Here, you can follow the behind-the-scenes development of CultureKlatsch, from equipment selection, to interview preparation, to content curation. We hope this blog will be a useful resource to those who are interested in creating their own podcasts, or in podcasts generally.
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In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about the more technical aspects of podcasting, like choosing your equipment and preparing your recording space. Now it’s time to get into the more creative part of the process: structuring your podcast episode. Depending on your specific type of podcast, this could look differently -- it might be preparing questions for an interview, creating an outline for a discussion, or writing a fictional narrative. In this post, I’ll be sharing my process for structuring episodes of CultureKlatsch, from doing research to conducting interviews and finally creating an outline to bring everything together.
For CultureKlatsch, we’re constantly trying out new formats and experimenting with different ways to structure the show. This means that the process for every episode is different, depending on whether I’ll be conducting multiple interviews, getting together with a group of students to talk, or something else. Regardless of what the episode structure ends up being, however, my process always involves the following elements.
For me, it always starts here. I might already know what the topic of the episode will be, like a movie or a TV show, but the research helps me determine what particular angle I want to take. I might start doing research on horror films and find that there’s an entire history of a sub-genre that I didn’t know about, or I might start watching episodes of a series and realize there’s one particular topic that none of the research I’ve encountered so far has covered.
Research can take a lot of different forms depending on your topic. It might be binge-watching a show, reading the source material, reading academic scholarship, finding people in the community who can speak to the topic of the episode, or listening to other podcasts to get an idea of why people care about this topic or what aspects have yet to be discussed.
I’m an avid notetaker, as it helps me process my thoughts and my understanding of the topic. At the end of my research, my notes might look like a garbled mess, but to me, that’s the ideal place to start. When I’ve pursued all the avenues for my research, I go back to those notes and start extracting the salient points that will become the focus of the podcast. Because CultureKlatsch always relies on input from scholars, students, journalists, and others in the literature and culture community, I often like to frame these points as questions that will help guide the next phase, interviews.
Interviews are the life-blood of CultureKlatsch. As much as I enjoy speaking into the mic about all my thoughts on contemporary culture, what makes the podcast more dynamic are the conversations with experts and other people who are interested in or passionate about the topic of the episode. Because they’re so important to the podcast, I spend quite some time preparing for interviews. I usually like to start by taking my notes from the research phase and thinking about which questions are best suited for which interview subject. While I might ask some of the same questions to different people, I also like to prepare specific questions that will help me get the most of my conversation with an expert on a certain topic.
For example, if I’m interviewing an expert on women’s studies, I would bring questions to help me understand how the text we’re discussing addresses gender. If I’m also speaking to an expert on politics about the same text, I would bring them questions about the political subtext or perhaps even the political impact of the text. This brings a variety of voices to the episode in a way that helps me and listeners understand all the different aspects of the text in question.
I would hate to show up to an interview and have no idea what I’m going to be asked about, so I like to prepare all my interviewees by sending them my questions in advance, along with any articles or other materials I’m thinking of bringing up in our discussion. This helps them understand how I will be framing the discussion and start gathering their thoughts in advance. This is also a great time to ask them for any additional resources they think could be interesting to discuss during the interview.
When the time comes for the interview itself, there’s no saying where the discussion will go, and that’s the fun part. Despite all the preparation, I don’t like to just go question by question and just wait for an answer. The discussion is more fun and animated when we can just share our thoughts on the topic. Of course, I always have the questions in front of me and make sure all the points are covered by the end of the interview. The best part of podcasting with guests is that we might all end up discovering something unexpected about the text.
You might expect to see the outline among the first steps, but I typically create mine after I’ve conducted all my interviews to help guide the editing process. For episodes where I’ve conducted multiple interviews, I typically listen back to my recorded interviews, annotating the topics we discussed with the corresponding timestamp. Then I create my outline, structuring the episode around those topics and slotting in the pieces of the interviews that correspond to each topic. Finally, I tie it all together with any narration needed to transition between topics or add context. Once I have a completed outline, it’s time to start editing!
For episodes that feature just one discussion, like our recent episode on the best films of 2019, the structure of the discussion serves as the outline. In this case, the episode takes shape in the editing, and the narration is minimal to allow the discussion to flow naturally.
Like with all creative endeavors, the process is really yours to determine. You can try out different methods of structuring your episode and find out what works best for your specific podcast. If you have any tips, please share them in the comments! And if you haven’t caught up on our newest episode yet, you can find it on Spotify, Soundcloud, and iTunes.