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Todd Cochrane is CEO of Blubrry Podcasting — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability
This is an excerpt from an interview you can hear in full in the Podcast Business Journal Spotlight podcast. Todd is celebrating his 19th year of podcasting.
TC: It’s been a fun ride! October 9 2004, I pulled up a chair to a little desk in a hotel room in Waco, Texas, and with a $14.95 microphone from the Walmart across the street, I recorded a first episode. I introduced it with AC/DC Back in Black - and you can’t do that! I took down episode one and two: I was afraid I was going to get hit with a copyright violation. I caught the fever early.
SS: Fundamentally, has anything really changed or is it just the same?
TC: Fundamentally, it’s changed a lot. You really had to be a geek in those early days. The biggest challenge really in those early days was hosting. Before the first hosting platform came on the market, which was Libsyn, I was shuffling between nine or ten shared hosting accounts. I would move the show like every three days because I’d run out of 500 gigs of bandwidth. But things change pretty rapidly. Apple introduced podcasts in iTunes in 2005, and then we were off to the races really. So from that perspective, things haven’t changed that much.
SS: Now you’ve run Blubrry and multiple products. Is your podcast, Geek News Central, a lost leader making people aware of Blubrry, or is it fundamentally its own separate entity?
TC: They’re not designed to drive a funnel for Blubrry specifically. There’s very few podcast hosting owners, founders, or team members that actually do podcast. It’s really my philosophy. If I’m going to talk about podcast monetization, I’m going to talk about growing a show, or I talk about consistency, I’d better be actually doing it. You better be doing it. If you’re not doing a podcast, and you’re just talking hypothetically - be quiet. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
SS: What’s podcasting look like five years from now? What’s 19 years from now?
TC: Wow. I’ll give you 12.
SS: Okay, I’ll take that.
TC: AI will be part of every podcast hosting platform’s offering. If they don’t, they’re not going to be in business three years from now.
I’m not talking about an AI voice creating content. As we see a proliferation of AI content - written, videos, all this stuff - people are not going to know who to trust or what to trust. But creators that are doing original content - audio podcasts, video podcasts, YouTube channels where there is a voice that you can trust - people are going to flock to those voices and personalities. AI is going to help, it’s going to assist: but it won’t be the authority. I think AI is going to help the creative types with some of this stuff. But the playing field is going to be equal, because everyone’s going to be doing the same thing.
Second, monetization. If you build a big audience - about 10,000 plays or downloads - you can do very well on monetizing your podcast through some great host-read advertising, and you can get those advertising dollars on your own or through a partner. In my opinion, the problem is that partners have now started to employ a whole bunch of tech that is not beneficial to the content creator. Advertisers are risk averse to someone saying something they shouldn’t. You are now living in a world where you say one wrong word and boom, you’re automatically off the platform. You’ve had your ads pulled.
You can do well if you have an advertiser relationship that is built upon trust and providing value, and if you love the product you can endorse that and do very, very well. I listen to some shows which run an ad break every seven minutes - two or three ads, someone droning on about something they really don’t believe in. The long tail, the 40% of podcasts that want advertising - that inventory is empty, because media buyers have been lazy and not bought some of the most engaging and beautiful audiences that are out there. At this point, the automation, which is an attempt to build volume, is hurting content creators.
I think there’s a there’s a way forward with listener contributions. It’s about training the audience and providing value: to make them understand how to support a show. If 100% of my audience gave a dollar a month, I could hire four people! But even if 7% of your existing audience might contribute, I think there is a path forward. It just takes a mindset change. I think over time you can build that revenue. But you’ve got to put out great content.
SS: On behalf of the industry for the last 19 years, thank you for what you’ve done - and hopefully you’re here for another 19 years.
TC: Thank you!
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