Welcome to the second part of my mini series on my thoughts, likes and dislikes of hobby podcasts. In the first post I set the scene and outlined the main things that I am looking for in a hobby podcast; what will keep me subscribing and downloading?
In this post I want to go into a little more detail on the things that make a real difference to me as a listener. I tend to find that if a podcast does too many of these things poorly then I will eventually stop listening and then stop downloading.
When I sat down to think about what I wanted to say I ended up with 2 main items – Delivery and Content. Sounds simple…
Delivery is the first item that I want to cover as it’s the fabric of the podcast – how is it edited, what is the sound quality, how is the episode structured.
For me I need my podcast to be structured. I want a clearly defined introduction section that tells me what will be covered in the episode and I want each section to be clearly identifiable from the next. Most hobby podcasts follow the simple pattern of ‘what have you done’ followed by the main topic of the episode and ending on ‘what will you do’. The main topic itself should then be broken down if necessary so that the presenters themselves know what they are going to be talking about. Turning up to the recording without a plan and then talking for 2 or more hours with no real direction is not really acceptable and I don’t think it’s the best use of anybody’s time.
The next item of delivery is probably the one that a lot of the collaborative, dial-in podcasts find difficult – organisation. There needs to be a clear lead presenter responsible for keeping the other contributors on track and to the structure. They need to be the person telling people to stop rambling and to reach conclusions where necessary. If I find myself doing this as a listener then the podcast starts dropping down my priority list and eventually I don’t download. The need for a leader is even more important if the episode has a contributor connecting in remotely. Disorganisation here is particularly bad as people talk over each other…then pause…then talk over each other again. It’s not a good experience for the listener.
Sound quality is important to me. I’m not really talking about the technical aspects here more the basics – coughs, table bangs, dogs barking etc. Some external noise is acceptable – they’re not in recording studios after all – but presenters being aware that they are on-mic is important. Sometimes these can be edited out but this is a lot of work for someone to do. Outside recordings and the odd poor Skype call are ok on an occasional basis but if they happen too often then it becomes a problem. Most of these problems go away as the podcast gets more episodes under its belt; the presenters gain experience and the recording equipment is usually upgraded.
Another important aspect for me is attention. I want the presenters to be giving the podcast their full attention when they are recording. I don’t wan them sculpting or painting in the background. Their lack of attention comes over to the listener and often leads to them chirping in when other presenters are commenting and it leads to the flow of podcast breaking down.
I think too that podcasts need to set an expectation in terms of availability. If you are a monthly podcast then be monthly on or around a set date. I fully understand how difficult it is to fit everything in these days but I think it is important for podcasts to be or appear to be as professional as possible and this means keeping to deadlines (you can tell I’m a project manager!). If you are not able to post then the gaming community, and I suspect podcast listeners even more, are avid users of social media so use it. Let them know. Everybody understands that what you do is out of a love and a passion for a shared hobby so nobody will rage if you manage expectations (sorry if I’m sounding like a PM textbook).
So I think you understand a little bit about the details about the delivery of the podcast that I find most important.
The next item is content. Content is the great unknown in many ways. It’s the thing that is most personal to the listener and to the podcaster; why are you making a podcast and why am I listening? In the first post I covered some of the reasons that I listen to podcasts but podcasters must have reasons for podcasting – sharing their passion, doing something that they thought they would listen to, contributing to the community. These reasons will in many ways drive the main style and approach of the podcast and I am open to any and all. The most common styles that I hear are either a small group of friends talking around a table, or two co-presenters. I prefer small numbers of contributors personally as hearing too many voices can be a little confusing at times and it helps when sticking to my rules on delivery.
Regardless of the main style and approach, I want the content to have focus or a theme. Are you going to be the fluff podcast enjoying the stories behind the characters and the armies, are you the tournament gamer podcast, the club gamers, it doesn’t matter to me as I can pick and choose what I listen to but I think that the podcasters need to keep that focus in each episode regardless of the topics being covered.
The topic is the main content of the episode be it a tournament preview, hobby ideas, book/rules review and as I said I think here it is important that the theme of the podcast dictates how the topic is managed. I don’t want to listen to the same army book review eight times in a month. I want the opinion of the particular podcasters in their style. But it is important that there are clearly defined topics and it’s just not a free-for-all for the duration.
Now this is a big one – time. Although I prefer a podcast to be about 2 hours long I can live with them being longer, especially at the end of the moth when my playlist is empty. But I want 2 hours of pure content. I don’t want inane chatter, I don’t want production decisions being made while I listen, I don’t want discussion about non-hobby items. I want the content that I came for. Although it can sometimes be useful to get a fuller, rounder impression of the people behind the voices, it still needs to be relevant to the hobby and their relationship with it. I like my podcasts tight and lean.
Finally I want all of the content to be positive. I mentioned in the first post some of the reasons that I listen to podcasts and one of them is motivation. I want to be inspired to collect, paint and model by listening to others who enjoy the same hobby. Now opinion and comment are important and are a couple of reasons for listening in the first place, but when there is constant negativity about one or two aspects of the hobby then I get quite annoyed. The worst case of this is the price of Games Workshop’s new books and models. Every new release there is widespread moaning. We know it is expensive, but don’t keep on about it. I choose what I do in the hobby and have my own definition of expensive. I am also adult enough to not buy all the new toys when they come out, I am able to budget my hobby expenses and can choose to buy what I want. I don’t need telling that I’m being ripped off if I decide to buy a new release. I want podcasts to take the positive aspects of the hobby and focus on them, and not to join in with the negativity of the forums.
Now, I know that this list comes across as very demanding, especially when podcasting is extremely hard work and takes a lot of time and effort. I feel that I can be demanding because there is so much choice out there these days and I am always on the look out for something bigger and better. It’s easy for me as the listener to try out a new, or newly discovered podcast. If I like it, I subscribe and re-evaluate the other similar podcasts that I download. I currently subscribe to 57 podcasts of which 33 are hobby/gaming related. There’s only so much time that I have to listen to them so I’ll eventually drop those that don’t meet my criteria.
Before I close off this post I just want to say that I love my hobby podcasts; I need them all. Together with Twitter I think that they are an essential part of a gamers toolkit these days and I think that anybody dedicated and passionate enough to start up and continue with a podcast deserves the utmost respect and praise. I’m also not saying that a podcast that doesn’t follow my criteria is a bad podcast, not at all, it just isn’t for me and probably isn’t targeted at me anyway.
I hope that this little list has given you a good idea of the specific things that I am looking for in a hobby podcast. It’s not exhaustive and I will come back and re-evaluate them in twelve months or so. If you have any comments or podcast recommendations then please leave me a comment.
In the next, and final, post I will discuss some of the hobby podcasts that I like the most and some of the reasons that I like them.
Until next time, happy hobbying.