Here’s Why I Don’t Like Most Podcasts

by Mack Collier

And it’s the same reason why I don’t like most group blogs:  I want to hear from the HOST, not the guests.

Right now I am putting together a marketing plan for Think Like a Rock Star.  A big part of that plan is obviously to have a huge launch.  The idea is to sell a ton of books right when the book launches in order to make all those bestseller lists, etc etc etc.

But another part of that plan (that’s even bigger, IMO) is how can I create a continuous stream of value-added material that compliments the book?  The idea is to find a channel that lets me create content that will not only benefit readers of the book, but that will hopefully encourage others to buy the book.

And one of the potential channels I am looking at is launching a podcast.  But what I’m noticing is that more and more people are launching podcasts, which I think is awesome.  I love it when people give their audiences multiple ways to consume content, and in ways that’s convenient for their audience.

But…the one thing I don’t like about most podcasts is they mostly follow the same format:  1-2 people are the regular hosts, and each episode they interview someone.  What I don’t like about this format is that it doesn’t give me much of a chance to hear from the hosts themselves.  The focus is on the guests, and off the hosts.  I see the same thing on group blogs, especially group blogs that start out being written by one person who then goes to a group blog format.  The blog loses its voice.

Personally, I prefer podcasts that are run by 1-2 hosts, and guests are the exception, rather than the rule.

What do the rest of you think?  Do you like podcasts?  And if so, what type do you think?  Do you love the format where hosts interview a guest every episode, or do you prefer ones with the hosts only and no guests?

Length?  5 minutes?  10?  15?  Please let me know what your thoughts are as it will help me decide if I launch a podcast for Think Like a Rock Star, and what its format will be.  Thank you!

Jay Gilmore January 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Personally, I like a variety of formats. Mitch Joel’s SPOS podcast is a near 1 hour interview format with Mitch as host/interviewer and a guest and he incorporates his views and observations into the conversation. This works well and I listen to every episode. I also listen to other podcasts that have a less formal structure or that are all recordings of presentations/speeches (Zig Ziglar’s podcast is a prime example of such a podcast.)

On video podcasts I have seen a variety of formats from the standup presentation style delivery to seated q&a and both work.

What I don’t want to watch/listen to is someone just blathering on about themselves and not involving or speaking to the audience interest.

What do you think the content of your podcast would be where you had interviews as an exception? Would it be 5-15 mins of your experience/opinions? Very curious what you think examples of good podcasts are.

Mack Collier January 7, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Jay thanks for the thoughts, interesting to hear that you like Mitch’s due to hour-long length. I need to make a note to check his out as well.

If I started a podcast, I am thinking the length of each episode would be 10-15 mins, and the idea is to cover additional case studies and lessons that tie into the core teachings of the book. And I’d want to include some actionable advice as the book is chock-ful of how-tos.

I would probably have guests, but I would go solo probably two-thirds of the time, at least.

Great feedback, this is what I wanted to hear what y’all think about podcasts to help me frame how I would do one, if I do. So thanks!

nick pepito January 7, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I enjoy podcasts and have listened to them for years (since early 2004). Only recently have I began to LOVE podcasts and the reason is because of who is podcasting and how they are using the medium.

Give me in-depth, long format (over an hour) conversation where I get to observe minds at work. Doesn’t matter if it’s hosts only or a steady rotation of new guests or repeat guests. To me it’s the conversation taking place. Are you showing me why you think the way you do? How your opinion is formed? Why you said or did it?

If you are just slapping out quick blurbs or vomiting a stream of quotes/pitches/sound bites/garbage… save it. I get that 24 hrs a day on the 1000+ cable channels that are all trying to entertain me. Don’t entertain me… elevate me, educate me, engage me, and above all ignore me.

What… ignore you?

Yes ignore the fact I’m listening and drop the charade. Be yourself… let me get to know you. The real you, your thoughts and how you’ve come by them. Your questions and the answers you find. I’ve listened to several podcasts, some of them for years… the same hosts.

The reason I keep going back is honesty, even when it isn’t in the best of light. They expose and share their mistakes, talk openly about changed minds and are not afraid to say.. “I have no idea”. They seek experts and guidance themselves. Amazing podcasters create the environment that allows their guests to follow suit, to be honest and human. Those that get it keep podcasting with great fan support. The ones who don’t fall to the side… like they would have anyway.

Mack Collier January 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Nick thanks for that feedback. Interesting that you also say you want longer podcasts. Hmmmm…I actually did a podcast for a short period of time around 2007, and the feeling then was short, anything over 30 minutes was trouble. Sounds like that may no longer be the case. Thaks for the feedback, love what you said about letting us connect with the hosts and they not being afraid to say ‘I have no idea’!

Nick Pepito January 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Interesting comments on this thread so i kept thinking over the concept of podcasting. The subject has been on my mind for a while so this is a good opportunity to explore the idea.

I think it’s good to remember this is still a developing outlet and the mindset should not default to radio. With so many podcasts launching it can make us wonder if we should start one too. Technology gives us access to start a podcast easily so the cost is relatively low to join in.

But not everyone should or needs to have one.

From what I’ve noticed – being consistent, to whatever schedule you decide, is critical to success. A large factor for why people stop listening is the podcaster stops posting. It is hard to keep a schedule and stick to it regardless of who shows up.

Format and length can be developed over time to fit. If 5 mins is enjoyable for the people putting out the podcast, leave it at 5 mins. If the idea or thread lasts longer, put out a longer episode or keep it limited to the 5 min model and list as a series (check out Seth Godin’s cast as an example).
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Topics vary, but I’ve found the interest level of the host to be a main reason a podcast is worth listening to. How into the conversation is the host or host and guest? Are they excited about a subject I might be excited about? Is there genuine interest?

First goal to a successful anything is keeping your own interest in doing it. I’ve had a few podcasts but failed on consistency and that hurt excitement when recording. Working with a co-host adds another layer in scheduling and interest, something I’ll take into consideration if/when I’m bold and want to podcast again.

Benefit of the right co-host can’t be overlooked though. A good partner can make the entire process more enjoyable.

I do listen mostly when commuting but with syncing becoming available across devices, it makes location less of an issue. I’ll listen to the same podcast at home getting ready, during my commute, and at the office.

Also mainly I listen to the audio of podcasts, A few I subscribe too come with video, but I choose audio over video unless I need a visual que for some reason.

Just a few thoughts on the subject. Great post and great comments.

Jennifer Nash January 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I enjoy podcasts using either format but find the podcast quality can greatly vary. The main issue I have with the host/guests format is that often the interviewer allows the conversation to meander around so much that the topic is only covered superficially. I keep waiting for them to make a point. This problem is exacerbated if the people are also good friends so it becomes a chat fest.

For length I like 15 minutes if host only and 20-30 minutes if host and guests.

Mack Collier January 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Thank you Jennifer. Your time frame is more in line with what I was thinking, 15 or so mins if just me, a bit more if there’s a guest.

And totally get what you are saying about friends getting chatty, easy to get off subject there! Thank you!

Mack Collier January 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm

BTW if you don’t like podcasts, please tell us why, as that’s very helpful as well. If I hear from a few people some of the reasons WHY they don’t listen to podcasts, that can help us figure out what not to do.

Nedra January 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Hi Mack,

I don’t often listen to podcasts, as I just don’t have the patience to sit through them. My mind starts wandering (I can’t listen to audiobooks either.). Same thing with videos that are just talking heads. BUT if you have a podcast on a topic I’m interested in, or an interview with someone I want to hear from, I would love to be able to skim through a transcript. I don’t know how much work that would entail, but it would mean that I’d be much more likely to consume the content, even if not via audio.

Mack Collier January 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Nedra that’s a great point on using a transcript, I noticed that Jay Baer has one for his Social Pros podcast, and I appreciate that, gives me an idea of if the episode will be valuable to me, and what parts I need to focus on.

Paul O'Flaherty January 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm

So much depends on the personality of the podcaster and how much information they are sharing in their podcasts. For some, that is 3 – 5 minutes, for others that is 90+ minutes (Geek News Central). To be fair though, the longer the podcast the more of a need for a guest unless the host happens to be the worlds most charismatic person.

I listen to audio podcasts of all lengths and greatly prefer them over video because I tend to listen while working.

John J. Wall January 7, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Many people don’t like podcasts because in general, they suck. Whenever someone pitches me on a new podcast I say “great, come talk to me when you hit 20 episodes”, that filters out 99% of them. Most people would do themselves a favor to say “I’m going to do 5 great casts and stop.” When Nedra says “her mind wanders” that’s the nice way to say that the content is not compelling. Jennifer is on the mark talking about widely varying quality.

Many listeners are commuters (they have a higher threshold for crappy content since the alternative is radio), so you often hear the 20-30 minute standard because that’s the average commute.

The key is don’t fill an arbitrary time limit, bring your A-game content and never dip into the B-list. Then cut it short 5 minutes. If your audience loves it and wants more, they’ll come back. Even if your content is good but you bore them just a bit, eventually you’ll lose them. Expert interviewers like Mitch Joel and Charlie Rose can keep you on the edge of your seat for an hour, same with quality content like “This American Life.” The rest of us probably don’t have decades of interviewing experience, or a crew that can research 12 stories to find the 4 great ones like NPR does.

Good luck with your cast, I can say for sure that yours won’t suck.

Mack Collier January 8, 2013 at 8:23 am

Thanks John, excellent insights. I was also under the impression that a lot of people listen to them while commuting.

Owen Greaves January 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Hi Mack,

Sorry I haven’t been around here much lately, but you caught my attention on the Podcast thing. I actually started doing Podcasts, but not in a traditional sense. I started reading my blog posts as a podcast, making them available for download, and free on iTunes. I have 15 years of Radio in background, on air for many of those years, found I actually was missing it, this solved my problem. The production is more like reading an audio book, you might want to consider that format for your blog.

Hope you are well, and thanks for what you do.

Many Blessings,
Owen

Mack Collier January 8, 2013 at 8:21 am

Owen that’s a very interesting idea. Do you have any way to make an apples to apples comparison of engagement with the blog post versus the same post read as a podcast?

Owen Greaves January 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I do not have a way just yet, as I just started doing the post reading podcast, I am curious what the results will be, but I don’t get heavy traffic to my site. I expect if it catches on, traffic will increase, iTunes also gets my Podcast feed (it’s FREE), so we’ll see.

Karen Swim January 8, 2013 at 8:40 am

Hi Mack, I am like Nedra and don’t like podcasts or audiobooks. I am a highly visual learner (yep me and Einstein :-)) so my mind shifts when listening to audio. However there are people that are auditory learners which is why I value offering content in multiple mediums. For people like me I might make it 15 minutes but longer and you would lose me. I like the idea of one speaker delivering solid content but there is also value in good interviews that teach.

Mack Collier January 9, 2013 at 9:32 am

Karen now that I think about it, I think this is why I like much shorter podcasts, because my mind tends to wander as well after about 10-15 mins. And that’s when it’s a topic I am passionate about, if the hosts are jumping around, I lose interest in just a few minutes.

Great insights, thanks!

Penina January 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Hi Mack,
I’m another who just doesn’t watch podcasts. I force myself to watch TED talks, and my son’s Let’s Plays ;-) but that’s about it. I am a visual processor, but podcasts ARE visual, so how can that be? I’ve tried listening only but then some visual is displayed and I’ve missed it or my mind wanders to the project I happen to be doing.

Thinking about it, if I were to do a podcast I’d probably use puppets and background sets made of scarves and watercolor paintings… which perhaps explains why I do spend a bit time on Vimeo! I don’t mean to be glib… Just thinking out loud…

Penina January 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm

oh oh oh, I see I’m confusing vcasts and podcasts (should I add that I have a cold, and am attempting to write in a bit of a fog?).

So when we talk about sound only, I am not that market. I’ve tried and tried. I can do it to *some* degree in the car.

What are the percentages? Are we talking visual/kinesthetic vs. auditory learners? If so, the numbers lean in favor of visual. If the statistics measure different criteria to identify whether your readers are also podcast listeners (or if you’ll be able to expand your audience by adding the medium), then it is certainly worth experimenting.

Hope this is slightly more helpful than my previous comment. And if there is a way to include watercolors and scarves in an audio experience, I’m there ;-)

Mack Collier January 9, 2013 at 9:34 am

Hey Penina, yes I am thinking audio only.

I agree, video and visuals are more effective, but back to John’s point about a lot of podcasts being bad, I think most of us are horrible when it comes to making video. I definitely would never try it!

Jay Baer January 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Interesting perspective, Mack. As a host of an interview-style podcast (Social Pros), I can tell you that I am reluctant to not have guests because I’m not sure people want to hear me ramble every week. Plus, I really, really enjoy talking to the guests. Makes me smarter, and has ended up being one of my very favorite activities.

Lately though, I’ve started a weekly video podcast of five minutes or less called The Baer Facts. I’m liking that format because it’s such a quick hit.

Before I launched the podcast (almost exactly a year ago) I did a survey on my blog (which is also guilty of going from a single voice to more of a group format – the price of “progress” I guess), and found strong preference for a podcast that was 30 minutes or less. Given that many podcasts are consumed during commutes or while exercising, etc. shorter shows fit more windows.

On the transcription side, I originally did it as a service to blog readers (and for Google). Not sure if we’ll keep it up. I use speechpad.com for all my transcription, and swear by them.

Given the questions you get all the time from people here and on #blogchat you might think about the QA format, like Marcus Sheridan is using for his Mad Marketing podcast.

Mack Collier January 11, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Jay I haven’t checked out your video podcasts yet, will do that. But you are a classic example of someone that I would enjoy a podcast with just them. Cause you’re smart, funny and personable. On the other hand, your format of having guests that are actually doing social media for companies is a great idea.

Now to be fair, a lot of podcasters can’t carry a show by themselves, IMO. I was thinking of Nick and DJ on The Work Talk Show as being another example of where I’d like to hear more with just them versus a guest. Maybe a mix.

Will be interesting to see long-term what your response rate for the shorter video casts versus the podcasts is. Not apples to apples comparison, but I like that you are experimenting, that’s how we learn.

Jay Baer January 11, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Thanks Mack. I’ll keep you posted. I’m going to start adding the new Baer Facts videos on Wednesdays, and the podcast on Fridays, and a blog post from me on Mondays, with a guest post either Tuesday or Thursday. We’re on editorial calendar 5.0, but we keep plugging away!

Terri L Maurer January 13, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I’m with you on preferring podcasts from hosts, Mack. While I don’t mind the occasional interview if it’s a topic I’m interested in, I’m already sold on the host or I wouldn’t be following them. I’m OK with time lengths up to 1/2 hour as it’s an opportunity to get more information on a topic than I’d likely see in a blog post.

All the best with ‘Think Like a Rock Star’. Look forward to it’s launch.

Mack Collier January 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Thank you Terri!

Debra Simpson January 16, 2013 at 7:36 am

I’ve been podcasting for a few years now. I host a 30 min business interview on one show, a talking head on my 15 min podcast, and part of a team of two on the final show. I never go over 30 mins. I prefer the interview method because I enjoy the engagement. I’m naturally curious and work to draw gems of wisdom from my guests. My focus for the business interview is to offer my small business community a chance to share their expertise so the might gain a new client because of the interview. I’ve enjoyed reading all these comments and will be checking out some of the podcasts mentioned.

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