So magazines are going the way of the dodo bird and blogs and podcasts are taking over as the dominant form of getting information across. I have lived on my own for nearly two years and I do not have cable TV. I am not anti-tv, but outside of sports, everything I could want to watch I can find on the internet. If I try hard enough, I could probably even find all my sports needs online thanks to a few sites.

My iPod’s podcast listing is huge. I have everything from  various gaming sites (IGN, 1Up, GameSpy, etc…), ‘personal’ ranting podcasts (The BS Report, Adam Carolla, Vinyl  Cafe, Smodcast, etc…), tons of sports casts (Around the Horn, PTI, World Soccer Daily, BBC Radio, etc…), heck I even get podcasts from my native Serbia (I’ve got to stay close to my roots with B92). 

Now you have just about every Tom, Dick and Harry starting their own Podcast to the point that it is clear that we are over saturated with the available content. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a good Podcast to subscribe to since so few offer something original and while others don’t last long enough.

 Will it stop? Most definitely not thanks to the fact that it’s such a cheap form of getting your message across. If you can structure a sentence that most people can understand, then you can become a Podcaster. You don’t need to edit podcast and very few people actually proof-listen their broadcasts to ensure their information is correct or that it sounds good.

Gaming/Entertainment Podcasts are probably the one genre that I have noticed is going a bit too far when it comes to the over-saturation of the medium. Is there a real difference between Podcast X and Y? Other than minor opinions, the honest answer is no.  Most Podcasts offer the same information, a weekly review of the news of the industry and the only real difference is the opinions from those in attendance.

There are certainly some podcasts that are different. For example, the 1Up Yours/Listen Up Podcast is typically 4 people talking about certain topics and you as the listener are feel like someone listening into a conversation rather than being involved. On the other hand, the bevy of IGN Podcasts often involve user submitted questions which take up the majority of the program’s time. 

So far, the only really unique Podcast in the gaming genre that I find really goes against the grain is Robert Ashley’s A Life Well Wasted. His monthly Podcast really does things extremely differently. It’s not strictly a news  program but it certainly an informative one. I compare his show to a Canadian Radio Show called The Ongoing History of New Music.

If you live in Canada and still occasional listen to a terrestrial rock station in a major city, you might have accidentally caught an episode of the program on a Sunday afternoon. The show is typically an hour long dealing with a specific subject of music. One episode might be about the British Invasion of the 60s, 70s and 80s, another episode might deal with a specific band (eg. Nirvana or Metallica). Mr. Ashley’s program is similar to that; his first show focused on the fall of EGM and his most recent one on the reason people play games was absolutely insightful and can appeal to even non gamers.

It worked because it offered something extremely different. Had he just been a regular news program talking about the events of the last month, it would be just another podcast. Because he decided to give the listeners something different the show manages to inform the masses and appeals to a larger audience. 

Those looking to start their own Podcast, specifically a Gaming, Entertainment or Sports Podcast need to do two things. The first is, as stated before, offer something different. Give me a reason to listen to your broadcast. I don’t want to hear three or four guys talk about the news since everyone does that, but talk about a certain hot-button topic. It doesn’t always have to be what everyone is talking about but be sure to stand-out in the right way.

The other is invest in the right equipment; Skype is not a suitable solution if more than two people are involved. Yes, it is the easier way, but the poor audio quality is something that will detract rather than attract. The only Podcast that has worked with Skype is the Out of the Game Podcast because they make sure that they offer an inciteful, ‘educational’ and meaningful podcast. The sound quality is crap at times, but they still manage to give you enough interesting banter that it covers up the faults in quality.

If you want a great example of how not to do a Podcast, simply download the any episode of the JoyStiq Podcast. The do everything incorrectly. 

  • Problem #1 – They use Skype Poorly. Yes, it’s impossible to do a great sounding podcast when one of your members lives in South Africa, but when your members leave to grab a coffee and you have sections of dead-air, it really makes me question why they even bother to record.
  • Problem #2 – They do not offer anything new. The JoyStiq Podcast essentially just retells the best stories from the site. The don’t really offer anything additional to the information that is inciteful. Talk about things not on the site instead.
  • Problem #3 – Because of the first two issues, the JoyStiq Podcast is always too long. No one has time to listen to a 2hour long podcast if nothing interesting is offered. The Listen Up Podcast is often quite long, but it never feels drawn out. The four people there often have interesting points to add to a topic and it never feels repetitive or tacked on. The ideal time for any Podcast for both the listener and those recording the program is 1hour +/- 15 minutes. You can really get what you need off your chest in that time. If you want to go into more detail, you can, but do not drag on.
  • Problem #4 – This problem could stem from the use of Skype, but none of the three members of the JoyStiq Podcast have good voices. Justin McElroy does not have a great voice for broadcast. He’s a great writer and so are most of the people at JoyStiq, but he clearly would be better suited keeping the voicebox closed. I’m not one to talk, while I too am a Videogame Writer over at gamefocus.ca, I have never been on our Podcast nor do I want to. I hate my voice and yet, I use it a lot both at my regular job and in the past (I used to work in a Bingo Hall as a caller).

It’s not fair to attack only the JoyStiq Podcast as there are no perfect podcasts. There are always problems, but the best ones have only minimal issues and deliver with great content that people want to listen to.

If you are really interested and want to do a podcast, be sure to plan it through. 

First come up with a ‘plot’ or plan as to what you want to discuss. Try to keep it topical, interesting and something that is easy to do. Don’t make it a challenge but never try to ad-lib it.

Find a friend, two or three, who live near you and invest in a few decent but inexpensive mics and download some quality audio programs. Try out a test recording and see how well you it goes. If you can stand your own voice and it what you’ve just record sounds good and coherent, then you’re on to something. 

On the other hand, if you can’t stand your voice, don’t feel like investing in a microphone and do not have something interesting to stay, then do what I do, just download podcasts instead.