A few episodes ago, I talked about five ways to serve the changing needs of your audience. Because the needs of audiences are changing. Their needs are changing with every new podcast they follow, every new newsletter they subscribe to, and every new media source added to their diet.
Smart podcasters will change to fit those changing needs. And keep changing their podcast as their audiences' needs keep changing.
In the above-linked episode, I mentioned that your audience might want you to go deeper...but you've been investing in longer episodes, which isn't quite the same thing. Or maybe you've been investing in releasing content more frequently. Also, not the same. Or putting out bonus content or launching an additional show that covers a slightly different angle on the same topic of your current show. That's deeper, right?
Maybe. But it's depth at the cost of time. And that's a cost you're asking your audience to pay. They may be unwilling to do so.
Because that's breadth, not depth, developing breadth is important, for sure. Breadth is required and something you'll acquire on your journey to better understand the topic of your show. Developing a more encyclopedic knowledge of your chosen domain will make you a much better podcaster. And a much more valuable podcaster in the eyes, ears, or brains of your audience. Your developing breadth allows them to reap the benefits of your breadth without acquiring that same breadth themselves.
What they really want you to do, or what they likely will want you soon enough, is get to the point faster by distilling your breadth of knowledge down to the depth that they desire.
Of Breaths, Breadth, and Bread
(Ok, there's no bread coming. I just needed a third word to round that heading out. Maybe this will help you make bread? And now I'm reaching. Back to it!)
It's not easy for people with vast amounts of knowledge filling their brains on any given domain to deliver a concise, tight presentation on something within the range of their knowledge. No, I'm not taking an autobiographical and egotistical point of view. But I'm betting that at least once in your life, you've had to sit through a rambling speech, parse through a novella-sized email, or suffer a podcast episode from an "expert" who just droned on and on.
When podcasters try to fight this problem, we often look for quick fixes. It's hard to refine our scripts before we record or to go back and edit down an episode. So we employ tools that help us make easy subtractions from our content, feeling good that we're getting deeper.
But that's not going to do it.
Software can make it one-click easy to remove all the filler words from our episodes. So easy that we don't even have to listen as we do it, which has the risk of removing context.
It's easy enough for us to re-record our long, rambly questions, saving 15 seconds. But that's harder to do for our guests' replies, so we leave their long, rambly five-minute answers in place.
We know we can shave off maybe a minute or more if we tighten up every single pause and narrow all of the gaps between speaking sections to get to our next point faster, oftentimes while our audience is still contemplating the point we just made.
We do those things because we're trying to shove more information in less time. Because we think that's what our audience wants.
But is it really?
When audiences are looked at as a whole—not just the 1% who say "more, please!" when they fill out your survey—they seem to be hungry not for more but for better, deeper, and more valuable content.
Part of going deeper is giving your audience time to reflect. Not after your episode is over, as, by that time, they've already moved on to the next episode in their queue. But to reflect during the episode, when they're in the mood you've set for them. Remember that your audience isn't sitting quietly with eyes closed as they listen intently to what you have to say. That's probably not how you listen to podcasts, either.
Like you, they're doing the dishes, driving to an appointment, working out, or standing in line at the post office. Because they are doing other things, they will likely not realize the big buildup happening as you work toward your point. So it's up to you to sculpt that point, using silence, bed music, repetition of words, or other effective ways to ensure the clarity of your message is delivered.
Going deep requires clarity. Especially in podcasting, when we know our audiences' attention is often split.
So yes, of course, tighten up where you can. Yes, chop up your content, summarize your guests' responses, and re-ask your questions if that helps get to the point faster.
But also leave room in your audio for reflection.
Let some of the silences border on uncomfortable.
Let the bed music continue after you've made your point for much longer than maybe you think it should.
Let your audience hear those few seconds of your guest considering how to best answer your question.
The parts of your episode where no one is talking are the parts where your audience's brains have a chance to get deeper into your episodes. That's how they feel like you're letting them be a part of the conversation.
Build in time so that can happen.
I shall be back directly with yet another Podcast Pontifications.