Frame it Up: How to Make Your Interview Podcast Stand Out

Elevate Your Podcast with Inventive Framing

By: Jen Moss, CCO

So we’re going to play a drinking game. Every time you read any version of the word “Engagement” in this blog post – I want you to take a sip of water. Let’s try it out: Engagement, (drink!) engage, (drink!) engaging… (drink!). It’s important to stay hydrated, after all. And if you’re reading this after work, I’ll leave it up to you what kind of drinking game you’re actually playing.

Fact: There are millions of podcasts out there (about 3.2 million according to ListenNotes and 4.3 million according to Podcast Index). There are so many that a friend recently said to me, “I want to try listening to podcasts but I just can’t even.” And I don’t blame her. The podcast landscape can feel overwhelming at first. And by far the vast majority of available episodes in this writhing sea of – let’s face it – often mediocre content are “interview” shows. Some version of a host (or hosts) firing questions at a guest, and pretending to listen to the answers. The trouble with this wildly popular format is – it does nothing whatsoever to build audience engagement (drink!) and it does nothing to help the podcast stand out from the herd.

Don’t get me wrong. It is possible to have a strong interview podcast that garners lots of followers. There are countless examples of these. But if you’re just getting into the podcasting game, you should know that it’s more difficult to stand out with a straight-up interview show, where success rests solely on the shoulders of the host and the guests, or whoever is booking them. Not everyone can be as talented as Kara Swisher, or as popular as Joe Rogan. And not everyone can book Prince Harry. (To get a sense of the challenges of the guest booking process – check out “The Guest Who Got Away”).

At worst, an interview show can be a total wash, amounting to nothing more than a sad grain of sand lying unnoticed on a vast sandy beach full of other bland interview shows that fail to engage (drink!) anyone’s attention. Yet despite all this, producing interview-based shows will always be popular because of their simplicity. People like the idea of asking questions and sharing knowledge – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So what do you do if you want to launch an interview show, and you don’t want to have it get buried? If only there were a way to lift your show out of the mire – and bring it to the attention of your adoring public more effectively. If only there were some way to get them to lean into the content and actually engage (drink!) with the content in a meaningful way.

 

The good news is that there is a way to jazz up a simple interview show. All you need is a good framing device! A framing device is a narrative device that surrounds your main interview content – offsetting it, giving it a unique quality, and encouraging more active participation from the host and guests. A great example of how this works is the wildly popular Hot Ones, a video podcast where guests sample increasingly spicy hot sauces while answering questions about their lives and careers. Without the hot sauce – it’s just another interview show. With the hot sauce – it’s a hilarious combination of daring, laughing, and information sharing. Plus you get ideas for new kinds of hot sauce – which is a bonus.

 

Another great example of a useful framing device is That Library Show, a podcast where the interviews all take place in hushed tones, inside a library. The element of the host and guest trying to follow the library’s rules about noise control while having a fun conversation is akin to giggling in church or sitting in the back row in math class. It feels ever so slightly naughty, which adds to the comedic appeal for the audience.

Or, for an example of a branded podcast that uses a framing device, check out Wheel of Risk. This is an interview-driven insurance podcast by trade credit insurance company Allianz. But it riffs on the ancient philosophical idea of the Wheel of Fortune, a symbol of the capricious nature of Fate that shows up frequently in gameshows and fair midways alike. The show uses this framing to inspire both the sound design and the structure of the episodes. It takes potentially dry content and makes it more engaging by, for instance, having each guest “spin the worry wheel” at the start of the episode “to decide what the topic will be today,” and then the host launches into an interview about that specific aspect of running a business, and emphasizes the themes of risk and reward.

To sum it up, these framing devices are more than mere gimmicks. They are integrated engagement (drink!) tools that will help drag your interview podcast forward, challenging your audience to pay extra attention by getting your host and guests to do something active while having a conversation. Action compels attention, and that’s what it’s all about.

I hope this has been a helpful and hydrating experience for you. In the interest of your bladder, this blog is now over.


Key Takeaways:

  1. The podcast landscape is oversaturated with interview shows, making it difficult for new podcasts to stand out without a unique approach or concept.
  2. Framing devices are key to elevating an interview show, adding a unique quality that can attract and maintain audience engagement. Examples include “Hot Ones” with its spicy hot sauce challenge and “That Library Show” where conversations happen in hushed tones.
  3. Inventive framing can transform potentially dry content into something engaging and memorable, as seen with “Wheel of Risk” which incorporates the concept of the Wheel of Fortune to discuss topics related to business risk.
  4. Active participation from hosts and guests, prompted by the framing device, compels audience attention more effectively than traditional interview formats.
  5. While interview podcasts are popular due to their simplicity, incorporating a creative framing device can significantly enhance their appeal and distinguish them in a crowded market.

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