Conversation vs. Interview: Create Your Own Rules

Sometimes your creative voice clashes with others’ expectations of what’s always been done, and what they think you’re “supposed” to do.

This has happened a few times with this podcast. Ninety-nine percent of the messages and reviews we get about the guests, topics and format are overwhelmingly positive. Every once in a while, though, we get hit with a “take down” comment, a really aggressive attack on either a guest, topic or the conversational format of the show.

I understand the rebuttal against certain guests and topics. Sometimes we offer provocative guests, people who’ve made choices others don’t agree with and we talk about topics and ideas that make some people uncomfortable. I get that, not every person or idea or choice is right for everyone.

But, the occasional take-down over the conversational format of the show (“I don’t want to hear the host, I only care about the interviewee’s point of view), I always find fascinating. Because it reflects a point of tension over a creative choice that we’ve made in producing our media and the evolution of the media itself.

What is that decision? Choosing conversation over interview as the format when we host guests on the show. There is a subtle, yet powerful difference in these formats. Until the emergence of “new media,” nearly everything that hit the air was interview-driven. This was a standard that emerged from journalism, where the focus was on “eliciting information” in an attempt to break and tell another person’s story. For those long-time media consumers who are locked into a traditional, more journalistic TV and radio “interview” paradigm, our choice of a more conversational format can bump up against long-held expectations of what media “has” to be.

The media game is changing, though, and the freedom of podcasting and online video has pretty much thrown traditional constraints out the window. The decision to roll with different formats—long-form vs. short-form, conversation vs. interview, broadcast production values vs. street-level production values— makes a huge difference in both how much you enjoy listening and we enjoying creating. New media creators are constantly pushing the envelope with formats and, at the same time, inviting longtime media consumers to let down the shield and become open to the possibility of everything from three-minute videos to three-hour conversations. Jerry Seinfeld’s fantastic, conversation-driven, 15-20 minute  “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” episodes are a wonderful example of breaking nearly every rule, and making a lot of people happy.

For Good Life Project, we’ve chosen conversation over interview. It was a very intentional choice. In today’s Good Life Project Riff, we share the deeper drivers behind that creative choice, exploring the idea of “product-maker fit” and why you might want to apply the same logic in your creative endeavors.

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