It’s nearly mid-September so I have around a month and a half (more or less) to go for the podcasting part of my project. The technical aspects and format of the episodes have largely been running on autopilot for the last few months – mostly due to the lack of time to design new formats for each episode but also because most participants seemed to be happy to go along with the format suggested at the beginning of the project. I had a podcast planning meeting with my co-hosts yesterday and based on something one of them said, I thought it’d be a good time to take stock of what I’d do differently in terms of scheduling episodes for the next season (of course, I’m not sure there will be a second season, but I’ve enjoyed making the podcast and talking to people so much that I’m going to do my best to have one).
With my co-hosts, my planning process differs slightly from the ones my guests and I use – largely because they make repeat appearances on the podcast and they’re largely putting together their thoughts through a combination of going through the texts + our conversations together. Usually, I start us off by adding texts to our shared Google document, after which they add their suggestions. Following this, we have a couple of weeks (depending on our schedules) by which each of us goes through all the texts and makes notes. Then we meet on Skype to discuss what themes and fandoms we’d like to talk about. Then, we usually record our episode in the same week. At our meeting yesterday, one of the co-hosts mentioned that she discovered that she prefers having more time after we outline the details of the episode and divide segments amongst ourselves so she can better prepare for each segment. The other co-host usually needs more time to go through the texts since she juggles professional and parenting responsibilities in between which she ekes out time for the episode. As for me, by the time we meet to plan for the episode, I’ve already made copious notes for each include in a blog post later. Once our planning meeting is done, I create an episode outline by dividing my notes to the relevant segments we decided upon.
With other guests, they tell me the themes they’re interested in via email, we pick a month to record, I suggest texts and they respond with their own texts on a Google doc (again, shared via email), and finally we meet a few days before we record the episode to go over the themes and segments. In both cases – with guests and co-hosts – I usually hurriedly go through my notes just before the planning meeting in order to suggest some themes which struck out to me in our texts. I then share these themes on the shared Google doc so the guests/co-hosts can edit/delete/add specific points they’re interested in exploring.
However, with a few guests, I’ve found that I have slightly misjudged what aspect of their suggested theme they wanted to focus on. Since I pick texts to suggest based on this misapprehension, I might spend a lot of time going through texts and making notes which may not end up being used in the episode. While I nevertheless find even this wasted exercise valuable, it is quite time-consuming and I often have to put other things on the back-burner since I don’t have the time/brainspace to do all the things I’d like to.
If I were to replicate this project in future, I think I’d do things slightly differently.
1) With my co-hosts, as suggested, I’d schedule more time in between the meeting and the recording sessions. While we have tried to record episodes every six weeks or two months, sometimes our plans have been upset by a variety of things. I’m unsure how much I could control our schedules/other events in future. With this season, I was only worried in the beginning; after the initial month or so, I had enough guests scheduled that I didn’t need to worry about not having episodes to publish. For a new season, I’d perhaps only focus on one theme for each episode rather than the two themes we focus on now. We decided to focus on two themes per episode to make my production and analysis more manageable since more participants volunteered than I had anticipated. This would decrease the number of texts we share and will hopefully leave more wiggle room in terms of time needed for other aspects of the episode (including transcription and editing)
2) With guests, it might be useful to have a brief introduction meeting on Skype before we suggest texts. I find video/audio communication much easier for the purposes of this project than back-and-forth emails. I’d use this meeting to talk about the themes they’re interested in exploring and, more importantly, get a better idea of the context and specific aspects of the themes they’d like to talk about. Following this, we can choose the texts based on our meeting, have another brief meeting before the recording to plan the segments and segment orders based on our texts/interests, and finally record the episode. So the time commitment required for potential participants would increase a little bit but we would save time on misunderstandings and explanatory emails.
3) In terms of publishing episodes, I’m happy with the fortnightly schedule I planned. However, this relies on me only having the podcast and related research/reading as my job. In case I wanted to continue doing the podcast as a part of a post-doctoral/funded research project, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, currently, this schedule also relies on episodes being edited by my partner who has a full-time job. Earlier this year, he was in a job where he worked from home and was able to control his hours. However, a couple of months into it, he had to find a new job which involved him working outside of the home where his hours were controlled by the company. This is true even now when we’ve moved up to Scotland and he’s found a new job. While he offered to begin doing the editing to me as a favour, I felt guilty enough but accepted because it meant I saved a lot of time. However, next time, I’d like to either pay him for his editing so he can take on fewer hours at work. Or I’d have to figure out how to edit the episodes myself which I’m sure I can do easily enough but it would mean much more of a time investment. In that case, I may have to be okay with either monthly episodes or not edit out awkward bits, fumbles and pauses from the episode (the most time-consuming aspect of the editing).
Taking all those factors into consideration, having a bank of guests scheduled definitely works and approaching them as early as possible even if we schedule a recording months later is a good idea. For next season, I’d begin the guest recruitment, conversation and scheduling process early as I did this time. Maybe having a ten month schedule again would work well, perhaps even longer. Alternatively, it could be an ongoing process where I could recruit new guests mid-way for the rest of the year. Again, this is assuming there even will be a second season and guests will be happy to go along with my somewhat convoluted process in the name of research. Of course, if I’m just doing a second season for fun and not for research purposes, it’ll be a similar but potentially less time-consuming process.