Having a reliable show format helps keep listeners by giving them a sense of familiarity. But sometimes, familiarity can make your show stale. There is value in mixing things up, changing them to keep your podcast exciting. However, don’t overdo it! In this episode, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard discuss the little tips and tricks you can use to keep your show fresh. They discuss changing and pivoting formats and changing or dropping segments. Tune in for more tips on how to keep audiences tuning in to your show.
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Is It Better To Make A Reliable Show Format Or Mix Things Up Every Week?
We are going to talk about creating a reliable show format. Do you want to have a reliable show format versus mixing things up? That is an issue like, “How do you start? What do you do? Is it okay to change the way your show is structured? Should you add new segments?” All these questions come up and these aren’t always set-up questions. These are not just for newbies. They are for people who might have an existing show who are worried about adding new segments and doing different things or taking away things that they might’ve had already. Let’s talk about that. Should we have a reliable show format?
Readers like some amount of predictability. They like to have some expectations that when they subscribe to your show, you’re going to be there for them consistently periodically, whether that’s weekly, twice a week or once every other week. They want to know that you’re going to be there consistently. They appreciate some kind of show format and have some expectations. That doesn’t mean every episode has to be the same.
It doesn’t mean it has to be overstructured. That radio model of like, “This is our moment for this. This is the moment for the news. This is the moment for that.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way unless that’s what your audience wants. It needs to have a format that is meeting the expectations of the audience. Consistent and constant is the most important thing that you’d want to have in your show format, especially if you’re selling something. If your goal is to sell your coaching, masterminds, courses, books or anything like that out of your podcast, then having a consistent and constant show format, and the number of times you show up, making sure that you don’t show up less than weekly are the most important things to the show format that you can provide.
You’re modeling how you’re going to act and show up for them as their coach or mastermind leader. They look to any of those things and say, “If they can’t even show up once a month on their podcast, then how are they going to be able to serve me?” That sends a message. We want to send a message of reliability as our first message. That’s why I call it a reliable show format. That doesn’t mean that it has to get boring.
You can pivot your show. No question. There are times sometimes when you want to have more than one different kind of show format. Maybe you’re doing two episodes a week. One is an interview format and one is a solo cast. Let’s say you’re always doing interviews and you’ve been doing it the same way for 25 or 50 episodes and it’s time to change it up a little bit. Maybe as the host, you need to remain energized and want to change it up a bit. It may not always be for the listener. It may be for you because if you’re not showing up your best every time, energetic, excited to be there, asking those key questions, then the audience is going to feel it.Keep a structure that's flexible enough to start adding in some pieces as you go along. Click To Tweet
I like to think about the way we want to mix it up. We don’t necessarily want to mix it up from week to week and confuse people. They’re like, “I thought this was going to be an interview. There’s no interview this week?” No explanation either. We also do need to tell people what we’re doing when we mix it up. We can use mixing it up like a pattern interrupt so that the show doesn’t get old and it doesn’t get boring for your audience either. We can throw in a bonus episode now and again, and a test of something that we’d like to test out. A new segment, a different show style, a different intro that some people throw in. You want to mix it up but we want to test it. We want to be clear with the audience that that’s what we’re doing.
It could be a different segment. Sometimes people like to ask a very special 1 or 3 questions that are short format and quick answers to each guest every episode. If you’re going to do something like that, we recommend it be later in the interview, not right up front, something to look forward to. If it becomes a repeating pattern in every segment, people can look forward to it. It can be something that helps keep people listening through the whole episode. You can tease to something like that in the very beginning. Another thing that I like to do is when you’re at the very beginning of your show, you’re setting expectations for who your guest is, what’s special about them, what the listener can look forward to in this episode, and you can say, “You’re going to love his answer to this question. Wait for it. It’s coming up.” You keep people on the hook to be like, “I got to listen through and make sure I don’t miss that.”
When we’re testing models like The Binge Factor Show, the one that I host that is from successful podcasters and diving deep into those questions, one of the segments I did early on when it was still a part of Feed Your Brand before I even spun it off into its own thing, I was asking the question about bingeable listeners, did they know they had binge listeners, and what did they think the binge factor was for themselves. That in and of itself turned out to be such a popular question. People are engaging back with me and saying things. Afterward, the guests would say to me, “I never thought about that before. Thank you for raising that awareness about bingeable listeners, the value of them and what my X factor is. I never thought about my show that way before.” That was when I knew I was onto something and why I then made it its own thing.
We took over the show and spun it off because it was crowding Feed Your Brand. We wanted to give it its own space. Those things can happen where you find something that tests out wonderfully. It becomes its own entity. Podcasting was that for us, it became its own entity. It became its own business for us, which we hadn’t expected. There are various things that you want to test out.
This is what most people don’t do. They go in and they say, “We’re doing this new thing.” Now the expectation is that you’re going to do it every week. You didn’t realize how unsustainable it might be. It’s like, “I thought I could feature a new product every single week and it’s not so easy to find a product that’s good, a tool or a tip. It was hard to do that.”
One of the shows that I interviewed was the Pawdcast. I love that show. It’s a podcast about dogs and has tips about dogs like the most interesting and funny things. In the beginning, I was like, “I had no idea about a dog’s paw’s sweat” or whatever it might be. I don’t even know if that’s true. I just made that one up. It’s like funny tips and things that you never heard about your dog. I’d love to occasionally listen to it and then drop it to my daughters later like I’m a smart mom.
It’s a great segment that she’s got there, but she also found a source for that information that’s endless. She’s going to have all the tips and fun facts she could find. She’s got them already out there. That’s where you want to have a segment that is sustainable for you so people like it and want to continue it. That’s one way when you introduce a new segment. You say, “We’re trying out this new segment.” You are not setting an expectation that you must keep doing it in case it doesn’t work out for you or for your audience.
Another thing that you can do as a test is soliciting your listeners to ask a question. It could become a part of your show format or a different type of episode. Provide a means for them to do it or a way for them to ask it. They could ask it in a recorded way that you could use and edit into the episode to hear the listener ask it, and then you answer it. You could just get a question in writing, read it, and then answer it for them. That’s something that could be a segment on every show. In one of our podcasts, we made episodes strictly out of answering questions that were additional bonus type episodes in a shorter format. That’s another example.
They can become their own thing later if you think that will work for you. Thinking about segments where you can create an audience participation model, even though listening is passive. Your podcast listeners may sometimes be laughing and yelling at the phone. I was hysterically laughing listening to The Clip Out because they had the top ten ways that Peloton and PornHub are similar. I laughed my head off because it was so funny, and not in a crass way but it was funny in a fun way. How often do you do that? I immediately want to go, “Bravo,” and clap at the end of it. Maybe you have some active listeners out there who are now ready to engage because you got them to laugh, clap and talk back to you. They then realized, “There’s no one at the other end of this podcast. I need to connect with them.” We want to invite that in.
If we can find a way to do that, those people who are excited about your show are going to do that. What ways can we do that? Most people make the error of doing it too soon in the show. If we do it right at the beginning before we’ve served them, then we haven’t given them a reason to get back to us yet. We’re assuming that they’ve listened to the hundred previous episodes or whatever that is. We’re assuming that they’re our binge listeners, but maybe they aren’t. Maybe they’re just brand new and this happens to be the first episode that they’ve joined in on. Now you’re asking them to do something that they’re not yet prepared to do.Consistent and constant is the most important thing that you want to have in your show format, especially if you're selling something. Click To Tweet
Moving segments that require audience participation, I like it 2/3 of the way through, rather than at the end because, at the end, that listener had checked out or was ready for the next episode. Thinking about maybe having that segment in and setting the model of your show ahead of time. When you’re setting that setup or start-up, set a spot where new segments might be perfect, especially where you can create audience participation. Tom mentioned the one about asking questions, but there could also be one where you read a review from your audience and you invite them to review your show. Those might be other segments that you want to do and finding a place about 2/3 of the way through it. I like the natural spot right after the interview. How about you, Tom?
It depends on the form of your show. For a lot of people, the interview is the entire episode. After the interview is too late sometimes because if the listener senses that the interview is over, “I’ve heard the outro music before. I don’t need to hear it.” They switch it off before they get to that last thing. If they know the show format like a lot of our shows where we have an interview and then we have a discussion about the interview after. They know there’s something more coming, then after the interview is a perfect spot to do it, for sure.
We set that simple show format up ahead of time that we keep, that is reliable, consistent and constant. When we throw something in between there, it’s a great little pattern interrupt that they pay attention to. If we’re asking them to take action, we’ve got their attention to do it. It’s also a perfect place to run a promotion or an ad if that’s what we choose to do. We rarely do that, but we could choose to do that instead. You’ve created that naturalness.
I want to mention this as some people have gone in. Some of you out there haven’t started your show yet like it’s just going to be. Let’s look at our show start in the most simple way possible, but we want to look at the core of it. Keep it with these flexible moments where we can bring something in as we’re ready. If we start with the overly complex and plan it all out like this high production value like your late-night talk show or something, with all these different like, “I’ve got my monologue. I’ve got this and that bit. I’ve got a promo. I got interviews 1, 2, 3.” You’ve complicated your planning process and starting process. You don’t even know if this is resonating with your audience yet.
I’m a fan of that simpler start but you keep a structure that’s flexible enough to start adding in some pieces as you go along and you find some new things that you’d like to test out. I’m also a fan of if you get on something great, spin it off into a bonus or a second short episode as Tom is referring to. Giving it its own place where then people can binge on that one thing all the way through and get all of your tips or all of your great questions answered. That’s a great model as well because it gives them a place to go, an episode they know they can count on. If they’re short on time and they can’t listen to the full-blown interview episode but they could get the tip part, then they want to get that separate if they can.
The reality is some people like to have shows that have more different segments to them. I find a lot of people that do have more experience in radio or TV. You took an hour of time and you broke it up into four segments because you had to break it up with commercial breaks. We often find that happening with people moving from radio to podcast.
I’m not suggesting it has to be that perfectly scripted, reliable, planned out. We are not a fan of watching the clock. If I’ve got three segments in my show, that’s great, but it doesn’t have to be 8 or 20 minutes. You don’t have to do it that perfectly. I’m going to do that piece until it’s done, then I’m going to do the interview until it feels right. It’s going to be somewhere 30 minutes plus. I don’t know when it will end but it’s going to be right around there, then I’m going to have a close. My close might be 1 or 5 minutes. It depends on how much I want to say in that close. I’m going to wing that and the timing doesn’t matter. It matters based on the content.
We interviewed somebody on our 3D Printing Podcast. For those new people, they’re maybe like, “What, you have a 3D Printing Podcast?” We do. We interviewed this great architect who has a new furniture company that they’ve started. They make furniture that has a lot of 3D printed components within it. It’s made to order and manufactured on demand here in the United States. A lot of fascinating things. We had no idea how long that interview was going to go. We didn’t even talk about it between ourselves. We each had checked out the website, watch some videos about it, did our homework on it not too long
I made a couple of bullet point notes about things I didn’t want to forget to ask or mention about him and his company because I wanted to make sure I had the facts. Other than that, it was a fascinating subject for us. We thought our audience would be fascinated by it. We moved down over 625 episodes, so we certainly know what to ask by now. We let it go and it went about 45 minutes.
After that interview, we said goodbye to the guest. During that interview, there were a couple of things I became curious about based on how he answered an earlier question. I had some questions that came to me off the top of my head as we’re talking to him. I asked him and it made for a very dynamic conversation. We then said goodbye to the guest when we’re done. We use Zoom so he leaves Zoom and then we turn the recording back on. We record the introduction to that guest because now we have the experience of having interviewed him and we know a couple of things we could tease or mentioned that get our audience in the right frame of mind where they’re like, “That’s great. Let’s hear this interview.” We pause and record again some final thoughts we had at the end, what our takeaways were, what we each thought was fun about the interview or exciting about what they’re doing. That was shorter in that episode than a lot of them are.
We covered so much because we have a lot of experience in the furniture industry. We had a lot of collaborative conversations. We didn’t need as many posts because we were doing it during, but we had a little bit of post-offer that was nice and short. That worked out great. Our three segments are still planned so that those little things could go in between should we need them. We do have an advertiser on that particular show, so we have to have the spot for that as well. It’s already naturally planned into our format.We want to send a message of reliability as our first message. That doesn't mean, though, that it has to get boring. Click To Tweet
On this one, the interview was the lion’s share of the episode. It was the longest segment. Our audience is used to us having that little introduction. We throw into the interview, then we cut in the interview, and then that little post discussion that we have, they expect that. Even though it was short, probably wasn’t even five minutes or more, we still provided that and showed up for our listeners in that way because they have that expectation. That shows that we’ve pivoted our format multiple times over the years.
What I want to mention here is that’s our reliable format. It always was the format. It never changed. When we started this show, we did it five days a week. We had five different styles of episodes we did. We had one day a week that was always an interview on that. This was always our interview format, to have it be in three segments. We would have a Q&A. We might have a tech talk where we talked about tech stuff. We had ideas we’d throw out on Fridays. It was like a project challenge thing. We tried different things because we wanted to do a daily, but we were careful about the formats of the different dailies.
Eventually, we narrowed it down to two episodes a week because that was what we felt working. Now we’re just in one whenever we feel like it to keep our audience updated because we have such a huge library. There are over 600 shows here that we didn’t feel like it’s necessary to do something until something new captures our attention. Our subscribers never unsubscribed. They’re just waiting for us to drop in an episode now and again, and we do that. We earn the right to do that by doing 600 shows we showed up for them. A big difference in how you can do things is that you can mix it up.
That’s what I want to mention to you. If you’re feeling like the model of your show isn’t quite working for you and things need to change, finding an entry point for that change. Some people do 3 or 4 episodes and then mix it up already. That’s too soon. Give it an opportunity and a chance. I like to give them 25 episodes of a chance of something. If a segment isn’t working like, “I tried it. I did two weeks in a row and then I couldn’t get the product or what I expected or the tips that I needed,” drop that. That’s fine. Go ahead and shift on that immediately.
If you’re thinking about making a shift in your show, make it one thing at a time change. Give it ten episodes in between, then make the next change. Give it enough time for people to absorb that and respond to it for you to feel, “This is working for me and this is comfortable.” If you make too many changes at once, your listeners flip, listen, sit back and go, “I’m evaluating your show again as I was in the beginning. Am I going to keep subscribing to it? Am I going to keep listening? Are you going to mix this up on me so much that it’s no longer the show I started listening to from the beginning?”
It’s a good point when you’re starting out. For those of you that are new to this show, you will be shocked because I think all of us newbie podcasters were shocked the first time we realized how personally listeners react to things that you do in your show or do differently. They get attached to you and comfortable. They believe they know you, even though they’ve never met you in person. If you flip something on them and in a way that shocks them, surprises them or in any way is not pleasant to them or comfortable, they’re going to let you know. You’re going to hear it.
One time we needed to take a little break because of something we had to do for a month or more, and we decided to run some old episodes as reruns. They let us have it. They did not like that. We would’ve been better off to just let them know, “We have to take a hiatus. We’ll be back on this date with the next episode.” They would have been happier with that.
Thinking about how you might handle that, I’m going to take a break on The Binge Factor because we’re launching a new show and some other things are happening. I’m going to take 1 month to 6-week break on The Binge Factor. I was thinking about bringing in some guests hosts. I thought that might be fun but I was thinking that I’ve got to find a way to bring them in. If you think about how they would test out new late-night talk show hosts like Johnny Carson would have Jay Leno and a bunch of other people he used to have like Joan Rivers and other people guests for him. They would do a one-night.
Jay Leno didn’t get that full-time gig until he had done enough of those and the audience had responded to them. I maybe have to find a way before, as I’m prepping up to take this break to make sure that I bring those people on. Maybe I do a segment with them and get their take on The Binge Factor of somebody’s show before I let them go ahead and guest host for me. Do I have one guest host for the whole six weeks? Do I mix it up and have a different guest host each day? There are lots of choices and ideas that I could do here but the most important thing is that I’ve got to let my audience know ahead of time. Prepare and get them ready for it. That way, when it happens, it’s not shocking, it’s expected and it has an end date also in this particular case because it may not be what they want.
I’m going to be honest with you. I understand why our listeners got so upset when we ran reruns because if you think about it in contrast to what Johnny Carson did on The Tonight Show back in the ’80s and early ’90s before he retired, the thing is the audience had a reliable new show five nights a week and it very rarely was off-air. Look at what happened with The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, with Late Night With Stephen Colbert or with any of these late-night hosts when they take a break like on the 4th of July. It’s a holiday week and everybody was off on Monday. I wonder on Tuesday night, “Are we going to get a new one for The Tonight show?” No, we didn’t. They are off this weekend. They’re running reruns. You and I get to them. We’re like, “It’s a rerun. We’ve seen this one before.”
It’s an opportunity for somebody to try out somebody else’s show. That might be the last thing you want. We want to keep our audience. We’ve got to keep them engaged and find ways to show up for them. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a break. You got to find a way to shift that and make that break useful to them. That’s important.If you're thinking about making a shift in your show, make it one thing at a time. Click To Tweet
Also, to continue to serve them in a new way.
In that reliable format of what they’re expecting. If you’re showing up consistently and constantly in some way, shape or form with something that you deem valuable for them, they’re going to check that out because they’ve received a lot of value from it already. If I say, “I’m bringing on Tom as my guest host this week,” they’re going to be like, “She’s talking about him on so many episodes. He’s going to be someone I want to take a listen to.” That’s going to be useful and helpful to you to prep that up and gets that going. Start slow, start simple, keep that core structure that can be consistent, constant, and give your audience the comfort level with what you’re giving them, what you’re bringing them, and how you show up in the world. Mix things up to keep it exciting for you, to keep it interesting for your audience, and to keep that momentum going so you can go past hundreds of episodes.
That sounds like some great advice and lots of things to think about. If you have any thoughts on this or suggestions for different kinds of show formats or different ways to mix it up. If you’ve tried pivoting and had a great success or a great failure, we’d love to hear about it. Reach out to us. You can reach out anywhere on social media @FeedYourBrand or you can also go to Podetize.com. We have a contact form you can fill out. We’d love to hear from you.
I also want to remind everybody that you can reach out @Podetize everywhere as well, which is probably a little easier to find. That gives you everything for Feed Your Brands everywhere on social media. Everyone, thanks so much for joining us for this episode. We will be back next time with some interesting new topics to keep the momentum of your show going.
Thanks, everybody. Until next time.
- The Binge Factor
- Pawdcast – How Turning Passion Into a Top Dog Podcast Makes an Active Niche
- The Clip Out
- 3D Printing Podcast
- @FeedYourBrand – Twitter
- @Podetize – Instagram
- Feed Your Brand
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