The success of Serial – and the mobile-friendly nature of podcasts – has put the medium back on the map for many media organisations. During a session at the news:rewired conference, today in London, freelance investigative journalist Maeve McClenaghan (above, right) outlined her top tips for a successful, monetised investigative podcast:
- Build basic information first. McClenaghan’s successful podcast ‘Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children’ began at the roots of its research. Ensure that you have your facts and figures correct, she said, and that your story is one that can be explored and developed.
- Practice and master simplifying facts. A successful podcast must be easy to understand, without leaving the listener confused. It is important to tell complex facts in an easily digestible way, unlike a written piece. Keep large figures to a minimum and try to stick with double digits when explaining statistics, she said.
- Cater to the House Style. When creating an investigative piece, it is vital that its tone and voice compliment the style and stance of the company for which it’s being produced. Make sure you are clued-up with their house style; what would the target audience expect of the publisher? Always tailor your podcast to the consumer.
- Take your audience on a journey. McClenaghan won the Bar Council’s Legal Reporting Award for her personal, narrative podcasts for Reveal, the Centre for Investigative Reporting. She emphasises how important it is to have a focal story throughout a series. In her podcast ‘Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children’, she specifically tells the wider story of children asylum seekers in the UK through one young man named Abdul. The podcast reveals court cases, news, and others opinions, all through Abdul’s life, thoughts and reactions. The more personal the journey, the more captivated your listeners will become.
- Monetise. Once McClenaghan’s podcast had been recognised by Reveal, they soon funded it and paid her to continue the investigation. However, prior to this recognition she received funding support from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and she encouraged all investigative journalists to apply to the Bureau for funding. However, if unsuccessful, look at affiliate models to fund your project, she said. This would be asking small businesses, who also cater to your target audience, if they would like to advertise on your podcast in exchange for sales commissions.