At July’s MIC’S Podcast Club our Vic and Charles welcomed Louise Kattenhorn who commissions podcasts for BBC Sounds. She is responsible for commissioning content for young audiences for the BBC Sounds podcast element of the platform.
Louise came to talk to the community all about BBC Sounds and podcasting. Here’s what went down in case you missed it. We learned about podcasts that feature on BBC Sounds, the brand new BBC Audiolab program and plenty of fab advice from Louise. Including her top tips on what keeps people listening to a podcast!
We’ve put it in an easy-to-digest QnA style low-down for you below! 👇
We kicked off talking about a question that was hot on the lips of our Podcast Club community, just what does the podcast commissioning process look like for the BBC? And most importantly, how do you get your podcast on BBC Sounds?
BBC Sounds commissioning is open to ideas from people, Lousie explains,
“… [although] we don’t take submissions from individuals, if we did have an idea from an individual that we thought we’d like to commission, we would support that individual to find the right place [to do so]. And that might be a small, independent production company or that might be a bigger production company. It could be a BBC in-house team depending on what type of content is and kind of where you’re at in your career.”
BBC Sounds only takes commissions from certified suppliers. You can find more about this here! Louise goes onto explain what that means for DIY podcast producers,
“What we do is ask that if you do have an idea, you find a production company to partner with so that you get the support, you need to make the content well, and you can deliver it to the specification that BBC Sounds needs.”
Have you ever wondered what are the big differences between the podcasts they commission vs the radio? Well, we asked Louise…
“‘Commission to sound like a podcast’ means the podcast was created with an on-demand audience in mind, with the presenter saying words like ‘subscribe’ and ‘Listen’ in the podcast. This helps the content to sit comfortably in the on-demand space and audience – this makes it distinctive from radio content.”
Louise goes onto explain how they repurpose a radio show into on-demand audio aka a podcast…
“They won’t have time references or references to the day or when the show was broadcast. They will hopefully be using more ‘podcasty’ language, so they won’t be saying ‘tune in’ they will be saying ‘subscribe’ and ‘listen’. Making sure that although it was broadcast, if you take it out of that broadcasting context it still fits comfortably in the on-demand space.”
An example of this is the ‘Radio 1 Best Bits’ and ‘Scott Mills Daily’ podcasts where BBC Sounds pull out all the speech for the podcast’s content. Louise describes how these podcasts work well,
“Scott Mills even though there is a lot of music in his show, there is also a lot of speech in the three hours. And that podcast is brilliant because if you concertina it up and take out all the music, you don’t realise that there was supposed to be music in it because of the way he crafts the show is to think about a narrative across the three hours.”
Did you know, you don’t have to have a podcast on BBC Sounds to get recognised?
Louise explained that having your podcast hosted on an alternative platform could work better for you than BBC Sounds and help you reach your target audience better! Louise explained further,
“I am very mindful that the podcast ecosystem is huge, there are hugely experienced people out there making podcasts, sometimes, those podcasts could absolutely fly without a commission from the BBC and I don’t think the BBC is necessarily an end goal for every creator, not because they shouldn’t be on the BBC but because the BBC isn’t right for them.
They can be more successful through other channels and making their work independently because there are a lot of things you can’t do in the BBC. For example, you can’t monetise your content, because we pay a flat fee per episode and that’s great if you’re a producer that wants to make a regular income, but if you have a great idea and there’s an opportunity to get revenue from that idea and build it and become a massive title. As a commissioner, I am aware that as exciting as it is to have your work on the BBC, it’s not always the right platform for creators.”
You may wonder how many content ideas does a BBC Sounds Commissioner get?
Well, Louise reveals it’s quite a few…
“I usually get a couple of ideas in a day and a stream of ideas coming in each week!”
So, BBC Sounds have been around for a few years now, we wanted to know if even the BBC had challenges reaching audiences….
Louise explains that yes, they certainly do, and it’s the younger spectrum that they have a challenge with. Lousie continues…
“The BBC has a challenge with reaching younger audiences, reaching audiences outside of London, and reaching Black and Asian audiences. There are a lot of audiences that we call ‘under-served’ audiences that don’t feel they get value from the BBC, with all the content we are making. There are the set mainstream shows but some people feel they only have one touchpoint with the BBC and that thinking plays into what we are commissioning as well.
Sometimes when you’re pitching ideas and you’ve got a great idea and you’re thinking, god, why isn’t a commissioner picking up on this? Quite often it’s because we know that piece of content won’t be successful on the platform. And it doesn’t mean that content isn’t going to reach an audience elsewhere, but we know that it won’t do the job we need it to do in terms of reaching audiences. There are strategies in the content we publish.”
Talking about getting your podcast on BBC Sounds, here’s a way that you can! The BBC has just launched BBC Audio Lab.
So what is Audiolab?
Lousie explains that BBC Audio Lab is a podcaster accelerator programme from BBC Sounds. It’s a pilot program established this year, where the BBC will select 6 – 8 people to develop their podcast idea into an actual podcast!
Audiolab is all about supporting new creators, people who have great ideas, and then helping them to make it into a podcast that’ll be on BBC Sounds. It’s all about increasing representation and nurturing new ideas and talent.
Find out more here
Application closes Sunday 29th August at Midnight
Finally, we couldn’t finish our time with Lousie without asking her some of her top podcasting tips to help you make brilliant podcasts,
Here are Louise’s Top Tips on what keeps your listeners, listening to your podcast
- Really good storytelling – cliffhanger storytelling! Either an eight to ten part series or really interesting stories/ fresh angles in an episode.
- The relationship with the host – if the hosts are good at speaking to the audience, making them feel welcome, making them feel part of a club/ community around that podcast.
- Think about your podcast voice – think about your relationship to your audience, what you want to say to your audience, and how you build a rapport with them. Make them feel valued as a listener. Simple things like thank you for listening at the end of the podcast, we really appreciate you.
- Reaching audiences and building a community around a podcast.
Whilst we were at it, we wanted to pick her brains about her advice for podcast producers to get noticed by networks/commissioners…
- Have a really strong platform where you can showcase your portfolio work. For example Soundcloud or your own website.
2. Showcase your work in a way that works best for your personality and the type of work you are doing.
Finally here’s a super helpful resource Louise suggested you have a gander at if you want to pitch a podcast idea to someone, a network, or a beeb producer!
It’s this fantastic article ‘How to define (and refine) your podcast with a show bible’ by Doug Fraser
A big thank you to our guest, BBC Sounds Commissioner Louise Kattenhorn for sharing all her tips on podcasting.