Five tips for creating an award-winning podcast from the Australian Podcast Awards director

Australian Podcast Awards director Matt Deegan
By Australian Podcast Awards director Matt Deegan | 12 October 2021
Matt Deegan

As the podcasting industry grows and more people start trying their hand at creating their very own shows, one burning question keeps coming up. How do you create an award winning podcast?

As the person who runs the Australian Podcast Awards, this year powered by Acast, I have some insights into this subject. Sadly, there is no exact formula, but we can definitely take learnings from shows that have been successful to guide new and existing creators in developing award winning content.

Here’s what we’ve learned from running the Australian Podcast Awards:

1. Understand that successful shows are about the audience, rather than the creator

We all lead busy lives, we’ve got loads of media choices and our Netflix queues are backed up. Your podcast is fighting for something really valuable - people’s time. You may want to do a podcast, but why should I spend time listening to it?

Therefore, you’ve got to start by thinking about the listener and trying to work out what you’re doing for them. Have you got a unique story to share, is your podcast solving a problem for someone, or does your take on life, or knowledge about the world, help enhance your listeners’ lives?

Our 2020 Podcast of the Year Birds Eye View took listeners into a women’s prison, and was also co-created with women from Darwin Correctional Centre. Unique perspectives and a unique story created a unique podcast.

2. Practice, practice, practice

One of the great things about podcasts is that anyone can make them and there’s a very low barrier to entry. But just because a show can be made, doesn’t mean it’ll be any good. Our APA winners span from people making shows in their bedrooms as well as large-scale broadcasters, but the thing they’ve got in common is that they’ve worked hard to develop real skill.

You don’t have to have studied for a Doctorate at the University of Podcasting, but you have to be a good listener. You have to look at how other people have put their shows together, and when you’ve started yours you need to listen back and work out ways to keep improving. You wouldn’t expect a great stand-up show from a funny person who walks up onto a stage for the first time, it’s the same for podcasting. Practice and keep getting better, or bring in people with experience to help you.

Our Best Comedy podcast, A Rational Fear, combines politics and comedy, is well written and edited, and invites great guests to help them keep the quality high.

3. Find the right partners

Dan Illic, the creator of A Rational Fear, surrounds himself with great people - but that doesn’t have to be participants - it can also be advisors, funders or brands.

Don’t think you have to do it all yourself. You’d have to be pretty lucky to just stumble into something that you were amazing at! Lots of our winners have grown into great shows by partnering with others. Our Best Sex and Relationships podcast, Search Engine Sex, came from creator Rowdie Walden signing up for Spotify’s Sound Up Australia programme. The scheme, which focused on indigienous creators, helped give him the tools to develop his idea - a Q&A show around sex - into a great podcast. Spotify ended up liking it so much it became the network’s first Australian original.

Sometimes great ideas just need funding behind them. Our Best Branded podcast was from Mamamia, their kids show - That’s Incredible. It was supported by Subaru and was positioned as a podcast to listen to in the car. As well as producing a great show with incredible facts and amazing stories, the series delivered for their partner, increasing brand consideration and purchase amongst listeners. They even used the host - Andrew Daddo - in their own marketing and TV campaigns.

4. Be consistent

We’re all creatures of habit, great shows tend to be ones that have a solid structure and are delivered consistently.

When developing a podcast, think about all of the elements and what the best way to deliver it is. It doesn’t have to be scripted, but do you know what’s happening in each section, or what you’re trying to get across? What’s the right length for each element? When you listen back, what needs to be edited and tightened up? What can you draw from that process to make the recording process easier next time?

Listeners start to understand a show’s release schedule and build it into their daily lives. So make sure you deliver an episode at the same time every day, week or month. Our Best New Podcast - 7am - wouldn’t work very well if they missed some days, or episodes appeared at lunchtime!

Try to get ahead of yourself in the production process, so there’s a number of episodes ‘in the can’. You need to be prepared so you can cope with any scheduling issues that may come up!

5. Enter Awards

Whether it’s the Australian Podcast Awards, or any others out there, getting feedback and recognition is important for your own motivation and also a great way to get your podcast discovered. It’s also a very good excuse to listen back to what you’ve done and work out what was great. That way you can do it again and again. Good luck!

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