The quest for the perfect podcast is a pipe dream. And even if it was attainable, you’d grow bored with it. Or your listeners would. A living podcast relies on the juxtaposition between what you love and what you hate.
What part of your podcast do you love the most? What part of your podcast do you like the least?
When you start pondering those questions, you will find the answers change over time. And I’m not talking about days or weeks. I’m talking about minutes. Seriously. If you meditate on whatever your first instinct tells you, you’ll find your opinion changing — perhaps several times — in as little as 30 minutes. The answers to those questions are a bit slippery.
Once you’ve settled on the answers — that’s one thing you love about your podcast and one thing you like the least about your podcast — you need to shift your perspective to your audience. Do they feel the same way about those aspects? Are they even aware of those aspects? Not that I’m suggesting you stay too focused on the listener just yet. That comes with its own challenges.
OK, now that you’ve changed again and have really settled on answers, the path seems clear. Emphasis on the word seems, you’ll note. It’s natural to assume the easy position of eliminating or reducing the thing you don’t like about your podcast and doubling-down on the thing you love about your show.
But that’s not what you should do. What you should do is quite the opposite.
The Critical Role Of Dynamic Tension In A Podcast
Your show needs tension. Often, it’s the tension between the things you like and the things that you don’t like as the host, creator, producer, or showrunner of a podcast that gives the podcast life. Maybe not all of its life, but certainly some flavoring and seasoning. And no one wants to listen to a lifeless, flavorless podcast. So you never want to get rid of all tension.
This is not blanket permission for you to keep doing bad things! If the “dislike” item about your show is from bad processes, because you’re not following best practices, or just isn’t anywhere close to good, then definitely change it! Bad things should go immediately. No discussion needed.
But if your “dislike/hate” item is something a bit more esoteric that’s a little harder to put a finger on or even properly define… great! If it’s a lingering doubt that nags from the back, never quite taking shape; perfect! That’s where you want to focus your energies.
It’s in that margin — the gap between what you love and what you hate — where you find the true life of your show. It’s also where you may find new opportunities to take your show. Because growth often happens in this “conflict” zone. It’s where your innate problem-solving attentions keep returning to time and time again. So… lean into that tension!
Look For Unique Points Of Pain For Your Podcast
There’s another trap that’s easy to fall into when thinking through the love-hate question. That’s the trap of conflating things that you just simply don’t like to do with an aspect of the process of making a podcast that you don’t like.
Of course you hate that it takes so long to make episodes. No, you’re not alone if you really hate the editing process, or if you’re riddled with anxiety over all the writing necessary to properly publish an episode.
That’s not the tension of which I speak. Those are staples of making a podcast. You have to either get over that hatred or hire somebody else to do it for you.
To get you out of that trap, think about the final product that your listener is exposed to. Unless you talk about your woes on your podcast, your listener likely isn’t exposed to the normal challenges that come with making a podcast. You’re looking for pain points that matter to somebody else other than you.
Maybe the thing that you hate to do is something that really resonates with your listeners. Again, the life of a podcast is often in the tension. Conversely, maybe the item you like best about your show isn’t all that important to your listeners. That’s bad tension, obviously. But it also tells you something.
The Bad Side Of Change
There’s the old saying of “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and change the things I cannot accept,” but I don’t know that it’s all that useful in this setting. Sometimes the things you could change would make a vastly different and perhaps inferior product.
I love change. But maybe instead of looking for things to change about your show and your process, perhaps you should spend attention on the tension-parts of your show. Yes, I know that sounds really, really weird. And honestly, I’m not even sure I’m properly communicating the point I’m trying to make.
But that’s okay. That’s one of the things that I love and hate about this show is that sometimes I don’t know exactly where I want the conversation to go. But it tends to get there in the end.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Neither. It’s just a thing. And I’m leaning into that thing. Hopefully, you will figure out the love-hate juxtaposition for your show so you can lean into yours as well.
Last Call For Locked-down Podcaster Tales
Speaking of tension, would you please record a minute or two of audio where you tell me the story of how your life as a podcast has been impacted by the pandemic lockdown? Are you looking forward to the coming “release” party? Have you found you really, really like being shut-in? However you’ve been impacted and affected as a podcaster, tell us about it. Record some audio, put it up on Dropbox, and send the link to email@example.com. I’ll incorporate it into tomorrow’s show.
And finally, remember that personal recommendations are really powerful. So if you haven’t yet told somebody about Podcast Pontifications, now is the time. I would really appreciate it and a personal outreach from you to them individually works really, really well.
Since you got this far (and going against what I just said), how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 299th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.