The Office, The Simpsons, even Star Trek have made clip shows. US TV networks like them because they can complete a season at a huge discount, since there’s much less to write and shoot. But while networks like them, they’re not all that helpful to new viewers. That’s where we have the advantage.
This is your best-of album
ABBA, Bob Marley, Madonna, Queen. These artists all have best-selling albums, and each one of those albums is a best-of compilation. Queen even has two. The only reason the Beatles aren’t there is because they don’t have a best-of.
Compilations are a great way to introduce new listeners to your work. Some might only enjoy the hits, but you’ll be sure to find a few who’ll want to hear your deep cuts.
If you’re in podcasting for the long haul, now might be the time to think about your best-of album.
Putting your hits to work
Make a habit of clipping out highlights of your episodes, for use in a future compilation. If you’re part of a monetised network, a weekly release might be part of your agreement, so a compilation of best bits can be a good way to stay in people’s feeds.
I’ve made a couple of clip shows for my *Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy* podcast using outtakes. But if you have a long-running show, your back-catalogue might be intimidating to some. Providing a place to start could be a valuable, generous act.
Creating an on-ramp for new listeners
Some podcasts rely on a bit of insider knowledge. Comedy podcasts especially often lean on jokes that come with a bit of history. Imagine how handy it would be to have an episode of your comedy show where you explain your sign-off.
Wondering why we always close out by saying “don’t drop that pineapple!”? Find out in this special episode!
Do you have a narrative podcast where different contributors bring their own stories? Use a clip show to introduce each person’s unique style. Running a single-person narrative podcast? Use a clip show to review your favourite stories of the year.
How, when, and where to deploy the clip show
As I’ve mentioned, keeping a folder of highlights provides a great starting point. If you use Descript to edit, you can highlight text, or copy it to a new composition. Then all you have to do is trawl your folder, or go through each Descript project, looking for bits you can use.
Most compilations work better with a bit of narrative or commentary, to give context to each clip. The Office ran a clip show where an investment banker met with the HR rep to discuss risk. This gave the show license to run clips of antics from the last few seasons.
A common trope in TV sitcoms is the “stuck in the elevator” episode, as it gives the characters the chance to remember “hilarious” things that happened. Cue the clips!
You don’t need to weave a story around each clip, but it’s useful to have a connecting thread. If you speak with thought leaders, you might sum up your learnings from each episode, then play a highlight. If you review films, rank the films you discussed in order, and play clips from your best five. Just make sure to explain what you’re doing in your intro.
I wouldn’t recommend a clip show unless you have at least 10 episodes. A season wrap-up is a good option, but you need to make sure you have enough content to justify it. Not every episode can be a hit, so only pick from the very best.
Remember to add a link in your show notes to each episode you discuss. That will help your listener navigate your show more easily. (Whenever linking to episodes in your back-catalogue, always link to your website.)
Clip shows don’t have to be part of the feed
While you can put a clip show out on your feed, you don’t have to. Most media hosts let you upload full episodes and leave them unpublished. These episodes can often be playable to those with a secret link. You can create a page on your website, marked with a “Start here” button, that displays that episode’s audio player. Or if that doesn’t work, turn it into a video and upload it to YouTube. That might work even better to introduce your show to new listeners.
“Sorry for the clip show”
In season 13, The Simpsons ran a clip show which ended with a parody of We Didn’t Start the Fire. The song closed with “Sorry for the clip show. Have no fears, we’ve got stories for years”. This counters the assumption that clip shows exist because writers are running out of ideas. That’s not really why they’re made, as we’ve established.
Regardless, you might feel like a clip show is something to apologise for. Or you feel you need one because you can’t get a “real” episode out. That can happen if your record and release dates are too close together, and you run out of buffer. But even if it’s something you’ve had to put together at the last minute, treat it like the gift it is. Not necessarily to you or your current listeners – although they might appreciate a look back – but to new listeners.
This is a celebration of your work so far. Be proud of it. Communicate well to your audience and set the context, and your clip show could end up being your best-selling best-of compilation.
Let’s hear your best bits
If you’ve got a best-of show, tag @OriginPodcasts on Twitter. If you don’t have one, and you have a good few months of content under your belt, maybe now’s a good time to start.