(By Dave Jackson) Many companies keep announcing that they intend to be the “Netflix of Podcasting.” Other media people have speculated, “Is Spotify trying to be the Netflix of Podcasting?” Luminary came out and said, “We want to be the Netflix of podcasting.”
The latest to use this phrase is Podmio.com. They state on their front page: “With Podimo you’ll have access to thousands of the best podcasts, as well as completely new, unique shows that can’t be found anywhere else.”
To this, I answer, “I already have access to thousands of podcasts.” As I write this now I see I have 124 episodes waiting for me in my Overcast app ( I LOVE the time-shifting aspect of podcasting). Podmio needs to understand that being “unique” doesn’t mean you are “good.” Case in point: chocolate-covered fish sticks are “unique.”
To help make my point I want to take you on a history lesson of people consuming video media that applies to people consuming audio content today. We are going to start with Blockbuster video.
Blockbuster video solved a problem at the time. If you wanted to watch the latest movie to come out on DVD/VHS you went to Blockbuster — it was hard to find a video store with the hottest movies in stock. Blockbuster purchased a TON of the hottest movies when they were released, and you never had to worry if a copy would be available. Later they would sell you the used DVDs at a discount.
Blockbuster solved a problem. They were the video store that had all the latest releases, and it was cheaper than going to the movies.
However, there was one problem with the process.
In 1997, we were all going to Blockbuster video to pick a movie. We’d watch it at home and afterwards, sometimes, we’d forget about it. We’d take it back and there would be a late fee. At times the late fees were getting larger and larger. If the rental fee was $2.99, for example, a customer who returned a tape five days late would be charged a penalty of $14.95. I remember there was a box you could drop off, but there was a deadline and you would have to rush to beat the deadline. If you were late, you were going to be charged. There was no Blockbuster court of appeals. After all, where else are you going to go? The little Mom and Pop video show with two copies of all the good movies?
Enter Netflix in its original incarnation.
For a single monthly fee, I didn’t have to wait in line. I could make a list of movies I wanted to see, and they would ship me the DVD in the mail. When the movie showed up, I could take my sweet time returning it. When I was done, I mail it back and they send me another one off my list. The more movies I watch, the better the value. The more movies I talk about, the better the chance I will mention Netflix.
It’s worth repeating. Netflix solved a problem.
When I first heard about Luminary, I thought they were going to solve the “Discovery Problem” (which should be renamed “Discovering my Podcast Problem) by only having 40 shows in their app. The idea was going to be that ALL the shows were going to be great. While I didn’t think it would work, it came close to solving the issue of “so many podcasts to choose from.”
I had a mental picture of starting the Luminary app with a few categories, a front-page with the latest episodes, and none of the noise that you get with the “feeding me with a firehose” directories with around 200,000 active shows. It’s easier to make 40 shows look organized than hundreds of thousands. It was an interesting idea.
Was Luminary solving a problem? Everyone had a “screw you, Blockbuster!” story about late fees that they told their friends. When I went to events, and someone told me the title of their show, I often could find it in Overcast (my app of choice ) in a few seconds. With this in mind, I ask, is Luminary really solving a “Discovery Problem”?
If I go to Google and type in “(insert topic) podcast” I get quite a few to choose from. With this in mind, I again say, discovery problem??
I often say discovering a good podcast is a problem. Luminary had a shot at lessening that issue.
When I look at their website, I’m not really interested in History On Fire (and, my god, I wish I was making that up — quit putting On Fire at the end of your podcast!) I’ve heard of Russell Brand, Trevor Noah, Hannibal Buris, and I LOVED A Very Fatal Murder, but not enough to pay $8/month (plus taxes) to hear them. There are just too many similar podcasts that I can listen to for free. If I want to hear Trevor Noah, I can watch The Daily Show. If I want to listen to Russell Brand I can go to Netlfix or YouTube. You get the point.
If you are starting a business (of any type) you have to enhance the lives of your customer in one way or another. You are going to save them time or money. Right now, these companies who claim to be the “Netflix of Podcasting” are only benefiting the podcasters who are taking the big VC-backed check to go behind the curtain (and pray their audience will forgive them when this model fails) and not really helping the consumer.
Dave Jackson is a Hall of Fame podcaster and consultant. He started the School of Podcasting in 2005 and potentially has helped more podcasters with their podcast than any other human on the planet. Find him at www.schoolofpodcasting.com.