🧠 Podcast Wisdom from Industry Pros

Presented by JamX

Be true to yourself and you will never fail.

🐾 Meet Zach, My Podcast Companion

I want to take a moment to thank the unsung heroes of podcasting: our pets.

My dog Zach may be a silent partner, but his presence elevates my podcasting experience. When I step out of the recording booth, he’s there waiting with a smile (unless he’s asleep, in which case his snoring means I have to do a few voiceover retakes).

When I’m losing the battle with a script, we go for a walk to discover new ideas.

His antics remind me to be bold, play, and enjoy the process. And when the day is done, he offers a masterclass in rest and relaxation.

📸 Do you have a pet who’s also your podcast companion? Send an email to noisegate@podcastmovement.com with a photo and a bit about them (and your podcast) for a chance to be featured in a future issue.

Industry game changers and valiant minds from creative professions share their wisdom, adversities, and paths to innovation.

🎙️ Signal Flow: Podcast Wisdom from Industry Pros

This week, we dip into The Noise Gate archives to revisit some of the best creative secrets and advice, straight from the pros themselves.

Lee Adams, documentary filmmaker and journalist

The pitching process is what separates the people who make it from the people who won't because it's a lot of hearing “no” and it's a lot of hard work. It's common to go out with an idea you're super passionate about, you really feel like you've captured lightning in a bottle. And then you just hear no from everyone you pitch it to. Some people don't even give you the meeting, you don't even get in the room. And that's the point when a lot of people will want to quit. The pitching process requires mental fortitude and self-assuredness so when you hear no, it doesn’t derail you.

Even if you keep getting rejected, you’re still growing your network. Every time you take a show out, people are getting to know you, they're getting to like you, they're getting to know your ideas. Even if the first show doesn't go or the second show doesn't, now you've got a development person at some shop or a buyer who knows you and likes your ideas and is waiting to hear the next one.

The most important thing to think about when you're pitching a show is that you only get one chance. So you need to put the best materials forward. It doesn't matter how good the idea is, there are very few people in the industry who can just send an email and start the wheels in motion to get a show set up. For the rest of us, you really need to present yourself and your idea in the best way you possibly can. That means your idea and execution plan are well thought out and presented in a killer pitch deck. And it always helps if you have something that demonstrates your vision, meaning a good sizzle or a good trailer.

Mignon Fogarty, creator of Grammar Girl

Recently, I started doing polls on the Grammar Girl Facebook page. I've always been interested in the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel, which was a body that answered poll questions about usage and was disbanded many years ago. And I really miss it. And so I thought, well, maybe I can replicate that concept. I get hundreds of the most interesting comments on the polls. And I'm reading through them and interacting with them. And it's just invigorating. I’ve already done at least one episode based on something that surprised me that I learned in the comments from my social media followers.

As I do more and more of these polls, I've been thinking, well, this could actually be a book. So you can see how it goes from social media engagement to episodes for the show to a book idea. And it all just really works together.

SuChin Pak (left), co-host of Add to Cart

An interview isn't going well if I'm just going through the list of questions I prepared beforehand. That's how I know a conversation is fine but not great. Because either I can't get there or this person is not going there with me. The list of questions is more of a security blanket. The best conversations are when you ask the first question and you never ask another question that was on the sheet. That's how you know a conversation is on another level, the energy and answers are totally different.

The most interesting part of a conversation is the follow-up question. That’s where the conversation really starts.

The follow-ups require you to be completely engaged and present in the conversation. Because the follow-up question is the spontaneous question. In the best-case scenario, it puts the person you're talking to off-guard a bit. And I'm not talking, “Gotcha!” I'm talking about, “Wow, no one's ever asked me that question” or “I never thought of it that way.” That’s when I know I’m getting into a juicy convo.

Brian Thompson, Content Manager at CreativeMornings HQ

Creativity really comes down to connecting the dots. You come up with new ideas by taking something old or taking something you're interested in, and then putting your own spin on it. And that can come from anywhere. That’s the beauty of CreativeMornings, you never know what that talk is going to be about.

We try to find the golden nuggets of the internet for our Fun Stuff to Click On section in the newsletter. [Editor’s note: I’ve lost countless hours to those dastardly, fascinating links.] Interesting, fun, or inspiring—the sweet spot is all three. You may click through to see a post on Colossal that has some super interesting artwork. But then three links down, you click on something that takes you to photographs from the Hubble telescope, and your brain cross-pollinates that stuff and you don't know where it's going to lead or what it's going to spark.

When I'm looking for inspiration, the first rule is to have a routine, your rituals, and you follow the process.

Inspiration and procrastination often go hand in hand. And that's the magic of it. You never know where those distractions are going to take you in your own work. 

The only cure for writer's block is to just put your butt in the chair. Keep showing up.

 (continued below)

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Rob Rosenthal, host and producer of Sound School

A friend of mine calls first drafts “barf drafts.” It's not supposed to be great right out of the gate, although accidents happen.

I think a good story well-told helps us understand who we are, how we live, and the world around us.

I feel like trailers and first episodes for series and so on, it's like they all went to the same conference and somebody handed out a script and said, “Do it this way.” You can almost time the beats in a reported story. And the same with a podcast trailer where someone's going to say, “And I worked on this story for X number of years. I thought it was going to be such and such, but it turned out to be this instead.” It’s just so formulaic. Don't do that. That's not good storytelling. Be creative. Try to find a new way in.

A few podcasts I can’t recommend enough: You Didn’t See NothinExpectant by Pippa Johnstone, The Big Dig from WGBH, and BBC Radio 4’s Lights Out.

Conversations, like writing, can reveal parts of ourselves we hadn’t realized were there. Studs Terkel was interviewing a woman and he let her listen to the recording. And when she stopped listening, she took the headphones off and said, “I didn't know I felt that way.”

Catherine Saint Louis, Executive Editor of Podcasts at Neon Hum

I like to start the writing process with an extremely clear, detailed outline that breaks out scene by scene, episode by episode, when we will reveal what. And as a team, we move those bits around and having conversations that help us understand how our story operates, what is best for the story, and what we're aiming to make.

You need to figure out the facts before you can figure out the story.

If you can’t answer the question of why you're telling the story, you're screwed. If you can’t say in two sentences what the podcast is about and why it’s important to tell now, and you can't imagine a random person on the street being at least halfway interested, it’s over before it started.

The stories that work best are the ones where people can see why they should care. 

A good example of that is the first six or so minutes of 
Believe Her from Lemonada. They’re speaking to people who have heard many, many stories about domestic violence. And then they say, but have you ever wondered why you haven't heard this other story? That other story is the story we are going to tell you. It's just so urgent, the way they put it. It feels so novel and fresh. You’re like, I’m in, I have to hear this person's story.

Steve Goldstein, founder of Amplifi Media

I love the creative muscle that’s grown in podcasting over the past several years. So many interesting ideas. So many people pushing the envelope. But then you move into this phase where there's replication. And so we have a lot of true crime podcasts. Today, for example, that's no different than what happens in categories like prepared meal delivery services. There was Blue Apron, and then soon enough, there were twelve other companies just like it. There's a lot of piling on. Most of these companies don't survive, just like most of these podcasts won't survive.  

Right now, the average person is listening to nine total episodes a week from about five different podcasts. That's pretty thin, knowing there are around 445,000 podcasts in production today. The tyranny of getting onto that metaphorical mental show is really hard. What I'm seeing is there are a lot of clever people coming up with different ideas on how best to market, how best to engage listeners, how to make sure their content is unique and compelling. And now, they’re embracing multi-platform strategies. Because just being a podcast may not be sufficient in gathering enough audience to be sustainable or profitable.  

🎧 Podcast of the Week: No Bad Dogs Podcast

Do you often wonder what your dog is thinking? Join Tom Davis as he teams up with dog trainers, dog lovers, dog enthusiasts, and everything in between to bring you the No Bad Dogs Podcast. Each episode will be packed full of dog training information and tips. Don't miss the weekly Q&A segment where you can call in and ask your own dog-related questions.

To see Tom’s training in action, check out his YouTube page. His channel was a big help when I started training my rescue pup, Zach (featured at the beginning of this issue).

🥾 Further Exploration

Want to take your podcast into the video realm? Here’s an A-Z guide on what you’ll need to get rolling.


Enjoying The Noise Gate? Why not share it with a fellow podcaster?

Until next time, have a bold week.

– Doug

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