When I go to a new restaurant, I almost always ask my server for their recommendation rather than picking something that reads good from the menu. I figure I’d much rather take a recommendation from the person serving the food instead of taking my chances on the copywriting skills of whoever assembled the menu text.
Almost invariably, I get one of three answers:
“Oh, you know... everything is good!”, which is the same thing as a non-answer. I assume the people preparing the food in the back aren’t intentionally making bad food, so that’s not helping me narrow down my choices.
“Oh, see… I don't eat [X]”, where the subject might be meat, carbs, green things, or other various food avoidance peculiarities, either medically necessary, cultural-observing, or ethnically-minded. I respect your choices (or necessities), but I didn’t ask what you don’t eat.
“The salmon, definitely”, where salmon might be substituted with ribs, a club sandwich, or the mushroom risotto, depending on what is truly worthy of the recommendation.
The last is the only answer anyone wants. Yet it’s the one we rarely get. And yes, this is the part where you start wondering—again—what any of this has to do with podcasting.
Biggest ≠ Best
I don’t have to tell you how important it is for your podcast to be distributed everywhere people may choose to listen to podcasts. With very few exceptions, adding one more destination point for your podcast is a one-time action that is a simple form-submit away.
Yes, I think it’s important that your podcast be listed on Spotify even though you have strong feelings about how Spotify is trampling on podcasting as we know it.
Yes, I think it’s important you find a way to get your podcast on YouTube because that’s the most-cited place for podcast listening. And your podcast hosting stats will never show it.
And yes to Amazon, iHeart, and every other directory or app. If it’s a serious distribution point for podcasts, your show needs to be there.
But just because your show is there, you don’t have to listen there. And you certainly don’t have to remind people that your show is there.
Just like a good server at a restaurant, you should have an opinion on which apps someone should use to have a great experience with your show. Yes, they can listen anywhere on anything. But which one do you think is best?
Regime Change Begins At Home
The big podcasting apps don’t have your best interests in mind. To speak plainly, I don’t think they are putting podcasting’s best interests ahead of their own.
There’s plenty of evidence to back up that strangely contentious claim. Apple Podcasts continues to be a trainwreck as they stumble forward with an emphasis on paid subscriptions, even though the scuttlebutt is about increased workload and questionable results. Spotify continues to go down the exclusivity route, locking up podcasting as much as they can. Even new-ish entrant Amazon seems to be less interested in advancing podcasting and more interested in taking their slice of the ad revenue pie.
None of those actions say “we have podcasting’s best interest in mind”, do they?
Yet many podcasters continue to pay fealty to these and other big players. On the surface, that seems to make sense, and we pat ourselves on the back for emulating the experience most of our listeners have.
But that’s wrong for a lot of reasons. Part of it has to do with momentum—change is hard—and some stems from misleading data that isn’t critically reported as such by our podcast hosting companies. And it’s wrong because the actual listening experience on those apps is getting demonstrably worse, not better.
So let’s return to our hypothetically helpful restaurant server who doesn’t waver when we ask for their recommendation. That’s the position you need to be in. You’re going to have to leave your comfort zone and put yourself in a listener’s shoes for a bit. Specifically by trying out some new podcast apps.
Your Assignment: Taste Testing
You need to find an app you can proudly recommend. Maybe you already have one. If you’ve made that selection recently, then good for you. But if not, then it’s time you looked around again.
It took me a long time to move away from Apple Podcasts. I still have the app, and I still follow all of my clients’ podcasts in the app. Because yes, it is important for me to understand that listener experience, degrading as it is. But it doesn’t mean I’m personally stuck with it. Neither are you.
You and I, working podcasters, need to be bold in our recommendations. We can afford to be bold because, as mentioned earlier, we’re smart enough to make sure our podcast episodes are distributed everywhere. That’s our safety net. It means there’s no risk for us to try out something different.
So that’s your homework: try out a few new—at least new to you—listening apps. I’m going to focus my time on the apps listed at NewPodcastApps.com. That's where all of the new, fresh, and wild thinking about podcasting—particularly making podcasting better for listeners and creators—is taking place.
One caveat as you begin your search, and I’m saying this as much for my benefit as yours: keep an open mind, and don’t measure these new apps by their ability to replicate the exact same experience you have with your current app.
Instead, try to adjust your thinking to the way the app was designed. If you’re anything like me, you’ve developed a host of shortcuts and workarounds to get the app your using right now to perform the way you want it to. Try—and I know it’s hard—to put that aside for a bit and let the app does what it was designed to do. And if you hate it, move on to the next!
I’ve a list of “must-haves” for podcast listening apps that none of them are doing right now. No, not even the big ones. My old process of waiting for them to fix it and then griping when they don’t doesn’t seem to be working, so I’m changing tactics. I'm going to find an app that gets close to my lofty expectations, and then I’m going to see how open the developers are to implementing solid changes. There are lots of unknowns about this approach, but it’s a step I’m taking.
YMMV, and you may have less time to fill out support tickets and plead your case. Truth be told, I’m a terrible beta user, mostly because I’m impatient. But I recognize I have a big blind spot when it comes to podcast listening apps. Time for me to fix that. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to do so as well.
Because if we're serious about making podcasting better, then we need to have an informed opinion on what makes for a great listening experience. Listen to it wherever you want should be our fallback, not our opening offer. We can do better.
If you’re intrigued by this idea and you wish to return some of the value I just gave to you, then please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and buy me a virtual coffee. Or better yet use one of those newfangled Satoshi-powered listening apps which are all set up for value for value. And gimmie a boost!
Happy app hunting! I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.