S15E1: The Way of the Podcaster

Less is More

Podcasting, a little like coding and gaming, was heavily influenced at its conception by a tech bro aesthetic. The equivalent of all early technologies from the previous century. Cloth, wires, wood and an internal combustion engine cobbled together with bicycle parts to build an aeroplane. Pilots built their own planes. Just over a century later, most pilots do not. The technological advances ensure flying is far safer than it once was. There are still hobbyists who’ll rabbit on about glues, running wires and the correct paint for aerodynamic effect but this is no longer essential to be a pilot.

Podcasting Takes Off

In much the same way, we podcasters no longer need to hand craft our RSS feeds nor cobble together bits of kit from radio studios, the music industry or audio journalism. The barriers to entry are considerably lower than the heady days of 2004 when the medium was born. In much the same way a stealth bomber and the Wright Flyer are both aeroplanes, so too is podcasting in 2004 and 2024 still podcasting but oh so different. 

Here the aeroplane analogy dies. The stealth bomber is way more complex a machine than the Wright Flyer. Podcasting in 2024 is, or can be, perhaps even, should be, far less complicated than it was back in the day, as the older folk like to say.

The essence of podcasting has remained constant. At its minimum, a voice, a feed and a playback device are still all that’s required. The podcaster has control over the first two of these. Voice and feed. The feed should and can reliably and with consistency be outsourced to a host.

Sustainable Systems

Capturing audio is the first critical step. It requires some thought.

Complexity only brings stability in biological systems. Complexity in technological systems does not, generally, bring stability. Stability in the case of podcasting means:

  • I can sit down and record an episode, intro, outro whenever I wish. In the full knowledge my tech stack will work 99% of the time. 
  • I have a workflow to tick all the boxes in a production process.
  • I rarely have to change hardware or software.
  • When I do change hardware or software it is a conscious choice not a reaction to disharmony or disfunction.

All these systems I can operate on my own or outsource specific sections if I need or want to.

A podcaster doesn’t need an engineer sitting at a console monitoring any number of dials and metres. The systems are at the point where we know what our levels will be when we use the system. Any variation is accounted for in another part of the system’s structure that’s been tested to the point of failure. 

The tech can seem to be the biggest hurdle to beginning, it is not. The tech is a domain we need to master but not obese over.

The Point of a Podcast

We podcast for five reasons:

  1. To place something from within us to outside of us.
  2. To entertain.
  3. To educate.
  4. To Influence.
  5. To sell.

To place something from within us to outside of us

This is the creative drive. We don’t care, at this level, if anyone is listening. We have a vision for an audio creation and if we don’t create it we will suffer psychologically. This is the artist’s view of the medium.

To entertain

This is the next level on from the purely creative. It requires an audience and feedback is great. This may or may not be driven by an inner creative drive but is created for others.

To educate

At a similar level to entertain, to educate again requires an audience and the content is created for others.

To Influence

To influence is raising the content bar a little higher. It requires action from the listener. This may be a mindset, behavioural or personal change. 

To sell

This is a variation on the previous three reasons. It requires action from the listener but a very specific action, the handing over of currency. 

Show Structures

With these reasons in mind, the show structure will reveal itself.

There are four basic structures:

  1. The solo or monolog
  2. The interview
  3. The co-host
  4. The ensemble
  5. Anything else you can dream up

The solo or monolog

This form is ideal for educational purposes. The “History of” podcast genre is a good example. Scripts are highly researched, written out in full and tell a story each episode. These episodes build up on one another until the show reaches its final destination. 

This structure also works well for the audio book style with a chapter per episode.

The interview

This is the mainstay of the majority of shows. The host decides on the niche, interviews experts in the field and entertains, educates and influences their listeners to effect change in their lives. It draws on a century of radio and three quarters of a century of television interview programs. The format is familiar to most listeners.

The co-host

This can be two or three individuals providing content around a central theme. It can expand to the round table discussion with four or more participants. The roundtable can be confusing to listeners if the voices of the co-hosts are not sufficiently distinct from each other.

The ensemble

This too can include the roundtable model. It is perfect for audio dramas. Either a one off play or an ongoing season of episodes in a detective genre. Another version of this structure is the investigative journalism show. “True Crime” shows with a combination of reenactments, interviews and voice over also fit within this structure.

Anything else you can dream up

The point is, we are subject to no rules. A novel format may be exciting to the podcaster, its value will be determined by the listeners. Experiment, if you wish. Maybe a separate feed for your experimentations would make sense.

The Ancient Humanity of Storytelling

The human voice, a campfire, a Lord’s hall and podcasting are all linked by the epic. The Iliad, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Journey to the West, The Shahnameh, King Arthur, Cuchulain, Robin Hood and countless others are the stories of humanity.

Cultures held together through the efforts of the wandering storyteller, bard, minstrel and troubadour, these ancient and still extant traditions connect with a deep part of the human brain. Many of these earlier epics were in poetic form. This connects with a part of the brain different from the way prose does. Taken to an extreme this would suggest English language podcasts should all be in iambic pentameter. Other languages have other staples better suited to their pronunciation and history. It’s an idea.

Even in prose form, Podcasting provides the opportunity to be the bard, the storyteller, the troubadour or minstrel. No longer are we required to travel from village to hamlet to city; these listeners come to us through our feeds. We speak, through our podcasts, to many people, one at a time, all at once.


No matter the purpose nor the format of your podcast, telling a story in each episode and across each season will connect to that ancient, fully human part of our listener’s minds. Storytelling is a highly complex, if you let it be, and at the same time, a relatively simple, straightforward thing to learn. The nuance comes in developing your style, your voice, your unique view on the world. A vision, a mission and a purpose create a framework from within which your story evolves, your voice shines and your listeners are delighted. It is what keeps them coming back, episode after episode.

Bringing It All Together

Less is more, sustainable systems, a workable format and storytelling are the four streams of action required to build a great audio experience for your listeners and for the podcaster. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you won’t do it for long. There are times when the going gets tough, even when you enjoy what you are doing. Remembering the four streams and with a workflow supporting your content creation, you will move through the tough times, you will thrive through the flow state periods and your podcast will create something of great value for your listeners.