The amount of listener-generated content varies quite a bit from podcast to podcast. Some shows have no listener-generated content, whereas others, such as 5 Questions, rely almost completely on it. Remember, the more work you can "outsource" to your listeners, the more time you will have to sleep.
Steve Eley at Escape Pod uses different podcasters/listeners to narrate the stories. Mur has read several stories for Escape Pod, including one she collaborated with Rob on (Episode 28). By passing the heavy lifting off to others, Steve has been able to concentrate more on reviewing new stories for future shows. Plus, the different narrators bring different styles and personalities to each recording, which has helped make this one of the most popular podcasts.
One show that uses both email feedback and audio feedback from listeners is 5 Questions. In fact, a majority of the content on the show is from listeners. But listeners of this show also contribute in other ways. Greg, the host of 5 Questions, had this to say:
If you are willing to listen to your audience, you may find that not only can they contribute greatly to the content of your show, but they can also contribute to the format of your show.
If you are doing an interview show, your audience can be a great source for unique questions for your guests. Because podcasting is time-shifted, you will need to let your listeners know ahead of time who it is you will be interviewing and instruct them to send in questions via email or in audio format. This helps bring in questions you might not otherwise have thought of asking.
The most common use of listener content on a podcast is playing listener feedback. As we mentioned earlier, there are many different ways to get this feedback, and there are even more ways to use it in your show. Shows such as The Dawn and Drew Show, The Nate and Di Show, and The PK and J Show all play listener feedback. Nate and Di play voicemail messages at the end of each show. Some of these are very strange, but they are always entertaining. PK and J, however, mix in listener feedback throughout their show.
Of course, we can't forget to mention simply reading listeners' email on your show. Tim Henson does this quite a bit on Distorted View Daily, along with playing audio clips sent in to him by listeners. In addition, many of the strange stories Tim reads on his show were submitted from listeners. The more listener-generated content you use on your show, the more listeners will submit content. If they know your show is also their show, they will go out of their way to make sure others know about the show. Getting listener feedback starts with you asking for their help and then giving listeners an easy way to get that content to you.