If your potential listeners like the name of your show and have decided to check it out, we have now reached phase two of what affects your podcast's first impressionthe show itself. At this point you can assume that the person listening has some sort of interest in what you are podcasting about. It is not like with channel surfing on the TV. The listener actually had to take the time to download your show (chances are they are not yet subscribed, so they are listening as the show is webcasted or played on a flash player). This means you should have a little more than the 5 to 10 seconds a typical channel suffer would spend evaluating a show before moving on. You probably have as much as 45 seconds to a minute to make a good first impression. No pressure.
In the next few sections, we'll take a look at some of the ways you can lead off your podcast, starting with the pre-intro.
Before the intro, many podcasters have a "pre-intro" for lack of a better term. This is usually something where they state one or more of the following: the date, the show number, the guest star, the cast's rating, or something else specific for that episode. This is done for numerous reasons, and it's considered in good "podiquette" to do so.
One of the most important reasons this is done has to do with playing the device on a mobile MP3 player and not being able to see the screen for one reason or another. These notes are important especially if the listener has a player without a screen (for example, iPod shuffle) or if they're using it in a car (driving and trying to navigate through the menus on an iPod are a big no-no). Having this information at the beginning of the show lets the listeners know right away if they are playing the correct episode. Another important reason to do this is to help those who are sight impaired. Audio podcasts are very attractive to this segment of the population, and having a preintro helps in their listening experience.
A pre-intro can be done many different wayssuch as Adam Curry's "Delta Sierra Charlie One Niner Niner" to signify DSC-199, or the show name and date, as is done on the MacCast. podCast411 does the date, show number, and the guest's name. For interview shows, we would suggest including the guest's name up front. But no matter how you decide to do it, the pre-intro is the very first thing the listener hears and usually is no more than 5 to 10 seconds. Although the pre-intro is not intended to set the tone for your show, this does not mean it has be so monotone that it sounds like something from the Emergency Podcasting System.
Celebrity/Guest Show ID
Celebrity/guest show IDs at the beginnings of a podcast are also very commonfor example, "This is Jane from the Jane Doe podcast and you are listening to John Smith on my favorite show, the ACME Crowbar Podcast." The use of celebrity show IDs are a great way to let potential listeners know what type of person listens to your show. If you are able to get someone who is very popular to do a show ID for you, it gives a nice message that your show is essentially endorsed by that person and helps bring credibility to your show. Sending an email to other podcasters asking for a show ID and telling them to be creative will often result in some great sound clips.
When it comes to your introduction, you need to ask yourself the following questions: What type of tone am I trying to set? What type of information do I want to convey to a new listener? Knowing the answers to these questions will greatly improve the quality and effectiveness of your introduction. Many times your title itself will already convey the message of the content so it is fine to have an introduction that just sets a tone. For other shows, especially ones focused on a specific subject, but where the title is not very clear on what that subject might be, you need an introduction that not only conveys the tone and feel of the show, but also clearly spells out what the show is about. Now, that does not mean if the title is clear you are forbidden from spelling it out for the listeners. The MommyCast has a very well produced 40-second intro that conveys the feel of the show while also introducing what the show is about.
This brings us to the question of whether you should get outside help to produce your introduction. With some hard work and help from your significant other, friends, or family, chances are you can produce a very good introduction on your own. That said, Tips from the Top Floor and the Kansas City Weather Podcast both turned to Scott Fletcher for help with their introductions. Scott Fletcher, from Podcheck Review, has probably helped more podcasters with introductions, bumpers, sweepers, and promos (see Chapter 14, "Using Promos to Hype Your Podcast,") than any other podcaster. Wichita Rutherford and Paul with Barefoot Radio would probably come in a close second. Using outside help from any of these three will clearly give your introduction a professional, but yet very fun feel.
Bumpers and sweepers are essentially the same thing. They are prerecorded audio segments consisting of sound effects, voice, or voice over music that serve as a transition between two different sections of a show. They are usually very quick10 to 15 seconds in length or less. They can be used to transition from one song to another, from a news section to a comedy skit, or anywhere else you might have a hard transition that you want to soften.
Sometimes with your introduction, you want to bring the listeners up to date with past shows. With the K9Cast, Walter and Tara have a great introduction format where they start with a short show identification, then do a recap of the past show's content, then give a preview of this show's content (see Figure 5.2). They complete this all in typically less than 45 seconds. If you have a podiobook, this is also a good way to recap what has been talked about in previous chapters.
Figure 5.2. The K9Cast provides listeners with a quick recap of the previous show before setting off on a new topic.
If your show is sponsored or underwritten by someone else, you really should point that out upfront. First, I am sure your sponsor would appreciate it. But second, you need to think about fair disclosure. Your listeners, by and large, aren't stupid. If you spend your entire show talking about how great XYZ service is and you never mention XYZ paid you to do the show, it will come back to haunt you. There is an issue of trust between a podcast's host(s) and the listeners, and not pointing the sponsorship out will break down any trust your audience had with you. Worse, losing your audience will almost certainly make you less attractive to your sponsor.
It's also a mistake to assume that listeners won't find out if a sponsor supports your podcast. Podcasting is a "community," and people talk and post on forum boards. Listeners will eventually find out if someone is sponsoring you, so make it clear right from the outset.
Commercials are a little more formal than quickly mentioning a sponsor, and they usually involve hawking some product or service. There are two main ways to deliver a commercial on your show. One is to play a "canned," pre-produced slick commercial that is supplied to you from your advertiser or is inserted with one of the ad-insertion systems. If you go this route, you need to look out for the "nails on the chalkboard" effect. This happens when the volume levels or general sound of the commercial is so different from that of the rest of podcast, it instantly turns off the listeners. The second one is where you, the podcaster, read the commercial. This is less grating on your listeners and is much less likely to drive away potential listeners.
To learn more about the difference between sponsorships and commercials, see "Advertising and Sponsorship," p. 299 (Chapter 18, "Generating Revenue").
We are not against advertisements in podcasts, but you need to remember not all podcast listeners are going to put up with commercials. Part of the appeal of podcasting is the lack of commercials. We highly suggest for this reason that you not have a commercial in the first 2 minutes of your podcast. There is no reason to risk driving away new potential listeners before they even get a chance to make a decision about your show.
Some advertisers are going to insist that the advertisements be placed early in the show. It is your job to point out to them the differences in podcasting and commercial radio and let them know you want to make sure you have as large a listening base as possible. Hooking new listeners is all about making the best possible first impression, and having a commercial upfront will never achieve that goal.
Given the choice between a 3-minute introduction and no introduction, most listeners, especially those who have subscribed, would pick no introduction. You need to pick some balance between having a full-fledged promo to start your show for the new listeners and the desires of your current listener base. The length of your introduction will vary depending on the type of show you are doing and its overall length. You do not want a 1-minute introduction on a 5-minute show, but for a show that is over an hour long, a 1-minute introduction may not be out of the question.
Looking at over 50 of the more popular podcasts, we noted the following breakdown concerning the length of show introductions (see Table 5.1).
As would be expected, the length of the shows correlates to the length of the introductions. Although there is no hard-and-fast rule for what the length of your introduction should be, you should take into consideration that if your introduction is much greater than the averages listed here, you run the risk of turning off potential new listeners and current subscribers. It is always best to err on having an introduction that is too short rather than one that is too long.