Just because your institution can have a podcast, doesn’t mean it should
Carl Gratiot: Google recently announced a new podcasting feature for all YouTube channels, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your institution needs one. This is Appendix B. And now here are your hosts, Joel Goodman and Kristin Van Dorn is actually out sick this week, so it’ll be me, Carl Gratiot.
Joel Goodman: So, YouTube, jumping into, well, I mean, I guess they’re not really jumping into podcasting.
They’ve had, well I guess podcasts have naturally migrated there over time, and I know you have some specific opinions on the value of podcasts going to full 60-minute-long episodes with video on YouTube. But, I think when it really comes down to it, we’ve got questions in higher ed about are podcasts worthwhile for institutions to do?
In what cases might they be worthwhile, and is YouTube the right place to go for that?
Carl Gratiot: I guess on the one hand, Joel, I think discoverability is a big thing, especially with YouTube. Obviously, YouTube’s gonna help. It’s the second largest search engine in the world, so anything you put there does have a greater chance of being seen.
But, do I think every institution needs a podcast? One, absolutely not, because a lot of people, a lot of people are gonna be like, yes, we need that for our comms department, our admissions department, our development, our alumni outreach, but, then they’re gonna realize how much work and effort and time it takes to even put together a podcast like this to make it sound and look good, if it’s a video version, and they’re gonna think this is not sustainable, or if it is, it’s gonna require a lot of work outside of what I actually do in order to keep it going and, either it’s gonna fail, it’s gonna peter out over time, or they’re just gonna give up. So I don’t think it’s the best idea unless you really have a solid strategy and a solid audience in mind.
Joel Goodman: Yeah and I’ve got a couple of ideas where a podcast might work for an institution. I think alumni and development offices, depending on how engaged their alumni constituents are, could put together something that’s interesting, maybe, you know, maybe it’s like a news program sort of thing about what’s going on at the school.
Maybe it’s telling a lot of alumni stories and doing, you know, kind of more, I guess like, school evangelism work, right? Like, look at what all the outcomes are for our alumni. And that could have benefits not only just to your other alumni donors, but potentially on the marketing side maybe.
I don’t know. Like I’m very skeptical that any prospective student is going to sit down and listen to a college or university’s podcast that’s directed at them. But I think in the same way that you approach podcasting for Bravery Media, where we can reuse parts of the content in different ways and repurpose different sections of things that we talk about.
Maybe that’s it. It’s like maybe audio clips out of those alumni success story episodes, um, but I think that’s a very limited use case. The other thing that I could potentially see that’s a lot more boring is like training material for internal practices and things like that.
It could be like onboarding a new faculty person. Well, cool here, listen to this podcast series to understand what it’s like to work at whatever university or what it’s like to be a part of our community sort of a thing. But those are use cases that don’t have necessarily a lot of external marketing value, and so would make the YouTube thing just sort of not make a lot of sense at all.
Like why don’t you just like run it like a normal podcast, have it in an RSS feed on a website someplace>
Carl Gratiot: Yeah. I think it really is gonna depend on who you’re making it for because I could see a use case where it’s for alumni. They’re alumni stories and maybe it’s a larger campus like a D 1 where there’s a lot of alumni that would care and maybe they’re doing interesting things, but even then, no one outside of the fandom of that school is gonna care.
So you have to realize that like it’s a very specific target audience, very niche audience. So if you understand that going in, and you’re not trying to be This American Life, you’re not trying to reach everybody. Maybe it’s successful. The other thing I could see working is if it’s a limited series perhaps, and it’s about like what it’s like to be a new student, and maybe it’s just going over the things that prospective students need to know.
And in that case, maybe a student who’s at the top of the funnel getting to know the campus would be interested in listening to it. But other than that, I think if you’re just going into it, really thinking about who it’s for. Otherwise, it’s not gonna work and people will fail. And the other thing is, Joel, just because a video podcasting option is there, it doesn’t mean that you should take advantage of it because for the most part, no one wants to watch two people, and I realize how meta this is, talk about something for more than 10 minutes at a time. Because our attention spans are just short. Right? And I know you agree with me, like we are audio purists and think that a podcast should be, for the most part, audio only, unless you’re making it so interesting that it’s hard to not keep watching.
But I don’t think a lot of universities are gonna think about that. They’re gonna be, oh yeah, let’s just record the comms director talking to the admissions director and just see what happens. Let the magic happen! But I guarantee you that’s gonna be very bland
Joel Goodman: Yeah. And when you think about the podcasts that are popular in the world that have video components to them, they’re full-fledged productions.
I mean, it’s multiple camera setups. It’s cutting back and forth between people, you know? It’s very much that, like, I don’t know, the kind of the, the, the visual style that I think Howard Stern kind of like pioneered back in the nineties of having a lot of people in a studio in different places, you know?
You know, I don’t listen to Joe Rogan and I don’t watch the Joe Rogan podcast or listen to it at all. But I have seen clips of that and you know, that that setup where, you’re, cutting between angles, it’s a lot more work than just the audio editing part, which is already a ton of work.
Adding a full video production into that is very difficult, and that’s really, in my opinion, at least, the only way to make something like that engaging. And even then, like you gotta really like the people. And I think it’s fairly presumptuous to assume that a prospective student audience or, even an alumni audience, unless they know the person, are really gonna care about doing something that way.
So, to your point, like figuring out who that specific audience is and if they even care, is super important. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and money on a ton of production that’s not really doing anything for your institution.
Carl Gratiot: Yeah. And what if the audio version is completely different, or the video version, if you have one, is just a small portion of the greater audio episode?
So how do you even put that on YouTube if you complete it? Because then there’s like a competing video version that’s fed into YouTube music with the other audio version that’s everywhere else. Like how does that work? That kind of boggles my mind. The one thing that I do think is useful, as you alluded to before, is the video version you can repurpose for every other platform.
And that is helpful. That is very useful. But I also wonder how much, I mean, I’m sure there’s statistics out there that we can link to in the description of this episode, but like, how much do Gen Z folks really listen to podcasts? And if they do, I would imagine that any that are from universities are probably low on their list of priority podcasts to listen to.
Joel Goodman: Yeah, I mean, one interesting thing is that a lot of the public radio stations that produce podcasts are based at universities, but they’re not creating podcasts specifically for prospective students or for university marketing purposes. Right? It’s definitely for mainstream, it’s usually news consumption or current affairs type of stuff.
Or some kind of socio-commentary or sociopolitical commentary, and that’s great. And maybe that’s all you need to do. Like, if you have a production studio that’s doing really great work already, or, you have an NPR station at your state school that you work at, you know, everyone works at state school, and you have one of those going, then maybe just hype that you’ve got these podcasts that are being produced by staff, you know, especially for those or those stations that have students doing work-study programs or internship type of things, hype that your students are being able to produce these great popular podcasts, but you don’t necessarily need to create them on your end.
I feel like it’s so hard to nail the audience and the message and the thing that those prospective students might want to see through a podcast. And that’s, I don’t know, I just don’t see it working very well.
Carl Gratiot: Yeah no easy answers. I think, if you’re gonna do it, and you have the resources already on your campus, like you mentioned a lot of stations, now I’m thinking of Wayne State’s got WDET and even where I went, San Diego State, they had one there too. I can’t remember the radio acronym call sign thing. But so maybe it’s just give the people that work there that might be students, a little creative freedom and just let 'em go.
Let 'em make it and see what happens. Because maybe with that creative freedom and not so strict guidelines on what it has to be, what the format needs to be, they might make something that’s really interesting. Just talk with them about who it’s for upfront and what the goals are, but then just see what becomes of it.
Joel Goodman: Watch what happens. Only on Bravo!
Carl Gratiot: Thanks for listening to Appendix B. If you’ve got thoughts, we’d love for you to share 'em with us. You can leave a review on Apple Podcasts, drop a comment on social, or train your dog to go on cross-country road trips so it can pass along messages. Be sure to check out our newsletter at bravery.fyi. We’ll be back again next week.