Here’s How Indie Podcasters Will Survive in 2020

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(By Richard Davies) Far too often data dominates our conversations. We’re frequently obsessed by analytics— what we can quantify and measure.

We think a lot about the size of things. This favors those who have lots of money, or are backed by big brands, networks and investors with deep pockets.

Our questions include: How many downloads do we have? What’s our marketing budget? Where do we find advertisers or investors? When is the best time of the day to release our podcast episodes? How long should they be?

We should think more about the soul of things.

What are our values? How do we deepen the connection with our audience? Where do we make a difference to the lives of our listeners? What are we doing to be kind and caring as we promote the work of others? How do we strengthen the ties that bind our community together?

If independent podcasts in 2020 are to prosper in today’s wave of bigness, we need to work harder at what brought us to the dance in the first place: Our love of audio and our passion to connect with others, wherever they live.

One small example: At “How Do We Fix It?”— the weekly solutions journalism podcast we produce— we’ve pivoted recently. Our growth goal for 2020 is much more about community than numbers. We are now working harder to collaborate with those who share our belief in constructive journalism, and bridging cultural, tribal and partisan division. We’re working to share their work and ours.

“2020 will undoubtedly be a big podcast year for movie stars, presidential candidates, and the like,” says Joni Deutsch, in her NiemanLab blog. “We can’t let this commercialized, hyper-celebrity noise drown out the diverse voices, perspectives, and stories that can and should call podcasting home.”

Unfortunately, too many professional “best of 2019” podcast lists produced by magazines, newspapers and online sites ignored the remarkable diversity of independent and emerging podcasts. There were jewels in the haystack, but many journalists were too lazy to find them.

Hopefully, this will change in 2020 with new opportunities for independent producers. For the first time, organizers of the Edward R. Murrow Awards and Pulitzer Prize Committee will include podcasts. “It means podcasting is seen as a storytelling format on par with the best of what television, radio, and print media have to offer,” says storyteller and podcast maker, Juleyka Lantigua-Williams.

Many podcast fans are deeply loyal to their favorite shows and also eager to learn about new ones. For instance, Podcast Brunch Club is a thriving global group of listeners who meet to discuss their discoveries at 70 chapters in 18 countries. Their enthusiasm and belief in podcasting is an inspiration for all of us.

Podcasting is still a young industry, ripe with possibility. Listening numbers around the world continue to rise. More people are discovering that long-form audio can enhance their understanding of the world. All of these trends provide fresh opportunities for new, young, diverse voices.

Richard Davies is a podcast consultant and narrator at daviescontent.com.