We’re living through the golden age of podcasts.
You’ve switched off your phone notifications and moved over to daily news pods; all your favorite celebs are spilling their secrets over wine and microphones in their friends’ kitchens; and podcast networks are getting bought up for huge sums.
It definitely feels like something big is shifting on the media horizon, but you don’t need to think about it too deeply, beyond finding recommendations for your next great listen…right?
Why can’t it be you making the podcast?
It is a storytelling medium, after all. Beyond the technicalities of making audio -- which aren’t as tricky as you might fear, and can be learned online - a writer has the perfect skill set for podcasting. If you interview people and tell stories as part of your job, you’ve got the right stuff to make your first podcast episode.
I’ve developed, hosted and edited two podcasts: Black Mirror Cracked (in my last staff job) and Freelance Pod (which I currently make). Neither of them have made me any money so far, and producing a weekly podcast takes me about 3-4 hours per episode, not including the time spent booking guests.
So why would I encourage you to get podcasting? Well, there are tons of benefits for a freelance journalist. Here are seven reasons that I hope convince you.
Podcasting is a hot topic right now, but most journalists haven't tried to make one, so launching your own grabs a lot of attention.
There are over 600,000 active podcasts on Apple Podcasts these days, but how many of your colleagues, friends or family are adding to that number? If the answer’s “all or some of them” - well, none of them have your personality, interests and voice, so yours will be unique. If the answer’s “none of them,” yours will get them interested, and they’ll be your first audience.
A person who might not choose to be interviewed for a piece, or meet for a coffee, is intrigued by the invitation by the offer of a new experience, and more likely to say yes.
Thanks to Freelance Pod, I’ve spoken to a senior editor at LinkedIn, a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and an Apple Podcasts staffer who gave me inside info on how my first podcast was received by the team when it launched -- among other secrets!
What did they all have in common? They liked being asked to guest on a podcast. They all did their research on me -- as I’d expect -- and could get a good sense of who I am from my earlier episodes. By offering my potential new contacts a collaboration, rather than just asking for their expertise over a coffee, I got the chance to meet some great people and learn from them.
The nature of podcast interviews is that they’re more relaxed than other kinds of broadcast media, upping your chances of stumbling upon an exclusive story, which you can pitch elsewhere.
Journalists have started looking to podcasts for facts, quotes and stories. Journalist Beckett Mufson used a quote from one of the first Black Mirror Cracked episodes I made, as a jumping-off point for this Vice article; newly-minted Best Actress Oscar-winner Olivia Colman January appeared on pal David Tennant’s podcast in January, and the episode has been dissected by writers before and after her win; this piece on Prince Charles and Princess Diana is stood up solely by quotes from another publication’s royal podcast.
As you can see from those examples, podcasts have quickly gained acceptance as another source of news. Just make sure you get your stories filed and published before putting a transcript of the episode online -- in case your editor fancies a google…
Social media -- well, the internet in general -- is not yet set up to share audio.
Text, yes; pictures, multiple; video, no-wait-ah, yes, it’s finally uploaded. Audio? Try throwing an MP3 sound file from your desktop into a tweet and see what happens (nothing, nothing will happen).
So, how can you show off the actual audio from your lovingly-made podcast? The Headliner app is a good start. Clips from your podcast can be used with a background image to make social video like this one. These videos do a great job of catching the eye, and making audio visual. Guests are more likely to share a clip like this, rather than the whole episode, as it’s more immediate.
Remember the second point, having a podcast will help you network? That was about offline schmoozing, this is about the online stuff.
Once you’ve had a chat with your guest, you’ll have developed a bond. Your guest will feel like they’ve got something from you, and they’ll want to give something back.
So, when guests share those social videos you’ve made, your work is promoted to their audience, and the share itself acts like a seal of approval for your work. Their followers will be impressed, and want to hear them in action. Then they’ll want to see who else you’ve got on the show. That’s the psychology behind this kind of follow.
Receiving a follow on the strength of your work is the best way to build your audience, and you never know where it might lead: a new guest, a new listener, an unexpected commission.
Other journalists will be pitching stories around podcasting too, and they’ll start approaching you for quotes, positioning you as an expert to their readers. This is amazing -- your name and your advice is getting out there, without you having to pitch or write or edit or spend 3-4 hours working on it… see how after some initial investment, this thing is starting to pay off?
If you’re networking with other journalists on and offline, make sure you mention your podcast. Have it flagged up in your social media bios. Stick it on your business cards in a proudly bold font. Anyone who connects with you IRL or online is sure notice it, and check it out. They’ll mentally - or physically, on a Twitter list perhaps - file you away as a person who knows about that hot new thing, podcasts. Not a bad way to be remembered.
There’s something about the voice -- it connects with others in a way that other digital media can’t compete with. Last summer, I spent a lot of time talking about Black Mirror Cracked at events, and, afterwards, podcast listeners would come up and speak to me like they knew me. They’d built a trusting relationship with me through hours of listening to me speak directly into their ears!
As the podcast showcases your voice, personality and style of interviewing, you’re likely to start receiving invitations to speak in public on topics around voice tech and journalism, as well as the topic of your podcast. Maybe you could angle a book proposal on your podcast’s theme?
You’re basically adding to your voice reel online each week, and gracing the world with more original and creative storytelling. It’s a testament to your research, interviewing and presentation skills, as well as to your initiative in starting a podcast. Well done you!
Having a creative outlet is incredibly freeing, and it’s also a remarkable opportunity to brand yourself as a well-connected freelance journalist with a lovely interview style, who always has a load of story ideas. What’s not to like about that?
Have you thought about starting a podcast? Let us know on Twitter.
Suchandrika Chakrabarti is a London-based freelance journalist, podcaster and public speaker. She makes Freelance Pod, and she is this close to being ready to write a book. Find her on Twitter @SuchandrikaC, then tell her to get off the internet and go write that book.
Photo via Unsplash