I'm a fan of doing not-normal things with podcasting. I had been podcasting for less than a year when I decided to blend audiobooks and podcasting together. And that worked pretty well for me and the myriad authors I helped.
Since then, the podcasting landscape has shifted. A lot. And while there's still obviously a place in podcasting to "go long," there's an ever-increasing need to go shorter and just get to the point.
Today's podcast listeners are flooded with content, spoiled for choice, as many say. "More" isn't a good solution to that, and hence my recent chattering of the need for depth instead of breadth. But going deep isn't the only way to fight the "more" problem.
Another way is to curate and distill.
Just The Choice Bits
It's hard for anyone to keep up with all of the news about any given topic. Whether it's Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine or all the news from the world of podcasting, it's difficult to keep up with everything about any one thing. Unless your full-time gig is keeping up with everything about one thing. But most of your listeners already have full-time gigs. Yet they still want to know what's going on inside of any given topic they've chosen.
And for those who've already developed the habit and appreciate the "found time" nature of podcasting, podcasting is where they often turn for a curated view of the important bits of their treasured topic.
So services like Podnews exists, where James Cridland wades through a hundred and more articles, press releases, newsletters, emails, and other forms of inbound information every single day to create three- to five-minute-long daily podcast episodes—and a daily newsletter—to give his readers and listeners the chance to enjoy the latest podcasting news as they enjoy their breakfast. Assuming they're eating breakfast in North America.
Brian McCullough does something similar for listeners of his podcast, Techmeme Ride Home. Still, daily, his episodes stretch into the 20-minute mark it's longer, fitting nicely into the "drive home" slot for consumers of the day's freshest tech news.
You may have read the recent New York Times piece on the growth and expansion of Axios, a news publishing service that has taken the art of bite-sized content and turned it into a science by developing software that churns out their signature bullet point style of communication for more than just the news. And if you couple that with last week's announcement of Spooler— podcasting software that lets publishers edit and republish a single podcast episode multiple times a day, so it's always current. With Spooler, publishers don't have to wait for a 24-hour window to expire or force their listeners to consume fresh news around breakfast time, but they couldn't get to it until dinner, and things have undoubtedly changed.
Just The Facts
Helping people make sense of an avalanche of news with short-form episodes isn't the only business case for podcasters. There's also a growing need to distill long-form content down to just the main points. A CliffsNotes version, if you will. Or perhaps Reader's Digest if you, like me, are old enough to remember Reader's Digest.
Consider for a moment the two- to three-hour episodes, some of the more popular podcasts put out every week. Or a couple of times a week. Heck, even daily. Many of those shows are loved by many diehard listeners. Listeners who aren't at all put off by the length of time they have to commit to listening to the show. Hey, it's the price of being in the club. For many of them, listening to the banter, the opinion, and the meanders of the conversation during those episodes is really what's integral to their listening enjoyment. Oftentimes the topics and facts discussed are kind of boring or not important to the hardcore listeners. It's the discussion around and related to those topics that the true fans are listening for.
But what about the people who do care about the facts? Just the facts, actually? Or the people who recognize the thought leadership and perhaps cutting-edge discussions occurring on those long, rambly episodes, but who just don't have the 2–3 hours to commit to listening?
Could you take your podcasting know-how and then turn around a greatly-abbreviated version of the facts from those episodes, stripping away all the opinion and banter and just reporting on the gist of the conversation?
Could you bullet out the key points from an episode, so it gets down to maybe only 10 minutes? Sure, you'll be investing a few hours (or lots of hours) of your life listening, cutting, and then crafting and publishing your own episode. But if the length of a popular show is a barrier for many, it's quite possible that a bulleted version that reports on just the facts could approach and perhaps even exceed the size of the audience of the source show.
Those are just a couple of examples of atypical podcast content that fights the "too much information" problem. There are many, many more. History is kind of long. Science is hard to understand and rather fast-moving. And honestly, just about anything that has its own nerd culture can be made more approachable to others who might want to dip into that nerd culture just a bit If it were unpacked and presented in bite-sized episodes of a new podcast.
Maybe your next podcast?
I shall be back directly with yet another Podcast Pontifications.