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I've been accused of a lot of things over the years, but rarely has anyone called me normal. I’ve actively worked against normalcy for about as long as I can remember. It’s not always been an easy road, but it’s been a rather satisfying one.
As the title of this article hints, I’m concerned podcasting is getting a bit too mainstream. There’s nothing I can do about that, other than implore some podcasters - you, perhaps - to eschew normality and strive to do something different from the other 1,536,260 podcasts available.
Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with being normal. Most people are normal. Most podcasts are normal. Sticking to normal has definite benefits. Normal is routine and comfort, and people like routine and comfort.
Normal is also safe. As a species, we’re biologically wired to seek out safety. There’s safety in numbers, after all. Though I’d argue that straying away from normal behavior with your podcast comes with a low risk factor. You probably won’t get eaten by a lion if you explore on your own.
But normal is often boring. Boring for you, the creator. And boring for them, the audience you want to listen to your show. So while sticking with comfort, routine, and safety has its advantages, it also makes it hard to stand out when you make a comfortable, routine, and safe show. (Because that’s boring.)
Injecting A Little Abornality In Your Podcast
Abnormality is not a bad thing. It’s just not normal. Until you normalize it. Here are four different ideas here that might help you embrace a little more abnormality to your podcast.
1. Keep the standards, toss the conventions.
Standards and best practices are there for a reason. It’s not “being creative” when you improperly use your microphone. That’s “being lazy”. It’s not “groundbreaking” to publish episodes with crappy sound quality. That’s “making unlistenable content”.
Conventions, on the other hand, you can play fast and loose with. Or toss out altogether. Does inspiration strike when you’re not in your perfectly sound-conditioned studio with your fancy-pants microphone? Well, you have your phone on you, right? It has a microphone. Talk into it! Phones don’t capture “bad” audio. They just don’t capture audio the way your SM7B captures audio. And that’s fine, as you’ll clean up the recording back in the studio and work it into an eposide. That’s being creative.
Conventions have a lot to say about how many questions you should ask guests or how many points you should cover in an episode. So what? Experiment with maybe asking fewer questions of your guests. Or maybe keeps asking the same question until you get a shorter answer. Or if you’re giving the answers, perhaps shorter might work better for everyone.
2. Make a meaningful distinction between you and everybody else.
Yeah, I know you think you’ve done that. But look at the end of that sentence. Have you really checked “everybody else”? Or least every other podcast in your niche? That’s still doable today. And if you think it’s not, then you really haven’t understood the niche you occupy. Or you don’t occupy a niche at all because you’re being too normal.
Also, make sure your differentiation is a meaningful differentiation. The length of your episode is not meaningful. That’s a gimmick that looks OK on paper but doesn’t pay off in practice. And it’s not enough.
What you do with that length, the content you cut out as much as how you structure the content that you leave in, can be a clear differentiator.
Your ability to attract high-profile guests is also not a meaningful distinction. You know who else thinks they get the best, most unique guests? Every other podcaster who has guests on their show. And I remind you that if your guest’s name is the most impressive thing about your episode, then it’s not a very impressive episode.
Taking an abnormal approach to how you interact with guests, the way you ask questions, and what you demand of your guests, can certainly create a meaningful distinction between your and everybody else’s podcasts.
3. Forgive your relapses and try harder.
As a working podcaster, you have plenty of bad habits you're going to have to break to break free of normality. That means you're going to fall back onto those old habits. Very often, likely. Forgive yourself when that happens. Just go back and try and do better next time.
4. Check yourself and check-in with yourself.
Take an honest look at what you’re doing to be different. Make sure it actually is different, and you’re not just fooling yourself. One good test is how you feel about the content you’re consciously trying to change. The process of making abnormal content should feel unfamiliar to you. That’s the point! But it shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. If it feels that way to you, you may be going too far. You want to feel some unfamiliarity, but not a lot of personal discomfort.
It’s the opposite for your listeners, on the other hand. They should feel a bit uncomfortable with the change. Not alienated. And certainly not offended. But your new episodes shouldn't feel like prior episodes to them. However, and this is key, your new episodes shouldn't feel unfamiliar to them. You want to keep the familiarity they’ve established with your show, just with a fresh approach that might be a little uncomfortable for a few episodes.
I know it feels weird to go against the grain. Then again, you should be quite familiar with my offering up of oddball advice like that. If you’re feeling a little uncomfortable about it, I’ve done my job. Your job, now, is to normalize the making of abnormal podcasts… again.
Looking at the calendar, I see that Evo’s long winters nap is coming up. That's what I call the months of November and December when I take a break from the daily release schedule. As a treat, I open up the show to other working podcasts just like you who have their own topics and angles they wish to pontificate about. If you’ve a burning topic and unique take on something related to the future of podcasting or ways to make podcasting better, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk about your idea. And I really am looking for your own ideas and opinions. Even if they run counter to my own.
Go to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra if you want to support the show. And please tell a friend about Podcast Pontifications. The only way the audience for Podcast Pontifications grows is when you, the working podcaster, tells another working podcaster about the program.
See you tomorrow for another Podcast Pontifications.