Friday, November 27, 2009
Eight Steps to Making a Killer Soccer Podcast
Seeing as I've somehow managed to transform myself into a football online media guru over the course of one or two speculative and highly subjective posts on the future of football blogging, I suddenly feel more than qualified to speak to that sorest of sore points, the DIY Footie Podcast.
Notice I've rigged my post title to generate as much spurious traffic as possible; no doubt, as the number of online football bloggers reaches the five hundred million mark, this will certainly be the single most popular post in AMSL's history.
So here are my arbitrarily made-up eight rules for Football Podcasting Glory, such as it is, completely and utterly according to me, a listener of many football podcasts.
1. Keep It Short. It's called the law of diminishing returns, I think. Or is it market saturation? I only took one business course in high school, and then an economics course which consisted of me calling my teacher a fascist because he didn't approve of social spending during economic boom periods. But I digress.
Keep your podcast short, because there are now literally hundreds of thousands of DIY podcasts and for me to listen to them all would basically require me to drop everything, including watching football, to hear them all. The ear buds on my iPod would rot, and I'd lose my hearing, which means I would lose my job as a countertenor, which means I would stop AMSL due to lack of funds. You don't want this, trust me. Try to get your podcast down to twenty minutes, maybe even ten.
2. Stick to Your Niche. If people go to your website to get the inside scoop on MLS backroom politics, and your podcast attempts to do a global footie round-up from the Eredivisie through to the Copa Sudamericana, that means a lot of them are going to use that scrolly option on their iPod. I'm going to tell your right now that scrolly option is really annoying to use. Your podcast supplements your blog; pick one or two juicy controversial topics related to your area of interest, and start there. Think of your podcast as a thrilling addendum to your already kick-ass blog. And don't be afraid of scaring away a global audience if you go specific; as a good blogger, you will find an interesting way to tie it into the greater whole of the Global Football story.
3. Don't Try to be Football Weekly. Yes, we'd all like to be as pun-sexy Euro cool as AC Jimbo, as hipster cynically narcissistic as Barry Glendenning, and as inappropriately gambly as Seani, but we can only be ourselves really. Try to remember what you do at parties that gets people to look you in the eyes when you talk, and do that. If your blog is a sort of repetition of FW's, or the Game's, or whatever major newspaper podcast's format, and change it up somehow. Stand out from the pack.
4. Spend the Money on a Producer. Maybe you don't even have to spend the money; there are tens of thousands of out of work studio producers who have just spilled out of whatever predatory, barely-accredited sound engineering college they've just finished over-paying by way of student loans, waiting for a gig to get their chops in, or however the lingo goes. These people know how to edit (presumably), and will make you sound like Jonathan Goldstein when in fact you are probably more like that guy on Youtube who cries about celebrities. Good editing will separate you from the pack immediately, and is a hell of lot more listenable than fifteen minutes to every hour of "hmmm," "ahhh," "*cough*" etcetera.
If you can't afford a producer, than think like one. Break your pod up into segments if need be, and try to keep the thing moving along nicely. Remember, shorter is gooder.
5. Be Funny, but don't "Be Funny." This one relates a bit to number 3. We're all kind of funny; even the guy who writes the Political Economy of Football throws in an unexpected knee-slapper here and there. But if you find yourself having a post-recording drink discussing your comic timing, writing down gags on a notepad when you're at the grocery store, and watching old Kids in the Hall sketches with friends discussing the influence of the Goon Show on latter half twentieth century absurdist sketch-comedy, you might be trying too hard.
Also, try to avoid comedic "segments" that segue into hard analysis by way of that most nauseating of phrases, "but in all seriousness."
6. If You Do Interviews, Do them Really Effing Well. There are some podcasts, and they should know who they are, that make news because they get the right person at the right time, and ask the right questions, which spins the news wheel that much faster, and get the interviewers noticed/respected. I would take a ten minute informative interview with a new MLS owner that asks relevant, information-yielding questions, than an hour of softballs tossed at some retired English League One player, any day of the week. Don't think you have to keep your subjects happy no matter what, just be a good journalist and they will respect/fear/sue you. Ideally not the last one though, which means you might touch up on libel/slander laws in your home country.
7. Don't Be Self-Referential. Listeners to your podcast probably don't care about you, they care about the subject you're covering and your opinions thereon. If you start harbouring a "shtick" (I'm the "this guy" sort of guy!), then you are trying to become what CBC Radio obnoxiously refers to as an "On Air Personality." Get the fuck out of the way of the story, content is your god, making relevant points about the football is your point. Relates to number 5.
8. Take Risks, Be Different. Well, enough of the negatives, now the positive: don't be afraid to be totally and completely wacko different from everyone else. Cover some small, lower league controversy that neatly ties in to some "problem of the week" that everyone else is always harping on about. Maybe don't cover the "big stories" of the day at all, maybe we've all heard/read/talked about the "big stories," and hearing them discussed yet again is enough to make us cry. If people expect your podcast to offer a lively discussion on an as-of-yet uncovered story that week, in a way that might make a local issue more accessible to a global audience, if maybe you have a interesting segment no other podcast has, perhaps that gives me a reason to listen to you and not the next guy.
Disclaimer: I don't produce or star in podcasts, so I really don't have a pot to piss in with this topic, but I am an avid podcast listener and a I know what I like. But I am one (1) man. Maybe you've crunched your audience and they prefer the "all sound same" approach. If so, by all means, steady on.