Survey Says! What Your Feedback Tells Me

On Thursday, I asked podcast listeners for feedback. I built a brief survey in Google Forms and hoped for twenty or so responses. As of this moment, 176 people have shared their thoughts.

I've read every word. Of particular interest to me was the "Advice for the host" section. Because many opted to submit the survey anonymously, there's some brutal honesty here.

I'm going to respond to some recurring themes. The overwhelming majority of responses were very kind and complimentary, but I'm going to focus on the criticism and requests for change.

Stop Interrupting
Several people pointed out that I tend to interrupt guests. Some called it rude, others thought it was annoying, and a few felt it stopped guests from sharing stories.

This is actually something I've been working on. I try to wait until my guest has finished his/her point before I interject, but clearly there's still room for improvement. I will continue to work on this so there are fewer interruptions in future episodes.

Stop Name Dropping
I've actually been doing this on purpose, but several listeners do not approve. In my mind, if a guest mentions Erin Davis, I want the listener to know there is an Erin Davis episode of Toronto Mike'd in the archives. I consider it cross promotion aimed at the many who have just discovered the podcast and haven't been listening since the start.

Absorbing this mountain of feedback now has me convinced it comes across as either pretentious or repetitive so I'm going to reduce my use of this tactic.

Stop Talking About Yourself
In my last episode, I took 10 minutes off the top to talk about the Dalton Pompey-Electric Circus connection. I wanted to share this update with listeners because the story (which I think is fantastic) was born from the previous episode with Dwight Drummond. I wanted to share the story and play "Summertime Summertime" before beginning my deep dive with Chris Zelkovich.

Several people did not like this. They didn't think the story had anything to do with my guest and felt it took time from that conversation. One recurring piece of feedback is that I should not delay my deep dive with the guest and should stop talking about other topics or sharing personal stories. This advice had me noodling my current structure for days.

Here's how I currently structure episodes:

1. Opening theme and intro
2. Updates, current events, light chatter with the guest
3. Sponsor mentions
4. Deep dive with guest - typically an hour or longer
5. Closing theme and extro

Some would like #2 to disappear. I've talked to friends and family who listen about whether #2 detracts from an episode, and they all seem to enjoy it, and it's actually an important part of the equation for me. You see, I'm typically meeting a guest for the first time 5 minutes before we start recording, and I use #2 to establish some rapport and warm things up before the deep dive. Without #2, I'm not sure I'd be as effective with #4.

Some of course, enjoy #2. Here's what one listener wrote:

I think the format is perfect - the first few minutes are like the year-long ongoing conversation with the listeners, and then the next hour is the conversation with the guest. I'm curious to find out how the biking is going, how the Mazda is hanging on, how the house league hockey is going - because these are all things I can relate to as well.

I think I will hold on to #2, but I'll try and keep it brief and incorporate the guest more. Thankfully, the vast majority shares my passion for the Dalton Pompey-Electric Circus connection.

Enough Rohmer Talk Already
I admit, I'm fascinated by the fact Ann Rohmer retired twice and is on CP24 to this day. I'll also admit that topics I'm passionate about will seep into podcast episodes with great regularity.

I pledge to suppress my Rohmer fascination and only raise the topic when I'm speaking with someone who has worked with her. Otherwise, the Rohmer talk is off the table. Unfortunately for those who are tired of this topic, my next episode is with a CP24 anchor, so I might have to mention the cake one more time.

Length Matters
Episode length is a recurring theme. Some think episodes feel rushed and wish they were longer, but the majority mention that episodes are too long. There are suggestions I break up long episodes into two-parters. Others feel overwhelmed when an episode is listed as 1:40 or longer.

I'm not sure what the optimal length is, but I can certainly aim for an hour and only let it go if it feels there's more meat on the bone. I'll certainly do my best to reduce the number of episodes that exceed 90 minutes, but should I slip, please feel free to abuse your pause button.

More Sports! Less Sports!
When it comes to content, there seems to be too primary camps emerging. Some love the sports media guests and want more while others dislike the sports media guests and want fewer.

Guests typically reflect my own interests and passions, and sports is high on that list. Sometimes, when it seems I've gone too heavy on sports media personalities, I make a concerted effort to invite guest from other areas of interest. I'll continue to try and strike the balance here, but I suspect it will be impossible to satisfy both camps.

Other Contradictions
There were plenty of other contradictions. Some say I should be tougher on guests, others say I should be easier on guests. Some love the opening theme, others hate it. Many remarked that I was very well prepared but at least one respondent said I should do more homework. One person made my day by telling me I'm cute, but another told me I need to gain weight.

I'm so glad I collected this feedback and have taken it all to heart. With no broadcasting experience, I've been learning on the job and was craving constructive criticism. I'm confident I'll only get better and hope you'll be around to notice the improvement.


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Comments (31 - click here to join in!)

Rob J

Please please do not let anyone's complaints prevent you from doing exactly the show you want. I've listened to so very many episodes, and most of the topics that arose as 'negative feedback' never once occured to me. Please do not let your passion project get focus-grouped to death!

November 27, 2016 @ 3:15 PM

Rick C in Oakville

RobJ is right in that this is your pet project, and it took some guts to take the critiquing you did publicly. I am happy to hear you had an overwhelming response to your survey, good and bad.
Tells you people are listening and enjoy your Podcasts.

November 27, 2016 @ 3:33 PM

Phil E

I agree with Rob J. It's your project, you are who you are and it's different from so much else out there. A very smart research pro I spoke with a while ago likened good podcasts to skin diving or scuba diving in the Caribbean. You become so immersed in the experience you don't even feel the time passing, and the outside world disappears. I'm not saying your podcasts are a religious experience, but how deep you dive with your guests make them an immersive experience.

November 27, 2016 @ 3:40 PM

Andrew

There is an old adage in TV that I tell students I'm helping with and I was told a long time ago and that is:

Never give your microphone to the interviewee!

It is your podcast. You decide how, what, when and so forth with your format. It is a FREE download for people to subscribe too and listen too. If they don't like it, poof! Turn it off.

You aren't here to capitalize on this thing (in a serious way) - if you were, I would have charged outrageous sums of cash for my services :)

I enjoy listening to the podcast. To see where it started and where it has come too is nothing short of terrific. As you told me a long time when you started this journey - when I asked you what it was you wanted accomplish with this 'project' you told me this: I want to have great conversations with people that interest me and I want it to sound great. I think you've achieved that and you're only getting better.

Now... when am I coming back on? :)

Cheers,
Andrew

November 27, 2016 @ 4:54 PM

Rob J

(Sorry, me again): I hope you completely ignored any negativity from anyone who is not a patron or isn't considering becoming one.

November 27, 2016 @ 5:36 PM

Jody Thornton

I almost completely agree with RobJ (just the patronage part I have a wee bit of disagreement). But I really like the longer podcasts, especially when Weisblott's on. Those are really good. But I like long analytical type content, so I know I'm rare.

Besides, if a podcast goes for two hours, can't the listener just stop the media player and resume later?
:)

November 27, 2016 @ 6:01 PM

Miker

Congrats on your first focus group. They're always a laugh, like watching the kids on the Simpsons demand that Itchy and Scratchy be both more realistic and more filled with time travel and aliens. Remember that 99.6 percent of participants would vomit in terror by minute five of hosting a dinner nevermind a broadcast. Keep up the great work.

November 27, 2016 @ 6:37 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Great comments here...

Rest assured, I'm only making a few minor changes. The structure will be the same, I'll just work on not interrupting the guest, which is probably a good thing. That and a few other sensible tweaks.

The best thing about getting so much feedback was learning what people didn't love about the podcast. The worst thing about getting so much feedback was learning what people didn't love about the podcast.

November 27, 2016 @ 7:17 PM

Brandon

Fantastic that you got so many responses. I continue to be amazed that "one guy pursuing his passion in podcast form in his basement" gets some top-tier Toronto and area media (and music!) guests! It's really an inspiration to think that if you're passionate about something and want to carve out a little niche for yourself that nobody else is doing, you can either sit around and wait for someone to do it or you can do it yourself and here we are 200+ episodes later. Wow.

Personally I love the "Ann Rohmer motif" that (inevitably) winds its way into shows. ;) Funny that you seemed to get called out on that. To me I take it a bit tongue-in-cheek. I also look at it as a little "signature" - a callback to prior episodes or people Tweeting their "Rohmer sightings".

It's all in good fun. There was a throwaway line in one episode of the "Mystery Show" podcast (which I just discovered, late, and it's pretty wonderful) about how like the movies "I become obsessed and start plastering posters and clippings all throughout my house while my family moves out". That is such a movie trope of a driven investigator, working until he solves the mystery against all odds and becomes a hero and he reconnects with his alienated family.

As far as I know, your family hasn't moved out over the Rohmer mystery yet and there's not a giant mindmap with yarn and pins connecting the facts and a timeline hanging in your living room, so all's good. :)

November 27, 2016 @ 8:07 PM

ig

As I'm sure Miker can attest to, ask a focus group made up of contest winners what they hate most about the station, and they'll say contests. As I'm sure you've heard, opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one, and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks. Do what you do. Though I do plan on stealing Andrew's line about never giving the microphone to the interviewee. I like that.

November 27, 2016 @ 11:22 PM

Doug K

Mike,

I completed the survey and provided some additional commentary that you requested. I need to point out, as the other commentators have, that anything that I had to say should not be construed as criticism. They were comments about how the show could be improved, from my stand point.

Overall, the show is excellent and I will be listening into the future whether you make any changes or not. I would also like to second the comment from Rob J that the opinions from folks who do not contribute should be weighted accordingly.

Most of all I am impressed with your technical know-how. Cheers.

Doug

November 27, 2016 @ 11:23 PM

Omar

Have to commend you on trying to make an already good podcast even better. Whatever you do change, I hope you do so incrementally. There is nothing really wrong with your podcast so any change should be a subtle one.

November 27, 2016 @ 11:24 PM

LieveFamke

I like #2. You are in great company - Marc Maron does it. He's mentioned that he gets the same feedback that you are getting - less updates, less Marc personal life and that some people skip over all that to get to the interview.
Actually, I'm the opposite, when it's a guest that I'm not interested in, I'll listen to Marc's intro and updates and then skip the rest of the WTF podcast.
Keep up the great work!

November 28, 2016 @ 8:14 AM

Cambo

That's the funny thing about surveys...people will tell you what they like, and what they don't. You put it out there! But as others have said, take the suggestions with a grain of salt. It's YOUR show- and the minor 'annoyances' are likely not enough to make anyone stop listening. I do agree that the number one thing is not cutting people off- unless they start rambling and you have to bring it back to focus.

Other than that, great work.

I know your focus is mostly Canadiana, but is there any chance of getting Buck Martinez on? He's likely not in town now, but maybe when the season starts again. I'll bet he has some fantastic stories.

November 28, 2016 @ 9:33 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Cambo

Buck's a key Toronto figure! I'd definitely have him on.

November 28, 2016 @ 9:37 AM

Daniel

Love the sports media talk, and the media talk in general. I feel my intelligence is insulted whenever a radio station or tv channel just removes their on air talent. I like to have a forum to discuss and hear about the changes with opinions. Your blog and podcast do that

November 28, 2016 @ 9:37 AM

Beatts

Mike you have a cute face.

Made for radio....

;)

November 28, 2016 @ 10:01 AM

Al The Royal Pain

I echo most comments here. You've built this podcast into something special doing it just the way you're doing it...why change to appease a small number of listeners who will probably continue to listen anyway?

Don't get that Jennifer Grey nose-job...it could be the one thing people found endearing about you...then you'll just be yet another bland, generic podcast. Keep improving your own interviewing skills, and keep trying to improve the show....just do it your way.

November 28, 2016 @ 10:44 AM

Beatts

Make the podcast pants optional.

November 28, 2016 @ 11:07 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

These comment are all killer, no filler.

If I'm reading @Al The Royal Pain correctly, I should do more Ann Rohmer talk! :)

November 28, 2016 @ 11:10 AM

Feetpowder

I echo Rob & Phil. It's always great to get feedback (air checked) but I give more weight to people that know what they are talking about. I bet you notice a big change in your style and delivery from your first few episodes to the present. We're always evolving and growing. For myself, I've been air-checked so many times by very respected program directors that I know when I'm doing a crap break. You are self-taught and you don't have the luxury of having a good PD that can develop your talent. Your shows are excellent. You get the great guests you get because you put out a professional product of high quality. Keep doing what your doing. It's your show.

November 28, 2016 @ 11:25 AM

Al The Royal Pain

@TO Mike I...um...sure...trust your instincts?

:P

November 28, 2016 @ 11:57 AM

Blind Dave

Mike,

Your show is fantastic, and as a day one'r I am delighted with how your on-air convo and interviewing skills have improved. The sound quality is first rate and you've solved many of the highs & lows that plagued early episodes.

I have noticed the odd poorly-timed interruption, but how often does this happen in "real" conversations? Probably quite a lot! And the best part of your podcast is that it is a "real" conversation.

All the rest comes down to subjective likes/dislikes. I like sports talk. I don't like gossip. I like background stories and stories of the road. I don't like (thoroughly dislike) rap, but your intro is really you & it's grown on me. It is, in fact, the only rap song I can listen to without punting my walkman across the room. It works for Toronto Mike'd. I like your warm-up and easing into the conversation. I like the previous guest reference, as with over 200 shows, it may be a pain for new listeners to delve into the archives.

And it goes on. All subjective.

I agree with those who say it is YOUR show, so please keep it that way. Take the suggestions to heart, but please just tweak to what makes YOU happy.

November 28, 2016 @ 7:50 PM

Jason from Sudbury

@Mike:
I think you have something special going on here, don't fuck with it. Toronto Mike'd has really come a long way. It's amazing that you're able to get all these guests to join you in a nice, relaxed setting, and it sounds like most of them enjoy it and have a good time. I also like the fact that most guest are open and honest, and share things that you wouldn't hear anywhere else.

A few things...
Interrupting: You've improved on that, but as Blind Dave pointed out above, it happens in conversation. Not a big deal.
Lenth Matters: Yeah, it does. Personally I hate the half hour episodes. They feel too rushed. Its like you're trying to cram an hour and a half's worth of content into a half hour. You can't do it.
Personally I don't mind the longer episodes. Hell sometimes it feels like you've bearly scratched the surface after 90 minutes. To me it sounds like people are just nit picking.
As I said above, you've got something special going on, don't fuck with it except maybe the little tweaks here and there. Keep up the good work.

November 29, 2016 @ 11:52 AM

Liz

While I haven't had the time to listen to all of your podcasts, I thoroughly enjoyed the ones I was able to check out.

Yes to having Andrew back on - he's one of my favourites. I particularly like when the conversation rolls organically, much like your pod with Sophia - she was exceptional. Of course I loved Episode 200 with H&F - they're especially candid with you.

Also, Desmond Cole would be quite the guest - really well spoken. I think you'd get some cool content there.

With all the feedback you've been receiving, sounds as though there is a lot of engagement and passion - for and against. Simply continue growing in the project and enjoying it. You've created quite a library of excellent conversations - well done, Mike!

November 29, 2016 @ 1:17 PM

Rob J

By the way, we all enjoy TM's dalliance with the massive amounts of cake eaten at Ann's various retirement soirees, but I like that he also refers to the countless 'Keg" gift cards she's undoubtedly received.

November 29, 2016 @ 3:09 PM

Brandon

@Rob J

I chuckle at that each time too - the two offhand examples of the gift cards being for, say, "The Keg" or "The Bay". Because those are the quintessentially, unflinching Canadian examples. Not only do I see them most plentifully on gift card racks in the stores but I consistently see them being given for employees moving to other opportunities. It's therefore entirely logical that Ann would've got some. (And x2!) :)

November 29, 2016 @ 7:11 PM

Rob J

When Ann retires for the third time, I hope her present-buying-fatigued coworkers just all chip-in for a nice balloon bouquet. Save their $ for the inevitable 4th retirement party.

November 29, 2016 @ 11:31 PM

dsven

Hey Mike, I'm not much of a poster, but a long-time listener of the podcast (and lurker of the site). While the desire to continually improve is commendable, I echo many of the comments here - it's your podcast which you are offering free of charge, you do what you want! Both my wife and I have enjoyed countless hours of your interviews - you occupy a unique niche in the podcast world and I truly appreciate all the efforts you've put in over the years. Thanks buddy!

December 1, 2016 @ 3:53 PM

Andrew

Thanks Liz!

I'll be back on anytime Mike would like to have a peon like me :)
cheers!
Andrew

December 1, 2016 @ 6:25 PM

Gary M

I am the biggest Ann Rohmer fan going. I genuinely think she is an exceptional anchor and interviewer.

And I hope your Ann Rohmer cake investigation never stops. I think it's hilarious and apt and interesting and good reporting too.

December 2, 2016 @ 1:40 AM

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