Steve Goldstein: Quality Over Quantity Is A Growth Strategy

Steve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. Goldstein writes frequently at the Amplifi blog. Steve can be reached directly at 203-221-1400 or sjgoldstein-at-amplifimedia-dot-com.

Recently, Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors, “We tried to tell too many stories and ended up losing $4 billion.” This admission highlights a really huge issue in today’s media landscape: overload. Disney, a titan in content creation, struggled to capture enough audience to justify its massive investments. In addition to slashing titles, Disney is cutting its workforce. But is this really a failure of Disney’s strategy, or is it indicative of a bigger and broader industry trend?

Disney’s struggles reflect a common challenge for creators across all platforms: too much content competing for too few eyeballs and ears. For Disney, it is what many call the end of “Peak TV.” This term refers to the explosive growth of television programming, mainly driven by streaming platforms. In the past year, the number of scripted television series in the U.S. dropped by 14%, signaling a big retreat from what is apparently an unsustainable flow of content.

Somewhat counterintuitively, that feels like a good thing for creators, viewers, and listeners.

In today’s media landscape, fewer shows seeking the same fragmented audience and looking for attention in a crowded market are likely to do better.

The podcast bubble

The podcasting world has experienced its own saturation and contraction. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, we saw the launch of over 1 million new podcasts. This surge, fueled by people stuck at home with time on their hands, led to a flood of content, much of it lacking in quality. The majority of these “Covid-casts” were short-lived. The number of new podcasts created in 2022 was 67% lower than in 2021, and the decline continued into 2023 with a further 10% drop, according to Listen Notes. Last year, there were 248,000 new podcasts.  That’s not nothing.

Moreover, it’s not just the number of new podcasts that matter but also the number of active ones. Only 8% of the shows tracked via Podcast Index have produced a new episode in the last 30 days. While that number sounds small, it represents 345,000 shows. That’s a firehose of content to discover and listen to, especially considering the average listener tunes into roughly nine podcasts per week.

Major companies involved in podcasting, including Spotify, may be ahead of Disney, having already scaled back aggressive investments after not seeing significant listener growth and a handful of dud podcasts. This has rippled to other podcast companies in the form of layoffs and show cancelations.

Apple’s change in how it counts podcast downloads is also a factor here, as the significant drop in reported download numbers affected ad sales and the perceived reach of podcasts.

And yet, as we know from Edison Research’s latest Infinite Dial report, podcast listening is incredibly healthy and on the rise.

Choice Fatigue

What’s driving the pullback of content creation is complicated by social media and the vast amount of time spent scrolling Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts. For many, the endless stream of content has fundamentally changed consumption patterns, leading to a whole lot of skimming and a sharp increase in choice fatigue.

Maybe you find some decision paralysis in your habits, whether it’s finding a TV show or a podcast. When inundated with many options, people often struggle to make any choice at all, leading to decreased overall engagement or reverting to shows they already know — which is another reason why many of the shows at the top of the podcast charts have so much tenure.

What To Do

Adjust your thinking. In an era where attention spans are shrinking, offering fewer but higher-quality choices is likely to enhance user engagement and satisfaction.

Here are five moves you can make now that will set you up for growth in this changing environment:

  1. Prioritize quality: Serve up less content. Consider dumping marginal and underperforming titles and focus your efforts and energy on quality podcasts with the most potential.
  2. Focus on effective promotion: Working with fewer titles gives you more bandwidth to promote them effectively. How much exposure does it take to have an impact these days? That’s easy. More than ever.
  3. Adapt to skimming: Structure content to cater to skimmers. Use clear headings, bullet points, concise paragraphs, compelling clips, and crisp graphics to enhance engagement. If it makes sense, offer shorter versions of content to appeal to a larger audience.
  4. Be different: Much of the content produced today is similar, making it difficult for audiences to differentiate between options. Do we need more true crime podcasts? Clear differentiation is essential for helping audiences make choices and for content to stand out in a crowded market. Consider a tough rethink if your content isn’t standing out from the pack.
  5. Review the economics: Just like Disney, focus on the time involved in leveraging so much content and the economics behind it. Then, adjust your strategy accordingly.

We are all drowning in content choices. Focusing on quality over quantity can create more meaningful and engaging experiences for our audiences.

As the above graphic illustrates, at the bottom of the funnel are more diamonds and gold.


I am headed to Canada for RadioDays North America. The panel I am moderating is about broadcast to podcast. Commercial radio really needs to amp up its audience retention strategies and this crew is leading the way. Fabiola Melendez Carletti of the CBC, Jeremy Sinon of Hubbard Broadcasting and Shemroy Parkinson (Shem) of the syndicated Roz & Mocha Show. Our session is Tuesday morning. Hope to see you there.

Steve Goldstein