What Makes a Good Podcast?


listening to earbudsI like the concept of a podcast. Being able to tune in and listen to people talk about a topic I’m interested in sounds like something I’d love.

But for a long time, I couldn’t find one that didn’t make me cringe.

Some of my favorite bloggers have podcasts, but if an episode consists of the blogger reading one of her posts, sorry; I can read it quicker myself.

I went to the podcast section of the iTunes store and typed in a topic. There must be hundreds of writing podcasts, but I couldn’t find one that engaged me.

Reasons for rejecting podcasts:

  1. Got tired of waiting for the episode to start. Nothing interesting happened in the first three minutes. Maybe there was a long theme song. Maybe the host hemmed and hawed or talked about himself. Maybe he explained what his podcast is about. Maybe he exchanged a couple of inside jokes with his guest. Maybe he extoled his sponsor. But I got bored.
  2. The host’s voice is irritating. People have limited control over their vocal quality; very few people can pull off whiney. Maybe the host was afraid or stressed out and that came through in her voice. Maybe she sounded too perky. Or maybe she spoke in a monotone.
  3. The episode didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. Maybe the host didn’t plan anything in advance and thought she’d just wing it, but her coverage of the topic was basic and superficial.

I needed a different strategy for finding podcasts.

Every once in a while, I’ll read an article about best podcasts for (your special interest here). I’ll test the ones that sound most promising, and I’ve now amassed a list of podcasts that I like (not that I listen to any of them regularly—I generally listen when I’m drawing or cleaning in my office, both of which I do too infrequently).

My current favorite podcasts (in no particular order):

  1. The Not-Starving Artist. Host Angie Noll interviews women who make a living through the arts.
  2. Writing Excuses. Authors Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler interview other authors for fifteen minutes (actually usually more like 18–30 minutes).
  3. Quilt & Tell. Tracy Moody, Lori Baker, and Ginger Sheehy Tatic discuss all aspects of the quilting craft.
  4. Unlocking Us. Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, is known for her work on shame and vulnerability. She started her podcast in January, 2020 and has recently interviewed guests about surviving self-quarantine and about racial justice.
  5. The Unmistakable Creative. Srinivas Rao interviews leading thinkers, doers, and artists to help you maximize your creativity.
  6. TED Talks Daily. These short talks (typically 7-37 minutes) cover all sorts of topics.
  7. Book Launch Show. Book launch expert Tim Grahl gives hints about how to successfully launch and market your book.
  8. Tim Keller Sermons. The Presbyterian minister and author preaches about passages from the Bible. I’m not sure that I believe everything he says, but he gives me lots to think about.
  9. The James Altucher Show. Altucher interviews peak performers in every field, but he digs for their stories of personal challenge and reinvention.

The nine podcasts above, for the most part, are giving me what I expect.

What makes a good podcast:

  1. Gets going in the first minute. I am an impatient person. I have lots to do. Don’t waste my time.
  2. Confident speaker. I’m listening because I think you can teach me something or at very least entertain me. If you sound uncertain, I’m outta here. Practice beforehand until you’ve gained a level of confidence.
  3. Expressive, natural voice. All our voices sound weird when recorded, not at all like they sound in our heads. You might want to listen to what your audience will hear before you let it go live. I prefer voices that sound like a beloved friend having a conversation with me, with all the tears and laughter that entails, and without stilted tone or didactic vocabulary.
  4. Great content. Informative, with a unique twist. Sometimes the spice comes from a guest; sometimes it’s the engaging personality of the host. But it needs to be a cut above what’s already out there. It needs to be new, or at least a fresh take on what’s tried and true.

Sometimes I think I’d like to create an ARHtistic License podcast. But I don’t know that I could make one that meets my high standards.

Now it’s your turn. Do you follow any podcasts? What, in your opinion, makes a podcast good? Please share in the comments below.


About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

6 responses »

  1. I interviewed someone who started podcasting years ago and has been very successful. He said the trick was to hook people in the first few seconds. He’s so right. We’re all becoming less patient. This really ties in with what you’re saying.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Some other things that have made me reject podcasts — two hosts that spend their time talking over each other, or too much repetition.
    And here are some I love love love! 1) Creative Pep Talk with Andy J. Pizza — this one might not make your cut-off of one minute before content, or particularly easy-to-listen to voice, but there is so much content packed in to every episode! I can’t binge listen because I have to process all the ideas from each episode.
    2) Dressed: The History of Fashion with April Calahan and Cassidy Zachary – the two hosts are so knowledgeable and their presentation styles complement each other. They show the interplay of fashion with art and history, they are inclusive in their topics, and they have fascinating guests! I am only on Season 1 of this one — I save it for long car trips — and I am so glad I have a lot of episodes to look forward to.
    3) What Should I Read Next with Ann Bogel. I did a whole post on how I binge-listened to this one while basting quilts. Ann and interesting guests discuss books. One of the guests I remember was a narrator for audio books — that was a fun look behind the scenes.
    I am going to look up your Quilt and Tell suggestion!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Today I found the Alan Alda podcast called Clear+Vivid. I enjoyed the last podcast about communication so much that I started at the beginning and am listening thru all of them. So far he has interviewed Itzak Perlman, Judge Judy and several people thtat I didn’t know but really enjoyed!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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