Journalists moving into podcasting
In part two of our series on podcasting and journalism, podcaster Meagan Perry explains how journalists can transition into podcasting.
See part one for a look at Meagan’s experience and the podcasting renaissance!
In the near future, Meagan will talk about podcasting and corporate communications.
So many people bemoan the decline of community newspapers and the dearth of serious, investigative journalism, but some news organizations are having great success with podcasts. They are using this storytelling medium to lift their campaigning and investigative work to a whole new level. The Guardian’s Keep in in the Ground series and the Financial Times’ The Stenimetz Affair are a couple of examples. Is it possible for the media and journalists who move into podcasting to develop new audiences (and possible convert those listeners to readers) with podcasts?
Technology can take us a lot of places, and news organizations have had some great successes with podcasting. It depends how outlets choose to use it. It’s always difficult to tell where a technology will actually take us until we’re well down the road.
What I am sure of, and I tell my podcasting clients this, is that podcasting requires an investment of time and expertise. There’s a tendency across all sectors to think of material on the internet as almost magically generated -that it appears quickly in its completed form. Anyone who produces web content knows that this is not the case.
The skill and effort required for online production is equivalent to what’s required to produce in any more traditional medium. The research, creative, and production work to make a well-researched podcast is no different than producing a well-researched TV or radio piece, or newspaper article.
When an organization decides to podcast, it’s important to have a clear goal, whatever that may be: building variety into your brand, increasing your listenership numbers, speaking to a particular set of people, creating a piece of audio art. It’s important to have creative people with technical skills working on your podcast. It’s like any other journalistic or creative endeavor.
How easy is it for a journalist to podcast?
Is podcasting a natural transition for most journalists, particularly those working in broadcast? Or are there different and/or additional skills involved? If so, what?
Moving from mainstream journalism to podcasting isn’t difficult, but working without the promotional machine that comes along with being part of a media company can be a hurdle.
Likewise, working outside a media organization means that the journalist is in the role of doing all their own technical setup which is a challenge for some people, but most journalists are happy to learn new skills. If you know that learning new technology is not something you’re enthusiastic about and not for you, it’s a good idea to team up with someone who loves the internet and new tech. Without that side, anyone new to podcasting may find the process slow and frustrating. It’s not for everyone.
As well, as an independent producer, you’re not likely to be producing breaking news coverage, unless you’re broadcasting live in the way producers have been doing from the protests of Standing Rock, which continues to be a very effective use of Facebook live, podcast, and immediate reporting.
For the most part, podcast is more suited to current affairs journalism. For instance, it took some weeks before a podcast from the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017 came out. It takes time to synthesize the information; if you’re not restricted by the schedule of a news organization, and what you produce is going to be available for a long time online, why not take the time and provide more in-depth information?
Should journalists new to podcasting follow a tried and tested format or set of techniques, or would you encourage exploration and creativity with their podcasts?
I’m a big fan of exploration and creativity, but again this depends on your goals. People like to hear familiar things, so choosing a tried and true format can also be effective.
The important thing in podcasting is to be true to your voice and your skills. Think about who you’re hoping will listen and then create for those people rather than trying to appeal to everyone at once. It’s big market full of niches.
What resources can you suggest for journalists and editors who want to get into (or improve) podcasting?
There is a wonderful website called transom.org that provides technical and stylistic information, writing tips, hosting tips, interviews with audio producers. It’s just great. You can also listen to Re:sound, a podcast produced by the Third Coast International Audio Festival, which finds great audio and rounds it up in their podcast. It explores the many styles of podcast documentary; if you want to hear the range of audio production that can happen, that’s a great place to do that.
How long is too long?
Journalists already podcasting are using different ways of structuring and presenting. There are the short interviews, much like live radio broadcasts, investigative shows, and then podcasts like Embedded, which offers field reporting in long-form. Each format has its pros and cons. What do you think works best for news podcasts, and how do you see news podcasts evolving in coming months?
This is an enormous debate – short or long? I’m a fan of a 30-minute show, if you’ve got the content for it. That said, I produce a podcast with Dan Riskin called Recent Paper Decent Puzzle in which each episode introduces a new scientific paper in plain language, then gives listeners a puzzle to work on for the week, and those are about 15 minutes long, give or take a few minutes.
In podcasting, and it’s one of the things I think is great about podcasting, the length of your podcast can be determined by your content rather than your format. If you’ve got an incredible two-minute piece of audio, there’s no need to make it into a 15 minute show. Likewise, if you’re not likely to find a deep investigative story that is well-told in 7 minutes. Podcasts liberate you from the clock, so tell your stories at the length that strengthens them.
Check your facts
Do you see a new and more challenging role for podcast producers/editors in what is being termed by some as the post-truth age? Will checking facts in podcast interviews take on a whole new meaning?
I think news podcasters are facing the same challenges that journalists have always faced – getting to the truth is not easy and presenting a complete picture is challenging.
If anything, I think the way podcasts remove the need to fit a story into a particular length time restrictions offers more choices so eases the pressure on journalists – at some point in their career every journalists has worked on a story that they thought needed to be feature length but they only had two minutes to tell it.
With podcasting they can take the opportunity to tell the stories as you feel they need to be told. You can produce a series of episodes on one topic, of varying lengths, you can present in any number of ways. The podcast audience is open to that, they are not married to a format or a time of day, and they welcome creativity in presentation.
Listening to any new news podcasts since our part-one interview?
I try to switch up what I am listening to but in the news and current affairs genre, Democracy Now! Is a great one (always has been) and I like all the New York Times podcasts as well. Slate has the Double X podcast which provides interesting commentary. I’ve also recently taken to listening to CBC Radio’s World Report by podcast rather than on the radio.
Podcaster Meagan Perry
Podcaster Meagan Perry
Meagan Perry has been podcasting for more than a decade. Based in Toronto, Canada, she is Director of MAP Communications, where she is a writer, project co-ordinator, and journalist. Find Meagan on Linkedin and Twitter.
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