Since writing very critically about independent podcasting, I’ve been trying to prove myself wrong. I’ve since listened to many podcasts, and found a few things that seem to make or break a podcast from the point of view of a listener.
1. Multiple voices. None of the Podcasts I currently subscribe to are produced by one person or feature a sole voice. All are either in an interview format or are the combined efforts of more than one person.
2. Under 1/2 hour. Occasionally I’ll find a podcast that I can stand to listen to for more than 30 minutes, but I’ve found that to be the exception rather than the rule. The biggest tendency of podcasters seems to be to ramble about random, unrelated things. It’s entertaining occasionally, but usually is hardly interesting. I’ve found that Podcasters that limit themselves to under 30 minutes usually hold my attention more and have me looking forward the next issue rather than pushing it off for later.
3. Real Content. If you can write a blog entry that could contain all the information in your podcast, do that rather than making a podcast. I will only listen to a podcast if I think it has information I can’t glean quicker by scanning a blog entry. Real content to me is an interview, a recording of a conference or panel, a story, art–read me some poetry or play some music, meaningful conversation between two or more people–stuff I can’t necessarily get by reading a blog.
4. Great audio. This almost goes without saying, but since so many people still don’t get it right, I’ll add it here. Make sure the volume level is normalized, that you don’t cut off highs or lows and don’t convert a high quality audio file to a low bitrate mp3. If it doesn’t sound good, it doesn’t matter how good the content is, I’m not going to listen.
I still only listen to about 3 or 4 podcasts. My favorite format by far is the interview. I’ve fallen in love with Podtech.net‘s podcasts which are almost always entertaining and informative–and under 15 minutes. The others I listen to are actually mostly not regular podcasts–I enjoy listening to Y Combinators startup library, Evening at Adler from DrunkenBlog, the Ruby on Rails podcast and occasionally one or two others.