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Nobody likes an unfinished story. TV and radio shows often leave you foaming at the mouth with unanswered questions because of their episode style structure, like “Who was that person?” or “Why did she do that?”. Just like an exciting cliffhanger, you should leave listeners wanting more! Here are 7 ways on how it’s done right and how you can use them for your podcasts.

1. Hooking Listeners with a Captivating Intro

Listeners don’t stick around for long without peaking their interests. You have about 30 seconds (max) to dedicate some captivating words to the listener about what you are going to talk about in your podcast. Think of it like a very short interview where you have to showcase the best bits, for example:

“Hi, I’m Tim and welcome along to The Fishy Dishy Podcast! Today, we’re looking at how to prepare and cook bass in under 30 minutes, with a very special guest towards the end, so be sure to stick around!”

An introduction sets up the episode and what’s to come, essentially peaking the listener’s interests. There’s a few different ways other podcasters do this, for example, the Repeat Customer podcast introducers the presenter, what the show is about, and then dives straight into the episode with a line like “I’m about to go somewhere I’ve NEVER been before…”

There are a few other ways of doing this, like Welcome to Night Vale and the Cryptonaturalist's approach fo starting off each episode with some quirky, mysterious line to hook the listener, and then having the familiar jingle afterwards. Whatever you choose, the point is to hold your audience's attention.

2. Holding Your Audience's Attention

  1. Setup Challenges: Puzzles, riddles, and anything that your listener can think about is an effective way of keeping them guessing.
  2. Engage in Conversations: Listeners interested in your show are always looking for ways to interact with you. Engage in social media chats and ask questions like what your next episode should be and what they think could improve your shows.
  3. Change Your Style: Just like a restaurant varies its menu every season, you too should change your style every so often to help keep your content fresh, (but not too often as to confuse your regular listeners).
  4. Vary Content: If you always talk about the same ideas and topics then regular listeners will drop off. Instead, touch on different topics and areas in your industry. Even if you’re not entirely sure about the subject matter, it doesn’t hurt to talk about something new.
  5. Don’t Lose Steam: Keeping your podcast going regularly can be tiring, but don’t be discouraged. Keep your content fresh and engaging with regular content brainstorms.

3. Thinking Like a Listener

If you think like a listener, you will start to understand what people want from your podcast. You need to be empathetic and know their different points of view. 

The middle ground between what you want to talk about and what listeners like to hear might be the best option. Let friends listen to your finished podcast before it goes live to get feedback.

Treat other podcasts similar to yours as like a canary in the mine. See what they’re doing and how listeners are responding to them. You never know, you could learn a thing or two from watching other people’s mistakes.

4. How Long Should Podcasts Be?

Podcasts come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are 10 mins long, whilst others are 2 hours long! Just take a quick listen to a usual episode from This Week in Tech from TWiT.

It’s super long right!? That’s because they have a lot to say. How long your podcasts should entirely depend on what you have to say. If you’re not sure if you should condense your content down or expand on it, look to others to see what they’re doing. For example, the Important Records podcast ranges between 5-20 minutes, The Daily and 99% Invisible stay between 20-30 minutes, and Internet History Podcast is around 50-60 minutes.

Although podcasts with a runtime of an hour may be interesting, it can be difficult for listeners to stay focused and engaged the entire way through. All of your episodes don’t need to be the same duration though. Varying the length of your episodes or splitting them into multiple parts is a better way to get more out of your content, just like TV does with regular episodes.

5. Regular Episodes (& When You Should Release Them)

There’s a reason why podcasts and TV shows space out their content evenly. Regular episodes are a way to let people know when your shows get released. It’s habit-forming and helps for attracting repeat visitors. Just look at TED Talks Daily, a podcast that releases episodes every weekday.

Consistent episodes are published from Ted Talks Daily.

On the flip side, releasing episodes randomly or not publishing for long periods can have a negative effect. As people don’t know when to expect an episode, they often move onto the next thing and may even forget about your podcast completely. For example, SuperMeta randomly publish episodes, which can seem off putting for regular listeners.

SuperMeta aren't very consistent with their publishing schedule.

Publishing too often also has its downsides. Having an overabundance of something can leave your listeners lagging behind and sometimes drop off completely. As the old saying goes, there can be “too much of a good thing”.

Publishing episodes regularly, like every week, is a nice balance for your to plan episodes and keeps listeners in the know. Even once a month can work. Take the LSE IQ podcast, they upload shows (along with videos) monthly. Even though their content is pretty spaced out, it works for them.

6. Cliffhangers, Teases, and Unanswered Questions

Depending on your type of podcast you can have some fun with how you present content. Using cliffhangers, teases for the next episode, and leaving listeners with unanswered questions are all good ways to really leave listeners wanting more.

Take story-based shows like Welcome to Night Vale. Episodes are treated more like dramas, so leaving listeners with lingering questions fits in with their narrative. Have a listen to this episode towards the end:

7. Finishing Strong with a Call to Action

The best sort of ending is one with a strong finish. Take cinema as an example, they’re split into a three-act structure:

  1. Setting up the story.
  2. Journey to the objective/confrontation.
  3. Conclusion/resolution.

Most people remember the start and end of films, but not the middle part as much. Podcasts usually work in a similar fashion, that’s why your episodes should have both a strong start and end. The latter is a good opportunity to inform your listeners, like if you’ve just released a new book (and where to buy it), an upcoming event you’re attending, or where they can go to subscribe to your podcast if they haven’t already to leave listeners wanting more.

Alternatively, use your ending as way to thanks those that helped out producing your podcast or guests that took part. For example, true crime podcast In the Dark does this every episode.

It’s a nice little touch to acknowledge the hard work that goes into making these types of shows.

Leave Listeners Wanting More Using a Podcast Script

Designed for beginners, the podcast script template is easy to follow and gives you clear examples of how to produce your shows to leave listeners wanting more.

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