Why universities should be podcasting, with Neil Morrison – host of the University of Liverpool podcast

It shouldn’t surprise you to know that I’m a fan of podcasting – I certainly wouldn’t put myself in the position of hosting one if I didn’t enjoy it!

Aside from being a firm believer in the platform, I’m also a firm believer that Universities are not making enough of the medium. Institutions have so many amazing stories to tell and wonderful research to talk about, while plenty of people out there in the world would love to hear from them – it’s an obvious match.

One of the few Universities who are doing something cool in the podcast space is the University of Liverpool, whose show digs into different areas of research from across their campus and puts out something fascinating and engaging every couple of weeks. In my eyes – and, to my ears – it’s the perfect way for a University to approach podcasting.

With that in mind, I was really pleased to catch up with Neil Morrison, the host of the University of Liverpool Podcast, who is my guest for this episode.

We talk about deciding which of the many stories available he should tell each episode, Neil shares some tips to ease any worries you might have about interviewing someone for your own podcast and he explains how he hosts Liverpool’s show from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I also force Neil to pick some of his favourite episodes of his own show and we both wonder why more Universities aren’t making the most of podcasting.

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Show notes

Neil is the founder of Podcraft Productions and host of the University of Liverpool Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter.

Audio content has the capacity to create a relationship of trust, to develop an intimate relationship with an audience that no other medium can match

Neil often tells people that, while audio isn’t likely to go viral, it does allow you to build a deeper level of trust with your audience – audio favours authenticity. Take how when someone ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ – on TV that wouldn’t be good but in audio it adds to it.

The fact that Neil is based on the other side of the Atlantic doesn’t prevent him from hosting the University of Liverpool’s podcast. The show is sponsored by the University’s Online programme, and the person in charge there knows Neil and is a big believer in content marketing, so he gave Neil a call about doing the podcast – initially to consult and eventually into Neil running the show.

The goal of the University of Liverpool Podcast is around thought leadership and better communicating their research. Their key audience is the general public, but the sort of general public who is interested in hearing about new research and new ideas.

I tell the academics I work with to think of the audience member who is a smart person, who is engaged but has no familiarity with your particular field.

The academics at Liverpool are really on board and very keen to communicate – they don’t mind being asked to communicate things in a more basic way if needed.

Producing a podcast for a University, Neil is somewhat spoiled for choice on topics – and he doesn’t think any University would struggle to find stuff to talk about.

Universities are content machines

The team at Liverpool look for variety, a story, research that is new and good for audio – some research just doesn’t work well for audio.

Before recording an episode, Neil will conduct a pre-interview chat with his guests to understand the topic more and try to find a narrative line that will work for audio. After that chat, Neil will often do some further reading.

I used to be guilty of doing too much research for interviews, so I’ve tried to bring it back to doing the right amount of research to allow me to ask a question that is meaningful.

In terms of practicalities of recording episodes from either side of an ocean, Neil and his guests will connect using Zoom – a product similar to Skype – and everyone records their individual parts locally. The files are then sent back to Neil who syncs them together – distance doesn’t matter, you can still sound like you’re in the same room as someone.

When it comes to tips for conducting a podcast interview, Neil is a big believer in the pre-interview, which can help put your guest at ease and help you find that nugget of something that will really make the episode. Neil’s other interview tips involve looking for ways to capture emotion and scenes.

People often forget that radio can be a very visual medium

In general, Neil is a believer in structured conversations – there are very few unstructured conversations that are actually interesting enough to warrant being a podcast. Neil often has a list of a few opening questions, and will then see where those answers take them.

Neil sees podcasting as a huge opportunity for Universities, that isn’t being fully exploited. The research being pumped out can easily be transferred into this format. Most institutions have some people who could speak on a variety of topical issues.

Universities are not fully aware of the goldmine they’re sitting on

Neil also sees podcasting as having the potential to be a growth area for younger audiences – in fact, it’s one of the fastest-growing demographics. He puts this down to a couple of things – mainly because audio is a mobile medium. Something is definitely happening with audio right now.

Neil’s favourite episode of the University of Liverpool podcast so far is Episode 20, which was about the History of Slimming. The episode about mental illness also got a big response.

In terms of other podcasts that Neil enjoys, he recommends No Such Thing as a Fish, Trumpcast by Slate magazine and Two Dope Queens, for a break from facts and arguments!

Neil’s top three tips for making a fantastic podcast

1. Get the right microphone – for most people, a dynamic microphone is the way to go.

2. Use that microphone correctly – keep it close to your face and you get a nice, intimate sound.

3. Create a structured conversation


5 apps on your phone you use the most

Email, messenger, Twitter, Castbox and Feedly

4 celebs you’d love to invite round for dinner

Jennifer Lawrence, Julius Caesar, Mary Beard and Ricky Gervais

3 words to describe what it’s like hosting the University of Liverpool podcast

Fun, interesting and humbling

2 places in the world or big events you’ve never visited but would love to

Argentina and Japan

1 social media channel you love more than the others

Twitter – it’s a love/hate relationship…I love what Twitter could be!

Find out more

Neil is the founder of Podcraft Productions and host of the University of Liverpool Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter.

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The Native Podcast is hosted and produced by Dave Musson, our editor-in-chief.

Our music is by Broke For Free and is used under Creative Commons.

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