Big tech doesn't care about your podcasting goals or your podcasting objectives. No, seriously. They do not.
Big Tech, for the most part. doesn't really care about podcasting. At least not the way that you and I care about podcasting. And yes, I'm lumping all big tech into this blanket statement. Yes, even the ones who have a vested interest or a leadership position in podcasting.
Big Tech does not care about podcasting the way we care about podcasting.
Remember just a few weeks ago when we were eagerly analyzing the hidden Twitter code, someone found that seemed to indicate Twitter had big podcasting plans? We were all breathless with speculation about what that might mean. Perhaps a combination of Twitter Spaces and podcasting? Maybe would we be able to finally upload an MP3 file to the platform? Or the possibility that people could subscribe to podcasts with their Twitter account?
Today, it's a pretty safe bet that those plans are all out the window as Twitter reshuffles to a new set of priorities now that there's a new sheriff in town. And it's unlikely that "integrate podcasting" is high on Elon's list of ways to earn back $44 billion.
And remember a few months ago when Facebook let us link our podcasts' RSS feeds to our Facebook page? Pundits like myself had all sorts of suggestions, ranging from how important it was you do this right away as well as pondering all the benefits of podcasting being nearly native to a platform with reach we podcasters could only dream about.
That fizzled out, didn't it? Any attention Facebook had on podcasting is all over, as it's now "Metaverse or bust". Any audio-first initiative goes in the opposite direction of the immersive 3D world that Zuckerberg is betting his entire fortune—and your dog photos—on.
And remember how disappointed we were by YouTube's nothing burger event at Podcast Movement Evolutions last month, only then to be reenergized a few days later by a leaked slide deck that was detailing YouTube's plans for utter podcast domination? A deck we all read at the same time we conveniently forgot about all other instances Google disappointed podcasting over the last two decades?
Maybe we won't be disappointed by Google when (if) they actually roll out this YouTube podcasting capability. But I'm not betting on it. Past performance remains the best predictor of future behavior.
And it's the same for podcast-specific Big Tech too. Apple and Spotify both have monetization opportunities for podcasters through paid subscriptions. I'm sure some podcasts are making really good money from those programs. But are most? And more specific to you; how's that working out for your show? Are you using either platform to run a paid subscription service for you? And if you are, do you rely on that income? Do you trust it'll still be there next year?
And then there are the spaces adjacent to podcasting. Audio-specific technologies like smart speakers and social or drop-in audio. Yes, there are a few podcasters still plugging away on those services. But the attrition and declining user rates on those services is appalling. Spotify is shifting their attention on the service and I expect Twitter to fully do the same. And I don't see how standalone apps like Clubhouse, Wisdom, or Fireside can exist for all that much longer. Fun while it lasted, I guess?
All of this reinforces my notion that Big Tech does not care about podcasting. At least not the way that you and I care about podcasting.
So what do we do about it? Start by recognizing and accepting those facts and start doing things to put you in the driver's seat, not Big Tech. Here are two things you can do right now to get started:
1. Go Beyond Apps & Directories
It's not enough that you submit your podcast to all of the various podcasting apps and directories and that people can find you there. Yes, you want your show listed on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, Amazon Pandora, and all the rest. But it's not enough to let those be the holder of your podcast.
Here's a litmus test for you to see if you need to do more work in this area: Google the name of your podcast. If Google lists out links to one (or more) of those platforms higher than a link you completely control—e.g. your website—then Big Tech is beating you. And you're letting them win.
Fix this by building a web presence of your own that outranks every other listing. You and a property you have 100% control over should be the top listing for searches on your show's name. Not someone else's listing if your show on their platform.
If your show is part of a network and the network owns your show's website... that's going to be a problem for you. But make it a problem for them! Change that if you can. And if you can't, renegotiate your deal so that you can build your own web presence. And if you can't, make sure you're compensated well enough so this miss sits easy with you.
And no, you probably won't earn that top-ranking just by letting your RSS feed populate a website. I'm not saying it can't work. But I've seen time and time again how easy it is for an actual website for a podcast, one with built-out episode pages and lots of other information, to outrank even powerful, high-domain authority listings like Apple Podcasts.
No, earning that top listing won't happen overnight. It might take several months and it almost certainly requires you to post more than just a paragraph and some links per episode. But the good news is you don't have to know a damn thing about SEO to achieve this goal. It's enough to write good content and create a good on-page experience.
That's where you should be linking to every time you decide to share your show or an episode. Not a directory listing. Not several directory listings. Not a "link tree". Share your domain and pages on your domain. Over time, you'll earn the top listing.
2. Own The Relationship With Your Audience
You do not own the relationship with anyone following your show in a listening app or subscribed to your RSS feed. You do not.
You do not own the relationship with anyone following you or your podcast on social media. You do not.
You do not own the relationship with anyone on your Discord server or who are members of a community you've set up on a free service. You don't.
To truly own the relationship, you need a direct connection with the audience that can't be taken away. That likely means an email address, though I've seen others focus on getting mobile numbers and communicating via text. I've little to offer on the latter, so I stick with the former.
Getting your audience to give you their email addresses requires a very good reason for them to give you their email addresses. Sending out a monthly roundup of your episodes isn't a good reason. Neither is randomly sending them unrelated missives simply because you feel like you need to give them "something more". That's not more. That junk mail.
That means you have to figure out what you can create that's worthy of them signing up to receive and looking forward to receiving. If you can make it mission-critical to their success, then great. If not, then make it something more than they get just by listening to your episodes. It has to have real, tangible value.
If you can figure it out and earn that direct communication line with your audience, it can't be taken away from you. Well, I guess they could change their email address. Or they could block you and report you for spam if you're doing it wrong. But see what I just wrote and you won't do it wrong.
That's just two things. Two things you can start working on right away to keep you from being at the whims of changing priorities, tantrums, reactions to perceived governmental overreach, or anything else Big Tech companies are wont to do.
Two things you can do to keep you in control of your podcast success. Because big tech doesn't have your best interests in mind.
I shall be back next week with yet another Podcast Pontifications.