Stop The Interviews. Go Solo.

8

(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 [email protected]

8 COMMENTS

  1. I feel that way about callers to a radio show. Callers are allowed to run on too long, provide no depth of perspective, and are used by most medium and large market shows to fill time. Interviews can be dull, but conversations can be very interesting. I encourage conversations, but not tired interviews in podcasts, but even they should be used judiciously.

  2. There are no absolutes in life, and certainly no absolutes in podcasting. There are great solo shows and there are bad solo shows. There are great interview shows and crappy ones. I think the format is less important than what the host is good at.

  3. You are 100% right about this. Interviews are a nice stepping stone for podcasters as we’re all most used to having conversations than giving monologues, but if you want to be seen as an authority, you have to step up eventually and get comfortable without the sidecar of somebody else. There are obviously great examples of people doing well with interviews, but even Marc Maron has solo segments at the front of each episode.

    As has already been mentioned, there are some great interview-format shows, but in general, I think podcasters rely too heavily on guests. Even if you like guests/interviewing, it’s nice to have the option of going solo when needed.

  4. Thanks for your comments. I to don’t like the callers to talk shows it mostly a waste of time. The “sidecar” LOL that was great.

  5. If you choose interview gusts because they’ll reciprocate and book you on their shows, or as filler, I agree. But if you land a guest who’s made news in your passionate niche interest, and ask the questions your listeners would ask if they had the same access you do, it’s a win.

    A podcast guest-booking service, or reciprocal booking club, to me, sounds like a store that sells crutches. Pick only guests who can answer questions you’re dying to ask, and you’ll be fine.

  6. I think the main reason hosts interview guests is audience generation. The strategy is to find an influencer in the genre, interview them, ask them to help promote the episode, and (fingers crossed) generate more listens.
    Interviews can be a great way to supplement your content and there are great interview podcasts. What I notice is too many guests are too loosely tied to the podcast’s genre. I was listening to a barefoot running expert interview a guy from 5 Hour Energy.

  7. I think it’s lazy networking. People think interview guests on shows = more listeners, even get really upset and passive aggressive if the guest doesn’t step up and do all their social media marketing for them!

    And it’s actually selling yourself short – people should be sold on you, not loyal to your guest and then gone tomorrow, like fly by nights…it’s short term, a brief bump in listeners for a popular guest vs a long-term sustainable strategy.

    I’ve been solo for most of my nearly 15 years – yes you read that right, I’m one of the original wave 😉 And yes a guest or two is good, if they are someone you know well like a close friend, that bond can really add something to your show.

    I know people who freak out that the biggest shows they have aren’t some semi-famous person but it’s their dad or kids or best mate. It’s no surprise to me, people dig that connection as it brings out something of the host and they usually learn something new about them. Whereas canned or staid content e.g. ‘interview of the week’ doesn’t usually tell you much about the host and not usually much about the guest either. It’s quite often boring…or business as usual.

    Podcasting has always been about the personal – people forget that with Serial and all that. It’s a narrowcasting medium – the narrowness is just as much about one person – you, the host – as much as the audience. Which can be quite large, but the narrowness is the niche interest in yourself. If you don’t bring yourself to the table as a relatable human, people won’t want to know.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here