A Decade Of Podcasting
Today is the tenth anniversary of my first podcast – G’Day World #1 in 2004.
It wasn’t only MY first podcast, it was a milestone in a number of ways:
- It was the first podcast ever produced in Australia (AFAIK)
- It was the first podcast produced over Skype (AFAIK)
- It was the first podcast to include live guests (AFAIK – but that didn’t happen until a couple of weeks later when I interviewed my mate Buzz Bruggeman)
- It was the first podcast on The Podcast Network, the world’s first podcast production business that I co-founded in Feb 2005.
Podcasting has come a long way since 2004. Back then I was predicting that it would become mainstream within a decade. Has it? I’m not sure how you measure “mainstream” – or even it that’s a worthy metric at all. It certainly hasn’t taken over the world. And I still meet people who have never listened to one and don’t really know what a podcast is.
But here are my thoughts on the matter.
- The most recent stats I’ve seen suggest there are about 225,000 active podcasts being produced (but I’ve no idea how they arrived at that number or how credible it is). That probably means there are millions of listeners at least.
- The advertising industry still isn’t on board. I produce one of the top podcasts in the world and I don’t have potential advertisers beating down my door. We did sell quite a bit of advertising in the early years, 2006 – 2008, but the GFC hit and that all disappeared – and hasn’t returned.
- The technology has improved a great deal. Back then it was pretty hard to FIND and SUBSCRIBE to podcasts. Even after Steve Jobs announced in May 2005 that the next version of iTunes would have a podcast directory (and sent me an email about it), it was still a clunky process to find a podcast, subscribe to it and get it onto your iPod. These days of course there are a bunch of iPhone and Android apps that make it simple and quick.
- The business model for podcasting is emerging as listener donations. On my Life Of Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte podcasts, we get regular listener donations. Nowhere near enough yet to make a living out of it, but we hope to change that with our new series that starts in a couple of weeks. I prefer the donation or subscriber model to advertising as it gives us greater independence. We aren’t relying on sponsors to continue their support. If we get them, they will be cream. I know a couple of guys who make a living out of their podcasts, so I know it can be done. This wouldn’t have been possible 10 or even 5 years ago.
- While the models for listening and monetizing podcasts has evolved, the technical side of setting up and running a premium podcast hasn’t. There are certain services like LibSyn and Blubrry that provide some options, but their premium services are out of the price range for the average podcaster. If the small podcaster has a chance to get up and running and making money out of their show, we need better tools and guides. I’m currently writing such a guide that is based on my experience over the last year building the Caesar show. I hope to get it finished in the next month or so and think it will help a lot of podcaster take their shows to the next level. Disappointingly, ten years later, iTunes still doesn’t allow podcasters to charge for their shows, meaning we have to jump through way too many hoops to do that ourselves.
- In terms of marketing and delivering a podcast, iTunes is still the kingmaker. It accounts of about 90% of our downloads and I’m sure that pretty true for most podcasts. Why haven’t Google, Microsoft or Yahoo done more to promote podcasts? I don’t know.
- Has my decade of podcasting been a good thing? Yes. Not financially – but certainly it has in other ways. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have met my beautiful wife Chrissy if it wasn’t for podcasting (we met at Napoleon conference in Corsica in 2008) and we wouldn’t have our baby Fox. I’ve made many wonderful friends around the world who came from listening to my podcasts. I’ve made friends with other podcasters who did a show on TPN back in the day, including David Markham and my current co-host Ray Harris. I’ve interviewed guests from Noam Chomsky to Ray Kurzweil, from Leo Sayer to Jeffrey Katzenberg. It’s been a wonderful adventure.
I maintain today, as I did in this SMH article in 2008, that radio is boring. Every now and again I turn it on in the car and it bores me to tears. It’s still the homogenous shit it was ten years ago and that inspired me to create intelligent content. Yes, there are exceptions – the ABC in Australia, NPR in the United States, etc – but commercial radio is a wasteland of nonsense. Radio listenership in metro Australian cities are in decline but not by much (about 1% per year over the last five years). Will that change when podcasts are available built-in to cars, as Stitcher is promising? Perhaps. We’ll have to wait and see what the second decade of podcasting delivers.