Podcasting Church 101107

I’ve had an idea for a book in my head for a few years now. Since there is a challenge afoot, I started, November 2, 2010, to write that book. This blog will contain the very rough draft and I hope I’ll get a chunk of it out this month. No guarantee I’ll write everyday, but I hope this won’t be the last entry.

Format

In 1996, my former college roommate got a new job. He’d always wanted to be a dj, so knowing that a friend of a friend worked at a local station, he went down to the station, resume in hand, and somehow landed the job. When he started, they showed him a binder that had an outline for every show on the station.

After seminary, I found myself working at a local television station. After a couple of months I started to notice a certain flow to the news. The producers kept an eye to the time and schedule to see if some of the minor elements could be dropped or needed to be left in. Each commercial break was mapped out to the second. When I ran the cameras on the floor, I could go to the restroom, get a cup of coffee, grab my jacket and get back to the studio before I needed to count down for the anchors all in 1.5 to 2.5 minutes. They didn’t make it up as they went along. They knew how long each segment was and how long each commercial break was and what went in each.

Now that you’ve decided on the genre of your podcast, your next step is to create the format. When I created “Tech, No Babel” in 2005, I used this experience to create my format. I gave it away a little in the open. The announcer would say that the show was “your weekly source of news, perspectives, tips & tricks.” When I sat down to record a show, I’d divide it into those pieces.

Opening Tease

Since it was on the internet, I’d create shows that varied from 15-30 minutes. Each show began the same way, I’d tease my three topics. On 9/27/2007 (for example), I started with “On today’s ‘Tech,no Babel’: Hop into the Stream, Honey it’s Time, The New Gradients, and much, much more.” The topics for the show were video streaming, deciding to buy a new computer, and whether you should stop with a moving background or take it up a notch. I wanted the topics to be provocative, but I also wanted people to know if the episode was helpful or not during the first moments.

Open and Close

Next, I would play my open. In 2005 when I started, I wanted the show to have a younger feel. I also wanted it to feel professional. I looked around and found an unsigned band called “Fireflight”. I emailed them and asked for permission to use one of the songs on their website. They wrote back and gave me permission. A couple of years later they hit the Christian music scene and I couldn’t have been happier for them.

I emailed a friend that had a great voice and asked him to record a voiceover for me. I felt like having another voice added a level of polish to the podcast. He sent me the file and I put them together.

I created another version of just the end of the song and used that as the close of the show. I wanted a firm end to the show. I wanted to create a place where the audience could know that the show was almost done.

Greeting

I almost always started with a few introductory remarks. This piece frankly, never really gelled the way I’d hoped. On the Geeks and God podcast, the original hosts always would say, “Welcome, welcome, welcome to the Geeks and God podcast. I’m Rob Feature and with me as always in Matt Farina.” Matt would say, “Welcome to the Geeks and God podcast hopefully we can help you out with your church or ministry.” I like the continuity of that.

Transitional element

After the greeting, I’d tease the topics again ending with “but first” and introduce the first topic and then I’d have a transitional audio piece before continuing on.

Segment one

I’d speak on the first topic for 5-10 minutes based on the notes I had. I’d end by teasing topic 3 and saying, “but first” topic 2 “after this”. I didn’t have a ton of advertising, but I’d sometimes put a commercial here.

Segment two

Next I’d speak on topic two again for 5-10 minutes and tease the final topic. This second spot was usually either a podcast promo or a thank you to “Fireflight”.

Segment three and end

Finally, I’d continue with the last topic and either roll the close or come back with with final comments before rolling the close. I always ended with, “Until next time, go out and change eternity.” That was my challenge to the audience to make something of their lives.

It all looked like this:

:05-:10

On today’s “Tech, No Babel”…

:30

Open

:30-1:00

Welcome and transitional element

5:00-10:00

Segment 1

:15-:30

Commercial 1

5:00-10:00

Segment 2

:15-:30

Commercial 2 (podcast promo)

5:00-10:00

Segment 3

:15-:30

Commercial 3 (fireflight promo)

:30-1:00

Final comments

:30

Close

This is just my format. I never had more than one commercial per show. You’ll notice that if I had, that would have been 1:30 of commercials per 15:00-30:00 of content. That’s much lower than you’d find in network or most cable television. Commercials in podcasts tend to be highly targeted because podcasters target people interested in small niches of hundreds or thousands, not millions.

Church podcasts might not be sponsored, but could be underwritten by the church with promos for specific ministries, other churches, maybe the pastor’s blog, or big events like a Christian concert or outreach activity.

I do recommend and open and greeting no matter the genre. This provides a sense of identity. I listen to 6-10 hours of podcasts a week. Most of them are from a single network which starts with a network id. Since I really like those podcasts, I’m happy every time I hear the beginnings of the network id. I feel the same way about several of the individual shows. I love hearing their start; it’s familiar and comforting.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div. has been a tech volunteer with Lexington City Church (formerly Quest Community Church) in Lexington, KY since 2000 and is the founder of TrinityDigitalMedia.com, llc. He became part of the technology in ministry team when his church’s attendance was around 200 in one Sunday service and has witnessed it’s growth to a peak of 5,200 average weekly attendance in one Saturday service, four Sunday services in one online and two physical campuses. He literally wrote the book on podcasting in churches, twitter in churches, & servant-hearted volunteering, as well as writing various articles for publications like “Church Production” and “Technologies for Worship” magazines. He has thousands of members of his ProPresenter Users' Group on Facebook and thousands of subscribers to his YouTube channel.