Video Podcast Recording Setup with Rode Microphones

What makes a podcast a “podcast”?

The trailer for a four-person video podcast has been playing on TV quite a bit the past week. The host and guests are seated in a row of sofas with obtrusive Rode Mic Boom Arms propping up mics right in front of their faces.

Video Podcast with mic

My wife joked about the blatant product placement, while my son perked right up at the trailer and went, “Oooh, a podcast!”

It got me thinking. What was it about a podcast that would catch the attention of a young digital native more than, say, a regular TV interview?

Did seeing that it was a podcast make one expect the content to be remarkedly different from a TV interview?

The funny thing is, I’ve had clients who insisted on showing mics and headphones in their video podcasts for that very reason – to make it look authentically “podcast-y.”

Yet, I always argued content is king. Who cares if it looks like a podcast or not, right?

Well, my son challenged that notion a couple of days later. He showed me a picture, a conversation between two people, but no mics or headphones in sight.

“Is this a podcast?” he asked.

Podcast without mic

Well, it wasn’t, but it made me realize there might be perhaps some merit in making sure the form or medium of your content is immediately recognizable to your target audience.

Like if it’s meant to be a podcast, make sure it looks like one. Make sure your mics are loud and clear, visually!

BBC TV news in the 1950s.

The comeback of big recording mics on screen

Think about it. Before the advent of inconspicuous lavalier mics, TV news broadcasts looked a lot like today’s video podcasts.

The fact that such big, in-your-face mics are long gone now in modern TV News and studio interview programs meant that such setups simply looked too ugly by TV production standards.

But here’s the twist: those big, in-your-face mics are making a comeback, thanks to the video podcast boom. Now, showing the mics isn’t a limitation, it’s a conscious choice to make the show look authentically “podcast-y.”

How the medium of a podcast imply a different content experience

This brings to mind the often-quoted McLuhan’s theory in communication studies that says – “the medium is the message”.

Simply put, it is the medium, not the content, that shapes our perceptions and consciousness. The focus should, therefore, be on “how communication happens rather than what is communicated because the nature of media has a greater effect than any content that the media carries.”

Podcasts as a medium are often seen as shows with raw, unfiltered, and unscripted content – the opposite of TV’s highly produced world with teleprompters, scripts, and retakes.

Imagine a podcast recorded in a fancy set, similar to a TV studio, with hidden mics, perfect lighting, and snazzy graphics.

Would viewers even know it’s a podcast? Their expectations might be thrown off, maybe they’d expect something more polished and produced.

Whether or not that works in your favor as a content creator is something you should consider.

Especially with AI-generated content flooding the various mediums, it is not surprising that many more people are turning to podcasts to seek out human ideas and insights that are raw, spontaneous and perhaps “less-than-perfect” in nature.

All those mics, headphones, and messy cables in typical podcast setups? They kind of scream “human!” — signaling authenticity and imperfection that resonates with audiences seeking genuine human insights.

So while I used to say content is king – ie. never mind whether a podcast looks like one or not, I now think the context of how it is presented matters just as much. It’s all about aligning your content with what your audience expects.

So, the question remains: what’s in the name of podcast, by which one without any mics in sight, would it still be seen as such?

shakespeare in a podcast blackandwhite photo 3

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