Steve Goldstein: Did SNL Just Set Podcasting Back?

Steve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. Goldsteing writes frequently at Blogstein, the Amplifi blog.

This past weekend Saturday Night Live parodied the podcast business in a clever send up of a podcast awards show, The Poddy’s, live from the “Me Undies Theater.”

It was funny.

One can claim the podcast business has “made it” when SNL covers it in a skit.

And while it was fun to watch, it was also disconcerting and may help explain the slow growth of podcasting.

Podcasting has made an indelible mark on pop culture. The lead on the CBS show “God Friended Me” is a podcaster. Last season ABC TV had “Alex” a short-lived sitcom about Gimlet’s Alex Blumberg. Amazon just released a TV version of the podcast Homecoming. Listicles appear everywhere focused on various podcast genres.

In Many Ways, The SNL Bit Reinforces What Lots Of People Already Think About Podcasts

With all of the buzz and noise, it feels as though podcasting should be exploding more like Smart Speakers and yet the growth is relatively slow. Some of that involves the difficult process of finding and playing podcasts, but as Edison Research’s Tom Webster pointed out this past summer at Podcast Movement, 83% of Americans are not yet listening to podcasts. 64% know about them, and yet only 17% are listening.

That means three quarters of the people who know about podcasts are not listening. Not impressive. Not a good conversion.

In many ways, the SNL bit reinforces what lots of people already think about podcasts — an elite niche with self-important story tellers telling oddly obscure stories.

Sure it is dangerous to generalize, but indeed that’s what people do about so many things. They look at a category and try to see themselves and if they cannot, they often move on. Mountain climbers are not all bearded millennials and Yoga participants don’t all say “namaste” a lot, yet cliched’ cultural cues often win out.

Webster pointed out that to grow the sector, podcasts need more wide-appeal mainstream content or as he put it, “good crap.” Yes, he is right. Good crap – just like TV does. Indeed, we are seeing more success in varied categories, and that’s important to note.

Watching the SNL “Poddy Awards” felt like the modern version of SNL’s 1998 NPR send-up, Shweddy Balls which public radio still tries to live down.

For many, this past week’s SNL bit likely reinforces that podcasts are not targeted at them, unless they prefer overly serious slow talkers, in which case, the award goes to…

Steve Goldstein


  1. Two groups show excitement about podcasting: 1) the folks who are hosting a program. They would love to have you listen; 2) the group selling services to folks hosting a program.

    Beyond these groups you have Millennials, who are making a slow transition to on-demand audio – but the bulk of these are not aiming their time at podcasts.

    Podcasting is an industry misread. Just like the thousands of online radio stations that vaporize each year, podcasts are easy to imagine but near-impossible to monetize.

  2. Rather than get all glass-eyed and ask if we’ve been set back, maybe podcast hosts should get over themselves, grow some thick skin and celebrate the satire – – rather than worry, give thanks that you have the ability to laugh out loud, not at SNL, but at ourselves…

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