(By Ed Ryan) I don’t like to find myself at odds with the people I respect so much in the podcasting space. But, sometimes that happens. As a podcaster, every conference panel I attend, or any article I read, that starts with, or includes, any discussion about the number of podcasts in the Apple podcast library, makes me want to exit the room or click out of that article. Why? Because nobody cares.
As a podcaster, I just don’t care.
As someone who interviews podcasters — and writes about them — every day, I can tell you with 100% certainty, podcasters don’t care either.
Whether 300,000 podcasts are active, 500,000 are active, or 700,000 are active, podcasters just don’t care. Whether 14 podcasts launch this month, 400 launch this month, or 5,000 new podcasts launch this month, podcasters don’t care.
It’s baffling why so many people leading the industry are hung up on those numbers. The past few days, a fierce debate has sparked more debate, more articles, and more discussion. Look, even I’m doing it. And I know — nobody cares. Meanwhile the rank-and-file podcast community yawns and moves on. They have more important things to worry about. Apple is not their focus.
As a small-fry podcaster (I produce three shows per week now) I know we’ll never be on the Apple podcast charts. It’s not even a goal. Getting to our community with our message matters. The industry needs to spend more time focusing on that and less time on why Apple doesn’t clean out its collection of old audio clunkers.
When someone signs up to receive our Podcast Business Journal daily headlines, we ask them one question: What is your biggest challenge? “Can I create a successful show when Apple has 700,000 podcasts” has never come up as a challenge. Not even once.
These are actual responses from our subscribers:
“My biggest problem would be attracting major sponsors or at least the right sponsors.”
“I would LIKE to be a paid podcaster. I am an indie podcaster booking, hosting, editing, marketing my podcast and I love so much about it but I feel lonely and overwhelmed at the prospect of finding how I fit into the podcasting world at large.”
“Getting the word out about my podcast.”
“Our biggest challenge is understanding what kind of content our audience is looking for. We are specifically targeting college students but we are finding our current audience is mostly adults. Our topic is Leadership in all kinds of professions. How can we create a unique niche for ourselves with content that people are looking for?”
“One of my biggest challenges at the moment is truly understanding what shows my potential audience would pay to listen to via subscriptions which would make getting sponsors easier (never easy) and help me derive secondary income such as affiliate hosting.”
“Our #1 biggest challenge is raising awareness for our podcast.”
Small-fry podcasters that feel they have something entertaining to share want to know these things:
– How do I grow my audience?
– Can I make money doing a podcast?
The third show I recently launched, called Fit After Fifty, had 10 listeners the first week. Of course, I was depressed about that. When that happens you just have to move on. Keep plugging away. It takes time. I imagine many podcasters are — or were — in the same boat. Just ask Glenn Hebert how many listeners he had when he launched his first horse podcast (answer: a handful).
If you believe your show is entertaining or informational, continue plugging away. It’s like starting a brand new career. Do you expect to be a smashing success the first month you start a new career? Of course not.
If you don’t have the time or the energy to work at building up your audience and improving on your first few shows, you will fail. If you don’t ask your audience for feedback on how to improve, you will fail. If all you’re concerned about is making money out of the gate, you will certainly fail.
My advice, which is probably worth less than two cents: Put a plan together. Write it out. Read it every week. Tweak it when you need to.
Here’s what should be in your plan (not including the obvious: a good hosting service, microphones, a website, Patreon, etc):
– Will my show be weekly or monthly?
– Approximately how long will my show be?
– How much research will I put into my show every week?
– Who is my audience?
– How will I reach my audience?
– How can I grow my audience?
– Will my show be an interview show or just me?
– Do I care about making money?
– What would I consider to be a successful show?
Reach out to 10 successful podcasters and ask them for advice. One thing is for sure about this community, they are friendly and willing to help.
Give yourself one year of producing the show without agonizing over making money (this comes from experience).
Don’t get distracted by how many podcasts are stuck in the mucked-up Apple backlog. It’s totally irrelevant to what you’re doing.
After a year, decide if you consider your show a success. Decide if you want to quit your day job and go all out to make a living at it. Or, decide you are just fine having a pretty damn cool hobby.
Not every DJ on the radio will be the next Ryan Seacrest. Most will not.
Not every kid playing high school baseball makes it to the majors and becomes Derek Jeter.
Not every podcaster will be a success and appear on the Apple chart.
And, not every podcast should!
Ed Ryan is the Editorial Director of the Podcast Business Journal. He hosts three podcasts: Podcasting For Radio Dummies, Beach Talk Radio, and Fit After Fifty — The Road To The World’s Toughest Mudder. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com