What editors can learn from podcasters
“On the show today: giant carnivorous birds, flying snakes, and what all of that has to do with how you season your French fries.”
That’s how Caitlin Kenney, associate producer of NPR’s “Planet Money,” introduced a recent podcast about the history of spices. These summaries at the top of radio shows and podcasts are called billboards.
And that’s what publication editors can learn from podcasters: Billboard your stories. Tell readers what they’re going to get and sell them on the story to promote your content.
Nobody billboards better than “Planet Money.” In fact, sometimes one host will congratulate another on a billboard.
“That was very well billboarded,” contributing editor Alex Blumberg said after Kenney’s spice story promotion.
So how can you create praiseworthy billboards for your publication?
1. Choose the right billboard.
Billboards are known as “refers” in the publication world. (Not that, silly! Refers because they refer readers to specific stories.)
2. Draw readers in.
There are two main ways to drive readers to your story, whether in print or in podcast: 1) promise a benefit or 2) entertain. So focus on news readers can use or choose or on creative techniques like humor, drama or human interest for your billboard.
“Planet Money” entertains with billboards that tease the listener into sticking around for the story. (Yes, these people manage to make complicated economics stories hilarious or heart-warming — a skill any communicator could emulate.)
Here are some recent “Planet Money” billboards:
“On the show today, homeowners who want to be foreclosed on, and banks saying, ‘Eeeh … let’s wait a minute.’ The foreclosure mess enters a topsy-turvy, upside-down new phase, and we’ll hear all about the fascinating details from a foreclosure attorney in Phoenix.”
Alex Blumberg: “Our topic today, David, is tied to our economic indicator. The indicator is $14 billion. And that is one estimate for the size of California’s largest cash crop.” David Kestenbaum: “Oranges?” Alex: “Nope.” David: “Organic milk?” Alex: “No. … Marijuana.” David: “I thought that number seemed high.”
“On our show today, a story about a cable TV producer from New Jersey, a podcasting Libertarian economist, an international pop superstar and the two dead economists who brought them all together.”
“On the podcast today, we have something almost every economist loves and almost everyone else hates. Well, not everyone, but a lot of people.”
Adam Davidson: “Today, we have the second half of our look at Denmark.” David Kestenbaum: “Denmark: the awesome-est economy on earth, the country that figured everything out and figured out the best way to …” Adam: “(interrupting) Alright, David. Easy, easy …”
3. Don’t drop the billboard.
Content promotion — advertising stories within your publication — helps drive readership. Don’t forget to promote your stories within the publication itself.