What Video Podcasters Can Learn from Ira Glass

Public radio is probably the last thing video podcasters have on their mind when they are searching for inspiration. Instead, people are looking to new media pioneers like Rocketboom or to old media rebels like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The result usually is a guy or a girl sitting in an improvised faux TV studio, talking about tech news while trying to be funny. Sometimes this works, more than often it doesn’t.

But, public radio? Isn’t that even more boring? Yes, usually it is. Except for Ira Glass and his show This American Life. Glass has been using the show to break the paradigms of radio for more than ten years now. He is putting the spotlight on folks who tend to get ignored by other journalists, and he is a master of delicate storytelling. Glass is also something of a pioneer of citizen participation in media. Some of his best shows feature folks who have never done radio before. Glass has been reaching out to amateurs for years, sharing knowledge and encouraging them to find their own voice. One of his latest targets: Video podcasters.

Glass himself isn’t a complete newcomer to the world of video. He has been producing a TV version of This American Life that premiered on Showtime in March 2007. The idea for such a show had supposedly been in the making for more than seven years — enough time to think about the medium and its limitations. asked Glass to share his thoughts on story telling for its citizen video producers, or VC2’s as the station likes to call them. The result can be found on YouTube as well as the website – and it’s 17 minutes of must-see advice for every aspiring video podcaster (found via O’Reilly Radar).

This isn’t the first time Glass has dropped some knowledge. He has been a frequent contributor to the public radio website, where he shares advice and patiently answers questions of readers. Granted, Transom primarily deals with audio products, but a lot of these recommendations work for video as well. For starters, here are the five things video podcasters can learn from Ira Glass, as compiled from his videos and texts:

1. Don’t talk like a newscaster. Instead, just talk like you do in real life. In his words: “Ted Koppel already is on TV. They don’t need you imitating Ted Koppel.”
2. Become a serial producer. The more you work, the better you become. Glass admits that even after eight years of working in radio, some of his stories still sucked. The real challenge is that you know it sucks — but you still have to keep going.
3. Imitate others. Look out for stories that you really enjoy, and then try to figure out what makes them work.
4. Take time to find an interesting story. It’s not the production that is the hard part, it’s coming up with something that is worth producing.
5. Be prepared to kill it. Sometimes stories just don’t work, or interviews go wrong. Kill them and turn to something else.