Our digital world is never static. Almost every day, some new service or offering becomes available. As history has proven, many of these will fizzle out as they fail to find an audience. Some may continue for years with just enough modest success to keep them running. And occasionally, one becomes a breakout success and the Next Big Thing that we either can't live without or can't understand why people waste their time with.
That sounds a lot like podcasting, doesn’t it?
Just like the serial entrepreneurs and innovative big companies for whom launching new products, apps, or services is a core part of who they are, a large number of seasoned podcasters are always thinking about—at least to a certain degree—their next podcast.
Those podcasters are faced with a choice: Should they create a new niche? Or should they try to steal market share from someone else?
All Podcasters Are Pickpockets
To a certain degree, all new podcasts steal at least some market share from other podcasts. Some 80 million Americans report listening to podcasts on a weekly basis. Those listeners are constrained by the same number of hours in the day as the rest of us, and every minute listening to your podcast is a minute they aren’t listening to another podcast.
And if the near-constant “I need podcast recommendations!” postings on social media are any indication, podcast listeners rotate through podcasts a fair amount, trying out shows to see how they fit. Some will stick. At least for a while.
As with every other form of media, listeners develop affinities for certain types of shows and become fans of a particular genre, and some focus their efforts on consuming as close to all of that content as they can, burning through podcasts in their quest.
True crime podcasts were and by many indications still are highly sought out by rabid fans, creating a large and attractive market space for experienced narrative- and documentary-style storytellers.
The public’s appetite for daily news podcasts continues apace, and existing media outlets are pivoting phalanxes of journalists on staff to keep the hungry crowds fed while generating additional revenues for their organizations.
I’m personally excited at the huge growth in the audio drama and fiction podcast space. And so are the myriad companies who not only know how to churn out great fiction in other mediums, like book publishing, television, and film; but also how to get paid for their efforts.
Boldly Podcast Where No One Has Podcasted Before
To a degree, all of us are vying for ear holes. But then there are the true pioneers. Seasoned podcasters who are scratching a creative itch by presenting something radically different to podcast listeners. Podcasters who take full advantage of the “no rules” reality of podcasting and let their imagination and creativity run wild.
I love these people and have, during my tenure in podcasting, been among those people. But we’re making a huge assumption when we take this approach with our next podcasting initiative, because we don’t know whether anyone wants to listen to what we’re creating.
When creating your own niche, there’s no trending wave to ride. If no one knows they want what you’re offering, they aren’t searching for it, so there aren’t trending hashtags or search terms to optimize around.
Market research and learnings from tangentially-related mediums will only get you so far. At some point, you’re going to have to take a leap of faith and blaze a brand new trail. Without having a clear idea of the number of people who’ll see that path, let alone choose to walk it with you.
Rightfully so, many find that scary. But some thrive on the unknown. Not trying to one-up competing podcasts—because the competition is sparse or non-existent—can be quite attractive. Making your own future, as it were. Perhaps on your own?
Your Podcasting Mileage May Vary
Since the beginning of podcasting, well-meaning helpful souls have tended to treat all podcasting the same when giving advice. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, so I get to judge.
But podcasting is anything but uniform. So your approach to audience development for your next podcast needs to be tailored to the audience you’re trying to reach—one that already exists or one that you have to build from scratch, one person at a time.
Both options are valid, and the path you take really is mostly dependent upon you and your capabilities. Do you have the resources to compete with the output of production houses who’ve mastered their processes?
Will you be able to make content the established audience wants to hear? They may have a voracious appetite, but they can be quite unforgiving of ham-fisted approaches by new entrants who don’t understand the rules, expectations, and covenants established.
Do you have the financial backing to really steal market share from organizations who pour as much if not more money into marketing and promotion as they do to producing stellar content?
I ask those questions not to scare you off of your next podcasting project, but to help you see the future with reality-colored glasses. A lot of what works to grow a show in an established marketplace is not going to work as well when there is no existing marketplace to draw from. That’s because podcasting is not one thing. Since day one, the term “podcasting” has been a good way to describe media delivery technology. But it’s never been good at describing the content. And it’s a rotten way to describe listeners.
A lot of the advice on how to grow a podcast, how to monetize an audience, or just generally make a podcast bigger may not apply to the path you take on your next podcasting project. So as I say often on this show; choose wisely.
This is a topic bigger than a single episode, so I’ll return to it again in future episodes, as I really do feel each path requires vastly different approaches. I may even bring in some of my colleagues with affinities to certain areas to help you better make the choices for your next podcast.
In the meantime, if this got you thinking or you found value in my thoughts, please consider going to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and lending me your support.
Oh, and I recently made some tweaks to the homepage of PodcastPontifications.com that were either quite forward-thinking or dumb. Assuming that most people who encounter my website are already podcasting and therefore aware of the “big” podcasting listening apps, I’m choosing to highlight some lesser-known podcast listening apps. Big thanks to Betty from the podcast If You Ask Betty for some help manipulating a pesky logo I couldn’t get quite right.
I’d love your feedback on that new “listen everywhere” bar once you’ve seen it. Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.