We are incredibly pleased to welcome Martin Poyntz-Roberts, BBC Radio producer and podcast creator, to guest blog for us today on the way that podcasts blur the lines between creator and listener. Having worked on programmes such as Coast, Countryfile, Farming Today, and Spring Watch, he speaks with other BBC producers on their tips and techniques for creating an engaging podcast.
One of my earliest memories was sitting in bed watching the Ashes test series on an old portable tv, one with the wire ring that acted as the aerial. It was probably black and white too, but I can still see Bob Willis thundering down the wicket to bowl, his unkempt hair bouncing everywhere.
That was 1978. Leap forward 40 years and as I’m typing this I am currently watching the third Ashes test of this series. Just like in ’78 I’m still sitting in bed, but I’m watching the cricket match currently being played out in Perth on my smart phone; the picture is crystal clear, the commentators may as well be in my bedroom with me, they are that distinct.
Engrossed as I am, I have things to do and a meeting to attend. Back in 1978 I’d miss the rest of the game. This was before VHS machines were in every home. Now? The bus I am travelling on has Wi-Fi, and so I simply continue watching the game, on my phone, on the bus. The 5-year-old me from 1978 would have had his mind well and truly blown at this prospect.
The development of new tech over the last few decades has completely changed the way we consume media. With the right apps you can watch that TV show you’ve missed, listen to your favourite radio programme, stream the current big box set, or simply listen to music, all without the constraints of the ‘schedule’ (how archaic is THAT term these days?).
Back at my desk, I’m looking for the next bite-sized chunk of entertainment to accompany my next journey and as I’m about to unveil a brand-new podcast to the world, I want to check out the competition. So, I fire up Spotify and click the ‘Podcasts’ link.
There is literally a podcast forany subject you can think of,but how are you meant to choose? In such a crowded market, where’s the quality control? And how on earth does a podcast stand out from the crowd?
That’s a question I put to Emily Knight, one half of the duo behind the highly successful Blue Planet 2 podcast, launched as a companion to the recent BBC television hit. With the merging of entertainment and education creating infotainment, Emily and her colleague Becky Ripley have topped the podcast charts, so who better to ask?
Emily’s main message was fairly simple: “A good podcast is interesting content, presented in an engaging way!”
But, as Emily explains, there’s more to it than that.
“Too many podcasts think you can just do one or the other, like ‘I’m a great presenter or a good talker so I can just waffle on with my friends and it’ll automatically be interesting’, or ‘this story I’m telling is amazing, so it won’t matter if I’m a bit fumbly and monosyllabic in my presenting style’. You need both.”
As Emily explained in more detail: “The golden rule is to edit aggressively…and to have fun in the process and try and let that show… And what makes podcasts so great? I think the intimacy, when they work really well it’s like someone’s in your room talking directly to you, and since anyone, anywhere can make one, it means we can have access to many more people’s stories.”
In my opinion, podcasts should be short, punchy, and fun. Remember, a podcast should be all about the ‘sound’. It’s not enough to have a couple of friends sitting in a room, chatting about a subject they love: there needs to be more going than just a bit of light-hearted banter.
This is a sentiment echoed by Becky, Emily’s partner in crime on the Blue Planet 2 Podcast:
“I love podcasts which are for the ears, which build a sound world and play with textured edits, weaving voices, effects and music to tell a story with zest and evocation,” Becky explains. “That high production value shouldn’t have to make it lofty in tone though, and what is wonderful about the best podcasts out there is that they speak to you on your level, rather than down to you from an overly authoritative or elite platform. They are companions.”
One of the truly beautiful things about being a listener to a podcast is that you can start a dialogue with the maker easily.
As Emily points out, “No-one’s listening by accident like they possibly do with the radio, so you can forge a more direct relationship with them.”
So, if you’re tempted to have a go yourself, go ahead, and embrace the freedom of podcasting: there are no restrictions of having to work to a particular sound.
In Emily’s own words: “You can make pieces that would never make it to Radio 4. Take risks, go off-piste, experiment!”
Martin Poyntz-Roberts is a freelance producer with 18 years’ experience in Radio, TV and Digital production. He is about to launch a Bristol-based food podcast called ‘Get Stuffed’ with writer and blogger Natalie Brereton. Next year he will be following the story of Ben Fogle and Victoria Pendleton as they attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest.