<span class='p-name'>Getting Started with Podcasts: Identifying your purpose, audience, and format</span>

Getting Started with Podcasts: Identifying your purpose, audience, and format

Podcasts are becoming very popular as a new storytelling medium to spread ideas and your message online. In this series of posts, I’ll detail everything that you’ll need to know as you get started in the world of podcasting.

We spent some time in our first post understanding, subscribing, and listening to podcasts. This post will take that thinking a step further and discuss considerations you should have as you prepare to record and share your podcast.

As our world becomes increasingly digitized, there are opportunities for us to create digital copies of events that previously only existed offline. I believe that educators need to identify opportunities to create digital copies of all teaching and learning materials. These materials need to be captured or developed with the purpose of making them easily sharable online. You might also create these materials and consider opportunities to allow other to interact or annotate your content…but that is a talk for another day. 🙂

I believe that you should identify opportunities to record, produce, and share your own podcasts online. Before we get into the finer details of how to do this, let’s examine why you would want to get started.

Identifying a purpose for your podcast

Podcasts may provide an opportunity to record and share digital copies of experiences or events in your world. They may be a weekly show in which you discuss current events with a colleague. It may be a short, informal piece of content in which you identify science misconceptions, classroom management tips, or research from your field. In any of these circumstances, you most likely already conduct these discussions with a colleague or friend. Podcasts are usually conversations that happen to take place in front of a microphone.

Try and identify in a sentence the purpose of your podcast. What need, or pain point will your content fill? What is the goal of this podcast? Having a clear, identified, granular purpose will help you as you get started.

That being said, I should also indicate that there may be multiple reasons why we create and share content. Sometimes we help fill a need for another individual or group. You might provide news or a service to the community. There are also times that you serve your own needs and document your thinking over time. You may choose to record and share your synthesis of the week’s events in a given field to help you curate and synthesize your own thinking.

In many ways, this is like the process we engage in when we write. You may write for yourself. You may write for others. You may make your purpose obvious, or keep it to yourself. I believe that identifying the purpose of your podcast, you have a goal to keep you focused as you create and share. You should be aware that your purpose will most likely change over time….but I believe that you should have a starting point.

Identifying the prototypical audience

When I teach, or give a keynote address, I want to identify and craft my materials to speak to an individual that represents the prototypical audience member. When I write a blog post, I keep in mind a specific individual that would read and need the contents I’m sharing. This is the same strategy that we focus on when developing teaching materials for a class. What is the background knowledge, and approach point for each individual in the audience.

In entrepreneurship and business this is sometimes referred to as a customer avatar. Typically in our classroom, we’ll identify the individual by the grade level, and content they may have learned previously. As I develop my avatar, I go a bit deeper and envision as many details about that person as possible. I do this in research reports by writing case studies that contain anonymized information, but all of the complexity and quirks of the real person. I want to include this detail in the avatar I use to identify my prototypical audience.

I go to this extent because there will be things in the online space that don’t neatly fall into boxes in terms of being included or left out. You’ll continue to wonder if you should include a tweet, link, joke, or photo in the content you share online. Through the development and consideration of an avatar that represents your prototypical audience, you only have to ask yourself if that individual would like it.

Content and the audience are connected. Podcasts let people find and explore content on their own terms. Good content ultimately finds the audience. I believe that you should still identify in specific terms the avatar or audience you’re speaking to.

Identifying the format for your podcast

Now that you have a good understanding of the purpose and audience of your show, let’s get creative and think about possible formats for your podcast. Good podcasts are usually equal parts storytelling and conversation. The ability to subscribe to your content sets the podcast apart from other opportunities to publish online. What format provides an opportunity to effectively address your purpose, and speak to your audience?

I have tested some of the following ideas for podcasts with great success. Feel free to modify and remix if something resonates with you.

The DIY Classroom – I spend time working with educators from Pre-K up through higher ed and help them integrate literacy and technology in their classroom. Many times there are challenges or questions that pop up that others may also be experiencing in their classroom. We set up a Google Form to accept questions from the audience to identify pain points. We then would record a quick (maximum of 10 minutes) episode for each question that we received. In the episode we identified the question, and brought up a couple “experts” in the field to posit a possible solution. This podcast was a project assigned to my students to help them serve as experts in open, online spaces.

The Research to Practice show – Under the auspices of the Literacy Research Association, we started a podcast in which we brought on a group of researchers in a given area and had them discuss their work in a particular field, and speak to a classroom teacher. The purpose of the podcast was to document current research in the field and make it approachable to the average classroom teacher. We modified the format of the show after about 20 episodes to bring on all of the authors from one publication and talk about this work in the context of the field and current classroom.

Four Questions Four – Inspired by the Research to Practice show, I wanted an opportunity to spend time one-on-one with an expert in a given field and keep the sessions brief. As I conduct research or write on a given topic, I reach out to some of the big names in the area and identify four questions I’d like them to address. We agree on the questions ahead of time so there are no surprises. I share these interviews out online along with my publication. The purpose is to help me understand the complexity of the subject under consideration. I also believe these are helpful to classroom teachers and researchers in the field to supplement my written content.

Lecture capture – I record all of my classroom lectures. I share these recordings and the presentation materials online with students to help scaffold their learning. During a lecture, I’d rather they pay attention and not worry about copiously copying down every word that comes out of my mouth. I share this content out on YouTube, but sometimes it is not that convenient to sit and watch this content. As I’ll document in an upcoming post, I strip the audio from these video screencasts, and share this out as audio podcasts. Students can listen on their device at their leisure. It is not a mandatory requirement for my classes. It is merely a supplement for the students that need it.

Meeting capture – I attend many meetings. These may be online community calls for web literacy or digital badges. These might also be committee or department meetings with colleagues. Depending on the focus of the work, we sometimes record these meetings and make them available for review at a later date. Several online tools (e.g., Google Hangouts on Air, UberConference) will automatically save the video or audio after the meeting has concluded. There are also tools and apps (e.g., Evernote, Cogi) that will allow you to record audio and attach it to textual notes. Making this content available as an audio podcast makes it a bit easier for others to listen in when it meets their schedule.

What is next?

Our first post set the stage for podcasting and this one detailed the elements you should consider as you plan and prepare for your podcast. In the next post we’ll start to dive in to how to make this happen. You’ll soon be on your way to creating and sharing your content online.


Cover image photo by cams-not-in-lux https://flickr.com/photos/camsinlux/12258014094 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

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4 Comments Getting Started with Podcasts: Identifying your purpose, audience, and format

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