Are Podcasters Barking Up The Wrong Tree?


How much is your podcast worth? Not to an investor but to your listeners? You might get the chance to find out, and sooner than you think.

Operating within the advertising-supported web model, where we all hope to generate both cash and credibility, has become an exercise in futility. There is too much podcast content on the web and too little money chasing it. It’s not only podcasters who are in this situation, all content creators have to deal with this overabundance.

In the opinion of Benjamin Smith, expressed on, shaking the advertising money tree has tainted much of this content to the point where it doesn’t deserve advertising dollars:

Content in an ad supported world is mostly miserable. We live in an ugly clickbait world. Advertising models for content have created all of the wrong incentives. We’re subjected to an endless stream of terrible content begging us to click, and then click once more.

Our World Can Be Ugly, Too

In podcasting, this ugliness manifests itself as practitioners who care little about audio quality, production and their listeners’ time. They believe that adhering to the current I’m-so-far-laid-back-I-may-fall-over podcasting aesthetic will make their shows sound hip and attractive to listeners and sponsors. It’s as misguided a notion as the belief that readers will tolerate clickbait because it surrounds content that’s too good to resist.

Smith suggests it’s time to say good-bye to the advertising-supported model of the web. It’s time to rattle the limbs of the the subscription model tree as Netflix, HBO, Hulu and Amazon Prime are doing for video entertainment. The same dynamics that are pushing video toward a subscription model will do the same for all content. According to Smith, that will force a serious shake up in the quality of web content. “One of the major benefits of a subscription business model,” Smith writes, “is that it allows businesses to better plan and forecast. In a social media world, better planning simply means better content.”

I’ll Pay, I’ll Pay

Along with better content there’s recent research that indicates any past reluctance to pay for web content is fading, especially within the younger cohort, now designated Generation #hashtag. In a post on the Ad Age website, Laurent Colombani writes

With new platforms come renewed hopes for consumers who will pay, and here we find a solid basis for such hope. While advertiser-supported models remain prevalent, consumers are adopting the full spectrum of digital monetization models — including single purchases, subscriptions and micropayments.

Whether we want it or not, the subscription model is coming to the web and, inevitably, to podcasting. Switching over to it will be a test of faith. Let’s hope it doesn’t leave us up a tree.


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