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On Monday's episode, you learned that PodInbox's voicemail service makes all voicemails left for podcasters public. At least at first blush, that seems a radical thing. Which is partly why I'm attracted to the idea. I like radical thinking!
But as you ponder the merits of how you personally feel about making feedback listeners give to your show public, a concept not all that radical because that's how reviews work; I want you to think beyond that.
I wonder what podcasting would look like if more currently-private information were made public?
Or better stated, how would the podcast industry change if podcasting better embraced transparency?
Bring On The Podcast-Measuring Contests
Let's tackle the obvious one first: audience size.
What would happen if the size of the audience were made public for all podcasts? Brand new podcasts by brand new podcasters who possibly have single-digit listeners. Established podcasts made by mega-celebrities who count audiences in the millions. And every podcast in between.
Imagine a world where the size of a podcast—every podcast—was a matter of public record. Curious how big your competitors are? Wonder how many other people are loving the same show as you? You'd be able to look because the number would be attached to each and every show.
How radical is that?
Not as radical as you might think, actually. Consider social media, where the number of people a brand or person has following them is displayed on their public profile. And YouTube channels have always had their follower count—and a bunch of other metrics—displayed publicly for the world to see.
And you may not know this, but the size of many podcasts' audiences is already an open secret. Any podcast that has advertising representation publishes how many people they reach on a monthly basis. That's information on a rate card. Inquire about advertising on their show and they'll send it to you.
Honestly, there's nothing special about podcasting that requires us to keep the information about audience size a secret. Though there is the question of how we'd implement a universally-accepted counting methodology (people, not downloads). And then pride, of course.
Show Me The Financials
Speaking of income from advertising, what if we rolled that in with other forms of monetization and considered the notion of making the overall finances of all podcasts public? Total income, total expenses. All that.
Clearly, that's substantially more controversial, because now we're getting into someone's personal or a company's financial picture. But relax— this is just a thought exercise. For the moment.
Though speaking of companies, publicly-traded companies are required by law to publish their financial information. Ignoring the huge administrative burden that would place on podcasters for a moment, it's interesting to ponder the ramifications of something similar in podcasting.
Some long-running podcasts and podcasters like John Lee Dumas and Pat Flynn are either doing this or previously did this for quite some time, for their own reasons. So it's not without precedent. And in this hypothetical world where all serious podcasters also exposed their true financial picture on a regular basis, we'd all have a much healthier view of the realities of building a profitable podcast.
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Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
Collectively speaking, we don't do enough to make public the people who make our podcasts happen. And we can do better at giving credit to those people.
If you create a show all on your own, you already likely get the credit. But do you really produce the show and all the associated elements on your own? What about the theme music. Where did you get it? Who composed it? I know you've fully licensed it, and that agreement may not require you to give credit... but maybe you should?
Similarly, you should give credit if someone helped you with the outline or proofed your episode notes. Or maybe you have someone (or someones) acting as a sounding board or providing inspiration for your episodes. Credit them! If they performed an integral part of getting your episode to life, why not give them the credit they deserve?
This gets cool when we remember the digital nature of podcasting. It becomes trivial to let those credit mentions "stack up" for each of the entities listed, which would help show exactly how deeply interwoven and interconnected the people are who make podcasts. And I'm not just talking about the people with the microphone in their faces.
Podchaser is doing this today. And there's a recently finalized tag in the <podcast> namespace gives this additional legs. So we already have working models to accommodate this that go beyond just adding names and links to episode details. My hope is that in the future, podcast hosting companies integrate both with Podchaser and implement the <podcast:person> tag to capture these credits at the time of episode publishing.
Acknowledging Unintended Consequences
But before you paint me as some weird anti-privacy loon (I assure you I am not), remember that this is a thought exercise first and foremost. And as we do take strides forward, I am in no way suggesting podcasters should dox themselves by posting their home addresses or social security numbers online.
I know there are far too many terrible people in the world who prey on others and I am in no way suggesting that anyone should drop their guard from any real threat they face every day.
But with all deference to those lamentable situations, I do think that some data points from podcasting could be made more public for the betterment of all podcasting.
I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.