Mistakes That (some) Podcasters Make

August 10, 2006

Podcasters can consider this unpaid user testing: I usually write from the client’s side of the aisle, but tonight I want to be a customer. Specifically, I am a very avid listener of podcasts, yet podcasts and podcasters can drive me a little wild sometimes — enough to make me stop downloading them (bad) or stop listening to them (arguably worse, since they don’t have my share of mind but their analytics can’t tell that. )

Mistake #1: Your website makes it really hard for me to subscribe to your podcast. If you already know what the feed address is, why can’t you tell me instead of asking me to click on a link that brings up my Quicktime and insists that I sit at my computer to listen to you?

Mistake #2: Your website doesn’t have links to sites/software that you/your guest discussed during the podcast. I know that you think I am sitting at my computer and listening to you, but in fact, I am driving, and I just can’t write down the name of a suggested destination, no matter how carefully you spell it, while switching gears and accelerating. For example, I listened to a wonderful (albeit too long) podcast today on design, with someone on Good Karma/Webmaster Radio. The speaker gave out a number of sites that might have been interesting to look at, but I was exercising and then driving.

Mistake #3: You think I am paying attention to you all the time. and Mistake #4: You think that I listen to you from beginning to end in one sitting Here’s the problem: You may ask a guest a question or start in on a news item that I already know or am not interested in. By the time I notice that you’ve moved on to a new, more interesting topic or question, you’ve already announced the topic name. This means that I get to hear the item but I never hear the subject or the subject name. If, for example, you are talking about a new pay per click feature, I can probably figure out whether the subject was Google or MSN or Yahoo. But if you are talking about some cool feature that a new, little-known website introduced, I won’t know what the site name was unless you find a way to close the news item or question with a reference to the site again. This same issue rears its head when I listen to only part of a podcast, get to my destination and turn off my iPod, only to pick up the next day without a clue as to what the specific subject was.

Mistake #5: Your equipment is lousy and that of your guests is worse. I am somewhat more sympathetic to this topic than the others because when I did my podcast with Eric Mattson, we used Skype. The sound was crystal clear yet the technology burped in the middle and we didn’t know it until listening. I was amazed that people listened to the end (and I know they did, because they sent me comments about this issue). I just find it too painful to listen to anything that is not mission critical when the equipment makes the voices hard to hear.

Mistake #6: You think I already know who you are and how your show works. For months, I listened to Danny Sullivan talk about “the chat room” on the Daily Searchcast and assumed that it was something you participated in if you were one of his subscribers. Eventually I figured out that the chat room he was referring to is a function of Webmaster Radio. I think.

Mistake #7: You spend too much time joking and wasting time and not enough giving me really hard information or important thoughts. Enough said.

Mistake #8: You work too hard to be funny even though you aren’t a funny guy because you think that’s the way it works. Well, maybe others will disagree, but I think podcasting is like blogging: your audience has to love you for who you are and not who you think you should be. (Or maybe that’s Bridget Jones.) I can’t even give you any examples for this one anymore because all those podcasters have long since been deleted from my iTunes.

Mistake #9: You allocate an hour for your podcast when 20 or 25 minutes would be just great. See Mistake #4.

Mistake #10: The name of each cast is not descriptive enough for me to know if I’m interested in the download.

Having said all that — I still love podcasts (at least, the ones that I haven’t deleted from my iTunes.) They enable me to multi-process, i.e. learn while I am doing a second activity at the same time.

Robbin Steif