All you have to do to be successful at podcasting is a) make great content, b) attract a big audience, and then c) rake in the dough. Yeah. If it were that easy, we’d all do it. Here’s why we don’t.
A lot of all the money flowing into podcasting — apps, hosting providers, content networks — are betting on that model. Great content leads to a large audience, and that audience, in turn, can be leveraged to do things that generate income.
That’s true for any media-focused business. The same “road to riches” holds true for authors, movie studios, musical acts, artists, and more. Make great content. Attract a big audience. Profits will follow. That is a completely valid assumption and description of successful media properties.
The problem? That’s not a business plan. That’s the best possible outcome or successful end-game. But it’s not a plan. Those are good headlines for the steps required, but they lack detail in how to do it across all three stages. Let’s break down the challenges within each.
Make great content.
Okay, no problem there. Because it’s easy to make great content, right? Well… If it’s so easy to make great content, why isn’t there more of it?
As it turns out, it’s easy to make content, We have plenty of content. But there isn’t a lot of really good and compelling content. At least not compared to the mediocre, amateurish, and objectively bad content that floods podcasting (and every other low-barrier-to-make- medium).
Why does Sturgeon’s law hold true? Because most people aren’t trying to make great content. In any medium! Sure, many creators have the idea of making great content in their heads, but they quickly find (especially in the podcasting world) that making good content is a tall order.
To make great podcast content, it takes more than intent or wishful thinking. It takes more time. It takes more money. It takes more planning. It takes more people. It takes more of an understanding of what people want out of a podcast. It just takes more than most creators are willing/able to give to the process.
It’s not easy to make great content. Of all of the steps I’m going to mention in this article, making great content is the most difficult to achieve. Which sort of sets up everything after for a big fail when you don’t start with great content.
But if you want to make great content and are able to invest the time, energy, money, planning, and everything else that goes into making truly great content, you have to have a plan and the abilities to execute against your ideas.
And I promise you: It’s more challenging than you think.
Attract a big audience.
If you really are able to consistently make great content, then this part is easier to do, relatively speaking. But it’s not a guarantee that great content leads to a big audience. More often than not, that’s not the case.
Great content, for all its powers, is not magnetic. To put it in common (but now aging) parlance; if you build it, they will not come.
Remember that podcasting is, by design, non-centralized. Yes, a significant number of people do use the Apple Podcast ecosystem to listen to (and discover) content. But that doesn’t mean your great content is going to be discovered by everyone when your podcast goes live on Apple Podcasts.
Just like every other industry that relies on their published media to make money, it takes a certain amount of marketing, promotion, advertising, and other efforts to raise the awareness of the great content. Audiences won’t come flocking to your content. Not typically, at least.
Just like with making great content, solving the “build a big audience for my podcast” problem takes money and resources. Money and resources that many are unwilling to invest. Which should signal opportunity. If you’re flush with money and resources, that is.
To play out this scenario, let’s assume you’ve made great content and you’ve acquired a big audience. Now: you profit. Simple. Done. Right?
Good news first. More ad dollars are flowing into podcasting than ever before, and a big chunk of that money is coming from ads and sponsors to the program who want to “rent” that audience. Also, many podcasters are finding ways to directly monetize their big audiences, Selling merchandise much of bands have been doing for some time. Many are making money with premium content using new services like Glow. And services like Luminary are paying for content outright.
So yes, it’s very possible to profit from your podcast if you’ve got a really big audience and really good content.
But for how long?
Specifically, I’m a little concerned that the advertising window might be closing. Or at least narrowing. I have heard rumblings from some shows that have previously been successful at selling ad spots that they’re having trouble selling all of their ad slots. I haven’t studied the problem enough to create a full episode on the prospect of narrowing ad sales, but I’m concerned. I’ve been in the media-based business world long enough to know that an event like this is bound to happen. Advertiser fatigue is a very real thing that happens after the honeymoon with a new (or newly resurgent) medium is over. Once one big advertiser starts looking closely at the numbers, wondering if the correlation between podcast ads and revenue is causal, things get sketchy. Because maybe all is not what it seems. Again, it’s too early for me to say this is happening right now. But it will happen.
Remember, the headlines above are NOT a business plan. It’s not easy to make great content. It’s not easy to attract a big audience. And it’s not easy to monetize that audience. Even though it may look that way from the outside.
Not that I’m discouraging you from doing all of those steps with your podcast. I just want you to be realistic when you step foot into the podcasting game with the expectations of profits flowing out the other the end. That takes a business model. Do you have one?
If you would like to have a conversation about a podcasting business model that works for you or for your business, or just how to approach podcasting on a more realistic level; get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can go to PodcastLaunch.pro to see a list of the services we currently offer our clients.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 184th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.