Journalists moving into podcasting
Journalist and podcaster Meagan Perry looks at how journalists can get into podcasting.
Part one explores Meagan’s vast podcasting experience, as well as the podcasting renaissance!
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. But it depends how outlets choose to use it.
What I am sure of 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. 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.
How should an organization approach podcasting?
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, or creating a piece of audio art. And of course 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, if you work outside a media organization it 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.
Podcasting for current affairs journalism
If you are an independent producer, you’re not likely to be producing breaking news coverage. The exception is when 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?
Podcasting allows exploration and creativity
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.
Resources for journalist podcasters
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.
I recommend 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. What do you think works best for news podcasts. 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 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, you can’t create a podcast about a deep, investigative story and tell it well in seven minutes.
Podcasts liberate you from the clock, so tell your stories at the length that strengthens them.
Check your facts
Do you foresee 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?|
Podcasters are facing the same challenges journalists have always faced – getting to the truth is not easy and presenting a complete picture is challenging.
Podcasts remove the need to fit a story into a particular time lost, so they offer more choices and ease some pressure on journalists. In other formats, most journalists have worked on a story that they knew should be feature length, but they only had two minutes to tell it.
With podcasting, a journalist can take the opportunity to tell a story as they feel it should be told. They can produce a series of episodes of varying length on one topic, and present in any number of ways. The podcast audience is open to that. No listener is 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
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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