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Chapter 3. The Components of Your Podcas... > Unpredictability (Within a Framework...

Unpredictability (Within a Framework)

Once someone has listened to your podcast two or three times, there are basically two reasons why he or she might stop. One reason is that she gets bored because she knows what to expect. The other reason is that she gets disoriented because she doesn’t know what to expect. It’s a tricky dynamic but your ability to master it can make your podcast downright compelling.

Your listeners will come to expect a predictable framework from your show. There are certain things they’ll expect to hear each time they download a show and listen. If you fail to function within that framework, you’ll create a disconnect with your audience.

At the same time, your listeners definitely won’t continue to subscribe to your show if it gets too predictable. They want to be challenged and surprised. But here’s the key principle to keep in mind: They can accommodate surprise much better if it’s delivered within a predictable framework.

The Value of Unpredictability

This scene from Private Parts, a movie about the career of the often outrageous radio personality Howard Stern, demonstrates the impact creative unpredictability can have on building your audience.

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for 18 minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for—are you ready for this?—an hour and twenty minutes.

Station Manager: How can that be?

Researcher: Answer most commonly given? I want to see what he’ll say next.

Station Manager: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?

Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.

Station Manager: If they hate him, why do they listen?

Researcher: The most common answer? I want to see what he’ll say next.

You might, for example, have an interview segment in every show. Within that segment, however, you might make it a practice to throw in outrageous questions. Or you might begin each show with a commentary segment that gets extreme or even shocking. Your listeners will appreciate both the outrageousness of your content and the predictability of your format.

Does that seem a bit inconsistent, even contradictory? Well, it probably is. That’s why podcasting is as much of an art as it is a science. We’re confident, though, that the tools you’ve discovered in this chapter will help you craft a podcast that grabs your listeners’ attention and keeps them coming back for more.

The Absolute Minimum

Building a great podcast is easier when you break it down into its component parts.

  • Your show host persona will be the single most important element in creating a great show.

  • While it’s not necessary to work with a co-host, doing so can make your show sound better and make the job of producing it easier.

  • Interviewing guests is a great way to deliver important information to your audience.

  • Music and sound effects are valuable tools for crafting your podcast’s overall sound.

  • A creative balance between predictability and unpredictability will keep your listeners coming back.

  • Creative Edge
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