The opportunity and challenge of indie podcasting

DOWNLOAD ON PODCASTS logo 03 with podcastone 300wThe Download on Podcasts is a weekly feature sponsored by PodcastOne.

Like blogging before it, podcasting offers an easy way for individuals to create and publish content. According to the Pew Research Center, 92,000 podcasts existed in 2013.

Also like blogging, many podcasts flame out quickly, as creators face the grind of ongoing production. If you conduct random searches in the podcast section of iTunes or Apple’s Podcasts app, you might (as we did) find more ex-podcasts (shows with no new episodes for a year or three) than active programs.

If making money were easier it would probably extend the life of indie podcasts, which could be defined as amateur productions seeking semi-pro status. Even a few bucks can encourage continued creativity. Crowdfunding can help with that, and we examined the patronage model for podcasting here.

Crowdfunding is intriguing, and clearly offers financial power to some programs, accelerating their audience growth and sustaining their businesses. But most of the industry organization around the business of on-demand audio focuses on advertising. Networks like PodcastOne (sponsor of this column), Midroll Media, Panoply, and others aggregate successful programs with substantial audiences, and achieve scale by selling across those audiences to advertisers. The result is a “success breeds success” model in which popular podcasts get additional leverage via network distribution, and that builds the money pile via more ad impressions.

But hand-built networks of curated content don’t represent the only way to build scale. The large open platforms create huge inventory of content and potential ad impressions through thousands of programs, many of which have small audiences. Can those indie creators grab small slices of the growing podcast-advertising pie?

A “Yes” answer to that question is developing, and two announcements this week highlight a trend. First, audioBoom has partnered with enterprise media software company WideOrbit to put ad-injection into audioBoom’s hosted podcasts (at the creator’s discretion). U.S. representation of audioBoom inventory is handled by AdLarge. Putting together the links of this business chain gives even the newest, smallest indie podcaster nationwide sales-repping and advanced advertising technology. Wideorbit exec Jim Kott called it “important for new and emerging podcasters. The monetization piece is typically something they don’t have in-house.”

Another global audio hosting platform, SoundCloud, is also moving into the space for podcasters at all levels of experience and audience. Taking its podcast-hosting plan out of beta, SoundCloud offers three payment plans, RSS feeds for distribution to podcast apps, and its famously embeddable waveform. The money piece remains in beta, where invited creators (musicians and podcasters) are starting to glean dollars for their work. There is no announced deadline for the wide release of injected ads in SoundCloud.

All this resembles opportunities that came to bloggers when Google introduced the AdSense program, which allowed publishers of all sizes to inject Google’s global advertiser program onto their pages and start the pennies-to-dollars flow. The key to some degree of democratization for creators, for podcasting as it was for blogging, is low-effort injection of third-party ads. As that moves into the space, it marks another aspect of podcasting’s rapid maturation.



Brad Hill