10 Podcasts to Delight You This Summer

Summertime is here and we’re all emerging out of our pandemic funk. While you’re returning to your favorite activities, maybe you’ve noticed you’re a little different this summer. Last year changed us. With change comes the need for new ideas and fresh perspectives. Whether it’s a conversation that needs to be had or cooking a new cuisine, make room for newness this summer. Immersing yourself in a world of auditorial novelty provides a fresh start, new experiences, and a wonderful way to expand your horizons.

In this article, we give you 10 podcasts across all genres to fill your summer moments with stories that entertain, comfort, and challenge deeply held beliefs. So from all of us at Voxtopica, here’s to a much more hopeful summer, full of incredible moments. Enjoy!

Podcasts to stay informed AND entertained:

Snacks Daily

Financial news just got fun. Put the Wall Street Journal down for a minute and flip on Snacks Daily. Episodes consist of quick stories that explain the latest news in business and finance. Listeners particularly love the banter and chemistry between the two hosts Jack Kramer and Nick Martell. Their snappy, colorful commentary turns complicated concepts into understandable and entertaining news. You don’t need to work in the finance world to enjoy Snacks Daily; these stories are delivered in a way that any listener can digest, no matter their experience.

You’re Wrong About

We think we know the facts about things like The Challenger Disaster, political correctness, and the phrase “drinking the kool-aid”. But are our assumptions correct? Journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall tell us if we’re wrong or not. In each episode, Mike and Sarah challenge listeners to reconsider how they’ve imagined these historic topics. The hosts spend hours researching these topics to bring the whole picture to each episode, allowing listeners to decide for themselves what deeply held perspectives they may be wrong about.

To hear the stories of those who have often gone unnoticed:

Offshore

Take a trip to Hawaii and discover what you’d never find on vacation through Offshore. Offshore is an immersive storytelling podcast that shares the stories of Hawaiians and their lived experiences. Through investigative and thoughtful journalism, listeners learn both current and historical events that have not only shaped the islands, but the world around them. You don’t need ties to Hawaii to appreciate the stories; Offshore’s motto is this: “Because sometimes being in the middle of nowhere gives you a good perspective on everywhere else.”

Black in Appalachia

We’re all familiar with Appalachia, where we’ve enjoyed hiking and camping trips. But have we really experienced the full narrative of this region? Black families have long contributed and shaped the Appalachian region, yet their stories have historically gone unnoticed. Join hosts Enkeshi El-Amin and Angela Dennis as they travel to various states in Appalachia and discover the stories of people, places, and experiences that show what it means to be Black in Appalachia. The two hosts celebrate Black identity in Appalachia and have explored topics like Appalachian Drag, the secret lives of church ladies, and the rise of Black women in Appalachian politics.

When you’re on a road trip and falling asleep at the wheel:

Radio Rental

Stay wide awake with Radio Rental. Radio Rental features bizarre, true scary stories told by those who lived them. These stories are unpredictable, and often take twists that will leave you frightened enough to keep your eyes wide open on long drives. Rainn Wilson stars in Radio Rental as Terry Carnation, America’s strange yet most beloved late-night radio talk show personality.

When you need to get out of your head for a bit:

Hidden Brain

If you have a curious mind that wonders why people never feel rich…or why we have such a difficult time letting go of old possessions, try Hidden Brain. Through the combination of science and narrative storytelling, host Shankar Vedantam explores human behavior and the unconscious patterns that shape us and our relationships.

Strangers

Empathy is often the best way to learn about ourselves and the world around us. That’s exactly what Strangers offers. Strangers shares the personal stories of people who have experienced incredible turmoil. Host Lea Thau, a Peabody award-winning producer, takes listeners through the highs and lows of life through these stories. Each story allows us to peer into the lives of others and examine ourselves and the heartbreaks we suffer. You’ll laugh, cry, and learn to appreciate the people around you and all the moments life brings.

When you start feeling the summer blues and just need a laugh:

WTF with Marc Maron

The podcast world is full of “celebrity interview” shows, but WTF is one that’s worth having in your arsenal. Comedian Marc Maron began WTF in 2009, and has since interviewed tons of comedians, actors, authors, musicians, and well-known public figures. Listeners have especially loved Maron’s probing interview style that encourages guests to open up about topics other interview shows might shy away from. Interviews have included Robin Williams, Stacey Abrams, and Boosty Collins.

Dead Ball Brothers

Crack open a lager after a day of summer chores and sit down with brothers Drew and Adam Snavely, the self-proclaimed “two idiots discussing weird soccer stories.” Each episode, Drew and Adam share a story from a weird moment in soccer’s history, a story you’ve probably never heard. Episodes are anything but dry as Adam and Drew bring their witty, colorful commentary and, as they put it, a little bit of stupid to these historical and current stories of the world’s game.

For stormy summer nights:

The Relic Radio Show

Open a preserved bottle of wine and tune into these vintage audio dramas. The Relic Radio Show brings old time radio shows to modern day audiences. Currently, Relic Radio produces several shows across comedy, horror, suspense, science fiction, and classic radio talk shows. The stories in each show are fully produced with original music, and well-performed by professional actors of decades past.

Don’t Overlook This Powerful Tool for Your Podcast: Show Notes

The mighty show note. Show notes may not seem as glamorous as sharp sound design or compelling cover art, but they are powerful assets to your podcast. They can enrich your listeners’ experience, circulate traffic to your podcast and website, and widen your podcast’s community.

It’s worth the time and effort in getting your show notes right. We’ll explain exactly why, what elements they should contain, and the benefits they can bring to your podcast.

Let’s clear this up…what exactly is a show note?

Not to be confused with the brief episode summary that listeners quickly scan on their podcast player app, show notes are an in-depth coverage of each episode that listeners typically find on your website.

So why are they worth the effort? We think of it like this: when you order a flight at the best breweries and teahouses, your server may give you a sheet that describes the order of the flight, the detailed notes of each sample, perhaps the origin countries of ingredients, and an invitation to learn more about the business. The samples are delicious on their own, but the additional background helped you better understand and connect with the business.

That’s what show notes are to your podcast. The episode is the main content, the reason the listeners show up. Your show notes then provide your listeners additional context and resources for each episode that enrich their experience with your show.

Here’s what show notes can do for your podcast.

Three Advantages Show Notes Can Give Your Podcast

1) Establishes a deeper connection with listeners

Show notes allow your listeners to dive deeper into the content discussed in the episode. If your podcast focuses on public affairs or an expert topic, it’s likely that you refer to several resources, people, or organizations relevant to the episode’s topic. It can be a lot for listeners to keep up with. Show notes make it easy to follow those references, with links to original sources all in one place that can be accessed after the show is over.

Let’s say you interview a guest who runs a media company and recently published an article. By linking to these resources in the shownotes, the listener has access to resources where they can learn more about the guest, their company, and the article discussed.

When you make it easy for listeners to explore your episode’s content further, you encourage them to become more involved in your podcast’s community, message, and, potentially, in your organization.

2) Boosts SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) pushes traffic to your content by using strategic keywords that cater to the bots that rank content on Google.

By including relevant keywords from the episode’s content, the SEO of the show notes can make your podcast more discoverable by guiding potential listeners who might be Googling topics relevant to the episode.

If you published an episode where you discuss a recent healthcare policy change, you would want to include specific keywords in your show notes, including names of significant people and organizations involved. When people outside of your audience search for this particular issue, your episode can appear in their search.

3) Makes your podcast more accessible

Podcasts need to be accessible to all people. Show notes are the hub for transcripts, which makes your podcast accessible to those who are deaf and hard of hearing. Listeners expect to find transcripts in the episode show notes, so it’s important to consistently provide them the same place each episode.

When accessibility is prioritized, your podcast can reach an even wider audience.

Your Show Note Checklist

While the format of show notes can vary amongst podcasts, these are the most important elements to include in your shownotes:

  • Brief summary of your episode
  • Provided links to relevant bios for guests and organizations/companies
  • Bullet points of key topics discussed in the episode (the more specific, the better!)
  • Links to all mentioned resources, articles, older episodes that can provide more context.
    Transcript
  • Call-to-action that guides listeners to your homepage, extra content, or your social media.

Worth the Time and Effort

Show notes can grow your podcast, encourage deeper engagement with existing listeners, and even bring new listeners into your community.

If you’re ready to sharpen your podcast’s show notes, contact the experts at Voxtopica. Together, we can work to enhance your listeners’ experience and get your message out to your intended audience.

Stay Ahead in Podcasting

Nobody wants to be left behind. And with today’s digital media, getting left behind is unfortunately all too easy, especially with podcasting.

Last month, we learned the podcasts are here to stay and the industry is rapidly changing. New developments and platforms are erupting into the scene everyday; platforms like Clubhouse, which left many podcasters wondering if this new audio platform would replace podcasts. (Good news, it won’t.)

If you want your podcast to grow, you have to know where the industry is heading.

Heed the warnings of Kodak. You may know the story, Kodak led in its industry for decades. But when the industry started shifting towards streaming and digital, they failed to move and adapt with it. Where are they now? They eventually filed for bankruptcy, and their empire dwindled away. Stay behind the industry’s evolution too long and you might miss the fact that Apple is making major changes to its platform, something that affects every podcast.

Innovation matters for the life of your podcast, even long after you stop recording. It’s critical to know what platforms are shifting, and what better tools are developed to help expand your reach.

While it’s no simple task, we’ll sure exactly why and how you can stay ahead.

As With All News, You Need A Credible Source.

If you’re a subject matter expert and have podcast, you have to spend most of your time keeping up with your industry. So how can you also learn what data actually matters for your podcast? Or that Spotify is rolling out Top Podcasts Charts, a feature that could present your show with nw marketing and distributing opportunities?

One Google search for “podcast news” will leave your head swimming in a sea of hundreds of articles and newsletters that share the latest developments. Sifting through those articles trying to discern what’s reliable and what’s hype takes time, specifically time you may not have.

You need a source that will tell you what you need to know and why you need to know it, without wasting your time.

There are so many newsletters that deliver podcast news, but most of these are geared for large general public audiences. Public affairs and subject matter expert podcasts don’t follow the same rules as entertainment and true crime shows. General podcast news is quick to jump on Joe Rogan’s drama with Spotify, which may be interesting…but may not be as relevant for your audience as is NPR figuring out how to localize podcasts. (Especially game-changing for national associations with several local chapters.) And while these technical developments are important, your podcast will flourish if you are aware of though-provoking concepts that will make your podcast better, such as learning the most important relationship in your podcast ecosystem.

It’s critical to know what trends and developments matter most for your specific genre. It allows you to stay ahead of your competitors because you read the articles and have thought ahead of when and how you will progress forward, perhaps produce “exclusive” content.

We developed a tool to deliver that.

The #1 Tool We Recommend Most.

We want to prevent you from the potential headaches of sifting through hundreds of irrelevant podcast articles. So, we created The Feed.

The Feed is a newsletter with articles curated specifically for subject matter experts and those in public affairs with podcasts. With The Feed, you don’t have to read through hundreds of articles discerning which ones are most relevant to your podcast’s genre and target audience.

We deliver the news straight to your inbox; the most relevant news and updates that can guide your podcast to adapt with the industry’s daily evolution.

Subscribe to The Feed here!

The Data Is In: Podcasts Matter More Than Ever.

2020 brought its worst. Podcasts fought back hard. And won.

You may have been on a virtual happy hour, joking with good friends about how it seemed like everyone suddenly had a podcast. You may have even scoffed, “That’s never going to be me.”

But times have changed. The data is in and now we know that perhaps those people who started podcasts in the 2010s were onto something. Maybe, actually, everyone should have a podcast.

Months into 2021, over half of the American population has listened to at least one podcast.
Podcast listening has gone up 17% year over year. Podcasts are even becoming bigger than TV — The New York Times’ The Daily podcast has 4 million listeners a day. That’s bigger than Fox News’ Primetime audience.

Catching on? If you want to reach people in 2021, you probably need to join the podcast revolution.

Every year, the podcasting world waits for the annual report that puts numbers on the industry: the Infinite Dial from Edison Research. The Infinite Dial is the longest-running survey on how Americans are consuming digital media.

The podcast industry relies on this research, so we’ve pulled out the major takeaways for you.

This is what you need to know about podcasting in 2021.

Podcasts are now part of the content ecosystem.

Podcasting is officially mainstream. If you put effort into creating content for marketing, advocacy, or communications, you need to include a podcast in your plan.

Here’s why:

  • 41% of the population say they’ve listened to at least one podcast in the last month.
  • 28% say they’ve listened to at least one podcast in the last week.

This means that a bi-weekly podcast has a very good chance of being heard by the people you’re trying to reach.

Not only are millions of people listening to at least one podcast a week, but people are actually binging on podcasts. The average podcast listener isn’t committed to only one show, but is likely to follow multiple shows. Podcast listeners listen to an average of 8 episodes every week, listening to 5 different shows per week.

What this means for you: Putting out a podcast is no longer a gamble. The data shows that a large section of the population listens weekly to multiple shows. If you work in public affairs or any sect that influences policy, you understand how important an effective communications strategy is. A podcast would be a critical asset to your content plan in reaching your target audience and the data shows that people will listen.

This poses the question: who exactly are podcasts reaching? The answer is great news.

Diversity in podcast listeners is almost as diverse as the country’s population.

This is the biggest change in podcasting over the years. Diversity in podcast audiences is approaching the demographic diversity of the country.

Podcast audiences used to be made up of mostly white men with average to higher-than-average incomes. Now, 43% of podcast listeners are non-white and evenly split between women and men, almost consistent with the actual population.

In fact, according to Nielsen Research, non-white audiences are growing faster than white audiences.

There are several factors at work here. First, more content is being created specifically for audiences of color and women. Content creators are also realizing that they benefit from more diverse audiences and are updating their marketing plans accordingly.

What this means for you: A podcast has the potential to reach the total breadth of your audience. More women, people of color, and people of all ages are listening to podcasts which means your podcast can reach the different demographics within the country. As Tom Webster put it, “There truly is a podcast for everyone ー and podcasting is for everyone.”

Podcasting is here to stay.

The pandemic took away our commutes and travel, the times where we listened to podcasts most. But podcast listenership still grew. People didn’t leave podcasts behind, but rather made new space for them in their free time, in their homes, while cleaning, and on walks.

The bottom line is this: podcasting isn’t going away. If your organization has big goals in reaching a specific audience, now is the time to consider a podcast as one of your most critical assets.

Ready to get started? Contact an expert at Voxtopica for a consultation to plan your podcast to reach your target audience or guide your current podcast to better results.

How Well Are Your Guest Interviews Going?

Here Are 3 Ways You Can Improve Them.

You’ve experienced this. You play an episode of a podcast talk show, anxious to learn. But 10 minutes in, the host loses control of the conversation, the guest starts rambling about completely irrelevant topics, the episode ends, and you’re left feeling deflated, disappointed, and with little desire to tune into that podcast again.

As a podcast host, you might want to blame your guest for a poor interview. But here’s the brutal truth: it’s your show and you are in control. Your interviewing skills need to be sharp or you run the risk of losing listeners.

So how do you improve interviewing skills? It doesn’t require a masters degree in journalism. But it does take effort and practice that is necessary if you want to grow and maintain your listenership.

We’re going to share with you the Three P’s, our tactics to running effective and valuable guest interviews.

1. Know Your Purpose.

As the interviewer, your purpose is to create value for your listener. It is your responsibility to take the guest’s stories, thoughts, and ideas and transfer them into valuable information.

Before each interview, you must ask: what value can this conversation provide to my listener?

For example, if you work in public policy, perhaps your listeners want information on how they can get involved in advocacy efforts. With this value for your listeners in mind, you can run the interview in a way that helps your guest provide that value to your listeners..

Now that you know what value to give your listeners, you can better prepare.

2. Preparation: Research and Rehearse.

Bad interviews usually happen when the host does nothing to prepare. If you don’t prepare for an interview, don’t expect your guest to provide value to your listeners.

Here’s how you should prepare:

Research everything about your guest and the topic they’ll discuss. But wait, isn’t that what the interview is for? Not for you, Host! By thoroughly researching your guest and topic, you can know what’s relevant in their experience and what your listeners frankly won’t care about. Good research allows you to be the proxy for your listeners.

Now that your research is complete, start rehearsing. Don’t read from a script, but don’t wing it. We recommend using notes that structure out the conversation, then reviewing them several times before recording.

You’ll want to especially rehearse how you’ll introduce your guest. Do not let your guest introduce themselves. Why? Because as the host, you are in charge of telling your audience what specific value the guest will give them. It’s not the guest’s job, it’s yours.

Thorough research and rehearsing allows you to then guide the conversation during the interview.

3. You Hold The Power.

Your job is to listen to your guest and lead them in the conversation. Let guests tell their stories, but don’t let them control the conversation.

Your guest might share a compelling story that isn’t relevant to the topic. Or they may jump ahead in the conversational structure you planned. Don’t panic. Gently bring your guest back to the agenda comfortably and consistently. You can do this by recognizing their story as significant and then naturally transitioning to a previous or totally new topic.

We recommend using transitional phrases to cue your guest and guide them through topics. You can help your guests stay aware of the time with phrases like these:

  • “To start off…”
  • “As we near the end of our time…”
  • “Before we jump ahead to ____, let’s go back to something you said….”

Guiding the conversation is the perfect median where you can stay in control of your show, recognize your guest’s value and thoughts, and stay on track in delivering that value to your listeners.

When In Doubt, Remember The Three P’s.

Purpose, Preparation, and Power. When practicing these three strategies in every interview, you can guarantee to your listeners that they will gain something valuable from every episode.

If you want to learn more practices for improving your interviews, stay updated for future webinars or get in touch with an expert at Voxtopica.

3 Things To Make Your Podcast Sound Better

Maybe you’re thinking of starting a podcast. Or maybe you already have one. Either way, you’ve probably asked yourself: how can I make my podcast sound better?

When it comes to recording quality audio for podcasts, the answers can be confusing while the options are just as overwhelming.

To help you get some simple and straightforward answers, our writer, Cassidy Butler, spoke with Ish Balderas Wong, Voxtopica’s chief sound engineer.

Ish is a highly experienced audio engineer who has worked in studios around the world producing music and podcasts. He earned his degree in Electronic Production and Sound Design from Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Ish is going to tell you what steps you can take to get professional-sounding audio. Whether you’re recording in a studio, your office, or your living room (while you monitor your kid’s virtual learning), you can record a great sounding podcast.

So grab some coffee and a notepad, and settle in to learn how to make a great sounding show.

CB: What are the most important factors to recording quality, usable audio?
IBW: There are three things to consider. We call them “the 3 E’s”: Environment, Equipment, and Engineering. If you do the right things in each of these your podcast can sound really good.

CB: Let’s start with environment. What does that mean for podcasting?
IBW: The space where you record is really important to how you’ll sound. In an ideal world, everyone would record in a studio specifically designed to produce amazing sound.

But studios aren’t possible for everyone, especially during the pandemic. An alternative, especially for home recordings, would be recording in a closet — and really, a closet full of clothes.

CB: A closet full of clothes? Explain.
IBW: It’s the way sound works. Have you ever been in a completely empty room where everything you say sounds like it echos? That’s because sound travels in straight lines. If you record a podcast in an empty room, the sound of your voice bounces off the walls over and over, creating that echo. Well, your mic will pick up that echo, too. That’s called “reverb”.

That effect doesn’t happen if the walls are covered in something that absorbs sound so that most of it doesn’t bounce off.

You can buy foam panels to put on your walls, or just hang tapestries, put curtains over windows, and lay rugs on the floor. Or, as I said before, record in a closet full of clothes. All that hanging fabric does a great job of absorbing sound.

CB: What else do podcasters need to know about their environment?
IBW: Even when you have good sound absorption, some sound will still bounce off of every surface. So your voice also needs to be dispersed. As sound travels through air, it loses energy — basically, it gets quieter. You want any sound that does bounce to lose as much energy, meaning get as quiet as possible, before it gets to your mic. The best way to do that is to have lots of surfaces for the sound to bounce off.

That’s why studios have walls covered with egg carton-like foam, to absorb and disperse sound in lots of directions.

You can get that effect by having something behind your mic like a bookshelf. When sound hits the shelves, the books of different sizes will send the sound in different directions.

CB: So now we have our ideal environment set up. The next “E” is equipment. What can you tell us about that?
IBW: You will only ever sound as good as your worst piece of equipment. If you have a perfect environment but a bad microphone, your audio can’t sound better than the microphone allows. That’s why it’s worth investing in quality equipment.

But environment and equipment go hand-in-hand. The best microphone in the world can’t eliminate reverb, so a microphone can only make you sound as good as your environment.

 

CB: What kinds of microphones are best for podcasters?
IBW: The first thing is that there are two basic kinds of podcast mics. There are condenser microphones and dynamic microphones.

Condenser mics are very sensitive. They pick up a lot of sound and capture everything, including any background noise. A condenser mic gives a rich, full sound, but they aren’t the best options if you’re recording at home. Even if your home or office seems quiet, there’s always some kind of humming or creaking in the building. Because of this, condenser mics must be used in the right kind of setting, usually an acoustically-treated studio.

The other kinds are dynamic microphones. These mics pick up less sound and mostly from whatever is right in front of it. They are the mics singers in bands use because they don’t pick up the rest of the band. This is the best option for home or office recording but, like singers in bands, you need to keep the mic close to your mouth to get the best sound. A dynamic mic more than six inches from your mouth is not going to give you very good sound quality.

CB: Why is it important to place the microphone here?
IBW: This is where “gain” comes in. Gain is how sensitive your microphone is to sound. The higher the gain, the more sensitive it is. If the gain is too high, the mic picks up sounds you don’t want recorded and can make your voice sound distorted. If the gain is too low, it won’t pick up your voice. If the microphone is six inches from your face and you appropriately adjust the gain, you won’t have to whisper or yell for the mic to pick you up with good quality.

CB: A lot of people are concerned about USB vs. XLR when it comes to purchasing a microphone. What’s your breakdown?
IBW: USB microphones record digitally. They connect directly to your computer and send audio right in. XLR mics record in analog and require more audio equipment, but they record incredibly detailed audio. That being said, even though USB records less detail, you can still get great audio for podcasts with a USB microphone without having to purchase extra equipment.

CB: This brings us to the final “E” which is engineering. What’s the first thing podcasters need to know about it?
IBW: You can have the right equipment and perfect environment, but if you use a bad recording service or record on the wrong file format, your audio will lose a lot of quality. The good thing is that these are all preventable mistakes.

CB: Especially with more people recording their podcasts remotely, what services should people use to record conversations?
IBW: First, don’t record on Zoom or Google Meet. These programs can suppress or distort your audio while recording. I recommend using a local recording service like Squadcast or Zencastr. The benefit to using local recording services is that your audio doesn’t have to travel through the internet. Every guest is recorded on a separate track and that track’s file is recorded locally on your computer. So even if you or your guest has spotty internet or the recording gets glitched, the audio files will still be clean.

I’ll add that it’s absolutely critical for all hosts and guests to wear headphones while recording to monitor the detail of sound. If you don’t wear headphones, all you hear is the sound in the room, not the sound being recorded. When you wear headphones, you hear what’s being recorded, so you’ll know if your squeaky chair is being recorded or, worse, if someone’s mic isn’t working.

CB: How about files?
IBW: You want to work on WAV files during the whole production process. WAV is a bigger, high resolution file. MP3 is a smaller file. If you’re giving files to an engineer, always give them WAV files. MP3 files can compress the more they’re edited, resulting in a smaller file with lower quality detail.

CB: Final parting wisdom for our subject matter expert podcasters?
IBW: Take the time to get your audio right before recording. Raw recording is the biggest factor of how good your podcast will sound. You can’t expect miracles from your sound engineer if the raw files are low quality recordings. The better quality the raw audio is, the better your podcast will sound. That’s it for subject matter experts!

If you want to learn more step-by-step approaches to recording high quality audio, stay in touch to learn about our future webinar on How To Make Your Podcast Sound Better.

You can stay updated by signing up for our email newsletter.

Think Outside the Talk

An interview podcast might not be the right choice for your audience.

We’ve heard it many times.

“We’re going to start a podcast. Our CEO is going to have really important conversations with key leaders in our industry. It’s going to be great!”

Of course it is.

Public affairs podcasts are dominated by interviews and discussions – the “talk show format” – where someone from an organizations talk to one or more guests about an important topic. That’s not surprising, since this format feels familiar and is (usually) relatively easy to produce.

The question people often don’t ask is, what are the alternatives? Is there another format that might work better to achieve your goals and optimize your resources?

The answer is often “yes”. There are other podcast formats that can efficiently communicate your key messages and generate measurable responses from the audiences you care about most.

Don’t get us wrong, talk shows can provide great value. But they fulfill a specific purpose for a specific type of audience. Too often, we find communication and advocacy executives default to the talk show format without being clear on why it’s right to achieve their goals.

In this article, we’ll focus on one specific alternative, the podcast series, and explain when it can be a better option for your organization to reach target audiences.

What is a podcast series?

Everyone knows the talk show podcast. There’s usually a single host who interviews or has a conversation with one or more guests, occasionally with other segments as well. The topics vary from episode to episode but usually focus on a single subject (in public affairs, usually a profession, industry, or interest). The audience listens to episodes in any order, sometimes skipping episodes. New listeners don’t need to play older episodes to dive into the content.

A podcast series, however, covers a specific topic in a limited number of episodes. Each episode may tell a specific story or explain an aspect of the topic, and the series itself usually tells a more complete story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

In general, the audience for a podcast series listens to the episodes in order, from first to last. One additional and very important characteristic of a series is that new listeners can start listening and gain value from the show weeks, months, or even years after the production is done.

When is a podcast series the right format?

A series lets you go in-depth on a topic, diving into details and utilizing several storytelling techniques to engage the audience. This format typically works best for the content that will be relevant to new listeners for many months or years in the future.

Whenever your goal is to educate or inform an audience about the big picture, a podcast series can be a good solution.

A podcast series can be a particularly effective alternative to an “explainer” video. A series will give you the opportunity to provide enhanced information in a more personal, potent way.

There are many ways to use a series. Here are some of our favorites:

A history of your organization or some important aspect of what you do. Example: Flying The Line, from the International Air Line Pilots Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specific conversations edited into narratives that offer diverse perspectives on a topic. Example: The Science of Mentorship, from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A guide to a topic with each episode focused on a specific component of the topic. Example: A History of The World in 100 Objects, from the British Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are the benefits of podcast series?

There are a number of perks to a podcast series. Here are a few.

A Long Tail

A well-planned podcast series can bring in new listeners long after production and distribution are done. People always appreciate high-value content, so you’ll get value from your investment over months or years.

Great for reaching new audiences

An interesting podcast series can often engage people outside of your usual audiences and make them aware of who you are and what you do. Your podcast can be a gateway to your other content and opportunities to engage them.

No long-term commitment for listeners

Since a series has a set number of episodes, listeners know up front what their investment will be, whether they choose to listen to an episode a week or binge-listen to the whole thing in a single weekend.

No long-term commitment for you

Because there are a set number of episodes, a podcast series also has a discreet budget. Once it’s produced and released, the costs of maintaining it drop to practically zero – except any resources you choose to invest in continuing to promote it.

Plenty of information at a relatively low cost

In general, a professionally produced podcast series with ten 30-minute episodes will cost about the same as a professionally produced five-minute video, meaning you can engage audiences with five hours of content instead of five minutes.

When to think outside the talk

Overall, you should consider a podcast series when you want to reach a different or larger audience than your typical communication campaigns, or if you have the opportunity to go deeper into an important topic or issue.

A podcast series can provide significant value to you and your audience – far beyond other content formats – and can provide that value for a long time.

To learn more about all the different formats for podcasts, schedule a quick all with one of our podcast experts. We will guide you toward the right format to engage your audiences, fit your budget, and achieve your goals.

 

Why Spotify Actually Isn’t the Best Platform for Your Podcast

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Spotify as a podcast platform recently, and how it’s gaining or even surpassing Apple Podcasts as the go-to platform. We wanted to find out if that applied to public affairs and similar podcasts, so we reviewed performance data from some of the shows we produce to get the truth. Spoiler: Spotify isn’t that special.

We all know people are listening to podcasts more than ever before. Podcast consumption was up by 5% in 2020, according to Edison Research. People love them because access to podcasts is quick and easy, sometimes just a simple voice command away.

Great news, right? More people are tuning into your podcasts. But it leaves us with two big questions.

What platforms are people using to listen to your podcast?

And specifically, what platforms are best for public affairs podcasts?

The podcast industry progresses each month. But we’ve found consistencies. Here’s what we know about the top platforms listeners are using:

Apple, as usual, starts off in the lead.

The majority of podcast listeners use Apple Podcasts. Apple held 61.1% of all podcast downloads as of August 2020 – so much that some critics have even accused Apple of having a monopoly over podcasting.

Every podcast wants to be featured on Apple’s “Top Chart” and “New and Noteworthy” lists because it can significantly boost listenership for new and less-established podcasts.

So, the general consensus in podcasting is that Apple Podcasts is always worth your investment if you want people to find your show. And while Apple may have set the bar high, its competitors refuse to be left in the dust.

Spotify fights for the top.

Spotify is gaining on Apple in its fight for control over listenership. Spotify actually passed Apple in podcast listening by 4% in 2020. However, Spotify does not lead in downloads, however, because it delivers podcasts by streaming. The differences are a bit technical, let’s just say that Spotify uses its own metrics while the rest of the industry uses “downloads”.

Spotify is also raising eyebrows in the industry by buying podcast-making companies like Gimlet, going into the Netflix-like world of producing original content and offering Spotify-exclusive podcasts. The exclusivity is designed to entice listeners to access all their favorite podcasts through Spotify.

Spotify has a lot of issues, though. For example, Spotify secretly shares user information with advertisers. And their podcast platform is being used to release pirated and unlicensed music.

While these issues may not affect most users, it’s difficult to know what else they do that could turn people off in the future.

Apple, Spotify…anyone else?

Another leader is racing to beat these top two competitors: YouTube.

In 2020, YouTube was the most frequently used podcast platform, especially among podcast newcomers and heavy podcast users (people who listen 6+ hours/week).

So…which is best?

That depends on your audience. Millennials tend to rely on Spotify and YouTube, while Generation X and Baby Boomers tend to listen through Apple Podcasts.

But hear us out, it is not worth it to put all resources into just one. The data shows that these three platforms among others can be equally crucial to your podcast.

What’s best for Public Affairs Podcasts?

Even though Apple typically leads in listenership with Spotify in a close second, are these the best platforms for your organization? Do these trends and statistics apply to your podcast?

Great question. The answer is yes…and no.

Voxtopica has found that Apple still dominates public affairs podcasting. Roughly 30-50% of association podcast listenership comes from Apple Podcasts.

But there’s one more platform specific to pubic affairs that you might not have thought about.

Your website.

That’s right. Voxtopica found the second-most dominant platform for association podcasts is desktop browsers. That’s right, association audiences like members and industry specialists are just as likely to listen on an organization’s website as on Spotify – usually from 5-15% of all downloads.

This means it’s critical for associations to invest in their podcast’s web presence. User-friendly design and experience will make it easier for your listeners to find and access your podcast.

What does it all mean?

Apple leads in podcasting listenership overall, with Spotify in a close second.

In public affairs podcasting, while Apple still leads, your association’s website is second in listenership, with Spotify in a close or distant third depending on the audience.

You may be rubbing your eyes, overwhelmed with a whirlwind of thoughts on podcast platforms. Apple, Spotify, my association’s website, YouTube! How do I know what’s best for my audience?

The answer is simple: Focus on your audience. As long as you never forget that you are making the podcast for them you won’t go wrong.

if you’re a subject matter expert, association, or public affairs pro and want to understand how to reach your audience, we’re here to help. Voxtopica‘s experts can help you plan a podcast to reach the right people or guide your current podcast to better results.

Voxtopica's Holiday Gift

10 Podcasts You Absolutely Need To Listen To Over The Holidays

The Voxtopica team handpicked what we believe are the best podcasts to start over the holiday season, in no particular order. Whether you’re preparing the mulled wine for Zoom celebrations or driving across town to your family’s socially distant dinner in the chilly outdoors, these shows are guaranteed to entertain, educate, and delight you. So grab the food you need to prep and turn these podcasts up as you unwind from the workday and settle into the holidays.

The Moth

Storytelling has never been more entertaining and enlightening than with live, unscripted stories from people of diverse backgrounds. The Moth podcast brings on storytellers ranging from well-known people like Rev. Al Sharpton and physicist Dr. Jim Gates to your local auto mechanic down the street. They take the stage to share personal stories of significant moments that will leave you laughing and crying at the same time.

The Story Collider

It may seem like science is data too complicated to understand; yet it’s a part of our everyday lives. The Story Collider is where true, personal stories collide with science. In each episode, we hear deeply human stories from those in science and health fields, such as a nurse who finds himself in the Brooklyn ICU during the pandemic. Storytellers reveal another side of science by sharing the powerful, emotional experiences of how science altered their lives.

Invisibilia

Invisibilia, which is Latin for “invisible things”, introduces listeners to unusual people who are dramatically affected by certain invisible forces. Hosts Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin of NPR explore these unseeable forces and connect these true narratives to social and behavioral scientific research. Invisibilia guides listeners to view their lives differently by understanding how these forces shape our behavior and beliefs.

The Anxiety Coaches Podcast

The holidays and end-of-year work rush can trigger high levels of anxiety. If you relate, you aren’t alone. Say aloha to The Anxiety Coaches Podcast, a show that explores anxiety, panic, and PTSD. In each episode, anxiety coach Gina Ryan soothingly walks listeners through discussions on different stages of anxiety and offers effective techniques to combat it. Voxtopica’s marketing director Lauren Thurman shares,

“The Anxiety Coaches provides lessons and guides you through overcoming fears and panic attacks while helping you prepare for them in the future.”

Switched On Pop

Pop culture meets music theory on Switched On Pop. Hosts Nate Sloan and Chris Harding  break down Top 40 pop hits and reveal what makes them addictive and what roles they play in larger cultural contexts. From Queen to Taylor Swift, listeners get deeper insights into the songs heard over and over again on the radio. Previous guests include Lizzo, Daveed Diggs, and Mike Posner.

Walking the Floor With Chris Shiflett

Let the kids watch a movie and put this on in another room. Foo Fighter’s guitarist Chris Shiflett interviews fellow musicians, writers, and athletes to explore their creative inspirations, struggles, and successes. Shiflett’s sardonic humor and raucous conversation is a great release to tense a week. Past guests have included Merle Haggard and Ace Frehley of Kiss.

History of the World in 100 Objects

History buffs, this one’s for you. Unlike other shows that theme around a historical event, this history podcast themes around objects. Each brief episode focuses on an archaeological artifact as British Art Historian Neil MacGregor tells the story of a historical event through the object, such as the Hawaiian feather helmet, and what we can learn from it.

Stuff You Should Know

Hardcover encyclopedias may be gone, but there’s still a place you can indulge your curiosities about things like tsunamis, porta-potties, currency, and narcolepsy. Meet Josh and Chuck, hosts of the Stuff You Should Know podcast. Episodes are anything but dry as Josh and Chuck provide in-depth research through harmonious banter on a wide range of topics.

50 Things That Made The Modern Economy

Brought to you by the BBC, 50 Things shares compelling stories about ideas, innovations, and inventions that have helped to shape the modern economic world. Host Tim Hartford discusses items like antibiotics, the diesel engine, and the iPhone in short 10-minute episodes. This podcast is for anyone who craves a great combination of science, history, and technology.

14th & G

You read the headlines daily but you’re longing to know the details of what’s really happening on Capitol Hill. Meet 14th & G, a podcast by lobbying firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas. Each week, experts and policy influencers join host Dean Hingson to analyze the effects of current events through the lenses of business and government. Hingson’s conversations with guests are for all who want a deeper dive into the decisions being made on Capitol Hill.

Download these podcasts when you need a break from work, deadlines, and holiday festivities but want to keep your mind active. Happy holidays from the Voxtopica team!