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Format! Format! Format! It's was drilled into our heads when we were early-stage podcasters. Either as something to select and never deviate from or as something to avoid because it's been borrowed from other media, and podcasting is meant to be free!
I've seen successful podcasters take positions on either side of the format-or-not-to-format debate and be successful. Both of those approaches can and do work. That's one of the many things that I love about podcasting; there's room to succeed for both rule-followers and rule-breakers.
Today's missive is for the format-adherent podcasters. I’m one of them, even though I’m a notorious rule-breaker in other facets of my life.
Your Chosen Format Is A Construct
I’m on Team Format because…well, it’s what I do on this show. Demonstrated on over 500 episodes thus far, my short form, single topic, monologue episodes are something you have come to understand expect from me.
But here's a reality check for both of us: my chosen format for this show is just a construct.
The format you have chosen for your show is just a contract. Nothing more.
Whether you've chosen a chat-cast format, a news-rundown format, a format where you read a daily poem, or a format that takes your listeners on a narrative-driven deep dive over the course of 20 episodes, these are all simply constructs.
Extremely helpful constructs, I’ll grant you. Constructs that help each of us better craft the information or the entertainment that we impart to our listeners through the stories that we tell. So the constructed format you selected for your show is quite helpful!
Until it’s not.
Sometimes, an aspect of the story you need to tell doesn’t neatly fit into the format you’ve selected for the other episodes of your podcast. And then what do you do?
Ask yourself this question: What's more important? The information/story you're imparting/telling or the format you’ve chosen to tell it in?
If you said “the format”, then I’m afraid we can’t be friends. Or you need to buy me several beers as you attempt to convince me of your position.
Your Audience Is Not Here For The Format
It’s important to know who you are for and why they are here. That means knowing your audience and knowing why it is that they listen to your podcast, episode after episode. Spoiler: it’s not your format.
Your audience is not here because you interview guests on your podcasts. No, your audience enjoys the information presented in your episodes. The interview format is just a construct that allows that information to be uncovered.
Your audience isn’t here because you don’t have guests, either. No, your audience enjoys the insight provided in your episodes. The solo format is just the construct that gives voice to what would otherwise be your inner monologue.
Your audience isn’t here because you include exactly three short headlines in your daily news roundup. No, your audience appreciates you catching them up on the most important things they may have missed. But the number of those things in an episode is just a construct to keep you from talking about everything.
So sometimes, on occasion, and when it is really, really warranted, it's OK to temporarily eschew the construct if a different format better serves or compliments the story you’re telling with your overall podcast.
But do so sparingly, and never forget about your audience. Your audience has expectations for both you and your show’s episodes. Expectations you should meet or ignore at your own peril. Your audience will likely not stick around too long if you attempt to sneak in an hour-long, rambly, unedited interview when your last 500 episodes have been tight, less-than-10-minute monologues. For example.
Most podcasters are free from the constraints of traditional broadcast formats. And that's a beautiful thing! Because sometimes when it's really necessary to break format to tell the story— or just part of the story—better with a different format, that’ll still delight your audience. Go, podcasting!
Thank you. Rich Romano, whomever you happen to be, for the virtual coffee purchase. I appreciate value for value payments in any form.
I also want to thank Regina Revazoa from Open Conversation for using PayPal to pass back some of the value I provided when I guest lectured to her podcasting students at Arizona State. And hi to those students who are now getting some inspiration from my show. I look forward to hearing your shows and having you in the podcasting space with all of us!
And a shoutout to Oscar Merry from the podcast listening app Fountain for listening to my grumblings and making his app work better! My plan, starting next week, is to migrate as much of my listening queue (listening queues, actually) over to Fountain, where I’ll set up automatic streaming of Satoshis to the value-for-value enabled podcasts as I listen. Neat!
Please visit PodcastPontifications.com/value-4-value for ways you can support me and this program. And if you're in the podcasting business or the business of podcasting, check out PodcastPontifications.com/sponsor for 2022 sponsorship opportunities.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Links to everything mentioned in today’s episode are in the notes section of your podcast listening app. A written-to-be-read article based on today’s episode is available at PodcastPontifications.com, where you’ll also find a video version and a corrected transcript, both created by Allie Press. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media. Find out more at Simpler.Media.