For those of us who surf along the waves of social media and “new media,” one of the highest forms of communication is the podcast. Very few people actually have the combination of skills and tools to create a decent podcast, though. You might have a great personality, but not be very camera-savvy. Your audio/video set-up could be second to none, but maybe your skills as a host just aren’t quite there. For this reason, only a select group of people out there have put together consistent, watchable podcasts that have a strong following. (MakeUseOf’s podcast is definitely one of the better ones.)
What can you do then?
Well, as a long-time listener and (recently) watcher of podcasts, a fun way to get involved is to somehow get featured on one. There are a number of ways to do this, but here are some of my top tips:
1. Identify Where You Fit In
Does your podcast of choice have any group participation elements? Many podcasts accept not only emails, but voicemails and video messages as well. Think about the quantity of messages that popular podcasts recieve every day. You’ll need to find a way to stand out (covered later).
Do they feature their fans regularly, just for being great fans? Do they give out any fan awards? These are much more difficult to achieve (especially if it’s one of the top podcasts), but my next tip should help with that.
2. Talk to the Hosts Frequently
If you fall in love with a new podcast and immediately send them an email, I’m afraid your chances of recieving on-air props are very low. Popular podcast hosts recieve many, many messages from their fans and they have the onerous task of sorting through all of them. If an email has some unique insight or piece of information, it may have a little higher chance of recognition, but the best way to get noticed is through repetition.
Instead of treating these internet celebrities like computers designed to do your bidding, treat them like people. Your first email should probably be one of introduction and of admiration. If you like a podcast enough to listen to it regularly, you can probably think of a few nice things to say about it. Aside from the fact that this will help you become more well known to the hosts, it’s also a lot of fun. I’ve got to know several podcast hosts through email or my Twitter account – they’re great people, by and large.
3. Obey the Rules
Remember when I mentioned that the popular podcasts get a lot of mail? For some of them this is an understatement. They get so much email and other messages that it’s almost impossible for them to review it all. For this reason, many podcasts have put down fairly strict rules for their fan correspondences. They’re not usually unreasonable, but if you’re serious about getting on the show, you have to obey them.
One of the simplest rules is length. If your email is too long, or your call is more than so many seconds, some podcasters will simply stop reading/listening. Try to keep emails brief and to the point. Audio or video messages should be around 30 seconds. I know that sounds like a very short time, but think about it from the podcasters’ point of view: their show is only so long, they can’t keep you on the air for too great a duration.
4. Think About What Makes You Unique
So, you’ve learned the rules, made yourself a regular in emails or forums, what now?
You cannot simply consider your mission complete. Now that you’re a part of the community (a rewarding endeavor in and of itself), you need to find out exactly where you fit in. Do you have any special skills? Buzz Out Loud, one of the oldest podcasts out there (which I have consequently based much of this article on), has lawyers, scientists, IT professionals, and space experts among its listeners. If you have an awesome profession, you might just have a free pass on certian topics. If you don’t have some special area of expertise, think about your interests, your style of argument, or even your personal philosophy.
The reason for all this introspection is so you can come up with a good epithet. Let me use myself as an example. Instead of “Jimmy” (a popular name in America), I should say “Jimmy the Blogger,” or “Jimmy from MakeUseOf.com” when I’m talking about something relevant to blogging. If it’s a regional thing, I might say “Jimmy from Virginia.” Now that I am moving in the general direction of my expertise, I’m even tempted to use “Jimmy the Microbiologist.” It’s either the first or last thing they see in your message and you want it to stick!
5. Create a project
Going off of the “special skills” idea, are there things you can actually DO to win your hosts’ affection? Yes, definitely!
If any little “memes” or subculture themes have come out of the podcast, try your best to do something that pays homage to them. Recently an industrious member of Buzz Out Loud’s community (called “Buzztown”) built them a bingo board to realize a offhand idea suggested by another listener. Shortly after that bingo board was put up, that person was not only recognized by the hosts, but many other listeners took part in the game and were mentioned for completing it.
These kinds of opportunities come up all the time with all the crazy ideas hosts sometimes think of. Even if you attempt to do an homage project and fail, let them know…they’ll appreciate your effort.
6. Start Small
My final bit of advice to you: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Becoming part of a community online takes the same amount of time as it would in real life. If you start with a newer or somewhat unestablished podcast, you can “get in on the ground level,” so to speak. You’ll have a better chance of connecting with your hosts and be able to become one of the “founding members” if the podcast takes off eventually.
For a podcast that is more established, like Diggnation, you’ll probably want to “study” what other successful listeners have sent in and had featured on the show. In this case, the risk of being marginalized by thousands of Digg users is pretty high, but the epic rewards of being responded to by Kevin Rose may just be worth it. Good luck in any event!
Now that you’re all set to become part of the podcasting universe, here are a couple articles to help you find the podcast that is just right for you!
Please leave your own tips in the comments! Ever got on a podcast…if so, which ones?