Who Does What on a Podcast Team
To make the best possible show, a good crew goes a long way.
As a podcaster, you’re well aware: The industry is booming. With tons of new creators entering the game with awesome ideas for a show, the nature of podcast production is changing. New revenue sources, growing audience appetites, and increasingly eager stakeholders are influencing production schedules and the way podcasts are put together.
To help keep up with industry demands, both publisher-backed producers and independent creators alike get the job done with a little help from their friends and have production teams with well-defined roles, where everyone knows what their job is (and everyone else’s, too). We’ve gathered a quick guide to the jobs and responsibilities that make up a top-notch podcast production team.
The host is, naturally, the person out front, setting the editorial tone of the show. As the voice most synonymous with a podcast, they carry the majority of the audience-facing responsibilities—basically, they are the storyteller, and they shape the show through their editorial decisions and personality. They’ll narrate the scripts and feature stories they receive from producers and writers and will also get involved in production processes to different degrees, but as the person communicating with the listeners the most, hosts spend much of their time preparing for interviews, and writing and editing their scripts. In some cases, there’s more than one host; co-hosting can be a great way to develop a lively dynamic for a show.
Executive producer (aka The Showrunner)
Executive producers are the ultimate decision-makers for all aspects of a podcast’s production and delivery. They’re problem-solvers, responding to the inevitable snags that come up, and they manage the production schedule—both on a day-by-day basis, and in terms of season planning. The EP also manages the relationships between folks on the production team and helps define their individual responsibilities. They work with the host and writers to develop reporting approaches, and as the person who works most closely with the host, the EP oversees script development and directs the host during recording sessions. They also manage budgets.
Editors help producers and writers figure out the best approach for a feature or episode. As your podcast’s primary sounding board, the editor oversees the development of story ideas and gives feedback on story frameworks and scripts. They keep notes on the plans they develop with reporters, and then communicate that information to the executive producer so that she or he can plot out the production calendar. On a macro level, editors ensure that there is consistency and flow between features; on a micro level, they supply the reporting advice and critical feedback that make an individual episode coherent and interesting.
Senior producers occupy the space between the EP and other producers. They execute daily editorial agendas and assign tasks to staff and freelancers. They often oversee production duties and generate story ideas or angles with other producers. Your senior producer can typically step into the field and solve problems when things get hectic for the host and EP.
The majority of the work to create a podcast episode is carried out by producers. They do everything from research to preparing prep packs for the host to laying out a rough draft of an episode in a Pro Tools session (which will eventually get sent to an engineer). On some podcasts, producers create feature segments where they operate as one of the characters in a story. There’s a lot of legwork involved, so producers spend a lot of time thinking of the best ways to get good interview tape that will be useful for a story. Once the tape is gathered, producers listen, transcribe, and cut it before taking the first stab at writing a story draft.
Producers are responsible for getting good-quality audio on the front end. Engineers are responsible for good-quality audio on the back end. They’re the final stop in the podcast production process. All the tape and tiny decisions that go into an episode end up in the engineer’s editing session. Engineers are then responsible for creating the soundscape for the show, which has been determined by the host and executive producer. Engineers use their ear instincts and audio-editing skills to finesse the fades, give the proper pauses here and there, and generally create a seamless listening experience free of jarring transitions, sounds, or distractions. All engineers need to know their way around audio editing software (like Hindenburg or Pro Tools); some engineers come from musical backgrounds and can help to compose and score your podcast as well.
Keep in mind that there will always be some overlap between responsibilities on any podcast production unit. One thing you’ve probably noticed in podcasting job descriptions is the emphasis on “soft” skills—such as flexibility, being a good communicator, and a willingness to help others. These aren't just nice-to-have skills; they're essential to keeping the team moving and producing the best podcast.
-- Todd Whitney