World's Worst Podcast… A How To Guide

It occurs to me upon listening to a number of podcasts (I subscribe to around 100 podcasts) that many podcasters dabble with failure but never really fully embrace it. It seems like even the worst podcast has something that someone somewhere would value. But what, I wondered, if we combined the worst part of the worst podcasts. What would such a podcast sound like? Why would anyone even think like this? That I cannot answer but I can picture some practical applications if one really could devise the Titanic of podcasting (although even the Titanic had survivors). Say you wanted to quit podcasting and you did not want to ever have anyone ask you to return to it. This is the podcast that you would put out as your last episode that would cause the thought of you podfading to cause people to send you flowers and chocolates. So without further excuses, here is the recipe, in my opinion, for the world’s worst podcast.
Key Goals

  • Practical – Don’t be
  • Entertaining – Forget it
  • Content – Avoid it

Sound Quality
Sure you could use a bad microphone, a noisy conference call service and the tried and true method of mumbling, but we these may just produce emails about your how your sound quality stinks. I used to record interviews on the same track as my guest and channel Dark Vader as I did heavy breathing over my guest talking and my show still grew. So to really fail we need to push the envelope here.

  • Uneven Sound Levels – One particularly practical suggestion is to have an interview show with the two channels at vastly different sound levels. I don’t mean that one of the guests is hard to hear, I mean that even the dogs in the neighborhood are not sure that sound is coming from their iPods. Then you want that speaker to have long and presumably interesting monologs so that the user is tempted to turn the volume up, way up, “this one’s got eleven” up. Then when you have lulled them into thinking that this is the appropriate volume setting slam them with the loudest talker. Some shows (think Today in Podcasting) have actually reached sound differentials that can cause your ears to bleed. This is our goal.
  • Clipping – A bad microphone is unimaginative, You can achieve much more annoying sound by simply setting your sound levels high enough that every unexpected laugh, sneeze or bilabial fricative (and we are going to want to do a lot of this) will clip in painful eye crossing ways.
  • Drop Out – Don’t just make the sound quality bad. Make it bad at the worst possible time. “The secret to a six figure income is mumble pop squeak pop mumble”. “Wow Bob that’s incredibly simple. Anyone could do that!”

Pre-roll Ad
Clearly if we want to cause people to unsubscribe in droves we need to start with a preroll ad. We need to start with a long pre-roll ad. Ideally this ad needs to be totally inappropriate and offensive to the audience. We are looking for something here that makes the PodShow “Suck Less” campaign (one minute long) to become a fond memory. Think about the audience for your show. Annoying is easy but we are looking for rage or disgust. Have a Rock and Roll show? Consider a fund raising ad for the “George W. Bush Presidential Library”. Have a serious business podcast? Sure you could go with a Viagra Ad but people have been desensitized to such fare. Find words the repel like “bowel”, “sphincter” and “welfare state”.
Of course you could skip a show or two and then spend the first 5-10 minutes of the next show apologizing or explaining just why your life is so busy, but who hasn’t done that. Try releasing two shows within an hour and then talk about the first show a lot in the second show since many users have iTunes and have it set to only download the latest show… then skip 4 weeks.
Your intro is very important. You have the listeners attention. Now is the time you want to lose it. Don’t be in any particular hurry to finish the intro. I know a show that extended the intro of their show, the part that was pretty much the same from show to show, to fourteen minutes. Fourteen minutes before they got to any real content. Can you do fifteen minutes? Tell them your email address, your blog address, what software you use to run your podcast, what cereal you had for breakfast and why, throw in an ad for “Go to My PC”. Don’t be entertaining. If you can’t help being entertaining then try the same jokes week after week. Script this portion of the show and try and not say this with any sort of personality.
Show Length
If your show is too short then you are not adding enough pain. Do people listen to your show at 30 minutes? Double it. Are this still listening at an hour? Double it. Don’t add more content, just add more time. Say things. Say them over again. Repeat them a third time. Insult your listener’s intelligence. When you are absolutely positively sure that even their toddler riding in the back seat of the mini van must understand your point by now, then dumb it down and say it again. Then repeat it again next week. Assume every email compaining about your show length is a complaint that you are not explaining sufficiently and explain it again. Don’t put in chapters in an iTunes enhanced version. That would save people’s time. Don’t just waste people’s time, waste lots of it.
Humor should be avoided at all costs. If you find this impossible, only use inside jokes that you never explain, preferably that defy definition. Some people fail to be truly awful because they try and make the humor offensive. This is a trap you should avoid. Never assume that there is a joke too low to stoop for. Someone out there likes that kind of humor. Some try and make the humor in their show impenetrable. That is also a trap. Someone will understand your joke about Attaturk or Micronesia. So again your best bet here is avoid humor or just beat the same shtick again and again.
Never never edit your show. Distain it. Insist that podcasts are not the same as main stream media. Shuffle your notes, take a bathroom break, stutter, Editing a typical half hour interview and you could easily remove 5 minutes of useless content, don’t.
Show Ending
If you have done your job correctly it won’t matter how you end your show. You could give away a free car to the first person who sends you an email and still keep the car.

Author: chris2x

One man's view of life in Silicon Valley from Chris Christensen - a podcaster, blogger, programmer, entrepreneur


  1. Chris,
    I recently discovered your Maccast podcast and I wanted to tell you that I was very impressed. I am relatively new to podcasts but not to technology. I am an Electrical Engineer by training in his mid 50’s. I have been involved with the Internet since early DARPA days. I was very impressed with the level of detail and insight you communicate in your Maccast podcasts. It is refreshing to see the level of insight and attention to detail that comes across in your podcast. Bravo! Congratulations on your new career change. You have one new supporter in me. I know it is always scary to make these career choices but I think you add significant value to the space based on your technical background and of course communication skills.
    Good luck to you making this a full time endeavor, I made a very small donation but I will probably make more or perhaps become a premium supporter since your content is well though out and not just a couple of guys chatting etc. I enjoyed the recent insights into possible vertical products that might evolve from the iPad. This was very interesting and insightful topic choice vs the bka bla bla it should have had a camera etc on other mac blogs. Well done.
    DS Middleton, MA

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