The Power of Podcasts

Podcasts. It may seem like an old term to some in the digital world, but the podcast and the power of telling stories through short, digital episodes remains a popular way to reach news audiences.

This week we take a look at how podcasts can enliven your existing news coverage, provide a new venue for audience engagement, and offer another venue for your reporters to tell stories about the communities and topics they cover.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a digital media file (audio, video, images and audio) that is part of an episodic series where the user can subscribe and download the files or stream them from their digital device.  A podcast can vary in length from a few minutes to 45 minutes.

Adam Curry and Dave Winer originally developed the concept of podcasting in 2004 when they created the first podcasting software.

The Stats Behind Podcasts

According to statistics on the Podcast Alley website, one of the largest directories of podcasts, they feature over 6 million episodes and 91,000 podcasts on their site.

The number of podcasts being produced has been stable for some time. According to The State of the Media Report 2012, “podcasting hit a plateau in 2007, and has largely stayed there with a steady following since.”

As these stats may seem low, The State of Media Report 2012 stated that “probably the biggest development in the audio landscape in 2011 came in the growth of people listening on digital mobile devices.”

As more news consumers are using mobile devices to consume news, more opportunities arise for news organizations to provide news in audio or video formats via the podcast for the news consumer on the go.

Podcasts and News Organizations

News organizations can use podcasts for a variety of purposes:

·      It can serve as a way for reporters to provide additional news content that is complementary to existing news coverage.

·      It can be an opportunity for your staff to do Q&A with local sources and experts on specific topics.

·      It can be a way to feature unique content by your staff that may not necessarily fit into an existing news area you currently cover.

Audience Engagement with Podcasts

Podcasts can also provide another way to bring your news organization closer to the communities you cover. Podcasts are by nature a personal medium that allows for the user to feel as if they are having a one-on-one conversation with you. This creates a different level of audience engagement that can bring loyal listeners or viewers (whether via audio or video podcast) back every time as long as you keep a consistent podcast broadcast schedule.

As part of your podcasting efforts, you can also weave in the use of social media by live tweeting when the episode launches online and taking Q&A from the audience or using Facebook to have people comment on the latest episode when it launches.

You can also do podcasts on the spot at community events as a way to provide different kind of coverage of an event and involve the audience in the podcast with short interviews from your podcast booth set up at the event.

Where to Start?

If you are interested in starting podcasts in your news organization, there are some important questions to think about before jumping in.

1. What kind of content will you feature in your podcast? Podcasts are built on the premise of having unique content. Think about what kind of news your staff covers that can be different from what you offer on your existing platforms and how it can complement your existing efforts. Think about what makes your news coverage different from others in the community and build your podcasts around that.

2. Who will be recording and producing the podcast?  Producing podcasts takes resources and time. You should identify a team of people that can help with scriptwriting, producing and editing the podcast. You may have someone on your staff that has a great audio voice that can be the “voice” or talent for your podcasts.

3. How often will you publish your podcast? Podcasts are only successful when they are routine. It’s important to identify a schedule of when you will produce and publish the podcast – perhaps it’s daily, weekly or monthly? Stick to the schedule and your listeners and viewers will follow.

4. How long will your podcast be? Podcasts nowadays can be long or short. It all depends on the kind of content and format you will use in your podcast.

5. Will it be solo or co-hosted? Some podcasts are narrated by one person and in other cases, some people have co-hosts to make it lively. Consider if you want to bring in multiple people into the podcast. Perhaps start small with only one person at first and expand to a co-host later when you have several podcasts under your belt.

6. Will it be one segment or several featured in one podcast? Podcasts can be formatted to cover only one topic or several. It all depends on what kind of content and how much content you want to feature. Having a few segments can make your podcast lively, engaging and different as well as keep listeners/viewers wanting more if you include multiple segments instead of one.

7. Where will you record the podcast? When producing a podcast, you will need a computer and audio equipment to record it. You should plan on being in a quiet location to avoid having any background noises that can interfere with the recording.

Podcast Notes and Tagging Files

When producing a podcast, it’s important to have a podcast outline and notes with each episode you produce. This helps the audience to know what the podcast is about before they click the button to listen to it or view it. The notes are resources such as websites you talk about during the podcast that they can check out.

It’s important to note that your podcast file can be found online through searches and not just through your site or a podcast directory. You should optimize your podcast for SEO. Write clear titles for your podcasts that are SEO-friendly and also tag the actual podcast file with keywords (ID3 tags tied to the mp3 file) that are applicable to what is discussed in your podcast. These steps will help to make sure your podcast will be found effectively on search engines.

Observe Others and Take Note

Before jumping into doing podcasts, listen to other news organizations’ podcasts to get a sense of what they feature, the style and voice they use in their podcasts, and the overall format that they use for their podcasts. This can give you ideas and inspiration for your own podcast.

Here are some INN members’ podcasts:

· Voice of San Diego

· Center for Investigative Reporting

· ProPublica


Additional Resources

Here are some articles to help you learn the basics about creating and producing podcasts.






Photo Credit: mr brown via photopin  cc