August 6, 2020

How to Write a Podcast Episode

Learn how to find ideas for podcast episodes. Read about structuring the writing for an episode.

How to Write a Podcast Episode

Every week I need to find and write a new topic to discuss. In this chapter, I will discuss my method of writing and how I find new ideas to write about.

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Writing Process

The start of the writing process is outlining the episode. The outline contains bullet points. They are how to complete a task, why a host should complete a task, benefits, problems, tips, and things not to do.  The outlined points I make that relate to each bullet point. After the bullet points, there are examples. Examples are not in the outline. They are in my head. The examples are not written down because the examples might change.

The goal for any subject is to give a 360-degree view of the subject. Showing listeners every perspective of a subject.  When hearing all sides of a subject, a host can make an informed decision.

The episode starts with "How to." Where I explain the setup of the subject. I mention how to become involved in a subject. For example, I did an episode about live-streaming. In "how-to," the topics covered were streaming platforms, equipment, and software. Listeners can make changes from my information. The how-to section is giving listeners the research that I have done on the topic.

The listener needs to know why to complete the task. This section is sometimes called benefits. In this section, I give reasons to add the task to a host's workflow. Listeners will know how the task is different from other methods. How the subject can help them or their podcast. For live-streaming, one benefit is reaching a new audience.

Listeners now have the setup and the benefits. For the 360-degree view, listeners need to know the problems or disadvantages. For streaming, the problem is there is no podcasting category. The disadvantages are the other side of a 360-degree view. The benefits are only one side of the subject.

A host needs to know the actions they should not be doing. The actions are actions I have tried that did not work. As well as actions that I read did not work for others. In some cases, the points relate to ethics, For example, adding random categories to a stream. Viewers of the category will try and get a host's account banned.

The last step in writing is tips. Tips are general advice. A tip might improve a listener's experience. If a listener does not do any tips, they will still be able to stream. One tip for streaming is "make sure nothing is embarrassing in the background." The background will not stop a host from streaming.

Showing all sides lets the reader make an informed decision about the topic. With all information, readers can decide whether the subject is right for them. Tips do not fit anywhere else in the process. The tips are not required, but they will make for a better experience.

Structure

Within the writing process, there is a structure for each point. That structure is Statement, Why, Example. I make a statement, I give my reason, and then evidence behind my claim. For example, I state a reason to stream is to get the podcast in front of a new audience. While streaming, I have talked to viewers that have followed me on Twitter. My statement is that hosts should stream. Why? Streaming grows a host's audience. Example? Stream viewers have followed me on Twitter.

How I Find New Ideas

Every week I need to find a topic to write about. These are some methods that help me think of topics to write about.

Working

My podcast is about my work, from programming to creating content. Sometimes get ideas for episodes while I work. An episode that resulted from working is the Vanilla JavaScript Dark Mode episode.

Exercise

Exercise helps people think better. I use to walk a mile to and back from work. During my walks, random thoughts about episode ideas would pop into my head. One episode that came to me during a walk was the Growing A Community episode.

Conversations

I spent my time on Twitter and Telegram. During this time, I see many conversations. Sometimes I will read a post or thread that gives me an idea for an episode. The Dogs and Web Dev episode came from someone saying that they would click on anything related to dogs. I wanted to test that out to see if others felt the same way.

I have many conversations with the Open Podcast Community. Sometimes a community member will say something that will give me an idea for an episode. The episode about my cover art was the result of a community member asking for feedback for their cover art.

Events

Sometimes an event occurs in my life. Some people can learn from my experience. An episode that was the result of an event is the HN episode. The event that occurred was that I posted an article on HN, and the article got 0 traffic. When I was having difficulty with a task at work, I turned the problem into the episode. The episode My Failure to Design for 1000s of Users is one example.

Mindless Activities

There are activities that I do that do not take too much thought to complete. I have done them so many times that I do not have to think about the process of the activity. My mind can go to other places while completing these activities. I have taken out the trash thousands of times. I can think about different ideas when taking the trash out. Sometimes I have to come running back from taking out the trash. I thought of a new idea, or I have solved a problem while taking out the trash.

Not in Front of a Screen

Screens are always stimulating minds. Taking mental energy away. Getting away from screens helps to get into deeper thought. Some days I make smoothies. I never bring my phone into the kitchen. On several occasions, I have thought of some good ideas while making smoothies. Making a smoothie allows me to think better without forced simulation.

Comedians

Comedians get their material from everyday life. They have unique observations about events. Some comedians exaggerate events to make a story more interesting for their audience. Some comedians exaggerate the sound of a person's voice. They might do this to add an extra element to the story.

Bill Burr gets a phrase and works it on stage. The phrase can be anything such as "Monkey Bread." He gets many opportunities to shape the bit. Every time he goes to a different city, there is a chance to make a bit better. Each performance, he learns the parts that worked and the parts he needs to cut.

Conclusion

These are the different methods for writing and finding episodes. The methods are not the only possible methods for episode ideas. The purpose of this chapter is to give hosts a framework for content creation.

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This post is an excerpt from the Open Podcast Community book. The book is available for purchase here.