(By Robert Crandall) The interview format seems to be the dominant format in podcasting today. Open up any Facebook podcast group and you’ll most likely find a discussion on interview problems, challenges, and techniques. Posts ranging from guests who didn’t show or were a problem, to equipment and/or software failures.
In 2006 and 2007 I produced a podcast of about 130 episodes, all solo. Interviews were few and far between. There were no zooms or zens or mix minuses or other assorted gadgetry. I had to leave podcasting and when I returned I found a totally different landscape than that I had left. Interviews! Why?
Interviews are not the dominant format in radio. Most radio hosts sprinkle interviews in only from time to time, but they are not the dominant format. Rush Limbaugh is the most successful person on a mic today and rarely has a guest. When I attended a recent podcast meet-up the focus was on interviews. I felt like an island in a vast sea of murky convoluted blather, in what used to be a robust and exciting space of creativity and interesting personalities.
The interview is too matter of fact and lacks charisma, attachment, and warmth. If you’re talking to your guest you’re not talking to me. The solo podcaster delivers far more allure, charm, and intimacy. The solo personality is a communicator. The interviewer is a facilitator.
When you’re solo, the listener gets to know you, like you, and trust you. There’s a connection. This is diminished if you put someone else front and center.
I have met many podcasters and hope to meet many more. All could talk to a best friend over dinner or a drink and talk endlessly and be a joy to listen to. Make the mic your best friend. Why hide or dilute your engaging personality by handing off to a guest? Many hosts lack the confidence to do a solo show. I understand. When I first sat in my bedroom to do my very first episode, I choked. I was frozen solid. This after 30 years in radio. But I wasn’t in a radio station studio. It was my bedroom. A family member in the other room made me nervous. I had to take baby steps, read a sentence at a time. If I had that problem what do others with no previous experience go through? A guest relieves that pressure. But when you see the downloads that are listening to YOU, just YOU, not a guest, you’ll never look back.
I would like to see the podcast space become more personality driven. I want to listen to a solo who can stimulate, invigorate, and enlighten. A host who is genuine, refreshing, informative, and entertaining.
The interview, I am told, is the catalyst behind the enormous growth in podcasting. Then I find out that only 180,000 out of 700,000 podcasts have published an episode in the last 90 days. Maybe the claim that interview-format dominance is the driving force of podcasting’s success is inaccurate. I think if the interview vanished completely, the podcast space would not miss a beat.
Robert Crandall is the host of Short Stories Podcast and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.