In Depth

Column: Learning From Experience

We’ve all wished we could go back and do something differently if we had the chance. That’s why I like to include the “If I knew then” segment on my weekly audio podcast “This Week in Media” on the business of new media.

In that segment, the guests and I discuss what we would have done differently with our new-media projects if we could go back and start over. The purpose is to learn what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to creating shows for the Web, for TV or for any other medium.
In the Sept. 30 edition of the show, Personal Life Media CEO Susan Bratton outlined the five things she’s learned from producing the 25 audio podcasts in the stable at her network.

These nuggets of wisdom are so insightful that I can’t just keep them to myself or to the “This Week in Media” listeners.

Show + Outreach: Making the show is only the beginning. The outreach makes the difference, Ms. Bratton said. “It’s as much or more work to promote than to produce one’s show,” she said. “Hosts who are willing to work the Web and build and connect with their audience online are the ones that have the most success, all other things being equal.”

Hygiene: The feeds for shows, both on places like iTunes and the Web, need to be clean. That means producers should optimize their shows for organic search and make sure the titles and description are optimized by keywords. “Getting found by your prospects requires you understand how they search for you and making sure you’re optimizing for that,” Ms. Bratton said.

Consistency and Format: Viewers and listeners want consistency. They want to know when a show comes out, and they expect it to look and feel a certain way. “We follow a specific format in our intros, how we handle our guest, how we go to and come back from break and how our hosts end their shows,” Ms. Bratton said. “We deliver on our promise for consistency, professionalism and good to great production value. … As well, the shows that rank highest for listeners and subscribers are those who consistently deliver on schedule.”

Throw It Up on the Wall: Don’t be afraid to try a show if you have an idea. “We now have 25 shows and are working on launching another 10. In many cases, I come up with an idea and find a great host to do the show. … Some shows are successful, some flop, some are small and mighty and chug along in their vertical niches delighting their audiences and we expect they’ll grow over time. We are patient and we like to try a lot of concepts,” Mr. Bratton said.

Sloppy Seconds: In general, avoid replacing the host, as that can backfire. “The host in most cases really creates the energy for the concept, and hosts are not interchangeable,” she said. “I launched a business book digest show and it was more work for my host than they realized. I tried to find a replacement, but ultimately, people want a show custom-designed for their skills. I was not successful getting anyone interested in taking over the format and show that I had envisioned with the original host.”