Pod Bible caught up with Liz Jaynes, Head of BBC Digital Studios and Executive Producer of the BBC Earth Podcast!
What is it about podcasts that appeals to you?
I started out being crazy for music, bands and DJs but after a night out, I’d want to listen to speech. That led me to podcasts. Podcasts take me to worlds I didn’t know existed and offer fascinating insight into other’s lives.
If you could go back to just before you produced the first episode of your podcast and give your team one piece of advice, what would it be?
The first podcasts I made were in 2010 with a community radio station in North London called Streetlife FM. Back then, the only way shows could get a life beyond the live broadcast was by uploading them as podcasts to Audioboom or Soundcloud. That’s how it started for me. My one piece of advice would be ‘Don’t be afraid to knock on doors. Be bold and go for it’. One of the teenagers I worked with back then did just that and is now a producer with BBC Sounds and 1Xtra. Silver J, you know who you are!
What makes a great podcast story?
I love stories that take you down a rabbit hole and leave you slightly baffled about how you ended up there. Stories that are absorbing, strange, personal and inspiring. Also the voices. As a radio producer I was lucky enough to interview the legendary producer Charles Chilton about Journey into Space, the 1950s sci-fi radio show that had eight million listeners. When he cast his talent, he made sure each one had a distinctive voice so the listener didn’t get confused. Simple and obvious, yep. Also highly effective.
What makes a great podcast host?
It’s the way they talk, the way they express themselves. For me, Serial didn’t evolve into being the best story ever (it’ll be interesting to see how the Netflix show does), but I loved the way Sarah Koenig spoke. Her intonation and the way she said, her words – I was addicted to that!
What’s been your worst podcast moment?
My worst podcast moment was when we launched a podcast I didn’t really believe in.We ended up creating a podcast that ticked the boxes and fitted the brief but didn’t sound like a podcast. There wasn’t enough passion and didn’t put the audience first. Needless to say it didn’t last. I won’t do that again.
What’s been the biggest learning for BBC Earth?
Sophie Herdman from Acast gave us some great podcast advice when we launched BBC Earth. She told us to get our podcast sounding exactly how we wanted it to sound from the first episode. We also learnt that big talent isn’t necessary to make a podcast successful.
What is your podcast/podcaster pet peeve?
Smugness and in-jokes. When the laughter is too loud. Don’t get me wrong, laughter is good but it’s about pauses and reflection too.
Which one podcast episode (not of your own) has had the biggest impact on you?
There’s so many it’s hard to say. I learn loads from podcasts like the hip hop podcast No Jumper because I know so little about that world. I’m also fascinated by HotBoxin’ with Mike Tyson. When it comes to sound, I love Between the Ears. It’s immersive, out there and always surprising. One episode in particular captured a freediver’s journey into the ocean depths. That was pretty mesmerising. For podcasts about relationships, I go to Esther Perel.
Finally, what are your plans for the podcast moving forward?
To keep finding great stories about nature, to learn surprising and wonderful stories about animals that we can share with listeners. Our planet is a magical place and we want to continue that journey of discovery and wonder in sound with theBBC Earth Podcast. Join us!