Seasonal Podcasting vs. Consistent Podcasting

seasonsThere's a trend I'm starting to see in the podcasting world that is familiar to many of you. The "seasonal" podcast.

No, not like podcasts inspired by the seasons, although I'm sure those exist somewhere. "In this episode of the Autumnal Equinox Podcast, we're going to discuss pumpkins!" My apologies to the actual Autumnal Equinox Podcast, if you exist.

Nowadays, podcasts are being split into seasons as one would TV. So season one happens, then a break, followed by season two, and then another break. And just like TV, seasons will be filled with 13 to 22 episodes.

I am not opposed to this idea. I think it's incredibly smart to allow podcasters a tiny break from constant recording and new material. It prevents burnout, and there are times when life gets too crazy to sit down and record. For me, it's the winter holidays. Apparently recording a podcast while everyone is eating Thanksgiving dinner is "rude" and no one likes that my “editing equipment” is in my “mother-in-law's chair."

The issue with podcast seasons is that while it allows a break for the podcasters, that means it forces a break on the listeners. And there's a chance that they may unsubscribe from your podcast because they don't know when you'll be back. No joke, I did that with Serial. I thought it was a one-off. It was only through the news that I found out the show was returning for a second season.

Herein lies the second issue: Just like TV series, podcasts that choose to have seasons may experience a lot of hype and then they have to live up to it. If you recall Serial, the first half of the second season was... disappointing, to say the least. The momentum you gain from consistency is stalled and the interest you had is dimmed upon your return. And the hype of your listeners? Well, I think we all know the dangers of hype. If you're releasing on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you'll be forgiven for a bad episode or two. However, if you had all this time to prep new content in addition to your break, and your episodes don't quite live up to your previous material? Listeners are going to be confused and maybe even upset.

The third issue with this is that seasons are often done by professionals who are sponsored and make a bit of money by podcasting. This is tough if you are just starting out, do this as a hobby, or you are weary for some reason. Your season finale could very well be your series finale. But rather than a set of network execs making that choice, it was you. That's a shame, isn't it?

There's no easy answer for this conundrum, especially since everybody works in a different way. The best answer I have--because I've done it before--is that you record as much content ahead of time as you can and schedule your releases. My co-host will also record panels that she is on during Dragon*Con (with permission, of course), and she's often on enough to take care of a few weeks. Or, most importantly, you ask someone to fill in while you're off taking a break. There's nothing wrong with asking for help with your podcast. Burnout happens, and in order to create good content, you need that break.

So consider how to make the most of consistency before you take the seasonal podcast route. I'd make another Autumnal Equinox Podcast joke, but I really think they're upset. If they ban me from their Twitter account, I won't be able to see their posts about various fall-inspired cardigans... and I think we can all agree that would be a travesty.

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.