More and more, Americans are turning to online sources for information. From sites that gather top news stories to videos on how to clean dryer vents, the internet has become the go-to for learning just about anything. Serial podcasts, usually found as audio shows, have become one of the most popular ways to get that information.
According to PodcastHosting.org, there are more than one million podcasts world-wide and 51 percent of Americans have listened to at least one episode.
These podcasts cover topics as varied as stock market tips, book reviews or discussions about historical events. They may be in an interview format with a host bringing on weekly guests or feature someone different each week, a panel discussion, or one person sharing her own brand of commentary.
It’s not unlike a radio show, except they can be listened to at any time and they can be created by just about anyone.
David Van Nuys, Ph.D, emeritus professor of psychology at Sonoma State University, received an award from the APA in 2018 for the podcasting he has been doing over the past 15 years. In that time, the medium has exploded in popularity.
“When I started it was solo people like me in a home office using this ‘megaphone’ that lets them talk to people around the world,” said Van Nuys. “I was among the first 1,500 or so to create a podcast. Back then, I struggled to figure out the equipment and how to create it and how to edit and all of that. ”
As podcasts have grown in popularity, psychologists have started to question the idea of creating their own. Would it help bring in new clients? Would a podcast help to get your message out, change the world, save a life, make you a star?
“Many therapists will start a podcast as a way to advertise,” said Van Nuys. “They want to make it known what services they have to offer or maybe they have a book or two to augment and they are using it as a promotional tool. It is good idea if it is done effectively.”
The first steps to creating a podcast are to figure out what the podcast’s format would be. Is this about sharing information on a specific topic? Is it about creating a safe space for a niche population to learn more? Is it to cover general informational topics or to lower the stigma around mental health issues?
“It is challenging because there really is so much content out there,” said Van Nuys, “There are so many podcasts doing so many things that you really have to have a hook these days to make yourself found.”
Art Markman, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas Austin, co-hosts a radio show and podcast called, “Two Guys on Your Head.” He recommends taking the technical side of podcasting seriously from the start.
“Number one,” he suggested, “would be to find a producer. Everyone thinks, ‘how hard can it be it is easy to tape stuff? I have all the technology.’ But having someone who knows the audio format and can make it more coherent is really critical.”
Editing can be crucial when it comes to putting out a finished product.
“A lot of people think they are going to ramble on and then put the whole interview online,” Markman said, “but they should be putting up the highlights. No one wants to slog through a 45-minute interview to get to the 10 minutes of gold.”
It might be a good idea to think of a podcast as part of a broader strategy of communication, he added, one that would include writing, public speaking, blogging and doing guest lectures.
“People should start with public speaking and move to podcasting after getting experience talking in front of audiences,” said Markman. “The fundamental problem with podcasting is that you don’t get feedback on
whether the audience is understanding what is going on. Until you feel like you can consistently engage people, it is hard to do it week after week in a format where you don’t get feedback.”
Then there is the question of cost. Hiring a producer and buying or renting equipment is an investment. With a field so packed full of options, it is very important to think about why a podcast is on your to do list.
“It is a crowded market,” said Markman. “Unlike `Field of Dreams,’ just because you build it, they may not come. If your hope is just ‘I am going to record a bunch of stuff and hope someone is going to come to listen,’ maybe this is not a great time to get into podcasting. You might want to get into blogging or speaking.”
So, what are good reasons to do a podcast? A niche that is not being filled is one reason. A desire to do more, reach more people or just to participate in the medium may be what motivates.
“I think there are many voices out there that are not being heard,” said Markman, “and if you feel like the perspective you are able to take is not reflected in the offerings that are out there, that is valuable. Don’t do it because you are going to get rich and famous; that is unlikely.”
Van Nuys added, “You need to have a passion to do it, some kind of inner passion about the topic or about the desire to be a showman or a communicator or something like that. That can make all the difference.”