My conclusion has been it's not cost-effective as a for-profit model at this time because the potential audience at this time is so low.And he's right, for the most part. Many podcast as an avocation, and keep their day job to pay the bills. A few, however, have made the transition. And in every case, it's been about the audience size. (If you're into podcasting, none of this will be news -- if not, though, pay attention).
Leo Laporte, "This Week in Tech"
Leo Laporte is arguably the biggest name in podcasting. He's a professional TV and radio broadcaster, with the pipes and delivery to match. In addition to his syndicated radio program, he's managed to parlay his podcasts into a virtual media empire. "This Week in Tech" is the flagship program, attracting half a millions listeners, but several other TWIT.TV programs have sizable followings as well.
As circulation has climbed, Laporte's been able to sell advertising across his network and increase the quality of his productions. He's also taken advantage of his (rather specialized) celebrity status, and is often the go-to guy for opinions about tech on other programs (such as "Regis and Kelly").
Mignon Fogarty, "Grammar Girl"
The meteoric rise of the "Grammar Girl" podcast made mainstream media news. Within a few months, this short podcast about grammar rules had racked up over a million downloads. Like Leo Laporte, Fogarty used the opportunity to create a network of similar programs. Now the Quick and Dirty Tips Network offers podcasts with tips about manners, sales techniques, parenting and more. Fogarty's long since quit her day job as a technical writer and editor.
She's published a Grammar Girl book that's doing very well, thanks to support from the podcast, and the Quick and Dirty Tips network is now generating a nice amount of ad revenue as well.
Brian Ibbott, "Coverville"
Ibbot's highly specialized podcast dealt with only one form of music: covers. Nevertheless, he's built an enthusiastic international audience for the podcast, with a circulation large enough to allow him to quit his day job. But Ibbott does more than just "Coverville." Like Fogarty and Laporte, he's the center of a small network of programs, In addition to his lead program, Ibbott also produces and hosts two daily music podcasts for the Denver Post, and a showcase podcast for Not Lame Records.
So what do all these highly successful podcasters have in common? As I see it, four basic things:
- Compelling content. Leo Laporte makes tech understandable and interesting -- and his panel usually has great chemistry which makes for lively and informative discussions. Mignon Fogarty provided information in an entertaining and understandable fashion that people were hungry for. Brian Ibbott presents a fascinating mix of music and themed programs that entertain music geeks and newcomers alike.
- Consistency. All three podcast networks maintain a dependable production schedule. TWIT always comes out on Monday. "Coverville" gets posted three times a week. "Grammar Girl" comes out once a week. Each of the three programs maintain a consistent show length, and all have a set structure that they follow.
- Lots of sweat equity. I talked about this in a recent post about music. All three podcasters put in long hours to ensure the quality of their work remains high. They also are on top of the latest trends in new media, and quickly exploit them to further promote their networks.
- They're all doing what they love. And that's something you can hear in their voices.
So even if Sean Tubbs and I haven't hit the big time yet, I suspect we've at least got #4 locked up.
So who else is working full time as an independent podcaster? Let me know!