What Your Listeners Aren’t Listening For

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(By Emily Prokop) Back before I was a podcaster, way back before I knew the difference between a dynamic microphone vs. condenser microphone, or before I knew anything about RSS feeds, I was a podcast listener.


I listened to podcasts for four years before starting one of my own. I found one and soon, like potato chips or tattoos, I soon wanted more. I found excuses for driving around just so I could listen to them. They were a comfort to me at a time when I needed my mind to be occupied by anything other than my divorce I was going through.

Now, seven years later, I still like to remember what it was like finding podcasts for the first time and what I noticed (and more importantly didn’t notice) about the podcasts I listened to.

1. I didn’t notice the reverb.

I hate to burst microphone aficionados bubbles, but I listened to a few podcasts that used condenser microphones in rooms that weren’t very sound-treated. And you know what? I didn’t care. I cared more when the Skype connection with their guests was messed up or whether I had to adjust the volume when listening to a very loud host and very quiet guest.

And I know in some podcasting groups, even the words “Blue” and/or “Yeti” cause angry emojis. But, I was listening to podcasts on my noisy commute. As long as I could understand the person talking, I was perfectly happy.

2. I didn’t care about the behind the scenes

Well, sort of. I was listening to shows about history, trivia, being a mom, and general self-improvement. I wasn’t listening to podcasts about podcasting (which have now all but taken over the majority of my podcast subscriptions). But when I was only a listener, I hated when hosts would talk podcasting on their shows. I didn’t care why my rating and review was important for them, but if they wanted me to leave one, sure, why not?

When a show I loved decided to rebrand and tried to get me to re-subscribe by copying and pasting an RSS feed link into my podcast app because the new show wasn’t live yet … uh, nope! Way too much work. (I never did re-subscribe, believe it or not.)

I wanted my history podcast hosts to tell me why King Richard was called Lionheart. I wanted my trivia podcast hosts to tell me all about the wonders of Cotton Candy grapes. I wanted my mommy blogger podcast host to tell me that everyone eventually makes it out to the other side of the terrible 3s. I wanted my self-improvement podcast host to tell me I am enough. I didn’t want them to tell me why their microphone was acting weird, or apologizing for the buzzing they couldn’t get rid of in the last episode. Frankly, I didn’t care.

3. I didn’t mind ads.

I probably never utilized the skip button on my podcast app until about a year or two into listening to podcasts. I gladly listened to ads read by my favorite podcast hosts. In fact, I loved learning about new products I had never heard of until podcasts. Who do you think was the first of her friends to get Blue Apron? This gal! Who signed up for Audible and only made it through a few chapters of a book before realizing she liked podcasts way better? Also this gal! Who had a bit of a subscription box problem when she got a longer commute and, therefore, found more podcasts to listen to? Yup!

Go ahead! Read your ads! Promote yourself! If I’ve been listening long enough, oh, I will happily sign up for your mailing list and happily frolic through your funnel! There was one podcast host I loved so much, I would barely buy anything unless I knew she endorsed it. I found her through her podcast, joined her mailing list, obsessively read her blog, and made sure to seek out her affiliate links for things because I wanted to support her that much. I referred to her by her first name a lot of the time, and my husband knew exactly who I was talking about.

You form a bond with your listeners, whether you mean to or not. You may feel weird or icky about selling to them, but I promise, if you’ve gotten us to know, like, and trust you enough, we don’t look at it as selling: we see it as a friend making a recommendation.

4. I didn’t care that the hosts had crutch words.

If there were a special membership card for podcast editors, I may have just gotten mine permanently revoked. But, I love conversations. I loved feeling like a fly on the wall for them. Sure, the host could call it an interview, but when they set it up to the guest (and listener) like it was a friendly chat over coffee, I am all in. I weirdly like the crutch words people use. I even have “favorite” crutch words of podcasters I love.

Sure, I’ll admit the overuse of “like” can get annoying, especially when it’s coming from someone who is supposedly trying to convey authority in something. But those can be easily taken out without much lost. Maybe my love of “crutch words” isn’t quite accurate; maybe it’s more like a love of specific words used more often by hosts I enjoy listening to. Maybe “go-to phrases” is more accurate.

I’ve even made Bingo cards for words and phrases used a lot in certain shows, like Better Podcasting, Home Gadget Geeks, and Ask the Podcast Coach.

5. I didn’t know what upspeak or vocal fry even was.

And I didn’t care.

And now that I know what they are, I still don’t care that podcast hosts do either of these.

Lessons learned

  • Get good audio quality, but don’t obsess over your microphone.
  • Post behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram, but you don’t have to walk me through the backend of podcasting when your show is about something else.
  • Need money for your show? Are you podcasting for your business? Tell me! I love you, dear podcast host! I want to support you!
  • Don’t sound rigid or stale. The more natural, the better.
  • Speak naturally into the microphone. If you use vocal fry in your everyday speech, embrace it! Go ahead! Supersize those vocal fries for all I care! If I don’t like it, I’ll turn it off. But, most likely, I won’t notice it unless you point it out to me.
  • Relax. If you’re having a good time, your audience will, as well.

Emily Prokop’s company is E Podcast Productions and she can be reached at [email protected]. Listen to her podcast at TheStoryBehindPodcast.com.

3 COMMENTS

  1. What an absolutely great and unpretentious article. Agreed with so much of it! 🙂
    And now I know what upspeak is(?) 😉
    I have to say that now I know what vocal fry is I will admit to being a little irritated by it.

  2. Thanks Emily! So much of this resonates for me and Desert Lady Diaries. I appreciate your insight and perspective on the things listeners won’t even notice, if we hosts don’t point them out. It’s like that old saying, “Don’t tell on yourself”.

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