The podosphere is a vibrant, exciting place to be. It introduces you to people all over the world, and because you hear their voices, you feel as though you really know them. Podcasts provide a terrific free education in almost any subject. They offer a cure for the boredom of rush-hour traffic and long lines at the grocery store, and an alternative to the bland, lowest-common-denominator programming afflicting commercial radio.
But, as I wrote in ‘Why I Don’t Podcast,’ producing a podcast takes a lot of time. Not everyone can podcast. Not everyone should podcast. I have a terrible name for an audio environment. You might have a voice like fingernails on a blackboard. But whatever your reason for not producing your own show, don’t let not podcasting keep you out of the podosphere. There are hundreds of podcasters who will give you ’airtime’ for the asking—and thank you for it.
Comments are king in the world of podcasting. Podcasters love to hear from their listeners. Almost all podcasters want a conversation, not a monologue. They also need to keep coming up with interesting content, show after show, and listener suggestions, questions, and comments help them do that.
Comments are also a great way to establish yourself as an expert. I’m not talking about posting ads for your business on podcast blogs, though some shows on marketing do invite listeners to submit promos and business plans for evaluation. I’m talking about joining in the conversation the podcaster has started.
Even though podcasters are more relaxed and approachable than radio talk-show hosts, they still have an obligation to make their shows interesting to their listeners. Everyone likes to hear ‘I think your show is wonderful,’ but comments like that don’t really serve you, the podcaster, or the other listeners.
First, find podcasts that you love. Then respond to anything that you have something useful to say about. Did the host ask for tips on how to use a product or service you’re familiar with? Can you add new insight to the discussion of a controversial topic? Do you have breaking news relevant to the listeners? Can you point them to a resource? Are you burning to know the answer to a question that came to you while listening to the show?
You should, of course, always identify yourself by name and website when you leave comments. If you can provide helpful, interesting comments and ask provocative questions over a period of time, both the podcasters and the listeners will take notice.
My most amazing experience as a commenter happened on the Diary of a Shameless Self-Promoter podcast back in 2005. Heidi Miller had asked listeners to submit their ‘two-second-statements’ (very short elevator speeches). I sent her mine (‘I turn consultants into authors’), and she talked about it on the show for eight minutes. I had someone call to inquire about work even before I’d listened to the episode myself. You can’t pay for that kind of exposure.
I continue to get almost embarrassingly positive responses from podcasters just because I take the time to comment. Here are a few examples.
‘Sallie Goetsch is the conscience of this podcast.’
Tee Morris, The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy
‘Wow, how amazing, you listening to my little old podcast after I have heard many of your comments on other people’s shows!’
Anna Farmery, The Engaging Brand
‘We know we’ve made it when Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with “sketch”) leaves a comment.’
Terry Fallis, Inside PR
‘Wow, a comment from THE Sallie Goetsch... I feel important all of a sudden :) First off, how did you (someone important and respected in the community) end up on my blog/podcast? It just seems unfathomable.’
Reid Givens, Return on Intention
These quotes say a lot more about podcasting than about me. All I did was get involved because I was genuinely interested in the podcasters and what they had to say. All you have to do to get similar results is to find podcasts that you care enough about to do the same.
As with anything in the world of New Media, don’t fake it. Ever. If all you care about is pushing your services, both the podcasters and the listeners will spot it a mile away. Buy an ad instead. (Though even advertisers have to take a new approach to podcasting, as Chip Griffin of CustomScoop does with his ‘Media Monitoring Minute’ segment on FIR and NewComm Road.)
If by some odd chance you come across a podcast that doesn’t play listener comments, move on and put your efforts into one that will.
Many podcasters use an interview format for their shows. That means they’re always looking for interesting guests who have something to teach their listeners.
Before you pitch yourself as an interview subject, get to know the podcast—and the podcaster. Listen to a few episodes and read the show blog. If you post interesting comments, the host might ask to interview you without any prompting from you.
As with any media appearance, concentrate on providing interesting information. Don’t sell during the interview. The podcaster will give you a chance to plug your website, book, etc at the end of the interview.
Podcasts have some advantages over broadcast radio when it comes to interviews:
If you’ve just published a book or have a big event coming up and want to go on a ‘virtual tour’ by means of podcasts, read my ‘How to Pitch Podcasters’ article for some tips on the dos and don’ts.
J.C. Hutchins, author of the Seventh Son trilogy of podiobooks, just did a fifty podcasts/fifty days/fifty states promotion for the third book in the series. He appeared in podcasts ranging from marketing-oriented ‘Managing the Gray’ to ‘The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy.’ His discussions of his podcast marketing methods make these interviews worth listening to even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi/horror.
Make sure you listen to the episode of the podcast after your interview and check the show blog to see whether anyone has posted comments there. Then use your own comments to answer any additional questions.
If you’ve been a good guest, the podcaster will probably invite you back in a few months, or whenever someone asks a question you have the right expertise to answer.
This can happen almost by accident to people who comment regularly on listener-driven podcasts. Back in 2005, my colleague Lee Hopkins started sending audio comments to every episode of For Immediate Release. One day co-host Shel Holtz said, ‘If this guy sends us any more comments, we’re going to make him a correspondent.’ Lee’s next audio comment started ‘This is your correspondent from the Adelaide Hills.’
There are several correspondents for FIR: Lee Hopkins, who reports every Monday (except when Sallie Goetsch reports instead); Dan York, who reports every Thursday on technology; David Phillips, who sends in a report every couple of months from Stonehenge; and Eric Schwartzman, who sends in excerpts from his On the Record...Online podcast now and again.
Even when you have a regular schedule, it’s much easier to be a correspondent than to host your own show. You do have to find material, record it, and edit it, but you only need to fill 5-10 minutes, and you don’t have to mix together multiple tracks, pay for hosting, produce show notes, and worry about whether the RSS feed validates.
Having your own segment on a podcast gives you a chance to share your thoughts, connect with people, and establish your expertise. See our Reports from the Asylum for some examples.
Plus, you might get asked to report on interesting events the show hosts can’t attend themselves, like the iMeme conference in San Francisco.
Many podcasts have two hosts, because it’s easier to sound natural in a dialogue than a monologue, and more fun talking to another person than just talking to your computer. Sometimes one host will be away on vacation or on business, and the other will invite someone to be a guest host.
Obvious choices for people to guest host a show are other podcasters in your field, people you’ve interviewed, and any regular correspondents. I’ve now co-hosted FIR twice, not counting the time Dan York, Lee Hopkins, and I prepared a special 25oth anniversary tribute episode for Shel and Neville. Lee and Dan have both appeared as FIR co-hosts, as well.
That’s nothing to Mitch Joel’s amazing series of appearances: Across the Sound, The Engaging Brand, Trafcom News, FIR, Inside PR...and probably a few others I missed. After co-hosting so many shows, Mitch decided to start his own podcast, Six Pixels of Separation.
I’d advise anyone who wants to go into podcasting to start by ‘podcasting without podcasting.’ You may discover that you really enjoy recording and even editing audio, and become a podcaster yourself, like Mitch.
You may also discover that you hate it and it gives you headaches. It’s better to find that out before you start creating your own show. It will save you not only whatever money you might invest in equipment, hosting, blog design, and so on, but a blow to your reputation if you podfade (produce a few shows and then vanish).
You can still take advantage of what the podosphere has to offer, even if you don’t have the makings of a podcaster. Join the conversation today.