I'm not a big consumer of podcasts in general. I listen to one regularly, and a few occasionally. The regular and most of the occasional ones are all strength training related, or I'll pop in when they have a strength training-related guest on. Gaming, I try, but I generally stop after one or two of them.
I realize it's a combination of things that drives me away. It's not just hating "Let me tell you about my character!" or stories where you had to be there for it to be funny. It's that they have some issues that make it hard on me the listener. Issues I think are easily solvable . . . that aren't solved.
I dislike complaining per se, so I'm trying to write this not as a rant but as helpful advice. It's what I'd like to hear or see done. I'm setting aside the technical basics - balanced mic levels for guests, sound quality in general, timely releases of the podcast, etc. This is just content and organization. Here are some things I think podcasters can do to make them more useful.
Look it up
One of the things that annoy me in a podcast is when people make references to things in books that aren't accurate.
Good example, I heard a podcast that covered some old AD&D modules. The module had an odd magic item, and the podcast host said basically, it's not even explained why it's there. Except that, yes, it's absolutely explained, they tell you who it belongs to - and from there, the why is totally clear. It's right in the room description of the module.
Another was talking about rules in the 1st edition DMG. Since I only ever played 1st edition AD&D until playing 5th edition AD&D, I knew right off the rules weren't there. I dug around and found the ones being discussed - in 2nd edition AD&D. A simple look-up would have solved this.
Still another had a case where the host basically said, "I think it's an (X) level spell, I'm not sure." Okay, why aren't you sure?
Recording a podcast isn't done out on the street with a microphone and a tape recorder. You're on your computer. You have a phone. There are PDFs and hard copies of everything around.
If you're talking about something and aren't sure, look it up. I'm going to when I listen (or after). Better, look it up before. Flip to it when you discuss it. Better accurate than not sure, and accuracy is pretty trivial. "I don't have my books with me" isn't that plausible now that books are usually searchable PDFs that fit scores-to-the-gig.
Not only that, but looking it up means your podcast is more accurate, more useful, and more likely to help the listening. "Today we're talking about the Long Weapons in Close Combat rules in GURPS, they're on page 117 of GURPS Martial Arts." Great! I can look them up and read along now or later, not flip around until I find them. That also means you won't be talking about rules by the telephone game method.
Have a Structure
Sometimes podcasts can kind of meander all around. Start with chatter, get to something interesting, wander off into a side discussion, sort-of come back, get more chatter, and then wrap up with an, "Oh yeah, what about the topic we said we'd discuss?" roundup. For me, this really discourages listening. It feels messy, disorganized, and like I'm just listening in on a random gaming discussion. That would be fine if I was participating, but as a passive listener, I tend to get bored.
Having a standard structure helps me a lot as a listener. For example:
- Basic Greetings
- Review of the Week
- Main Topic/Interview
- Q&A from previous podcasts
I find I'll digest the information a lot better if it's put into a basic structure. Even if you skip part of it - "So, no review this week, thanks to the fiery zeppelin crashing into my library" - it will be so much easier on me as a listener.
Putting in the effort to put in time stamps on your website - so I can skip to just the parts I want to hear - is pure gold. Especially if you touch on a topic for 5 minutes somewhere in a 90 minute podcast, knowing it's at 47:52 helps. I can just go to that if I'm pressed for time or not interested in the other parts of the podcast - or if I'm coming back to it much later to review or link to someone. This is especially true if you bill that 90 minute podcast as being about that topic you only spent 5 minutes on.
This is a big ask, but if you have your podcast transcribed, the odds I'll consume it jump considerably. I'll read it when I have some downtime, put it on my device, use CTRL-F to see if you mention things I'm interested in . . . and then I'll listen to it. If you can't do this, it's fine - this costs time and money (usually both, not either/or) and I get that. I've turned away requests to do things on this blog because it would cost me time and money or make it into work.
Hopefully that didn't come across as a rant - it's really intended to be constructive criticism.