Your Radio Voice

Posted on November 24, 2004
Filed Under podcasting | 16 Comments

I mentioned in yesterdays cast about people “wishing they had a radio voice.” Here is one such post by Robert Scoble. Folks, you may not have a “radio voice everybody” but you have something far superior – your own voice. I think that is a vastly underrated asset in this world.

Be yourself, sound like you and let it rip. That’s really what I want to hear, not podcasts full of clones of the morning zoo crews. They’re already all clones of each other anyway. Talk to me in your real voice, and I will listen.

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16 Responses to “Your Radio Voice”

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  1. SteveSgt on November 24th, 2004 12:29 pm

    I understand why you’re tired of the hyped voices of commercial radio. But please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Would you be as willing to read a text blog that lacked capitalization, proper punctuation, correct spelling, comprehensible grammar, or complete sentences?

    is paneful. or at least teedeeus to reed or lissin ta sumbuddy: who don’t have da basic skills of tha medium

    Good diction and modulation are some of the basics of radio skills. A listener will retain more of what they hear from such a voice, while a listener will be distracted from the intended message by mispronunciations, filler words (“uhs”, “ands”, etc.), and superfluous rambling. Smooth delivery is a learned skill, just like spelling and grammar. It’s takes training and plenty of practice.

    I can identify with those who have made the comparison between CB radio and podcasting. When I listen to you, or Whole Wheat Radio, or SSRWSS’s Cody Shin, I often get impatient, wading through the extended ramble to get to the meat of the message. Good writing skills of brevity, organization, and grammar matter as much or more in speech as they do in text. One has to be VERY talented and experienced to make a listen-able show without a prepared script.

    I’m wary of your unqualified call for “authentic voices.” To me, having the “golden voice” is not about being a fast-talking booming baritone with a nondescript midwest accent — it’s about taking thoughtful care in your pronunciation and diction. It’s about saying things clearly, in well formed and well communicated thoughts.

    I’ll leave you with two examples from my area of interest, environmental news:
    <UL>
    <LI>
    Jerry Kay does a Sirius satellite radio show called “ENN News”. I don’t like his style, and find it hyped and artificial. Here’s an example of his program.</LI>
    <LI>
    Steve Curwood does an NPR program called “Living on Earth”. His style, while not completely natural, is very “human” and easy to listen to. It’s polished in a way that doesn’t detract from the message. You can find examples in MP3 at livingonearth.org.</LI>
    </UL>

    It’s fine to ask for authentic voices, but the medium is going continue to be derided as CB-like unless the more of the voices become skilled communicators.

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  3. Garrick Van Buren on November 24th, 2004 12:35 pm

    Dave, I’ve been using “audio show” to describe this thing we do to people not in the technical space. The audio folks I speak with get it immediately.

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  5. Nicole Simon on November 24th, 2004 1:34 pm

    I don’t think people who wish to have ‘a radio voice’ mean all the things Steve wrote. Most of the new podcasters out there compare the feeling they have about their voice (something you usually don’t hear in your complete live from a listeners perspective) to other normal voices they like well.

    And perhaps even to some of the very good voices.

    It takes everybody more or less time to get adjusted to their own voice, their own style of speaking and pronounciation. And of course you always know why you said something or what you really wanted to express – finally
    hearing yourself destroys some dreams sometimes.

    In my case I do find it funny, that I – most of the time – hear my major speaking mistakes (for example mixing german words without noticing) in my podcast but not on producing them. :o)

    I could start with podcasting nearly right away because I do have experience with my voice, but also had to get experience to using it not only on much shorter answering system texts but for longer podcast.

    So, unless we all give you, the podcaster feedback that you should just stop because you have an unbarable voice, just go on and practice young poduan. ;o)

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  7. Nicole Simon on November 24th, 2004 1:36 pm

    (note that unless you put in breaks with HTML, this will all be one paragraph. It doesn’t break it for you.)

    *hrmpf* since when?

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  9. James on November 24th, 2004 4:13 pm

    I know I’m not the only that has said it to Dave but I jokingly referred to “breaking out my radio voice” and I think might have inadvertently helped snowball this. Sorry Dave. I was joking, dude. You heard my rendition of the comedy show. I don’t have a radio voice.

    By the way, Nicole, I have listened to your cast and you have a lovely voice.

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  11. Win Nadeau on November 24th, 2004 4:54 pm

    Well, feel free to hear my voice. :) I started a podcast a couple of weeks ago, and my voice is about all I can offer. (with addition to some fun independant music). Although this sounds like some form of advertisement (o hell why not, it is…) I’d love to get some more hits out there. I figure, why not start with the guy I listen to? I’m really enjoying podcasting, keep up the good work.
    -Win

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  13. Andy Skinn on November 24th, 2004 5:23 pm

    My brother and I started The Skinny on Sports the other day and we tried really hard not to have the big radio voice, but we did try and sound professional. I definetly think there is a difference. We’ve gotten some feedback on our show saying that it sounds good, but now we should try and make ourselves a bit more animated for the next show. We’ll have to see if we can get the right mix of animation, professionalism, and clarity without the big voice. That’s why Podcasting is so much fun though – it’s really easy to take a risk, throw a show out there, and respond to the feedback the next time.

    We’re having fun with it and to us, that’s all that matters right now. Of course, the more people that enjoy listening makes a difference as well!

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  15. Dave on November 24th, 2004 8:15 pm

    Steve, I think you have a false dichotomy set up in your head, where you have a one dimensional axis with “good/professional/bombastic/hello everybody” on one end and “authentic/sloppy/poor diction”. That’s a wildly simplistic picture, and you try to stack the deck by comparing what I’m talking about – which is simple personal conversation like you hear all day everyday, everywhere but on the radio – to text without capitalization or punctuation. I’m listening to dozens of different people talking to me now via podcast, and very very seldom is someone’s delivery so bad that I stop listening.

    If you get impatient listening to me or anyone, I’d suggest you stop. Don’t put me or them on the hook for wasting your time. If your needs are met by brevity and concision, I’m not your man. This is the core of my point. What you hear in the podcasts is what I’m like, this is who I am and this is exactly how I talk. I ramble and I digress, whether on the air as a DJ or telling you about my day over dinner. I could try to boil things down to very brief, concise tidbits but that wouldn’t be my voice. If that’s what you want or what you think is good, find someone like that or do one like that. There is room for that, room for what I or Jim or doing, room for Mike Butler, room for Adam Curry, room for Herb Weisbaum. That’s the value of podcasting, that there isn’t one way to do it or one style you must conform to. I don’t buy your basic premise, that my call for authentic voices means poor diction and unlistenable mumbling. I think that says a fair amount about your assumptions that you see that as the only two options.

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  17. Dave on November 24th, 2004 8:19 pm

    Andy, that’s what I’m saying. I haven’t had a chance to listen to you yet, but I can’t stand 99% of the sportscasters that I hear because of that very arch delivery. I don’t see animated and that stereotypical sports guy schtick as identical. I can’t listen to sports talk radio specifically because of that schtick, so I’m happy to hear sports conversation in an actual human voice.

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  19. SteveSgt on November 25th, 2004 2:31 am

    Dave, I see how you got the idea from my earlier post that I was arguing the existence of a “false dichotomy.” Apparently, I didn’t adequately practice what I preach about clarity and brevity.

    I did say that I wasn’t a fan of the, “fast-talking booming baritone with a nondescript midwest accent,” delivery style. What I tried to convey instead, is that I think of a golden voice as someone who communicates clearly and directly; someone who sounds natural, and polished at the same time. In short, someone who is easy to listen to, and makes it sound easy (even though it isn’t). What I gave as example links were a contrast between two styles.

    I was arguing for something that I recall you yourself arguing for in an earlier show. While the technology is nascent, ‘casters will attract an audience even if they are amateurish. But the list of available feeds is already quite large, and new listeners will bore quickly if every ‘cast they listen to sounds like pointless rambling. You argued that ‘casters only had a little while before the medium caught on, and they should concentrate to polish their skills, before it becomes a mass medium. I’m writing to reinforce that.

    As someone who has worked on the technical and production side of national-scale broadcasting for almost 30 years, I’ve heard all kinds of “authentic voices.” Some “real people” are interesting to listen to, but most aren’t. What makes the best of them interesting to listeners is that they have a meaningful message, and an ability to communicate that message clearly. I guess there are a few people who were born or raised with this knack, but the majority of them have had to hone their message in writing, practice their delivery, and listen to themselves critically.

    As far as listening to your or other ‘casters new to the medium, I appreciate that you have a message. They are messages I’ve found myself interested in hearing. I don’t find you unlistenable. I just don’t want new producers to think, “…I’m just podcasting, so any random rambling is good enough. I don’t need to plan, research, script, or edit my talk. The skills and tools of professional broadcasters don’t apply to me.”

    By its very nature, the [pod]‘casting medium encourages diversity of styles, voices, topics, and messages. I’m certainly not arguing against the growth of that diversity. Instead I’m urging ‘casters to strive to realize the things that make the best of broadcast radio so good.

    I’ll close by presenting you with the real dichotomy: Anyone who wants to become a [pod]‘caster should decide whether they have something to say, and are interested in communicating it to an audience, OR if they just want to play with the toys, and are happy doing the audio equivalent of a vanity page. The answer to that question might determine how hard you should work to develop effective communication skills.

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  21. Nicole Simon on November 25th, 2004 7:13 am

    I give you a reason why I expect of people to polish their podcasts at least a little bit: As non native speaker, I don’t get every word; my passive vocabular is surely okay to understand many things but there is a different as being a normal native speaker.

    And especially with people making jokes about things I don’t get because I don’t live in that country I tend to focus much more activly on the podcast itself to a) understand it by itself b) translate it in my head c) get the meaning to it.

    The more complicated a text is, the more I have to listen activly to it. I was writing the litte “who shot mary jane” comment on the ipodderdev list the other day and had to stop Dave’s last cast, because hearing (=recogniszing, translating, understanding) english in a very passionate way with interesting content on the one hand, and making up a little story (=creative plus in english) on the other hand was too much, I had to stop listening.

    I am not the only non native speaker who sees podasts as entertainment but a very good way to practice our english listening comprehension. Therefor in example each popp-sound hurts in our ears because we listen to it louder than a native speaker, more intense.

    And this is where I think the future will head: Yes we do have this grassroot kind of thing where everybody just screams “I can do what I want!!”, but sooner or later they will stop producing – because either they loose interest or there ego will be hit by the fact that they get told that they are not perfect. ;o)

    The rest is the caring kind. They care about their listeners and will try to improve on the way in their own terms. Because they like to do so.

    [btw Dave, should it be a sign for us that your comment field is that small? ;o)]

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  23. Andy Skinn on November 25th, 2004 3:19 pm

    Hopefully you’ll think the same after you listen to us – we’re trying not to have that typical sportscaster voice, but maybe others will think we do – I don’t know. We’re hoping to get another show out tonight, so hopefully you’ll have time to listen to us soon. We’re going to experiment a bit tonight until we get the format right where we want it. (Oh, and by the way, I sent you an email earlier about my comment being deleted – I now obviously see that it wasn’t – maybe a cache problem on my end>… sorry about that!)

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  25. PJ Cabrera on December 2nd, 2004 9:49 pm

    SteveSgt said:

    “As someone who has worked on the technical and production side of national-scale broadcasting for almost 30 years”

    And therein lies your problem. You wouldn’t know what Dave is talking about if it bit you in the ass.

    Just in case you didn’t notice, people are TIRED of the national-scale bullshit. You are right in the middle of it, and the smell doesn’t bother you anymore.

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  27. PJ Cabrera on December 2nd, 2004 10:03 pm

    Here’s what I meant, SteveSgt

    People are tired of the schtik, the broadcasters that all sound the same, we’re skipping over commercials, sick and tired of the bombastic hard sell. Reality TV isn’t, “live video direct from the source” is lifeless, newspapers all copy text from the same five fucking sources, for God’s fucking sake!

    And you are in the thick of it, that is your career, your livelyhood. And my experience tells me you are not going to get what we’re talking about, because your world is diametrically opposed to what we’re looking for.

    This is why blogs as a whole are way more popular than all the for-pay or ad-ridden “professional journalist produced” newspaper websites. This is why people want to skip over the commercials. This is why “what I want, when I want it” is going to beat “national-scale broadcasting” to a pulp when it comes to fresh, personally touching, relevant content.

    Cookie cutter don’t cut it anymore.

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  29. SteveSgt on December 3rd, 2004 4:18 am

    You’re right that I don’t get it. But what is clear to me is that we’re disagreeing on what “it” is. To use an analogy, you seem to be saying, “we’re tired of fast food,” while I’m saying, “don’t ruin good ingredients by giving them to an untrained, careless chef.”

    PJ Cabrera wrote:
    “People are tired of the schtik, the broadcasters that all sound the same, we’re skipping over commercials, sick and tired of the bombastic hard sell. Reality TV isn’t, “live video direct from the source” is lifeless, newspapers all copy text from the same five fucking sources, for God’s fucking sake! ”

    It’s as if you didn’t even read what I wrote. I said that I valued, “someone who communicates clearly and directly; someone who sounds natural, and polished at the same time. In short, someone who is easy to listen to, and makes it sound easy (even though it isn’t).”

    There are a wide variety of writing, production, and delivery styles in broadcast media. The “bombastic hard sell schtik,” may seem pervasive, but it’s just one style of many.

    You seem to think I’m arguing for a particular style of writing and delivery. I’m not. I’m arguing for good clear communication — something that requires careful thought, preparation, and practice to do well.

    I’ll be the first to agree that there is a lot of vapid junk being broadcast. But there’s also a lot of thoughtful, intelligent content being created. It can be hard to find sometimes.

    I’ll return to the statement I made at the beginning of this thread: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If you don’t like Howard Stern try Charlie Rose. If you’re annoyed by Katie Couric try Cokie Roberts. There will always be an audience for the best talent, and PODcasting will never supplant other media outlets without more of that best talent.

    (I’ll leave the discussion of commercials out of this for now. Dave’s been dealing with that in a separate thread.)

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  31. Kiki on May 14th, 2007 2:50 pm

    While I’m a few years too late for this debate, I definitely agree that voicing is extremely important in podcast. I’m not saying that everyone should sound like a pro radio broadcaster, but the number of slurring, stuttering ‘casters I’ve herad out there to date is nothing short of horrifying. I am a professional podcaster (yes, it’s actually my paid full-time job – my office produces educational games and podcasts for a large southwestern university) and had to do intense voice training with a professional radio host for some time before my voice was what I’d consider up to snuff. I’m not trying to discourage amateurs – I only want to encourage them to take the extra time necessary to turn out a professional sounding podcast. If you’re going to do it, do it right. It doesn’t take the kind of ridiculously expensive studio equipment my office has, but it does take a bit of practice and finesse. Love your audience and they will love you.

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