Even if you never plan on having a single minute of listener-generated content on your show, you still need to engage your audience and make them feel like they are part of your show's family. As was mentioned in the quote to start this chapter, the most popular podcasters create a community around their show. These podcasters realize that their show needs to be more than just 30 or 60 minutes of audio a week that listeners find on the podcast's RSS feed. You need to engage and involve your listeners almost every day, even if your show only comes out twice a month. One of the best ways to keep your listeners engaged with your show on a daily basis is with the use of an open Internet forum like the one shown in Figure 12.1, where listeners can go to post feedback, questions, ideas, and so on. Examples of some podcasts that do a great job in using a forum to build a community include The Dawn and Drew Show (http://dawnanddrew.podshow.com/dnds_bb/), Keith and the Girl (http://keithandthegirl.com/forums/), The Nate and Di Show (http://www.nateanddi.com/forum2/), The PK and J Show, (http://moose3d.com/vanilla/), and Digital Photography: Tips from the Top Floor (http://www.tipsfromthetopfloor.com/forum/). We recommend you check out each of these shows' forums.
Figure 12.1. Keith and the Girl forums: where you go when five shows a week just doesn't give you enough of Keith and Chemda.
The Making of a Successful Forum
Chris from Tips from the Top Floor asks that listeners post questions to the forum board rather then send him the questions via email. Additionally, he has a "top-secret" area on the board that only registered users can access. (There are over 1,300 registered users on his forum.) In the "top-secret" area he posts special recordings he has made that might not fit well with his show, but he feels would be of interest to some of his listeners. These recordings are usually a little more personal and involve sound-seeing tours, where in one case Chris recorded himself driving on the Autobahn.
In addition to his forum, Chris also told us about another thing that he does to engage his listeners:
One of the most original uses of a forum to engage the listeners comes from Nate and Di. They created the "Censored Word Game." Here are the instructions from their forum on how to play:
As you can see from the preceding figure, Keith and the Girl has a very active forum with over 1,900 registered users. This community makes sure that the show is at the top of the Podcast Alley voting each month and does a great job in spreading the word about the show. Keith and the Girl also came up with another good way to engage their listeners: They host Friday night online poker tournaments. They even put a cash bounty on Keith's head to help liven the tournaments up a bit.
Obviously, you cannot talk about podcast community building without mentioning The Dawn and Drew Show. From basically the beginning of podcasting, this show has done an incredible job of reaching out to listeners and giving them a place where they could gather. Most of the time that has been in cyberspace. But in the Spring of 2005, a physical gathering of Dawn and Drew fans took place in Los Angels, and another fan-appreciation event was held at the Portable Media Expo in November of 2005. Many people traveled from out of state to attend these two events to see and meet Dawn and Drew and other fans of the show.
Forum Hosting Services
If you do not currently have access to set up a forum on your website, don't worry. There are sites on the Net that will host your forum for you. The following list of forum-hosting services includes a couple free options and a couple premium ones:
Both ForumUp and Armleg.com are very easy to set up because they use PHPbb for the forum, which is one of the most popular forum software packages. Of course, nothing in life is truly freeboth services place Google Ads on your forum. If you are looking for one with no ads, you will need to pay for it.
The prices listed in this section were current as of March 17, 2006, but are subject to change.