scripted after this, but these are less conducive to a weekly podcast because the production level on these is typically really high, and it's hard to week by week produce a narrative podcast, but I think it's definitely worth considering and worth discussing because perhaps after doing a weekly podcast of like a host-on-mic or interview style, it's worth pursuing a project like this that might be a little more complicated. So, it's easiest to think of a narrative podcast as like an audio documentary. It's true stories with plots, characters, story arcs, and multiple scenes, the most ambitious and challenging production-wise. The best references of this, This American Life, which I don't even really need to get into, 'cause again, that's just like the gold standard of this. Mystery Show is my favorite podcast of all time. I encourage everyone to listen to the belt buckle episode. Just, I'm not gonna talk about it, but just do the belt buckle episode. This podcast is literally just a podcast where the host solves mysteries. Like, that's what she says. It's like, "I, in this podcast, will solve a mystery. "The stipulation: it can't be solved on Google." Like, you can't solve it online. So, another iconic episode of this is there was some controversy about how tall Jake Gyllenhaal is in real life, like Google kind of had conflicting data on that, and all you really, like, by the end of the episode, Starlee Kine is on The Colbert Show with Jake Gyllenhaal, measuring him with a tape measure. So, it's like a really crazy story arc that's really, it's just like, I love it. It was only one season because the production of it is so unpredictable and it's really, like, it's just, it's amazing. So, finally, after narrative, there's fiction or scripted podcasts. These are like the new wave. I think everyone has kind of heard about these. These, if a narrative is like an audio documentary, this is like a TV series or a feature film. It's a fictional story, it has screenplay-style scripts, actors, and pretty advanced sound design, so it's like, a lot of times it'll try to make it sound like it's in a different place than the studio. It's definitely a production. This, I love this for people who are trying to get into screenwriting because it's like a really cool opportunity to write a story and tell a story. If you're an aspiring screenwriter, it's much easier, even though it is very hard to produce these, it's much easier and less expensive and the barrier to entry is lower than producing or trying to produce a YouTube series or something like that. So, I think it's a cool opportunity for screenwriters. These are some really great ones. I love Homecoming. This was one of the first really famous ones that starred these huge name actors like Catherine Keener, and Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer. This, interestingly, I just saw this, is being adapted into an Amazon Prime series starring Julia Roberts and produced and directed by Sam Esmail, who did Mr. Robot. So, this is like an example, people in podcasting are talking about the podcasting to Hollywood pipeline, and it's definitely pretty apparent with scripted series that people are kind of taking those concepts and trying to figure out how you can produce them to make film. This is a really great one that I think not a lot of people really knew about because it was under a paywall for a little while when it first launched. But this is a podcast called Fruit. It was developed and produced by Isa Ray from Insecure, and it's about a football player who's struggling with his sexuality, and it's told in a first person narrative. So, it's like actors, and it's really cool.