Looking at the world of media: from music to RIA.

The Monetization of Podcasting

December 1st, 2005 Posted in Podcasts / Podcasting

One of the running themes in the world of podcasting is the Democratization of Broadcasting. By allowing anyone easy means to produce their own content, the public will then be able to choose what they want to listen to and therefore define the media format/content produced.

It’s a beautiful concept and I whole heartily support it. Honestly, this is one of the reasons we started podcasting and keeps us podcasting but this is not what I want to talk about right now. What I want to get into is the amazing amount of business interest we are starting to see in the podcasting community. Not only are there a lot of podcasters trying to find ways to make this their full time job, we are seeing a lot of outside interest in how companies can tap into this new media format.

Josh and I both headed down to the first North American Podcast Expo in Ontario, California a few weeks ago. The idea was to check out the expo, meet new podcasters and finally get to meet some friends face to face that we had made through podcasting over the last 9 months. What both Josh and I found interesting was that the Expo had a feeling of old media trying to break into new media.

The show floor was full of iPod accessory companies, a smattering of tech companies, my good friends Libsyn and a lot of ad companies offering quick cash for podcasters, or at least that is what we felt they were saying to us. The session list seemed to focus mainly on the business end of podcasting, how to make money at it, etc.

I am not really surprised or shocked by any of this, and really this makes sense for the first Expo, but because the Expo had such a commercial feel a lot of really amazing podcasters decided to pass on the whole thing. The podcasters that skipped out were not just a few minor players. These are well established podcasters and are some of the people that helped guide our show from the very beginning.

I am sorry that Tracks Up The Tree or Caribbean Free Radio couldn’t/wouldn’t make it but I totally understand. It’s expensive to travel and a lot of what got us into podcasting was lost at the Expo. This is a grassroots movement to a lot of podcasters, and this movement allowed the unheard voices to be heard and for people to showcase unknown music, thoughts and ideas to a larger base of people then ever before.

What we ended up seeing at the Expo was a lot of podcast “celebrities” doing photo shoots, interviews and schmoozing. I met a few people that were genuinely there to learn about podcasting and how they can get into it but over all there was this sense of “you too can make money” or a bunch of ass kissing to help cross promote shows and build a bigger following. This all ties back into some the community issues that I have (I will delve into this some other time) and how the podcast community at the moment is pretty insular. We, as a community, tend to only talk to podcasters and promote to podcasters. I also have this feeling that we just pass around the same listeners and we aren’t breaking out as fast as I think the community feels it is.

Unfortunately I don’t have hard proof of this yet, but my experience talking to people outside of the community is that there a lot of unknowns about what podcasting is and what it isn’t. What this means is that we have a movement trying to convert a very new and insular media format and monetize it to a profitable endeavor. I feel there are some potential entry points that have possible revenue streams (hosting, advertising, etc.) but one of the challenges is proving and then establishing this format a profitable market that will continue to grow.

Another challenge that we will face as podcasting matures and becomes a money making business is the attention of the media and the legitimization of the medium. This may not seem like a challenge but with money comes legalities. Many shows currently fly under the radar and are not licensed or licensing their media/content as more mature formats have to (think radio or even webcasting). As boards like the RIAA get involved, and trust me they will sooner then later, this is going to drastically change the landscape.

I am excited about the maturing of Podcasting, I am thrilled to see some of the new ideas coming out of it and I hope that my friends and colleagues get to a point where they can make money doing something they love. But with this growth, there will be many challenges both known and unknown that we will all have to face as we begin to monetize this media.

  1. One Response to “The Monetization of Podcasting”

  2. By Lunchmeat on Dec 1, 2005

    I think it needs to be mentioned that much of the reason that the medium of podcasting has cought on is because it is a cheap way for the traditional media to reach their core audience in a more convenient method.

    I think people forget that the greatest advantage of the podcast is its ability to be used as a timeshifted form of a radio show (or increasingly, video).

    Yes, because it is simple to create and easy to host the podcast can do a lot to democratize media, but people seem to flock towards the familiar schlock they get on TV and radio.

    I think this is due to a couple of things

    1. Podcasters tend to have a much lower production standard and general lack of format. A 30 minute rambling about nothing in particular with your life partner usually isn’t that interesting to listen to for the general public.

    2. Many indie podcasters are insular and tend to foster a kind of inbred marketing spiral that frankly bores the hell out of me. I can’t really stand scenesterism and microcelebrities.

    3. Indie podcasters don’t have the gravitas that brand names like NPR, BBC, or any other news network has, moreover they fight an uphill marketing battle as they usually have no money to market with.

    All this amounts to is that advertisers, who are old media and don’t know any better yet, will spend a bunch of money initially and anyone with a podcast will be able to rake in cash in the short term. Shortly though, folks will get wise and the market for advertising will price itself out to levels that relate directly to the audience that podcasters have.

    What will be interesting is how the podcasters will be forced to be accountable for their listenership. I think what we will find is an emerging standard for calculating ratings (Nielson,get your ass in gear) and that many ‘casts claiming to have far more listeners than they do will get a nasty surprise.

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