What is a podcast intro?
The introduction to a podcast should be less than 30 seconds and ideally less than 15. Ad reads and previous episode recaps might make an intro longer, but never more than 2 minutes.
- The intro to the BBC’s “In Our Time” is 15 seconds without the ad read.
- Including an ad read, theme music, and a “previously on” recap, the intro for the podcast “Serial” is just a minute and a half.
The intro lets the listener know which episode of which podcast they’re listening to. It might sound like an exercise in redundancy — they clicked on the episode, don’t they already know what it is? — but it’s actually a very important part of a successful podcast. Intros inform listeners about the tone, subject matter, and quality of your podcast. If this is their first time listening, it could be the moment they decide whether they’re going to keep listening or skip to something else.
In addition to setting the tone and delivering the show’s basic information, a good podcast intro will draw listeners in. A great podcast intro will get them excited — like the moment you see “Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away” in a new “Fast and Furious” movie. Intros shouldn’t be crammed with every detail about your show — keep it tight, and remember to respect your listener’s time.
What goes into a podcast intro?
A few things to include in your podcast intro:
- Name of the podcast. You might be thinking, “Don’t listeners already know the name of my podcast?” Yes, but podcast listening apps will usually play podcasts in the order they’re released. So a listener subscribed to multiple podcasts might roll right into your new episode after finishing another one from a different podcast. So it’s helpful to let them know up front which show they’re listening to. Plus, branding and stuff.
- What the podcast is about. It could be a tagline or key message that expresses the value you want the listener to get from your podcast. What they’ll learn, who they’ll meet, how you’ll advance the story.
- Your name(s). Introducing yourself by name personalizes the podcast and puts your stamp on it. Listeners will come to identify it as your work, something you’re proud to have your name on. And they’ll start to feel a relationship developing with you — a key driver of podcast listenership (a few may become stalkers, but they will also buy lots of merch).
- Episode identifier. Depending on your podcast format, this could be an episode title, number, date, the particular subject of this episode, or a combination of four. It lets the listener know which episode they’re about to hear, which can save them time by preventing them from getting further into the episode and realizing that they’ve already heard it, or that they skipped one.
- Theme music. Intro music isn’t required, but it can help make your podcast stand out and be more identifiable. Royalty-free music is widely available; many stock music sites have dedicated sections for music for podcasts. If you can afford to commission a composer to write original music, however, it will help your podcast stand out from the crowd.
- Sponsors. This will depend on whether or not you have sponsors, of course, and their preference. Some will specify a preference for being introduced up front and then thanked at the end in addition to the ad read itself.
If you’re concerned about your ability to remember all the things you want in your podcast intro, consider drawing up a podcast intro script to keep you on task. A sample script might look like this:
Welcome to Mouth Hacks, a podcast about innovation in dentistry and oral hygiene. I’m your host, Andrew Mason, and this is episode 14: Pickin’, Diggin’ & Suckin’: The Venerable, Versatile Toothpick.
How to end a podcast
A dedicated podcast outro at the end of each episode confirms a few things for your listeners. Most obviously, it confirms that the episode is coming to an end. This is more useful than it seems, because podcast listening apps play episodes consecutively. You don’t want to leave your listeners confused, wondering if a technical glitch cut off the end of an episode.
The outro is also your chance to leave your listeners with any final bits of information you want them to have. Let them know when they can expect another episode and tease what it’ll be about. A good podcast outro will make sure listeners want to tune in again.
Again, keep it tight or listeners might skip right past it when they hear it start.
What to include in your podcast outro
Consider including the following in your podcast outro.
- Thank the listener. It’s a small thing, but it lets them know you appreciate their time.
- Direct them to additional material. Read the URL of your podcast web site so listeners can find more information on the show you just finished, or point them to source materials or more information on the topic you covered. You should also tell listeners where to find you on social media.
- A call to action. Seize the last few moments you have your listeners’ attention and suggest they subscribe or share. If you’re running any campaigns like selling shirts or offering premium content through memberships, plug it in your outro.
- Tease the next episode. Let them know when to expect the next episode and what it will be about.
- Thank your sponsors. Remind listeners who your advertisers were. Now that the episode is over it’s a good time to encourage them to check out your sponsors. Some advertising arrangements will require this.
- Theme music. You probably don’t want long instrumental interludes at both the beginning and end, but your music can help identify your podcast almost as much as its name, and hearing it signals to the listener that they’re nearing the end.
So you don’t get bogged down, consider using a podcast outro script.
Thanks for listening to Mouth Hacks. If you liked this episode, remember to hit the subscribe button. You can check out our website at www.mouthacks.com, where you’ll find photos of the first toothpicks used by miners in the gold rush, outtakes from this episode, and more. Tune in again next week when we look at questions around ethics in dental hygiene.
Custom or canned?
Pre-recorded intros and outros can provide a sense of consistency and bring a more polished sound to your podcast. You can record them yourself one time or seek out a professional radio talent to do it. This kind of intro will lack episode-specific details, but you can lead with a pre-recorded intro and segue into custom intros you record for each new episode.
Canned intros don’t have to be boring. The New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast uses a pre-recorded intro, but it often mixes up where it appears, sometimes placing it after a dramatic cold opening.
The flip side of consistency can be predictability. If your podcast intros and outros are canned, listeners may choose to just skip over them. If you pre-record them, it’s even more important to keep them short so reaching for that skip button isn’t worth the trouble. (“The Daily” keeps it to about five seconds.)
Pre-recorded intros and outros are not at all required and the tone of your podcast (and your budget) will inform whether or not you should use them them.
The bottom line
Intros and outros are tools that help you land and retain listeners. Keep them short and simple, including only what you think is beneficial. Finally, while consistency is nice, you can always tweak your intros and outros as you go. Adapt to what seems to resonate with your audience, and don’t feel you have to stick with a format you don’t like.