What We Learned Creating Original Podcasts
By Nick Randall
Since Ranieri & Co. was founded in 2019, it's been part of our vision to create premium original content. Recently, we launched 2 brand new podcast series from the ground up. These series have been over a year in the making and have been a huge learning experience for us, as we developed the content from conception, talent sourcing, development, research, recording, editing, to launch and promotion. If you’re thinking of launching a podcast or a podcast ad campaign, or are just curious about what goes on behind the scenes, read on to find out how to create a successful and relevant series.
Story is everything
As a podcast advertising company who exclusively represent Wondery Media (home to Smartless, Dr. Death, Operator, Shrink Next
Door, and more), plus local talent such as The Junkies and The Mind Muscle Project, we get tons of great stories presented to us every month that have the potential to be made into a podcast. Not all of these ideas should be made into podcasts.
What we are looking for is either a 'new' great story or a completely different take/viewpoint on an existing great story. It is important to ask - what's not known that we can tell and/or how can we tell this story in a completely different way? What's the story behind the story? What's the deeper issue or topic to be discussed?
We know the power of great storytelling. There’s plenty of data to back up how our brains react to a good story. Great stories produce the kind of neurotransmitters that make us binge through the next episode, then the next, and the next. When processing facts, only two areas of the brain are activated. But a well-told story can excite multiple areas of gray matter – including the motor cortex, sensory cortex and frontal cortex.
Research shows that brand stories told just audibly inspire an average 50% more positive emotional peaks than brand stories told just visually. This means podcast memories are likely to sustain over time, given their strong emotional component. We knew that we needed to choose super compelling and rich stories to launch a successful podcast that would keep listeners coming back.
That’s why we chose unique, rich subject matter for our series. Motherlode details the cybercrime activities of young hackers, including Julian Assange in the 1980’s and 1990’s in Melbourne who pushed the boundaries of computer security systems around the world. The Long Haul goes beyond the bright lights and cheering crowds, into the culture of elite sport in Australia.
2. The team
Pick a great and diverse team. When we chose our production teams to create our original podcasts, we were lucky enough to be able to partner with some of Australia’s most experienced and expert presenters and producers.
For example, Motherlode is hosted by Greg Muller. Greg is an award-winning TV, radio, online journalist and podcast producer, with more than 20 years experience in the Australian media. Greg produced and narrated Gertie's Law, an award winning podcast series from the Supreme Court of Victoria. He Recently worked as Executive Producer for The Age’s multi award-winning investigative podcast, 'Wrong Skin’. It was this highly relevant experience that allowed Greg to build the story arcs that make Motherlode so compelling.
It was integral to make sure that the team was aligned and that everyone knew their role and responsibilities early on. Starting with real clarity from the beginning will allow the project to move forward at a productive and frictionless pace.
A diverse set of skills and points of view will help eliminate 'group think' and provide a range, dimension, and depth in the story.
3. Put the audience first
We know that a brilliant podcast focuses on listener experience. That’s why we identified the question that the series aims to answer for the listener early on. For Motherlode - Why was Melbourne the epicenter of computer hacking? What were Julian Assange's motives in creating the most disruptive website in the world - Wikileaks?
For The Long Haul, we’re often called a sporting nation, but what do we really expect of our sportspeople? And what does our relationship to them say about our country? We knew that our sport-obsessed nation would love to delve deep into this topic. Executive Producer Simon Portus explains:
“The Long Haul is great for parents. It relates to their kids’ experience with sport, but it’s also full of issues we can all reflect on in our own lives and choices, so there is something for everyone.”
4. Research, research, research
The ability to tell a great story in a really compelling way comes down to the depth and quality of research. This is a painstaking task involving hundreds of hours trawling through articles, old interviews, court documents, archival audio/footage, and interviewing subject matter experts. This is where you need a hyper-curious and relentless team - often a combination of an EP and investigative journo - capable of sticking at a particular topic or thread of a story through to the end. Great writing takes the research and turns it into lots of short sharp stories that form each episode around a central theme. In most single episodes of a podcast series, there will be up to 6 sub-stories at play. That's how you create depth and a truly immersive listener experience.
Lucy Kent, is the Executive Producer of Motherlode. Lucy was able to chase down fascinating interview talent, often from three decades ago to add colour and insight to the podcast. It was important for us to trust each team member to do their job and give them the space and support to perform. This approach led to amazing interviews on Motherlode such as NASA’s network security manager Ron Tencati from NASA and New York Times technology reporter John Markoff.
5. Immersive Soundscape
Once scripts were in final stages and all interviews recorded and edited, it was time for the final voiceover from the narrator and creation of the soundscape. The job of the Sound Engineer is to create a soundscape that immediately transports the listener deep into the story building a video that only their imagination can see. The very talented Martin Peralta worked his magic on Motherlode through the use of music, sound effects, and timing. He created pace, rhythm, and an audio 'vision' aimed at generating emotion in the listener. A great soundscape should illuminate the story but not take over it.
Finally, timing is crucial. There’s never been a better time to launch a podcast, with Australians spending an average of 40mins a day listening to podcasts. (We Are Social 2021.) If you’d like to chat further on creating an original podcast or advertising on podcasts, contact us here.