What I Look For Before Subscribing to a Travel Podcast
A travel podcast offers the tantalizing combination of storytelling, interesting facts, useful information, and the feeling of being whisked off to an exciting or mysterious destination somewhere in the world. Add to this the intimacy of the audio experience, and it makes for a unique and special way to pursue our love for travel.
I like to head over to Podchaser and see what’s new in the world of travel + podcasting. You can search by category, tag, podcast or by single episode, and see what piques your interest.
There are some old standards: travel podcasts that have been around for years now, and a constant flow of new startups. But there are also the podcasts gone dormant, who maybe only made it through a handful of episodes before calling it quits.
There are lots of reasons for this, particularly the fact that podcasting takes a lot of time and requires some serious commitment! We’ll explore this some more over the life of this Blog.
But there’s also nothing stopping you from listening to a show that’s gone dormant, they may have just run out of steam. An interesting episode is still a worthwhile listen. Perhaps with some positive feedback they may be encouraged to restart!
At any rate, here are some of the things that go through my head as I’m perusing the latest lists.
Signs of Quality and Consistency
A quick flick through the episode history of a podcast, whether through a browser or in your app of choice (for me, it’s Overcast, especially because of their speed-listen feature), and you can figure out:
- Does the cover art catch your eye, is the title clear, is it thought-provoking, uncluttered, a nice design
- Are there episode titles that stand out, whether as appealing topics & subjects, or for their wit & creativity
- When was their most recent episode
- Have their been significant gaps between episodes, over the past few months
- What is the average length of an episode
- Do they make an effort to create good episode descriptions and show notes
- Are there full reviews and/or stars, for episodes or the podcast in general (some apps don’t make this easy to see)
All of this is text based, without even pressing play yet. You’re already starting to build up a sense for what to expect and if you’re going to give it a listen. And any personally eye-catching topics will have you hooked in an instant, regardless of the other factors.
For instance, I’m always interested in learning about remote places around the world, the small islands in the middle of the ocean or the distant, wild and sparsely-populated tundra. So the odds are, if I see a podcast with an episode (or more) about “Tristan da Cunha,” or even better, with a catchy title like, “Hang On to Your Hat on Tristan da Cunha,” it’s going on my playlist.
But otherwise, I do want to know that the podcast has been done with serious effort and intention, with care and attention to detail, and that they understand the principle of respecting the audience and their time. They may certainly learn and develop this as they go along, and keep filling in those gaps (my own website is a good example of this), but you should be able to tell if the intention is there. This helps validate the choice of giving them your time, and less worry about wasting it.
Episodes vs Entire Shows
I look for shows, and I want to subscribe to shows. I want to find a good podcast that will make me want to come back and listen again, to look forward to the next one, and feel bad if I miss it. Or perhaps a good mini-series of, say, half a dozen episodes that I can binge fairly quickly. I want to recognize the effort that has been put into creating the podcast by subscribing to the show, instead of the attitude of only wanting to listen to one or two episodes. I want to support the podcaster, and help encourage consistent, quality travel podcasts, one subscription and review at a time.
I’ll listen to one-off episodes, but do so hoping to have reason to subscribe to the show. If there is only one episode that hooks me in, yet while browsing through the rest of their list not much else jumps out, I won’t likely subscribe, which makes me kind of sad. But I can’t subscribe to a show that I know I’ll listen to only once.
At the beginning, I’m hooked more by the topic or theme than the host(s) themselves, since I’ve likely have never heard of them before, but the appeal of the host(s) may ultimately determine the podcast’s staying power. Just like how good audio won’t likely get you listeners, but bad audio will lose you listeners, a good host will prepare and present their content in a perfectly decent way, while a less-than-appealing host may lead you to switching off.
A truly great host, someone presumably entertaining, prepared and informed, who speaks well, interviews well and likely throws in a bit of wit, honesty and modesty, may just vault their podcast into the upper echelon of your list. Because of course, this is all subjective, my favourite may not be yours, and vice-versa.
A Note About Length
Ah, length: For me, long podcasts of hour + episodes are a little harder to get psyched up for, as much as I may want to. Finding the time to make it through an hour or two, especially in one go? It’s a little overwhelming. These days, I rarely get to sit down for more than a few minutes at a time. I guess I need to get my kids into listening more, or at least getting used to podcasts being on in the background.
On the other hand, say a show produced one 2 hour episode every 4-5 weeks, whereas another show does one 30-minute episode per week, which seems much more accessible, but when you add it up it could be the same amount of listening time per month. Perhaps even less total time with the one of longer episodes. So it may not be as intimidating as you think.
Ultimately, any podcaster and aficionado will tell you, make your podcast the length it needs to be. If you can’t compress it to 30 minutes without losing your core purpose and flow, then keep it longer, and your audience will appreciate it. And they’ll let you know if they don’t!
Are you afraid of being boring? Are you bored by your own episodes, do you find them too long? Or just right? That’s where you’ll find your answer.
Can I Subscribe Now Please?
Okay, so I’ve made it clear that I go into this with the intention of subscribing, that’s my default attitude. If anything, it takes more effort to convince myself not to subscribe than to actually do so. But I do need to look out for some certain criteria, remember that first impression as it starts to fade away, and trust my gut feeling. Will I make the effort to listen to this show? Have they made it easy to do so, with some give-and-take on my part as well?
A good travel podcast should have elements of both the practical side of travel and the mystical side. I like a mix of the short and the long, too. Not necessarily within one single show, but through the cumulation of all of us working together, there are long episodes, short episodes, mini-series and long seasons, practical destination guides and metaphysical reflections, all contributing to the growth of this niche, this distinct category: travel podcasting.