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Podcasting – It’s a Community Not an Industry


Or: How To Get In On Garage Sales While They’re Hot!

Before I start, so as to avoid any confusion or misrepresentation, I feel it incumbent upon myself to once again clarify: I am bullish on podcasting. I’ve published two books on the subject [1,2], run paid live training events, presented as a speaker countless times, become a “go-to” podcasting pundit for major media, built and sold podcasting technology, run the oldest podcasting network in existence and made my entire living from podcasting since early 2005. I am among podcasting’s biggest proponents. The opportunities in podcasting are alive and well. That said, I also don’t wear rose colored glasses. I call things as I see them.

Podcasters, it is time you face the facts. If you are waiting for a podcast advertising service to ride in on a white horse and rescue you from your monetary woes, let me help you: start looking elsewhere.

This all started because of a conversation I had a few weeks back where I had the unique opportunity to have podcasting explained to me. The fellow who was running through the monetization options made advertising through ad sales networks sound like a guaranteed no brainer – an easy way to monetize. The whole time I sat there, knowing what I know, thinking this is like telling people to cash in now on garage sales while the gold rush is on.

Over the last 3 years many companies have launched whose goal was to help monetize your podcast. None have performed as promised.

When these podcast advertising companies first launched they did not promote themselves as focused on supporting only a few high profile podcasts supported by 1. millions in VC backing, 2. a successful radio and/or TV career or 3. a meteoric rise associated with a connected web property. Instead, they promoted themselves as being the solution for you, the avid, and dare I say average, podcaster. It is clear, they have not delivered. It’s time to stop buying the sales pitch and waiting for that gold mine of advertising revenue that is “just” around the corner and start to figure out a real plan for your podcast.

Here we are almost 4 years after the birth of podcasting, 3 years after most of the advertising placement companies first launched, and many popular (people we have all heard of) podcasters are still struggling to figure out how to consistently monetize. “Consistently” is the key word there and by monetize I don’t mean a few extra bucks here and there to cover hosting costs etc. I’m talking about knowing that you are getting paid every-time you sit down in-front of the mic/camera. If taken seriously with real effort, the ability to pay your mortgage, put your kids through school and buy groceries, just like the opportunity any other real business offers.

Don’t get me wrong, I know most of the key players behind these companies. I’ve got many of their cell phone numbers in my cell phone – always a true measure of relationships. I have a ton of respect for them all. They are fun to hang out with and are all very smart. As an entrepreneur I appreciate that they all have tried to conquer this market. That takes guts. However, for the average podcaster, even the 10,000+ subscriber podcaster, it is just not working on a consistent basis. I felt someone needed to address this.

Now not everyone wants to make money with podcasting. I agree, podcast your passion and good things follow. That said, we all know monetization is an extremely popular topic, one I have presented on numerous times, and it is for those serious about wanting to monetize via advertising/sponsorships to whom this post is addressed.

Here’s the truth:

1. There is an over-abundance of inventory, (i.e. podcasts that desire advertising.) So as a starting point we have a market condition that drives down prices. Too much inventory is not a good thing if you are selling advertising.

2. Lack of a real market. All the ad dollars that were supposed to flow into podcast advertising never happened. All of those Madison Avenue meetings that you constantly heard about have still only resulted in what can best be described as “experimental” or “add-on” spends.

3. Change of focus by podcast advertising companies. Many companies in this space have faced the fact that it is too hard and cumbersome to sell advertising across large swaths of independent podcasts. The effort to reward ratio is too far out of whack to make any business sense. Look at all the failed companies. No need to name names.

4. Those with real technology have switched their focus to major media. Companies with the technology to perform the automation and ad insertion functions have largely turned away from ad sales for podcasts and instead are now focused on customers that can actually pay – think CNN, Fox News, Forbes, VC backed media startups, etc. Need an example? Look at Kiptronic. While I have no inside information, it is clear to me they have now steered away from their original promise of ad sales/fulfillment and instead are focused on a strategy of licensing their technology to medium or large size media outlets. (That’s what I’d do if I were them.) Need another? Look at VoloMedia, formerly PodBridge. You might not have ever even heard of them but they’ve raised roughly $22M over the last few years and my guess is it was not based on the promise of ad delivery for the independent podcaster

5. Podcasters are tough to deal with. Don’t think you get off scott free here. The truth is that most shows are very personal, you have a lot of yourself invested in the program. As such, you want control over who advertises, where they advertise etc. This all makes sense on an individual level, but mucks things up terribly when it comes to advertising sales and trying to put together any sizable ad buy. Jerry Seinfeld didn’t get this level of control for his show’s advertisers, why should you?

6. Editorial standards ARE important – at least to advertisers. Major brands, i.e. the kind of advertisers you really want – the big spenders, need “brand safe” outlets for their advertising. Coke, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, AT&T, Ford etc. don’t want to advertise on a web property that may go off in some weird direction that undermines their brand.

7. Major Media will absorb most of the real ad dollars. There is a reason major media is able to launch audio/video on the web and quickly monetize it. They have editorial control, brand recognition and an established sales force with the ability to make incremental up-sells to existing deals to fulfill on-line inventory.

8. Video will garner most of the real ad spend in this class of advertising. Do I really need to explain this one? (There is a reason Google has launched an ad solution for video yet with all their resources none has come for independent on-line audio.)

9. Real industries have businesses with real revenue. One, if not the largest, proponent of independent podcast advertising sales is RawVoice. Todd Cochrane, the RawVoice CEO is a frequent speaker on podcast advertising and the success they have achieved for their affiliated podcasts. I think what they are doing is great, but this little tid-bit caught my attention in the just released “white paper” on their stats package, “….three years and has stood the test of time and 100′s of thousands of dollars in advertising delivered and billed fairly.” 3 years and hundreds of thousands? Even if we assume the absolute best case scenario that is only $333,333.00 a year (if the cumulative billing exceeded a million there is no way they would have missed putting that in their report.) That number is gross sales before producer splits, administrative costs, overhead, taxes etc. If that is a market leader, the writing is on the wall.

10. Industries don’t have to constantly have panels discussing the basic means by which their medium can actually make money. Everyone already knows how – think radio, TV, etc. How many conference panels have you heard where the podcast ad placement companies talk about all that they are doing. Talk is great. How many checks have you cashed? And if you have, amortized across your entire podcasting career what does it work out to per month?

11. One or two large ad buys does not an industry make. Before anyone chimes in with ‘yeah but so-and-so just sold a big advertising deal to xyz,” let me be clear: real industries/businesses have a constant, sustainable and generally predictable deal flow. Podcasting has none of these.

12. Industries don’t depend on one or two advertisers to support a significant portion of the total market. I have no idea what the actual numbers are, but let’s face it, GoDaddy is the number one podcast advertiser. Entire companies are mainly supported by their continued ad buys. This spells trouble in my book. If GoDaddy were to decide they have achieved market or brand saturation or even if the current economic condition were to get them spooked and they decided to pull back, that sucking sound you’d here is the collapse of many podcast advertising companies. Yes we’d all loose those beloved promo codes but that just points to the fact that these are in large part CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) deals, the gold standard in economically advantageous brand advertising. If you are that dependent on only one or two advertisers it is time to branch out.

I have a few more reasons, but I think you get my point.

So what is a podcaster to do? Here’s what you should be focused on. First, have a real sit down with yourself and anyone else involved and figure out if monetization really makes sense. It is entirely possible that the extra headaches and work required outweigh any real benefit you may derive. If so, then relax and enjoy podcasting as a hobby. If you do decide to monetize via advertising/sponsorships then you need to face facts, you are choosing to go into business and that means work. Not late-night infomercial, “oh my god it was so easy to make thousands kind of work,” but the kind that takes time and effort. It can be rewarding, it has been for me, but you need to commit to it.

Next, nail down the niche you inhabit and start to map out how to best present the opportunities and value you can offer to potential advertisers/sponsors. Develop your media kit. Let me make a note here, unless you are a graphic artist/copywriter by trade my guess is you should spend $300 to $1000 on this. If those numbers scare you off – go back to step one and revisit the “sit down” with yourself. You are starting a business, there are upfront costs.

Come up with a list of prospective sponsors you believe are best suited to benefit from communicating with your audience and – get ready for it – call them. It is sales time. If you don’t like asking for money, either hire someone who does or once again revisit the “sit down” mentioned above. This is your place to shine. No ad sales network will ever be able to extract the value you can here, they need to sell in generic terms and can’t offer the unique value proposition you can when selling your particular podcast directly. You know your audience best, who better to communicate the value to a prospective advertiser?

People often ask how we consistently sell out our inventory on GrapeRadio. Easy, we have a kick-ass media kit, a proven track record, a book of business with many repeat advertisers and four entrepreneurs as owners – folks who aren’t scared to ask for the deal. While the amounts aren’t huge, $1,300 per weekly episode, we can command those prices because we have nailed our niche. A comparative CPM deal would have to be close to net $100 to make sense. No ad network has ever offered us anything close to that. We have also built a great business in white label production, i.e. non-GrapeRadio branded content specific to individual wineries for their sites. We decided from day one not to do wine reviews so as to avoid any editorial conflicts. Our figures are not awe inspiring but they buy nice equipment, pay for the trips to Napa and leave plenty leftover for shareholder distributions. Given that we all run other businesses full time, it has worked out quite nicely.

Will some of your prospective sponsors say no? Of course. That just means you get to try again and will feel that much better when they eventually say yes. Don’t ignore them, keep in contact, send updates of any press/media or other coverage you get. Let them know of interesting shows or interviews you do. Continue to build value for the next time you ask for the ad order.

I could do a whole series on how to sell podcast sponsorships but that is not my goal here. If you are looking for some more ideas check out my presentation from last year’s PNME, the infamous “podcasting is dead” presentation.

Some might say I am being too negative, that it is still too early and the boom is coming. Well I have been here since the beginning, and the “boom” in aggregated ad sales deals has been just around the corner for three years now. After a while that mantra starts to sound a bit tired. Meanwhile, those of us who took responsibility and control over our own ad sales have faired quite well the whole time. Even if some miraculous events were to take place and the flood gates on advertising were to open in this arena, no one can argue against the fact that my suggested steps above will prepare you to stand head and shoulders above the rest and best prepare you to benefit from any new opportunities. Take Wizzard Media’s recent deal with the Navy, assuming you are eligible to participate, wouldn’t it be nice if that was as add-on rather then something you depended on?

There are plenty of ad/sponsor dollars out there, however waiting for someone else to consistently deliver them to you has proven to be a loosing proposition. It is high time you realize you are the best sales representative you have. Take charge of your podcast’s future, develop a real monetization plan and free yourself from waiting for the ad sales guys to solve your monetization woes.

46 Responses to “Podcasting – It’s a Community Not an Industry”

  1. Gravatar Icon 1 Tim Bourquin Mar 19th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Michael, good points here. I would add (and you’ve alluded to it) that for someone willing to consistently work hard to: grow their audience, stay on target with their content and put in the time and calls, sponsorship for an individual podcast is possible. But I also think it’s a bit like owning a single Subway franchise. Buy a single franchise and you’ve bought yourself a job. Own 8-10 franchises and you have a real business.

    It doesn’t mean you’ll need to have 8-10 podcasts to make “real” money, but I think it does mean that in order to achieve the “economies of scale” necessary to make great money AND cash out by selling when it’s time, one needs to think about what it will take to manage a media company that has several properties rather than a single podcast.

    That said, I also still firmly believe that for an individual who simply wants an extra thousand dollars a month in expendable income and who has no desire to quit a career, a single podcast – laser focused on an audience – is a real way to make it happen.

    Tim Bourquin, Founder

  2. Gravatar Icon 2 Michael Mar 19th, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Paul Colligan has some interesting points in his response to this post. Read it here. While he seems to veer off into a weird gourmet rice pudding and Hannah Monatana analogy let’s examine his main argument: podcasting is not an industry and there are lots of ancillary ways to make money from your podcast – it is a tool.

    I’m not entirely sure where, if at all, he disagrees with me. It appears Paul is set on advancing the idea that there are many ways to make money outside of simple ad sales. Who doesn’t agree with that? Should I point to a presentation of mine from 2005, this one from 2006 or this one from last years PNME that all hammer that home? Heck, I started that meme.

    However, my post was focused on a distinct class of podcasters, those waiting for the white night of ad sales companies to rescue them from their monetary woes. We’ve all met them. “I’m signed up with xxxxxxx, they are going to handle my advertising.” “That’s great, how is it going?” “Nothing yet but they tell me they are working on some big deals.” Three years later here we are.

    What Paul misses, is that for many podcasters, those with sizable audiences, podcasting is not a tool, it is the product – it is their part-time business. Their podcast was not built to support sales of some affiliate program, their book, a consulting practice or some other monetizable commodity. Much like radio personalities, their show is their business and the idea that “fax machine” and “podcast” i.e, their entire business are somehow interchangeable is ludicrous.

    Can podcasts be a tool? Sure. Am I a perfect example of someone who as Paul says “story is the use and leverage of the Podcasting tool to further accomplish his business use,” sure. But that means nothing to the guy sitting at home with 10,000 podcast subscribers figuring out how to make a go of this with advertising or sponsors. That is who this post was meant for.

  3. Gravatar Icon 3 Paul Mar 19th, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    I very much get that for some the podcast is the product.

    I’d like to suggest that this is a really bad model and dialog about the ins and out of this model are as useful as a gourmet rice pudding store in an uppity mall in Tigard, Oregon.

    I just put Hannah Montana in there for the search engine traffic ;-)

    Man I love this game.


  4. Gravatar Icon 4 Don McAllister Mar 19th, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Just my 2ps worth as another full time podcaster making a living from podcasting:

  5. Gravatar Icon 5 Chris O'Byrne Mar 19th, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    This is meant just to share an opinion, not flame anyone… I disagree that the podcast is the product for ANYONE. How can it be? Even with the radio personalities you referred to, I do not think the radio show is their product. THEY are their product. The radio and the podcast are only the medium. I know you’ve heard this argument and I’m not sharing some big secret, this is just the opinion of one of your readers.

  6. Gravatar Icon 6 Michael Mar 19th, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Don, nice post. The path you have chosen is a viable alternative many podcasters should examine. You’ve made quite a success in your niche and deserve congratulations as a true pioneer of the successful sale of subscriptions for premium content.

    Chris, I understand what you are saying. Truth be told, I think we see things the same way and are just using different terminology. Is the master craftsman woodworker the “product” or the rocking chair he hand made that you pass down through the generations? Either way, the business model is not to make the rocking chair solely to increase his seat cushion sales.

  7. Gravatar Icon 7 Shaun Noonan Mar 19th, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Michael, do you feel that companies like Apple and Google will not jump in when some tipping point is reached on the quantity of good content?

    I get paid directly through premium content on my podcast, and it works perfectly for my niche. Maybe bundling bonus material can give almost everyone a premium content path. If you’re all about current events, maybe some white label stuff and some business savvy as Michael talks about is part of your strategy. I don’t really know. It’s certainly more predictable than ad sales for a small cast.

    Michael, I’d still like to hear your thoughts on whether you think big, established companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google will not try to monetize a growing number of eyeballs/eardrums with a very broad play like a Adsense did for the web.

  8. Gravatar Icon 8 Rob Safuto Mar 20th, 2008 at 4:54 am

    Good post Mike. You’ve taken a strong position and provided a lot of detail. I think too much effort is wasted on the perceived gold rush. Producers need to focus on building a brand, building and audience and building a community. I published a related post last month at

  9. Gravatar Icon 9 Michael Mar 20th, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Shaun, good question. Will big companies ever get involved in the game? I don’t know, maybe.

    Google has an audio solution, I saw it at NAB last year. It is based on their acquisition of dMark back in 2006. However, it is clearly aimed at folks with editorial control – i.e. radio. I continue to doubt that the “AdSense” model translates to audio quite as easily as everyone assumes. This is probably a whole separate post but basically, Adsense works because it is clearly not editorial content, is off to the side or at least in its own little box and it has a common form factor that allows people to know this is AdSense. Most important it is an overlay, i.e. it is in no way dependent on the content, yes it triggers off of keywords etc., but it inhabits the exact same spot on the page every-time. It is no IN the content, i.e between two sentences. Same with Google’s new video solution. It is an overly that you can easily ignore or even turn off. Both solutions are clearly independent of the editorial content. Audio is much tougher it would have to go in the show. Finally, both solutions work on an action basis. You click the link, and that data is logged. How do they do that for audio? That is the big question. Force everyone to consume audio in a player that displays visual adds with links? How many will go for that?

    More likely is Apple opening up the ability to sell your content via the iTunes store. In fact, they might have already started on that.

    Either way, if you count on all these possible future solutions it just means that podcasters continue to sit around and wait for someone else to solve their problems. If these big companies get involved great! In the meantime you can still do quite nicely if you take control of your own digital media business.

  10. Gravatar Icon 10 Michael Mar 20th, 2008 at 8:49 am


    Nice post on your site. Thanks for sharing that.

  11. Gravatar Icon 11 steve garfield Mar 20th, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Hi Michael,
    Great post.

    Nina Simonds of Spices of Life, , had a sponsor from day one.

    The great thing about Nina is that she came into this with a background in book publishing and tv production. She isn’t afraid to ask for the sale, and as a contributor to the NY Times, Nina has standards as a journalist that the sponsor valued.

    Last year we produced one video a week on food, health and lifestyle. It was a great year and the sponsor was very happy with the visibility and press they received from the video blog…


  12. Gravatar Icon 12 Jim Kukral Mar 20th, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Good thoughts. I’m relatively new to podcasting, but I’m a veteran online marketer who knows how to sell online.

    So I get what you’re saying and you’re right. The biggest problem with it all is that like bloggers, podcasters aren’t marketers or salespeople. They just want to blog, or record shows about what they’re passionate about. Not sell stuff.

    Perhaps what this industry really needs is a good sales team for them.

  13. Gravatar Icon 13 Christopher Penn, Financial Aid Podcast Mar 20th, 2008 at 11:32 am

    As a corporate podcaster for the last three years – you’re absolutely right. There is no gold rush, and the novelty of the technology blinded many folks to the real value – their content. 60% of my listeners still listen right on RSS and iTunes are far, far away and that’s okay. I don’t care how they listen as long as they tune in.

    I’d also add that the niche you specialize in has to be marketable if you want to earn anything with your podcast. You may have an absolutely fantastic Uillean Pipes podcast, but the truth is, credit cards as an industry have more total dollars behind them than Uillean pipes. If you really want to go about running a business using podcasting as a distribution mechanism, pick a vertical that already has a lot of dollars floating around in it.

  14. Gravatar Icon 14 Billy Raymond Mar 20th, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Okay. I’m convinced. Actually learned a little bit of this the hard way. Could’ve benefited from this perspective about 3 months ago.

    Now, would you mind pointing me toward some additional information on how to “nail my niche?”

  15. Gravatar Icon 15 Michael Mar 20th, 2008 at 7:03 pm


    Thanks for the comment. I saw what you were doing last year with Spices of Life and thought it was a perfect example of video podcasting done right. Kudos & great branding! Though it never hurts to have NY Times contributor involved when it comes time to speak with prospective sponsors. The Grey Lady still has legs.

  16. Gravatar Icon 16 Michael Mar 20th, 2008 at 7:10 pm


    We have often discussed the concept of a sales team in general terms for top tier podcasters but the reality is that the numbers are small potatoes when you look at them. Do you want to be a lone wolf podcast ad sales rep in a completely desolate business environment with a top potential income of maybe $100,000 or instead go to the safe and established waters of an insurance career where seven figures is attainable? (I used to run insurance businesses.) Sales is sales. General rule is to sell things that people are buying.

    BTW, I really liked your site and have subscribed.

  17. Gravatar Icon 17 Patrick McNamara Mar 21st, 2008 at 5:42 am

    Podcasting is a good cheap form of advertizing. For some businesses it’s worthwhile to run their own podcast to promote their product, but one shouldn’t think of making money selling the podcast itself.

    And podcasts are good advertising for only certain types of businesses. Podcasts reach small pockets of interational listeners so they do little good for the local barber or corner store.

    Artists like musicians and writers can benefit greatly from podcasts because it has similar effects that going on tour or lecturing does. But in those cases it’s the music or the writing they the artist is selling, not the podcast.

    Any podcast with over 10,000 listeners is bound to attract some advertising dollars, but even a small radio station can reach 100,000 people. And since there are so many podcasts out there, advertisers can set the fees. If an advertiser wants to spend only $10 and the podcaster wants $100, the advertiser can find another podcast–or even start their own. (Granted it would take them time to get an audience.)

  18. Gravatar Icon 18 Bee - Internet Business Development Mar 21st, 2008 at 6:13 am

    This is a good post. I have been on the bandwagon for a long time that if you want to make money on the Internet, in whatever format, you have to treat it like a business. If you don’t want to spend the time, or the money and expect to sit back and let the dollars roll in, then you are truly deluding yourself. It’s all about creating an asset that has value, and putting the investment into making your Internet presence an asset. I can’t tell you how many people come to me and don’t have the funds to do what is really required, and also don’t have to time to do what it takes themselves if they don’t have the funds. Don’t treat it like a hobby and expect the rewards of a business….

    Not only is your advise for podcasting appropriate when it comes to getting advertising dollars, but it should be that way for blogging and your website in general. Develop a solid plan for generating revenue and work it. It takes a bit more work, but you will see the rewards in the end.

  19. Gravatar Icon 19 Jim Kukral Mar 21st, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks Michael, I’ve subscribed to yours as well. Good stuff.

    You’re absolutely right on the $$$ thing. Monetizing the long tail is a rough business. Great post.

  20. Gravatar Icon 20 Todd Storch Mar 21st, 2008 at 6:46 pm


    Nice job with this post. I know you could of written this earlier, but it felt like now was the time. Keep up the good work and I think it is interesting to take a look back at “The Future of Podcasting” when written in the thick of it in 2005.

    Link is here:



  21. Gravatar Icon 21 Derek Ross Mar 22nd, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    I remember reading in Wired/Business 2.0 maybe? – that history has shown that great “new” developments took something like 20 years or so for the full “effect” of the discovery / new invention – or whatever it was/is – to really come into its own

    The article gave great examples of things we take for granted today – but really shaped/changed/evolved how we live our lives now

    Thinking back to 1999 when I first really started following the “Streaming Media” … dare I say it ? “Industry”

    Going to all the industry events – feeling the “buzz” – being invited to partner up with some of the “raw” and often very unpolished products/companies that “had the future in the palm of their hand” – or so they thought … and of course the meltdown that soon took place / bubbles bursting etc ….

    Many people didn’t get – what that “Industry” was trying to do … Many said that it was just a “waste” of computing power …

    ..but whatever it is .. whatever “it” was .. or is today ..or in the future …

    … “Audio and Visual Content” consumption – is something that our society has shown we have a great and growing appetite for …

    The removal of the existing “filters” of the old media – is something that I am very excited to be a part of .. as I would hope that all who are involved – share that same passion – and desire to fill the needs/desires and to assist others in the discovery of unknown needs/desires – of the long tail …as well as the short tail …

    There are still many, many people – who have yet to discover all that is available in the world of the New Media ….

    When this starts to happen – it will be a different/new ball game .. it truly will be “New Media”

    Michael – I believe it was you … or maybe it was Paul Colligan [it is kind of foggy now ] who stated at the Podcast Expo back in 2006 – there are no “rules” – “don’t be afraid to break the rules” – don’t let someone tell you “that this is the only way to do this” …

    or .. something like that – [forgive me gentlemen if I didn't get it exactly correct .. ]

    The point being that Michael’s original posting comments – has caused many of us to pause and think –

    As well hopefully this long winded response ..

    and then get back to creating the future ….

    Derek Ross

  22. Gravatar Icon 22 Omaha Sternberg Mar 24th, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Hi, Michael,

    I really appreciated your post about podcasting. It was thoughtful and incisive. However, I do have to disagree with you regarding several points you made.

    First, you try to point out that podcasting is not a real market, and you use as your basis that that real industries don’t have only one or two major financial backers, or panel discussions regarding the basics of the industry (how to do it, how to make money, etc).

    I think that, perhaps, you really need to *look* at other industries first before actually passing that judgment. First, many industries have regular conventions or conferences wherein the more advanced members educate the up and coming regarding how to make it in the industry, including the marketing side of things. I was just at a convention last weekend where professional writers educated those who were trying to make it in the art of writing, including how to market your writing to editors, publisher, and the public at large. And each year the Game Developers Conference holds similar panels and discussions. Certainly you would not say that either game development or writing were not industries.

    For most writers and game developers, huge amounts of money don’t roll in. They make it product to product, many times based on that “1000 rabid fans” doctrine. In writing science fiction and fantasy, you take out publishers Baen and Tor, and I’m sorry, but your industry is gone. In publishing PC games, if EA were to suddenly die, there would be a giant sucking sound that, though it would not necessarily mean the end of the industry, would definitely mean an industry in trouble.

    You also state that real industries have real revenue. True, they do. But can you point to the first three to four years of any industry and say that they had huge revenue streams? The video game industry rose and crashed in 12 years…and this was considered a very quick burn…before it came back in the late 80’s. The podcast industry is still in its infancy.

    I also disagree regarding the issue of video versus audio. There is no question that video will remain more popular, but garner “most of the real ad spend in this class of advertising”? No, I have to disagree with that. There’s a reason that PBS is losing money, but NPR is doing better. And frankly, you just can’t watch a podcast while driving, most exercising, working, etc. But you can listen to one. Audio podcasts will always remain popular, and I think will continue to garner a substantial amount of advertising dollars from it. However, when it comes down to it, the number of downloads will really determine this.

    Will average podcasters make it big? Of course not, no more than average game developers will become Sid Meiers or average writers will become Stephen King. But working hard and knowing the industry will allow these podcasters to make something of their podcast if they want to. They can create a career if they want, they can turn it into a second job. As you said, it is all a matter of taking a hard look at what they want, and what they are willing to put into their podcast.

    Omaha Sternberg

  23. Gravatar Icon 23 Michael Mar 24th, 2008 at 12:36 pm


    I appreciate your comments. Two quick points related to your examples.

    1. Most writer’s don’t make much money – agreed. But any group of people that with a strike can shut down Hollywood and make the front page of all the papers etc. is most certainly an “Industry.” Just having a union gets you that status.

    2. Game developers I don’t knw much about, but any trade show where companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote produtcs rates as an industry. Heck, doesn’t game development compete with dollars from Hollywood right now? What podcasting ad network is competing on that level? Want a better idea – convert your podcasting ad network to a video game product placement ad company and suddenly you are in business!

    Michael Geoghegan

  24. Gravatar Icon 24 Omaha Sternberg Mar 24th, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Michael wrote: “1. Most writer’s don’t make much money – agreed. But any group of people that with a strike can shut down Hollywood and make the front page of all the papers etc. is most certainly an “Industry.” Just having a union gets you that status.”

    Except that “writing” in and of itself does not mean that you can “shut down Hollywood” or “have[ing] a union”. The writers strike was about scriptwriters. The writers that I referred to are novel and short-story writers…a whole other cup of tea. There are no novel writers union, and if a large number of novel writers decided to “strike” for a period of time, it wouldn’t matter at all…most books have been scheduled a year in advance or more. The schedule would far outlast the savings of almost all of those writers.

    Whether an industry had a union or not, I would think, shouldn’t determine whether it was an “industry”. I think what determines an industry should be economic activity in exchange for products or services delivered with a degree of regularity. I don’t think there needs to be a bar, a certain amount money exchanged, to determine that. The regularity, as you mentioned earlier, is more important.

  25. Gravatar Icon 25 Michael Mar 24th, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks Jason for the comments and the audio. Great stuff. But when we cut to the chase isn’t it basically what I said here: in the infamous Podcasting Is Dead presentation. I am curious if you agree with my basic premiss? Yes, no, maybe-so? I’d appreciate your comment.

  26. Gravatar Icon 26 Michael Dell Mar 24th, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    I agree. We need to have more then Godaddy codes to call podcasting an industry. I look at it as a big part of the overall internet media. (Blogs, Podcasts, Video sites, just plain old web pages, and streaming)

    My podcasts are also mostly listened to on the websites they are posted to. (Like Chris Penn said with his)

    Keep up the good work and someday podcasting will be used as much Email is. Email is not an industry either, but people have found ways (annoying as it is) to make money with that.

    Also, to some of us, podcasting is a hobby. If it makes money thats great. If it doesn’t, it’s still fun and a good way to meet new friends.


  27. Gravatar Icon 27 Vinny Mar 25th, 2008 at 4:28 am


    I have to agree that the rush to podcasting we all hoped for is not actually coming. I see opportunities as content creators for various industries. In this forum, we are creating community, as you said.

    I contacted a small publishing house about finding a way to promote their books through podcasting. I’m not making spectacular money (it barely amounts to a part-time job) but I’m honing my craft by interviewing authors, sharing their vision, and allowing readers an opportunity to preview books prior to purchase.

    The trick here is to convince these folks that podcasting is not just something a dude in your technology can throw together, but an opportunity for a company to collaborate with an experienced podcaster to create a new community with consumers.

  28. Gravatar Icon 28 Michael Mar 25th, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Just by coincidence I saw these somewhat related news items/blog posts regarding ad networks. ESPN Turns off Ad Networks and jason Calacanis’ blog post Are Ad Networks for Loser/Weak Publishers?

  29. Gravatar Icon 29 Independent Internet Media Assoc. Mar 27th, 2008 at 11:51 am

    It seems to me that this is a newer version of an old conversation.
    Is radio an industry? Was it one in 1900? How about television? It was originally invented before commercial radio existed, but did not become a viable industry until after consumers were trained to tune into their serial radio shows. It operated at a loss for years before cheap technology and a new generation of trained consumers existed. It was not until television separated itself from radio in regards to business models and program presentation did it become perceived by consumers as its own industry. But television was treated by its content creators as an industry from the start, so it became an industry.

    There are hobbyists in all forms of telecommunications – student radio, public access T.V. Does the existence of a large number of hobbyists preclude the possibility that an industry does or can exist?

    The distinction is T.V. evolved commercially through the established radio industry. It was a top down evolution. Podcasting, and for that matter most all Internet Based Social Media, is primarily evolving from the bottom up. Does that make it any less an industry? What, for that matter, does it take to be an “industry”? Traditionally it required a manufactured product, but today “industry” refers to any basic category of business activity.

    So is podcasting an industry? It can be when podcasters treat it like a business. Which brings me to agreement with this article in that many podcasters need to determine whether or not they are also business owners. But I think there is another issue involved here.

    Because of its bottom up evolution, I think that there exists a self-perception problem in Social Media. Internet based media needs to stop trying to fit into established media models and see itself as new, distinguishable and powerful in its own right. A new distribution model of entertainment and communication. Sure the audience is fractional compared to established Medias, but a single shot from a sniper is just as, and possibly more lethal than a shotgun spray.

    When podcasters, bloggers, vidcasters, etc. see themselves as creative business people, the new world media moguls, THEN podcasting – for that matter all RSS feed, internet based subscription medias – will be an industry.

    Marcia Ruf
    Founder, Independent Internet Media Associates
    a 501(c)(6) trade association

  30. Gravatar Icon 30 Mark Lassoff Mar 29th, 2008 at 7:59 am

    1) Great post Michael. Lots of food for thought there. I agree with just about everything you said. As an old school media guy, I have never seen the direct connection between Podcasting and monetization. I think podcasting can be a part of a larger content delivery system, which, togehter will provide a stream of income.

    2) “When podcasters, bloggers, vidcasters, etc. see themselves as creative business people, the new world media moguls, THEN podcasting – for that matter all RSS feed, internet based subscription medias – will be an industry.” Interesting quote, but I think it is demonstrative of the larger problem. I think many podcasters, blogger, vidcasters etc., do (incorrectly) see themselves as new media moguls, when really they are miniscule cogs in very, very large media wheel. Until the level of quality produced by these “media titans” has a level of quality that makes the majority of it listenable, then maybe we can worry about creating podcasting moguls. The average podcast is of poor quality, not well produced and in trying to be antithetical to traditional media, becomes so loosely developed, recorded and produced that it is usually an incomprehensible, interminable dialog– Let’s face facts (while there are MANY MANY exceptions) the majority of Podcasts are bad, and (thank goodness) fade immediately.

    3) The term podcasting itself likely sealed the fate of the media as a likely profitable enterprise. My mother can’t understand from context what a podcast is and her eyes begin to glaze when I discuss RSS feeds. The term podcasting, while a good thing for Apple, from a marketing point of view, is a terrible name that doesn’t have resonance outside the podcasting echo chamber.

  31. Gravatar Icon 31 Rick Savoia Mar 31st, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Michael, my head hurts. It’s not your fault. It’s not the fault of any one comment to your post. It is a culmination of frustrations in the entire podcast monetization debacle.

    I am one of those podcasters who fit the following:

    1. My podcast is aimed with laser precision at a specific target audience. It is a B2B techie audience who are, by nature, polarized in opinion, a hard sell – specifically in terms of tech related products and services and are somewhat cynical of the unsolicited unless and until it has been fully evaluated and inspected individually.

    2. The vendors are mostly large hardware and software companies who sell either directly or indirectly to these techs. Many have ad agencies that are not yet tuned to podcasting with anything but a CPM model. A few will not even entertain the notion of taking a sales call from anyone but a large media company.

    3. I am not a salesperson and I have no desire to become one. I can make the pitch, but I have trouble closing the sale. (That is likely typical of many podcasters, although I would also venture to guess that some have trouble with the pitch as well.) I know I could sell the podcast to the right sponsors for the right price, I just need to get to them and convice them we are a good fit.

    4. I want a business, not a hobby.

    5. I believe podcasting can become an industry, but the fractional goals and visions of podcasters lack a focused intent to transform it into one – yet.

    6. I want to be an innovator, not an imitator.

    For nearly two years I have been working on my project, The Force Field, with obvious intentions. Although it has come a long way from its beginning in July 2006, I have yet to realize the goal of profitization from it. Indeed, what few ads I have profited from have been strictly barter, not that there is anything wrong with bartering, it just doesn’t equate to cash (as a sales rep in the broadcast industry told me once, you can’t eat barter.) So, no matter how far I’ve come with my podcast, I am still at square one.

    I tried the podcast network approach, and I have run a couple of campaigns. I have yet to receive a dime from them. After due deliberation I have come to the conclusion that the only people making money from these campaigns are the networks themselves, by “pimping” out the podcasters for peanuts.

    I had a lengthy discussion with Todd Cochrane at the beginning of this month lamenting the fact that the podcast “industry” is stuck in this horrid CPM advertising model that neither fits podcasting or is fair to podcasters. While I certainly am no newbie to the realities of the advertising world having worked in television for fourteen years, it is still no excuse for anyone to accept this reality as The Way It Is or The Way It Will Be.

    I can’t accept that. I refuse to do so.

    The CPM model may be acceptable for web sites, but not for podcasting. A podcast isn’t a web page and to treat it as one is like treating a dog like a cat. You don’t give catnip to a dog and you don’t take your cat for a walk. Two different animals require two different approaches. CPM does not fit podcasts.

    Okay, so Madison Avenue doesn’t understand that or see it that way. So what? If we want podcasting to be an industry why do we let Madison Avenue decide how we sell our inventory? Why are they calling the shots? Because they have the money? The advertisers may have the money but the podcasters have (or are, depending on your point of view) the product. That MUST count for something. The podcasting “industry” has clout. It just doesn’t know it yet.

    If we want podcasting to be an industry instead of a hobby, we have to turn it into one. It won’t happen by following the ad agencies and other media buyers who don’t know or understand what it is. It will only happen by leading them to that knowledge or understanding and by setting the rules by which that knowledge or understanding is utilized. Who better to teach the masses how to sell their product or service in a podcast than those who know podcasting best, the podcasters themselves?

    About a month ago I heard an episode of Rizwords in which the hosts railed upon the podcast networks because they did not receive the compensation they expected for the placement of spots in their show. Perhaps their dissent can be dismissed as the rants of misguided podcasters with unrealistic expectations or perhaps they have a point, but in either case they are not alone. There are others out there who, whether justified or not, are just as frustrated with the entire “system”.

    I listened to Paul Colligan’s frenzied lecture on the Seven Secrets of Monetization from PNME 2007. He is on the right track, but his is not the only train. I do believe there is a lot of truth to what he says and merit in his approach. I also thing there are other ways to profit from podcasting that are yet to be discovered.

    This “industry” is still young. How long did it take for radio to find its revenue niche? WWJ-AM in Detroit went on the air in 1920. The early radio stations were owned by corporations who pitched their own products and services, similar to corporate podcasts and webcasts today. The first real paid commercials aired a couple of years later. So, is commercial podcasting late to the monetization party? I don’t think so. I think this party is just getting started. The guests are still arriving. It is our party. It’s up to the podcasters – not the media networks, agencies or buyers – to get this thing going.

    If we want to sell spots in our shows we need a sales rep, or a team of sales reps. I need one. I would like to hire an outside sales rep – as in independent contractor – to spots on my show and my site. I would like to find someone who would do it part time, out of their home or office, call these companies, pitch the show and close the sale – for a fair percentage.

    Now, what if I could find an outside sales rep who could do this for other podcasters as well? That sales rep could essentially create their own niche market selling for podcasters. They would make more money than they would selling Amway or some other MLM scheme, the podcasters could set their own price and get it, the sponsors would discover the value of direct-market podcasting and everyone would make money.

    I just finished listening to The Podcast Brothers discussing this very page on your blog for the second time. There is a lot of podcasting wisdom exchanged in that episode. It brings me to the following conclusion:

    Everyone is still trying to figure it all out and make it all work, just like me. This tells me one thing. Whether it is a community or an industry, if you want to be an innovator instead of an imitator, now is the best time to be a podcaster.

    Is podcasting a community or an industry? Does it really matter? It is the New Media. We as podcasters are making history.

  1. 1 Neither Industry Nor Community - Podcasting Is Just A Tool - A Very Powerful Tool (And A Few Words About Gourmet Rice Pudding) | Paul Colligan’s Profitable Podcasting pingback on Mar 19th, 2008 at 1:50 pm
  2. 2 The Trend Junkie » Blog Archive » links for 2008-03-20 pingback on Mar 20th, 2008 at 10:22 am
  3. 3 Think Publishing, Not Podcasting » Digital Podcast pingback on Mar 20th, 2008 at 2:57 pm
  4. 4 Grabbing the Same Old Eyeballs at eric susch .com pingback on Mar 21st, 2008 at 10:38 am
  5. 5 Podcasting Underground | Podcasting Tips for Podcasters pingback on Mar 24th, 2008 at 2:12 am
  6. 6 Reports from the Asylum » Report from the Asylum 13 pingback on Mar 24th, 2008 at 7:35 am
  7. 7 If You Want to Start Making Real Money, Then Stop Being a Podcaster | Jason Van Orden :: Podcasting Consultant pingback on Mar 24th, 2008 at 11:31 am
  8. 8 links for 2008-03-25 | Sing a Song for Safety pingback on Mar 24th, 2008 at 9:23 pm
  9. 9 Leesa Barnes - Podcasting Expert and Author of Podcasting for Profit » Use Your Tagline to Sell Your Expertise as a Podcaster pingback on Mar 25th, 2008 at 4:25 am
  10. 10 When Tweets Collide pingback on Mar 25th, 2008 at 9:31 pm
  11. 11 Re-Tweeted - 73 Top Posts from the Last Week pingback on Mar 27th, 2008 at 6:14 pm
  12. 12 Podcasting Isn’t an Industry pingback on Apr 10th, 2008 at 8:23 am
  13. 13 Podcast Brothers 2008-03-19 Podcast Brothers — Social Media University pingback on Oct 3rd, 2008 at 7:16 am
  14. 14 TPU 34 | If You Want to Make Real Money, Stop Being a Podcaster | Podcast Secret Library pingback on Dec 20th, 2008 at 11:29 pm
  15. 15 Use Your Tagline to Sell Your Expertise as a Podcaster pingback on Oct 18th, 2009 at 11:45 pm
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Michael W. Geoghegan is founder and CEO of GigaVox Media, a production, consulting and technology company focused on audio/video new media.

As a pioneer of podcasting, Michael created some of the first corporate podcasts, including efforts by Disney. Michael is also creator of the 2008 James Beard Award winning "GrapeRadio" and "Reel Reviews: Films Worth Watching". He is editor-in-chief of the Podcast Academy™ book series and co-author of Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Podcasting.

Michael speaks frequently on podcasting's impact on new media and its corporate applications and is often quoted by the media including in The New York Times, USA Today, CNN and Wired Magazine.