Building a successful podcast is all about confidence, variety, music, and professionalism. There are scores of radio programs and thousands of podcasts. What makes yours different? What makes it stand out? What’s your demographic? Why are you doing it in the first place?
These are important questions to ask. Do not allow the number of existing shows to sour your enthusiasm. Think of what you want to hear in a show. Research other programs you admire, note what they’re doing right, and jot down notes on what’s missing. You want to fill that hole. Attempting to replicate an existing format will fall flat. Look for an original angle.
WUTC/NPR 88.1FM fell into my lap because I enjoy what I do. Based in Chattanooga, TN, WUTC is a hub of NPR standards and local flair. A friend of mine got me a spot on a show recorded there in 2014. I read poetry and the Misty Mountain String Band made the day perfect with bluegrass. Of course I was nervous and sweaty, but also felt blessed to experience an interview with NPR. I kept my language clean and stories honest. The General Manager, Richard Winham, enjoyed it.
Richard Winham said, “Clifford, you need your own show. In six weeks, once our fundraising pledge drive is over, shoot me an email and we”ll set something up.”
“Bullshit,” I thought but didn’t say. What I did say was, “That would be awesome!” Then I left and Richard went back to work.
Seven weeks later I sent that email. Within the same day Richard set a day and time for me to come up and record the first show. I brought fourteen friends, no hint of a plan, and enough excitement to power the whole city.
“So, Clifford, what’s your formula?” Richard asked, not concerned about the dozen or so folks clogging his waiting room.
“Formula?” I answered. (I swear I almost added aloud my radio show wasn’t about chemistry.)
We brought in all the guests and Richard’s editing wizardry sewed it into a palatable whole.
“What do you want to call it?” He asked me.
“Dante’s Old South,” was my answer.
I chose the name to fuse two ideas: 1) The classical tradition of Dante Alighieri, and 2) A term typically held in a negative light. My mission from the start is to squash the uneducated, racist, “yee-haw” stereotype of the South without being ashamed of my roots. Thus far I think we’ve done a solid job.
So, from a slipshod start, now the show has a formula. I bring in folks from all walks of life and find out what makes them tick. I choose guests from my neck of the woods in Georgia and some from the Chattanooga area. I break up the interviews with original, up-and-coming artists from Sofar Sounds of Atlanta. I don’t care if you somehow sound like James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Malcolm McDowell at the same time – eventually all-talk will rock listeners to sleep.
How do you create a successful podcast?
- Have fun doing it.
- Don’t do it with vain intent.
- Create a formula that fills a public need.
- Vet all guests beforehand to avoid embarrassing grandstanding.
- Bring in local artists from all genres to appeal to the whole art community.
- Invite guests from outside the norm like mathematicians, land surveyors, engineers, landscapers, teachers, etc. Anything done well and with love is art. Get all of it on tape.
- Start an archive of your shows on iTunes, Spotify, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to tweak your formula over time to prevent stagnation.
For the first three years Dante’s Old South was broadcast four times a year. Starting in January 2019 we began a monthly spot on the third Sunday of every month at 8:00PM. It’s a labor of love I enjoy every time we get into the studio. I pray you find the same satisfaction as you build your own successful podcast.