At the core, every ongoing podcast shares one common theme: the ability to continue on successfully. The tricky part is understanding where that success comes from and how to exploit it to bring in more.
If Podcast Movement Evolutions 2020 had a theme, it was this: commercial viability is podcasting’s new brass ring.
The definition of viability is simple: the ability to work successfully. It’s that last word — success — that’s key. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s a word we’re more than a little afraid of in podcasting.
But on the stages and in the hallways of Podcast Movement Evolutions 2020 held in Los Angeles last week, viability was on display. And it only took 16 years.
With viability — commercial viability, to be specific — as the main talking point, it’s a little nerve-wracking for a lot of the legacy podcasters. Funny thing, though: podcasting must be viable, else it wouldn’t have survived this long. If the podcast you are doing right now has been going for the last 8 or 12 years, then by definition it’s viable or you wouldn’t keep doing it.
But commercial viability is different.
Commercial viability means that the podcast has to pay for itself. It’s a business term because, for many, podcasting is a real and commercially viable business.
Is your podcast commercially viable?
Dan Misener from Pacific Content really drove the point home for me when he shared a stage with Red Hat to talk about the show Command Line Heroes. He began his presentation with a question many (most?) podcasters have: How do I grow an audience for my podcast?
Seeing it written out like that, it’s easy to see the subject/object confusion. The correct way to phrase that question, Dan points out, is: How do I grow a podcast for my audience?
That change in thinking is at the core of what commercial viability in podcasting means. It starts with having an understanding of an audience and then building something that that audience wants.
But what if you don’t have an audience? What if you just have an idea for what you think might be a really great show?
From that starting point, there are two paths you can go down. The one that most legacy podcasters would suggest for you is to take your idea for a podcast, grab the closest microphone, sign up with a podcast hosting company, and start your show. And while I can’t fault them for that advice (advice I’ve given many times over the years), it’s leaving a lot to chance. No, it’s leaving everything to chance.
Path number two puts viability first and suggests that you take your idea to the audience before you start the podcast. Once you’ve identified the audience, shop your idea around with that audience. Ask them questions. Do interviews to make sure your idea can be crafted into a podcast that the audience truly wants and is something worthy of adding to their busy lives.
And if so, go build that podcast!
But what if you’ve already got a podcast and it’s not yet commercially viable? How do you make your current podcast commercially viable?
I suggest to you that you’re asking the wrong question. That’s the same as asking how to build an audience for your podcast. Maybe, for you, the first question you should answer is this: Do you want a commercially viable podcast?
Not all podcasts have to be commercially viable. Your podcast can be made viable by you because it gives you what you need, so you’re happy to keep funding it. Perhaps it’s viable to a small number of people happily donate enough money to cover your hosting bills and give you enough dopamine to continue spending time on it. Maybe you get enough invitations to speak on stage or enough interest from potential clients that it’s viable in other ways. So no, you don’t have to have a commercially viable podcast.
But you must have a viable podcast. Or you won’t be podcasting for long.
I’ve more thoughts spurred from talks given and conversations had at Podcast Movement Evolutions 2020, so watch this space over the next few days.
In the meantime, go to RateThisPodcast.com/podpont and leave a rating for the show. And one way to make sure that I bring you more ideas to help with your shows’ commercial viability is to visit BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra. Finally, if you have questions about your business podcast and its own commercial viability, get in touch. I’m sure I can help. Reach me at email@example.com or go to SimplerMedia.pro to see a list of how we help businesses all around the world.
More thoughts coming tomorrow on yet another Podcast Pontifications.
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This article started life as a podcast episode. The 262nd 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.