Join Richard Harrington for an in-depth discussion in this video Outlining a show, part of Producing Professional Podcasts.
- As you design your podcast, it's important to build a format or an outline for your show. Now, this is essentially the template that all episodes will use. That's not to say there won't be some variation or a special episode or, as I shared with you, we sometimes do industry experts and question and answer shows on Photofocus. But in both cases, we have a template that we follow so that people coming back to the show each week see some consistency. I want to avoid having a podcast that's 20 minutes one week and two hours the next.
That creates expectations and confusion. It's important to really have things be somewhat standard because people are used to traditional media. As such, let's turn to something used in radio called the broadcast clock. A broadcast clock is essentially a graphic that shows how a program or radio show is put together. It's actually a clock. Now, it ends up being divided like a pie, and what this helps you understand is how long each segment should run.
If you listen to radio a lot, you might notice that the commercials tend to come on at the exact same time. Well, each piece of this pie represents a programming element and its desired length in a typical hour. What happens here is this will create the flow for a radio station and let's them know how to structure the show. Now let's take a look at a sample broadcast clock from a program you might have listened to. It's All Things Considered from National Public Radio in the United States.
Now, if you've never heard this show, you can actually find it available as a podcast or available through different NPR outlets. This is an older version of their show, but it shows you what would happen in a typical hour on the program. So, for example, you'll notice that it starts off with a simple billboard that explains what show you're watching, a little bit of an introduction or show open, and then moves into some newscast segments, two different segments, followed by a credit that has to be read.
Then there's musical transition, and we go into a longer segment. After that longer segment, music starts to come in and act as a transition into the next segment, and then you'll see we come back to news, and the host comes back on camera. Well, it's very specific. At half past the hour, they want the host to come back on and actually introduce things. As the news wraps up, it then transitions with music into the next segment, and we have two more segments here, C and D.
Now, the Optional Cutaway is an opportunity if the local NPR affiliate has additional content that they want to insert that is in line with the topics of the show but is more localized. By looking at the content this way and seeing how it's structured over the hour, it's pretty useful to get an idea for flow. In traditional radio, it's all about filling that time. Most radio stations broadcast 24/7. Now, they might not have live DJs or hosts that whole time.
Maybe they repeat content that ran earlier in the later hours or they go to automation and just play music, but, in any case, there's still a flow, particularly for the busy times. Let me show you a tool for doing this, both on the web, and then using something like this for your podcast. If you're interested in a web-based tool and traditional broadcasting, UClock.it allows you to create a free demo account. Once you do this, you can actually begin a particular segment.
So, for example, let's go in here and open up an existing clock, and here's one I made for Photofocus. And you'll notice that I've outlined a typical Photofocus episode where we have two guests. We spend the first minute on the show intro and then a little over a minute talking about our sponsors. Then we get into the first interview for about 22 minutes or so, mention the remaining sponsors for the program, and then go to the next interview.
Then when it's all done, a couple of minutes of closing messages and a call to action, inviting people to subscribe to the podcast and visit our website. Well, this doesn't completely total out to an hour, but it still gives you the idea. If we run this clock here, and this is the watermarked version because this is the demonstration of the software. You can sign up for a demo to explore or pay to activate this with a monthly fee. You'll see that this indicator here actually corresponds to the actual minute of the current hour.
Now, this is just more representative, and if I were to start my show right at the start of the hour, maybe I sat down to record at 3 o'clock. well, this traditional broadcast clock would help me understand as I move from one segment to another where I should be in the interview or in the messages. Now, that's a good look, and you're welcome to check out that UClock.it service or some of the other tools available on the web, but now let's turn this into something that's relevant to podcasting. With podcasting, you're not typically recording live, and you're not broadcasting it at the time of recording.
Rather, you're recording it and then editing it or doing minimal changes to the content or maybe releasing it as is after the fact, but it's still a pretty good idea to have some consistency. Well, I've made a spreadsheet available here as both a Numbers file and an Excel file, and I'll show you both. Let's open up the Numbers version first, and we'll take a look at the Excel version too. All right, in this case, you see that we've outlined, using a typical pie chart, the breakdown of the show.
What I can do is enter in the time. Well, formatting the cell, I formatted this for a duration format and set it to use hours, minutes, and seconds. This means that I can decide how long a particular segment is. If I didn't care about hours because I'm producing a show that's less than an hour, I can uncheck that. Now, let's say I decide to boost interview segment number one. I decide we have a very special guest, and I want to talk to them for about 35 minutes, colon, and zero seconds.
When I press return, you see that it updates the total run time, and now my show is bumped up over an hour, which I always try to avoid because that's a pretty big commitment. So this means that interview number two needs to get a little bit shorter, so let's tighten that up to about a 16-minute interview, maybe 16 and a half. Well, now we're down to a 57-minute show, and you see that we've got this pretty good idea of the balance of content. How often are we talking about the sponsors? Well, relatively not that much, just a small percentage of the show.
We thank them, and we acknowledge that their contribution to the program let's us produce this content for free, but we don't bog down on it to really make people sick of the advertisers or feel like the show is too heavily sponsored. Using this type of graphic, it's easy to see how my different elements balance out as well as my estimated run time. Maybe I decide to add another segment, a special news segment. And I've budgeted 10 minutes for that news.
Well, now we're back over an hour, so maybe we need to trim that first interview down to 27 minutes. And now we're back in line, sneaking in at just less than an hour. Well, the exact same thing can be done using Microsoft Excel, and I've made a template for each. Simply enter that duration in. The difference on the Excel side is be sure to enter the hours in, so if this sponsor message needed to be zero hours, colon, two minutes, colon, and 30 seconds, when you press return, you see that everything updates, so very similar to how it works in Numbers.
This pie chart will give you an idea of how everything breaks down and help you keep track of your overall run time. Using things like this will help you tweak things. Remember, no one's going to leave if your show that typically runs just under an hour is 45 minutes or an hour and five minutes. But if one week's 20 minutes and the next week's is 90 minutes and then you fluctuate in-between, well, you just confuse people and potentially annoy them. Using a document like this, such as the Numbers or Excel chart, to help you outline your format and the balancing of the different segments will help you really find the look and feel of your podcast.
This is a great way to make sure you've budgeted the time and you know what's involved in putting your show together.
In this course, you'll learn how to create a podcast to match any budget, using proven techniques that get listeners and results. You'll learn how to set up a small studio; record audio, video, and even group video chats; edit your podcast; and create a podcast feed (aka an RSS feed). This class is taught by Rich Harrington, who's produced, hosted, or consulted on several podcasts that are routinely featured as the best of iTunes. Watch and learn how to get your own podcast up and running in less than a day.
- What is podcasting
- Leveraging existing content
- Analyzing the competition
- Outlining a podcast budget
- Setting up a studio
- Setting up an RSS feed
- Recording interviews, screencasts, and Google Hangouts
- Editing podcasts with Adobe Audition and other audio editing software
- Optimizing audio and video for podcast delivery
- Hosting podcast files
- Branding and promoting your podcast feed