By Miriam Anzovin and Dan Seligson
When JewishBoston.com, an initiative of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, set out to create a podcast a couple of years ago, our goals weren’t entirely clear. We knew podcasts were fun to listen to (40 percent of Americans have listened to a podcast) and a fresh way to reach our target audiences, including young adults and families with young children, but we weren’t exactly creating “Pod Save America” or “Serial.”
With time, we figured out branding. We became “JewishBoston’s The Vibe of the Tribe,” had a composer create custom music, secured the services of a talented and devoted editor who understood our goals and content and settled on two regular hosts (us).
Sixty-two episodes and 12,300 streams later, we’ve figured out a few things – about our brand, our audience and our niche. If you’re thinking of starting a podcast, here are our top five pieces of advice.
Understand the Basics
To have a successful podcast, you need to draw people already engaged with your work, or in our case, our online community, and have a few clever ideas or compelling topics to keep them coming back. You also need decent equipment: a quality audio recorder, good microphones, a quiet place to record and an editor who “gets you.” Then you need to find somewhere to host your finished episode (we use SoundCloud, though many other options are out there) and figure out exactly how you’re going to promote it. Make a list of what you need, figure out your budget and go forth!
Researching other podcasts helped us define who we were and who we wanted to become. We refined our goal: Build brand awareness (which experts say is a legitimate goal for podcasting!). Thus “The JewishBoston Podcast” evolved into “The Vibe of the Tribe” to create a stronger brand identity. With our rebranding, we invested in a composer to produce some very cool music blending klezmer with Yemenite instrumentation to set the right vibe that spoke to the breadth of the diaspora experience. Miriam designed the podcast cover art to better reflect our brand, and we standardized our episode introduction and closing. We have the same two hosts – who keep it real by being ourselves! – and feature content relevant for our core audience.
Learn as You Go
At first, Dan would mumble or move his mouth away from the mic – or do both at the same time. Miriam sometimes spoke too quickly or quietly. We both have a tendency to start every question or sentence with, “So….” Eventually, our editor schooled us. An editor is vital to podcast success; they can correct your faults, give you objective advice and improve your performance.
Your recording space can also make a big difference. As nomads wandering around our nine-floor office building looking for an empty conference room, we suffer from audio interruptions, including HVAC units, doors opening and closing, sirens on the street and loud talking in the hallway wherever we set up. In the near future, we are looking to find permanent, soundproofed studio space. We’re also scheduling voice lessons. Both things will improve our final product and make our editor’s job easier.
There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts, with 1,000-plus new shows submitted per week. It takes time to build an audience – and that’s OK. Don’t expect overnight success; if you’re producing quality content that helps support your brand, just stick with it! Urge listeners to subscribe. Find interview subjects who have a large presence online; they can help market your pod. Use your organization’s social media feeds and newsletters, your personal connections and any other means you have to get the word out. Spend a few dollars on swag to hand out at events geared toward your audience and you’ll see the number of streams per episode steadily climb. We even hosted a live podcast recording in our building for our organization’s staff, many of whom had never listened to our podcast. Based on the event, 80 percent reported they were likely to listen to future episodes!
Don’t Be Boring
Miriam adamantly pushed for an episode about Jewish magic, an area of personal interest. We found a great guest expert and recorded an in-depth conversation about everything from golems to death curses for over an hour. At first, we were apprehensive: This was our longest and most esoteric episode since the rebrand. Would it be too weird and time-consuming for our listeners? Turns out, we didn’t need to worry. The finished product reflected our authentic enthusiasm for the topic, and we timed the release to Halloween. Lo and behold, “Episode 52: Jewish Magic and the Occult” became our most-played episode of all time.
After each episode, ask yourself: Did you have fun recording? Did you hit it off with the person you interviewed? Did you promise “hot takes” and deliver? Were you actually intrigued by the subject you discussed? If you can answer “yes” to those questions, you’re doing something right. If your interview was awkward, slow and you maybe fell asleep a little, we can assure you your audience did as well.
Anything we missed? Do you have a podcast we should listen to? Let us know in the comments! And subscribe to JewishBoston’s The Vibe of the Tribe podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher or TuneIn.
Miriam Anzovin and Dan Seligson are Co-Hosts of The Vibe of the Tribe.