The last few months have been crazy for us. Why? We now produce a daily, original, all-local podcast.
Monday through Thursday we produce 15-20 minutes of audio that is the Daily Detroit News Byte. It includes originally reported stories, key headlines, and usually a feature audio documentary or interview.
On Fridays we produce the Daily Detroit Happy Hour podcast with Sven Gustafson. It’s evolving into Detroit’s podcast dinner party.
So in reality, we produce podcast shows five days a week. 80+ Daily Detroit News Bytes and 50+ Happy Hours.
We still have a lot of room to grow and a lot more we’ll learn as we keep doing this, but here are 8 things we’ve learned producing a podcast every day.
1. There are no rules, but have a process
With a daily show, things can easily change in within hours or minutes of post time. There are no hard rules as to when the rest of the world happens. This means you need a strong process so you can put out fires as they arise instead of dealing with basics.
We like perfect audio, but with our time constraints we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We use low-cost tools that work well like Slack and Google Docs every day to coordinate.
We have to creatively solve problems all the time — including where to record on the fly.
We’ve recorded inside of cars. In quiet parks. In a quiet corner of the GM RenCen. Outside of the old train station… and in the lobby of the Grand Hotel up on Mackinac Island.
2. Get solid gear, but focus on your story
If you want to think about gear all day, go be an engineer and help produce someone else’s show. At the end of the day, most listeners do not care what you recorded on as long as it sounds good. Our reliable workhorse is an old, dented, screen-cracked Tascam DR-40.
Good mic technique and basic processing can get you most of the way you need to go.
Although we can record independently, we often choose to use the service of a local studio and incubator, Podcast Detroit. Why? Because it’s an easy button and sometimes we need to go in, record, and be done. We’ll soon have an announcement about regular recording digs in the city of Detroit with them.
After all, we make shows — not technical audio equipment discussions.
3. Digital media is its own thing
When people approach digital media of any kind, they tend to think it’s an echo of the world they came from. Former print people often think the internet is text. Video folks believe everything should be video. Radio folks, audio. Photographers, images.
In fact, digital is its own medium. Each story format has its strengths, and you need to be able to switch between them depending on the story you need to tell.
Podcasting allows for more tone and personality to come out to the audience than text does. You can hear the energy someone brings to the mic.
4. Think evergreen
Episodes of the Daily Detroit News Byte are often listened up to a week from the day they are posted. We have to think about that with every story we select, and give people enough lead time to binge listen or catch up. That’s just the nature of podcasting.
5. Focus to stand out
Here’s a fact traditional media should shudder at: 44 percent of the time, people don’t even know what the original source is of what they’re reading if they’ve followed a link from Facebook.
If done right, podcasts set your brand apart. You don’t need to put out 30 or 40 stories a day like so many local outlets do nowadays to be valuable. In fact, traditional media may be wasting audience’s time trying to offer too much.
A sustainable local news publication will be fundamentally different: a minimal rundown of the news of the day, with a small number of in-depth articles a week featuring real in-depth reporting, with the occasional feature or investigative report. After all, it’s not like it is hard to find content to read on the Internet: what people will pay for is quality content about things they care about (and the fact that people care about their cities will be these publications’ greatest advantage).
Our experience so far is that Ben Thompson’s above theory is correct.
6. This will be hard work
I get asked a lot about our technical tricks to put a show out every day. Our app we use that does it all. Our simple steps.
There are no shortcuts. You have to show up every day. You have to do the work.
You will always be thinking of ways to work smarter, not harder, sure. But doing something of quality every day is not a hobby or a side project.
7. You can’t build anything that lasts by yourself
Collaborate wherever you can. We’ve had people from Hour Detroit, Bridge Magazine, the Detroit News and others on our shows. Guests sometimes become regular contributors.
Having an “us vs. them” attitude of the traditional newsroom simply doesn’t work in digital. Have a great story and want to talk about it? Come on by!
Unlike some folks, we take PR pitches. Not all of them are great, and some are outright awful. But a good one is how we got an episode with play-by-play announcer Dan Dickerson and Tigers legend Willie Horton on a show.
Beyond our little core team, we collaborate with Fletcher Sharpe to cover Detroit City FC on a regular basis, a beat traditional sports stations basically ignore. Chef Godwin Ihentuge will be adding depth of flavor to the culinary side of our Daily Detroit Happy Hour. Viranel Clerard, the man behind DetroitMurals.com, now comes on to talk about street art. Karen Dybis appears often to add context and helped us with our Mackinac coverage.
8. Put the audience — your community — first.
WIIFM. What’s In It For Me. That’s what almost every listener that’s not your mom thinks, every day. Time is now our most valuable asset as a society. Look at all the on-demand services out there now designed to save us time. Shipt. Lyft. Amazon Prime. The list goes on.
With a podcast, you can’t force people to subscribe. They’re making an active choice. Honor that decision with everything you produce, and have fun with it. Remember that people can often hear how you’re feeling. This is challenging but rewarding work. People can hear it if you love what you do.
I hope this post helps your project. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe (free!) to our shows. Thanks!