Track 3: “Podcasts hold a last bit of anarchy.”

| March 10, 2020 | | Reading time: 5 Minutes

PodcastSerie Teil 3

Pod­casts have risen from niche hobby to mass media phenom­enon. This has made them more visible, but in the mean­time it has be­come enorm­ously dif­ficult to see through the develop­ments. How very helpful to have ex­perts and pod­casters like Hari List. In the inter­view and the third part of our series, he con­fesses his fascin­ation for the medium and how to always keep track of things in the audio jungle. 

Hari, on your Blog „Bruttofilmlandsprodukt“ you’re podcasting about Austrian film. Why exactly Podcasts? 

There are many reasons. At first I wanted to dive deeper into the matter of filming next to my studies of film production. And I really wanted to publish something, and just writing wasn’t enough at some point. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, since my film production studies, I wanted to deal more with the subject matter and publish something. And at some point writing was no longer enough for me. Besides, I didn’t want to expose my body to the internet, so podcasting seemed like the perfect solution – despite the irony that talking about a visual medium like movies supposedly isn’t perfect. But discussing and debating about movies is just so perfect for podcasts. 

Looks like you are a victim of the podcast-hype yourself. Why is this a thing until this day on? 

First of all: I wouldn’t say there is still a hype. And if so, it’s decreasing more and more. There has been a very linear development since the invention of the iPod and now we reached the step of podcasts entering the mainstream. On the one hand, this is due to availability: Three years ago everyone was checking their data volume constantly. Now everyone can download podcasts anywhere. The fact that we can consume so much on the go is a big factor in the increased usage. 

And above that?

There is more content in total than ever before and we’re desperately searching for space to squeeze it in our lives. And here podcasts come to play, they fill the last minutes of the day that are left. A lot of TV channels, for example, develop the idea that their shows, although they are produced for TV, don’t depend on the visual component. So there is a lot of content to adapt out there! Through the internet we are now used to read on demand, to watch on demand and now we get used to listen on demand. 

Podcasts hold a last bit of anarchy.

What makes podcasts as a medium so attractive? 

I often like to use the metaphor: “You are inside their heads.” Literally, you are inside the head of the listeners just by a little plug. And therefore you can manage to deliver information, a text can’t deliver. The emotion and the voice that speaks to someone makes such a huge difference. 

If someone is really into his topic, it’s fantastic to just listen. On the radio and in most talk shows, conversations often seem sterile. A podcast doesn’t have a specific length. We are living in such a formalized world, which is so caught up with channels. How many sheets of paper am I allowed to print, how many characters and lines can I write? Podcasts hold a last bit of anarchy, where anything is possible. 

Even after all these years you still sound enthusiastic…

Absolutely. I don’t know if you have Twitter, but if YouTube comments are hell, twitter is the limbo. We’re going for each others throats using 280 characters and don’t listen anymore. Podcasts are the antithesis to this, kind of. If you’re really interested in discussion, this is your medium!

How do I tell, if a podcast is a good podcast? 

Three things. First: enthusiasm. One instantly can tell if someone is making a podcast, because he merely has to do it. 

The second thing is a good audio quality. Three years ago I would have said that differently, like ‘the content is what matters most!’, I changed my mind. Simply because the market so competitive. Microphones are cheap, and even using my mobile phone can get me a decent tape recording. 

“You have to be reliable and keep getting better.”

And the third? 

I would say some kind of seriousness. You shouldn’t be doing podcasts simply because you think there is a hype and your boss tells you to do it. You have to be reliable and keep getting better. 

A regular output is the key, I even notice that by watching myself: Recently I had to cancel two episodes and it’s obvious that fewer people are coming back afterwards. If you don’t publish for two weeks, your audience has found another podcast. Simply because there are so many of them! Once you caught them, they are very loyal. But you have to show that loyalty the other way around, too. By offering good quality and constant output. Which doesn’t mean you can’t experiment or try out new things. But podcasting is not a nerd hobby anymore, those times are gone. 

The same things you hear about YouTube, that the algorithm punishes a lack of continuity. 

YouTube is even tougher on those things. Podcasts still have a free dimension to offer. Yet. Mainstream also means that podcast hosts like Luminary and Spotify are locking their episodes up, so that no other platform can access the feed. The big podcasts are more commercial, which is fine. Five years ago everything was a little fairer. I’m a little nostalgic, but not naive. 

Am I still free when it comes to choosing formats I can use for my show? 

Absolutely! There are these conversational podcasts that still hold ground today. And then there are strictly composed five-minute-comedy-shows. That’s a question of “form follows function.” Of course there are science topics I can wrap up in five minutes. But honestly: I think it works better in twenty minutes. It all depends: Who are you, the person behind the podcast? What can you guarantee? Because if my goal is producing two hours of strictly planned content, I will quickly discover that each hour of content takes me ten hours of production. 

It depends on the outcome you want to achieve.

How much should the success of my podcast rely on one specific audience? 

That’s a good question. Do you want to define your “audience of one” and search for this one specific persona? You would need expertise for doing this. And what does success even mean? Then we are back at the question of “form follows function”. It depends on which goal you want to meet. The branded podcast produced by Coca Cola doesn’t have to do anything with Coca Cola. But that’s fine, too. (You can check it out here)

How realistic is it to stand out in all this huge offer – to really be successful? 

This now applies to all industries, not just podcasting: As a newcomer, you either have to fill a niche that nobody knew existed, or bring something with you that you can use to reach a lot of people right from the start. A big Twitter channel, an established medium. That's why newspapers do relatively easily as podcast newcomers, Der Falter for example. As a no-name you can have a very difficult time. 

You have to do something different than others. If I want to build a car, I have to do something like Tesla. But if I only build an electric car now, I will be late to the party again. And that's the same with podcasting. And of course the eternal question: How do I define "success" in relation to my podcast for myself? 

That doesn’t sound to optimistic...

Podcasts still have their social penetration ahead of them. Everyone has access to television. Podcasts are only new in this sense, because many people do not understand what the difference to radio really is and how you can subscribe to them, for example. Media consumption must also develop. Only now is the moment when podcasts are available to everyone. So there is still a lot of market potential. 

If you spend the time to go to retirement homes and explain to the people there how they can subscribe to your podcasts, you can create a lot of audience. (laughs)

There's a fine line between running gags on the one side and bland redundancy on the other.

Which mistakes should I absolutely avoid when podcasting? 

Audio quality is definitely a factor, if it's low, the content must be extremely good. A second point is surely simple boredom. This can be caused by a monotonous voice or redundant topics. There's a fine line between running gags on the one hand and bland redundancy on the other. There are shows where one and the same argument is used over and over again. Then it quickly becomes bland. People will look for something else then, because there is so much other content out there. To quote Billy Wilder: Never be boring!


Hari List, 31, has been podcasting since 2014 in various formats. In his current podcast, Bruttofilmlandsprodukt, which can be found on Spotify, the accompanying website and other platforms, he discusses Austrian film. For the media observer META Communication International, he works as a project manager in media analysis and is in charge of the new podcast monitoring system, in which all Austrian podcasts are recorded. He also coaches companies, NGOs and individuals in the field of podcasting.


The Content Glory editorial team would like to thank him very much for his time and the clever insights!



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