8 Characteristics of a Great Podcast

8 Characteristics of a Great Podcast
Karl Vaters

If you’re a podcaster, here’s one listener’s blunt assessment of what works and what doesn’t. This is the stuff your friends won’t tell you.

I’m not a podcaster. But I’m becoming an avid listener.

If you’re a podcaster looking for an audience, I’m the kind of person you’re looking for. Someone who wants great content and will come back for more once I find it.

So what makes a great podcast – one that’s worth subscribing and listening to regularly?
I’m not concerned with many of the things podcasters worry about. Podcasts can be short or long, interview or solo, serious or funny. None of those characteristics are what make a great podcast.

Here are 8 characteristics that matter to a lot of listeners like me:

1. Know your subject
What do you well? Make your podcast about that.
Unless you’re an extraordinary interviewer with top-of-the-line guests, I’m not interested in hearing you talk about subjects you have no expertise in. No matter how strong your opinions may be.

If you’re a pastor who’s planted several successful churches, don’t talk about politics, talk about planting churches. Know church admin? Talk about that. Yes, someone is interested in that – but only if they can get it from someone who knows what they’re talking about.

2. Keep a narrow focus
If you’re running a comedy podcast, be funny.
Cooking? Stay in the kitchen.
Politics? …you get the idea.

If you’re running a church leadership podcast, everything you talk about should relate to church leadership in some way. And only church leadership.

I don’t just listen to church leadership podcasts. I also love history, comedy and more. But I’ll only stick with you if you stick with your advertised subject.

I won’t subscribe to a podcast that’s all over the place, subject-wise. A podcast title like My Musings or Random Thoughts is off the list of most listeners.

You’re less likely to lose people by staying narrow than by going broad.

Is it ever okay to talk about a subject outside your field of study? Sure. As long as you tell us how it impacts your field of study.

Find out what you’re good at, name your podcast something that reflects it, then stick with it.

Find out what you’re good at, name your podcast something that reflects it, then stick with it.

3. Write clear, accurate episode titles
It takes less than two seconds to decide to play, save or delete a podcast episode.
What makes the difference? The title.

Tell me what it’s about in as clear a way as possible. Then make sure the episode is about that. If you’re using titles that are unclear or inaccurate, you’ll lose my trust and I’ll unsubscribe.

4. Get to the point
One of the advantages of a podcast is the “jump ahead 15 seconds” button.

Your listeners use that button a lot. The longer your intro, the more we’ll use it. And the more we have to use it, the less likely we are to come back.

The faster you get to your main point, the better. You can drop a short promo in the middle of the podcast (emphasis on “short”). We know you have bills to pay. But the quicker you get to the promised guest and/or topic, the more likely I am to listen to the entire podcast – and come back for more.

5. Post consistently
Don’t wait until you feel inspired to put out a new episode. Set a schedule and stick with it. Or your listeners won’t stick with you.

Don’t wait until you feel inspired to put out a new episode. Set a schedule and stick with it.

Most of the podcasts I subscribe to put out a new episode every week. That seems to be a sweet spot. But you could do more or fewer and still be okay, as long as you’re reliable.

6. Offer quality content
There’s no shortcut to this. You have to work at it.
Even in your area of expertise, offering consistent, quality content is hard.
But without quality content you won’t get, keep or deserve an audience.

7. Keep the debate respectful
I love listening to podcasts that have guests from opposite ends of an ideological, political or theological spectrum. But you’ll lose me if it becomes a yelling match.
And I’m not alone in this.

Controversy and hyperbole may gain a huge following on some written or video blogs. Or on TV and Talk Radio. But podcast listeners – especially podcast subscribers – tend not to go for that.
Take a look at the top podcasts on iTunes, for instance. They’re far more heavily-weighted towards information than controversy.
Speak your mind. Boldly.

Then let your guest do the same.

You don’t have to agree. But you don’t have to be disrespectful to have an entertaining – and informative – interview.

8. Guide me to thorough, linkable show notes
This is especially important for an episode that makes reference to a book, a website, another podcast, and so on.

Don’t expect me to write down the information as I’m listening. I’m probably driving.
Tell me where I can find your show notes, then make them thorough and linkable.

My Current Top 3 Leadership Podcasts
In the last few months I’ve found myself looking forward to a handful of church leadership podcasts. Here they are, with linked titles:

1. 200Churches
Armed with a great sense of humor, great guests and a passion for helping small church pastors, Jeff Keady and Jonny Craig (a pastor and associate pastor from a small church in Orange City, Iowa) are always informative and entertaining.

They’re always on the top of my must-listen list.

2. Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast
This may seem like a strange choice for me, given my emphasis on small churches. Carey comes from a church growth mindset. But being for small churches doesn’t mean I’m against church growth. And Carey keeps all sizes of churches in mind.

Not only does Carey have a regular line-up of some of the best church leaders around, he has a way of picking and probing topics in a way that make you think deeper than you expected.

3. Rainer On Leadership
Thom Rainer is one of the giants in church leadership circles. His information is always based on thorough research and a love of churches and pastors.

On his bi-weekly podcasts, he and Jonathan Howe usually have a conversation about one of his latest blog posts, so it’s great as either a supplement or substitute to his blog.

Honorable Mentions
Sin Boldly
Host Evan McClanahan is a Lutheran small church pastor in Houston. His podcasts include sermons, lessons and (most interesting for me) his radio show, which airs on a secular radio station in Houston.
Recently, in Episode 76, he moderated a conversation with me, church growth guru Gary McIntosh and Texas pastor Eugene Wilson. We talked about some important issues and are already talking about recording another episode soon.

(About the name. The podcast isn’t encouraging anyone to sin, much less do it boldly. It’s from a quote by Martin Luther, encouraging us about the power of God’s grace.)

Host Rich Birch interviews church leaders about the stuff you wished they taught in seminary.

Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast
The Vanderbloemen Search Group helps staff churches. In the podcast, William Vanderbloemen interviews church leaders on all aspects of church leadership.

The above article, “8 Characteristics of a Great Podcast” was written by Karl Vaters. The article was excerpted from www.christianitytoday.com web site. February 2017.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”