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Cutting Through The Noise: ‘Find Your Voice’ & 9 Other Rules for Podcasting

By Maanya Sachdeva 4 June 2020

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Last month, when we were all trying to figure out how to adapt to the new ‘lockdown normal’, DeadAnt spoke to comedians about their best practices when it comes to Zoom shows and live-streaming. But if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t enjoy the prospect of a performance that may or may not be interrupted by a pornographic zoombomber, or just aren’t that into live-streaming, why not try your hand at podcasting?

There’s been a lot of buzz around podcasting in India over the last couple of years. According to Quartz, there was a 60% increase in the number of podcast listeners in the country in 2018, and that’s slated to grow dramatically in the next few years. The number of podcast creators is growing exponentially as well. In a 2019 interview with the Economic Times, Amit Doshi, the co-founder of podcast production company Indus Vox Media, said he typically got three requests a day from people looking to start their own podcasts. At a time when COVID-19 has forced us all inside and alone with our creative pursuits, it’s fair to assume his inbox is now flooded.  

So you want to start your own podcast but you’re unsure about the subject, worried about short attention spans, or don’t quite know how you’re going to get it off the ground? We asked comedians Varun Thakur and Neville Shah of the Deadant Annual Comedy Award-winning comedy podcast The Internet Said So for tips on how to kickstart your podcasting career.

Fair warning, this is a how-to that focuses more crafting compelling content, not necessarily the technical know-how. “Once the lockdown happened, we couldn’t procure amazing podcasting equipment and so what we’re doing now is not that different from doing a Zoom show,” says TISS co-host Varun. Here goes:

  • Like with most things on YouTube, Varun says, when you’re regular with something, it eventually pays dividends. “Because we had two years of regular podcasts with SchitzNGiggles, we built an ecosystem for that podcast.”
  • Relatability is key to having a good podcast. After the split, Varun, Neville, Aadar Malik and Kautuk Srivastava spent a year doing a lot of different things, but they found themselves thinking about podcasts again. Specifically, what about SNG’s The Big Question worked. “We were talking about a lot of things that people would want to hear about. A lot of it was nostalgic content. We were reminiscing about the 90s and things we (including our fans) had all done.” It’s really important that you know your audience, really understand who it is that you’re speaking to. “When it came to thinking of a new podcast, we knew the kind of stuff our audience liked.” And The Internet Said So was born—a podcast that more closely resembles a chilled out conversation between friends on the one thing that connects us all – the stuff we read on the Internet. “In some way or form, we all get our knowledge or understanding of things from the Internet, so we thought that would be a great focal point to bring everyone together,” Varun says on how the group chose the subject of their new podcast.
  • But at the same time, Neville says, don’t worry about whether your podcast will be listened to by enough people. “There are at least one million people who like what you’re going to do. If you persist, you will get to those one million people at some point.” The other podcast Neville hosts is 4-4-Two with comedian Azeem Banatwalla, and he says there are enough people tuning in for this relatively niche podcast as well. “It’s just about sport. In fact, it’s more about football and specifically the Premier League because that’s what we follow.”
  • Choose a topic that has enough meat. “You name a topic and there will be something about it on the internet,” Varun explains, which means that there will always be something for the four comedians to talk about on their next podcast episode.
  • Research is crucial. You don’t want to get key facts or important statistics wrong, Varun warns.
  • Be honest about why you want to podcast, Varun suggests. Think about what you believe in, what you stand for. If you’re confident in what you’re doing, eventually your audience will come on board. “You can take advice from everybody—and you should—but eventually you need to do what you have faith in,” says the creator of Instagram personality Vicky Malhotra. “Don’t just do it because you think podcasts are working.” Neville adds that it’s important to have expertise about the subject matter of your podcast. If you don’t know about current affairs, don’t do a current affairs podcast, for instance. “And this is true for any piece of content – you genuinely have to be interested in it, because the audience can smell pandering and fakeness from a mile away.”
  • Find your voice. That’s what separates your podcast from others in Varun’s opinion. The only way your podcast will stick out is if it has a unique or special voice. And you can only do that if you’re regular with your content and you monitor and incorporate audience feedback. In the context of finding TISS’ personality, Neville says, “We’re four different comedians, so you get every perspective. Varun is a punchline machine. Aadar sets up a lot. He also comes in with a lot of expressive emotion. Kautuk is philosophical and I’m old and philosophical. As a result, we holistically map out a topic through points of view that are disparate but come together really nicely.”  
  • “You need empathy – not just in delivery but also to have people come to you with empathy,” says Neville.
  • As long as you bring them into the world that you are in, that’s the most important thing. “It’s like a good book or a good film. You need to let them into your world,” Neville explains. Where is this podcast happening—set the context. Build a universe your listeners can come into.
  • You may have heard this before you know, once or twice on the internet, but content is king.

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