When you sit down to figure out the structure of your podcast, one thing to consider is the inclusion of a “benchmark feature.” A benchmark feature is a regular feature within each episode that helps to give the audience a sense of familiarity. You may not realize it, but you probably already know numerous benchmark features in pop culture shows, including:
- “Carpool Karaoke” on The Late Late Show with James Cordon
- “Slow Jam the News” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
- “The Top Ten List” on Late Night with David Letterman
- “Your Moment of Zen” on The Daily Show
- The final “couch” scene in the opening credits of The Simpsons
- “Second Date Update” on Mojo in the Morning on Channel 955
Benchmark features help generate anticipation within a show by providing something for the audience to grab on to. Like television and radio shows, podcasts can benefit from benchmark features. When you set out to create your podcast, brainstorm a list of ideas for benchmark features. Start by looking at the shows that you watch or listen to and identifying any benchmarks that they have. Is there a way to adapt these benchmark features to fit your podcast?
For example, at the end of every episode of guest interview on The D Brief podcast, Becky Scarcello and I ask our guest for a series of “Rapid-fire Recommendations.” We ask our guests to tell us about some of their favorite things in Detroit, such as their favorite record store, brunch spot, or cocktail bar. This segment was inspired by the Bravo TV show Inside the Actors Studio. The show’s host, James Lipton, ends every interview by asking his guests the same ten questions. Of course, our benchmark feature isn’t exactly the same as Lipton’s; we don’t always ask ten questions, and our questions are different for different guests, but we took our inspiration from him.
Benchmark features don’t have to be complicated. For my Worldwide Radio Summit podcast — a series of interviews that I record at a radio broadcasting conference in Hollywood every Spring — my benchmark feature is very simple: The last question I ask every guest is, “Make a prediction: What do you think we will be talking about at this summit in five years?”
Benchmark features can later be repurposed. For example, when Becky and I go on vacation, we edit together several “Rapid-fire Recommendations” segments to use in place of our normal episode. Similarly, Saturday Night Live has periodically created special episodes by compiling its commercial parodies. Instances of a benchmark features can also be strung together to make promotional pieces, such as an audio montages, videos, or even blogposts.
What’s your podcast’s benchmark feature going to be?