Chris Ashmore

Ingredients of a winning podcast

Podcasting is nothing like its media industry cousins – radio, TV, film, advertising – which collectively rake in billions of dollars from corporate and consumer support.

When it comes to awards nights, it’s nigh impossible, say, for an amateur video producer to win a Logie if her show’s not available on a public broadcaster, cable or commercial station.

Podcasting’s different. Very, very different. It’s still in its infancy – with little money and support from advertisers to invest in big-budget productions.

In Australia, podcast insiders estimate that fewer than 30 people are making a living from podcasting.

Commercial players aren’t yet dominating the industry. In terms of investment, an exception is the ABC, which has ramped up its podcasting arm and has a constant presence in the iTunes – sorry, Apple Podcasts – New & Noteworthy shelf.

Nevertheless, it’s still possible to rank highly in Apple Podcasts with relatively little money invested. The answer is by working hard to deliver clever, well edited content, supported by decent artwork.

This is the second year of the Australian Podcast Awards – formerly, Castaway Awards – to recognise and celebrate the country’s best independent and commercial podcasts.

A debate – some of it fierce – has erupted among podcast enthusiasts about the fairness of pitting “amateur” podcasts against “professionals” in the Awards.

The argument goes, how can an amateur possibly compete against a cashed-up podcast agency or media company which can pay for editors, producers, journalists, equipment and studio hire?

To reiterate, most commercial organisations themselves are reluctant to spend too much on podcast production.

This gives independent podcasters an advantage against commercial podcasts, by being able to invest more of their time to create a truly compelling podcast.

There’s little reason why anyone can’t take away one of the 12 self-nominated categories in this year’s awards.

Take By Association as just one clear example of an amateur podcaster providing brilliant content with high production values.

Hosted by James Parkinson, it’s a monthly show about soccer and the human connection behind the game.

Parkinson’s meticulous with his documentary-style podcast. He can spend up to four hours recording interviews for a 15-20-minute episode. His research is forensic, spending months reading about any given topic.

Parkinson says he can clock on up to 40 hours on one episode, including promotion on social media.

The effort he puts in is reflected in the quality of his podcast. If you listen to only one of his episodes, I’d recommend The Art of Football Commentary, which includes an interview with Simon Hill, chief commentator at Fox Sports.

By Association won Best Sports Podcast at last year’s Awards.

Parkinson’s effort is proof that producing something in your bedroom or study can compete amongst the best.

Furthermore, Parkinson doesn’t use the word “amateur”.

“I use the word ‘independent’ intentionally, as opposed to ‘amateur’, because it is possible for individuals to create a podcast that’s compelling and sounds professional,” James insists.

“Yes, of course media outlets and networks will always have the benefit of budgets and studios, etc., but that doesn’t automatically equal a great show. It takes time, skill, creativity and dedication to make something that people connect with,” he says.

So, what makes a good podcast?

“It’s somewhat subjective, depending on the type of show and the topic in question.

“A great podcast should retain your attention, keeping you wanting to hear more. It’s also important to remember that podcasts are an intimate and intentional medium. They should connect with the listener on a personal level.”

So, don’t baulk at nominating for the Australian Podcast Awards because you think professionals will sweep each category. Instead, be inspired by the likes of James Parkinson.

Entries close March 5th, 2018.

Chris Ashmore is a producer at BE Media Production, consultant to businesses on podcasting strategies, and a judge at this year’s Australian Podcast Awards.

To enter, visit https://australianpodcastawards.com

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