Some people say we’ve reached “peak podcast.” That there are too many of them, and that most of them are no good. I say that’s BS. If you think a podcast is right for your strategic needs, you should do it and not think twice. There is too much to be gained. So go for it!
New York Times: "Have we reached peak podcast"
Something got me a little angry recently. Can't you hear it? In my voice, I've, I've never been so angry. What happened was I saw an article in the New York Times that someone had shared on LinkedIn. The title of the article was, “Have we reached peak podcast?”
The overall point of the article is that podcasts have become saturated and that anyone considering starting one really ought to think twice. As a podcaster and as a content creator and content strategist, this really upset me. Let me tell you why.
Let me start by addressing the article itself. First of all, I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to the author that article that it's not coming from a place of “leave the broadcasting to the pros-style arrogance.
First of all, the article states that there are a lot of podcasts. It's easy to start one. The barrier to entry is low. You don't have to spend much money to do it. So as a result, people are doing it and it's led to a glut of podcasts.
There are hundreds of thousands of them. I think I saw a number recently that there are some 700,000 podcasts available through various channels, and many, many of the podcasts are started by people who don't necessarily know what they're getting themselves into.
They might not have the ideas or the talent or the sticktuitiveness to create a successful podcast. That's led to something called “podfade,” in which producers podcast producers abandon their shows after only a few episodes when they don't really take off like they had hoped.
The second point of the article that I want to focus on is that too many people start podcasts for the wrong reasons. They do it because they want to make money, they want to become internet famous. They want to become influencers and they think that by throwing a bunch of content out there, they'll reap the rewards like they've seen so many Instagram influencers do in the past.
The third point is that most of the podcasts that are out there leave a lot to be desired when it comes to quality. The article laments the so-called “bantercasts,” in which people just chat for an hour with each other into a microphone and call it a day. These, according to the article, are painful to listen to. The author seems to want to leave the podcasting to the pros people who are skilled journalists and talented interviewers. If you're some sort of self-important freelancer or a marketer or a company, pretty much just of any kind, you really ought to stay out of it.
To be fair, the article makes the point that not all of this is necessarily bad. You don't need a huge audience to consider your podcast a success. The article goes on to say that if you're focused on creating something of value because you want to share it or you have an interest or a hobby that you want to share, there's really nothing wrong with that.
This is something I actually agree with and I'll get into that in a little bit later. But the overall sentiment of the article, and I must say some of the comments that I've seen is to simply that we should put the microphone away and do something else and leave the podcasting to people who know what they're doing.
This might not come as a surprise, but I wholeheartedly disagree with a lot of what the article had to say.
The article that was in the New York Times called “Have we reached peak podcast?” wonders whether or not we've reached a point of cultural exhaustion with podcasts. There's simply too many of them and people just don't want to hear them anymore, or at least the quote-unquote amateur ones.
Now, the article does make some valid points. First of all, it cannot be denied that there are a lot of podcasts out there and many of them are probably really not all that good and the number certainly keeps growing. I mentioned before, there's hundreds of thousands, maybe approaching a million or so podcasts available for your enjoyment out there on the internet.
Most of these podcasts seem to sputter out. Or maybe they're just not that interesting or they never get any traction for some reason or another. And I also assume that a lot of people do in fact start podcasts for the wrong reasons. They do it to try to advance their own brand and as it mentions in the article, to become an influencer to sell something or to make money.
And I think this is true not only of individuals, but also companies that are starting podcasts as well. But my question to all of that is, so what?
First off, I don't really buy the cultural exhaustion argument. Of all of the content forms, podcasts are probably the hardest to consume because you have to use a special podcast player in most cases to get them. And they're also the easiest to avoid.
The article states that there are too many bad podcasts out there. And again, I say, so what?
It's easy to avoid podcasts you don't enjoy. So if you come across a podcast that is poorly produced or is not interesting, then just don't listen to it. It's not going to be in your face all the time.
Also, the article seems to run contrary to the spirit of content creation and sharing on the Internet. Now maybe I'm wrong, maybe I've missed these articles in the past, but I don't recall similar articles like this discouraging YouTube videos or blogs or Instagram stories in the past.
The beauty of the Internet is that it has democratized content creation. The cost of entry is so low for all forms of almost all forms of content creation, podcasts among them, that anyone and everyone can be a publisher and a producer and a creator.
And not just individuals either. It allows companies, brands, organizations, nonprofits to connect directly with their customers or their audiences or their beneficiaries or their volunteers or whatever audience they're trying to reach. It allows them to share more information and share more stories all at a lower cost, at a lower cost. No one has to go through the major media channels that you used to have to go through.
You get to decide what you want to share, your audience. The market will decide if they like it or not and then you can proceed accordingly.
There might be a lot of bad content and maybe even the majority of podcasts out there are not very well done. Some might say that this podcast is among them. Certainly my first few episodes weren't the great. I'd like to think that I'm getting better at it, but I'll certainly continue to get better at it. You can also say the same thing about blogs and YouTube channels and Instagram and so forth.
There's a lot of bad content out there, but the result has also been that a lot of independent content creators have emerged and have shared some really good stuff and that would not have happened if we had to go through the traditional gatekeepers of the traditional media like some would have us do.
Also, content creation is about exploration and growth. What I mean when I say exploration, I mean the exploration of your subject matter. And when I say growth, I mean growth in getting better and better at producing your content.
Many podcasters and other content creators start with a vision about what they want to share. And then through the process of creating their content, they discover that maybe the audience is not as interested in what they initially had in mind, but in another type of topic that's maybe somewhat related to what they have to share. So they pivot and then they focus on that different topic or theme.
Also, if they keep it up, you get better at it. It's especially true with podcasts. Your first few episodes, as I mentioned earlier about mine are never going to be your best. The more you do it, the better you get.
None of that would be possible without the attitude and the spirit of simply just going for it and creating and sharing without people and companies who have had the guts to put themselves out there and share their ideas. We wouldn't have a lot of the great content, podcasts, YouTube channels, blogs that we enjoy today.
So I have to say I'm perplexed by this article in the New York Times and other articles like it. I've seen a few other ones like it and this overall sentiment that you shouldn't create a podcast because you're not a pro and if you don't have anything interesting to say.
I think anyone, any company or any individual who is interested in creating a podcast or in sharing their stories in some other way should go for it. And for podcasts specifically, since I'm now a seasoned pro with a whole 12 episodes under my belt, I offer a little bit of advice.
First of all, have realistic expectations.
Unless you hire a production company, your podcast simply isn't really going to be all that good at first. Your topics might not be all the way thought through and your production quality might not be all that great.
Also you won't have much of an audience to start with. You'll share it with your friends and colleagues and you'll get a little bit of listenership that way, but it's going to take many months. I've heard as long as a year or more depending on the situation for you to get any kind of traction and build up an audience of any kind.
Expect that as part of the process. Explore, experiment and keep going and if you keep getting, if you keep at it, it will get better. You'll build your audience. It might not be a audience of millions like with Joe Rogan's podcast, but it will be an audience that's big enough for you.
And you'll get better at forming your ideas and shaping them and sharing your stories.
Secondly, speaking of sharing your stories, focus on information that has value. This is where I agree with the article in large part. Often people in companies create content with the end goal of selling something or advancing their brand or having some sort of self interest in mind.
Their focus should be on their audience. According to Gary Vaynerchuk, and this is something that I wholeheartedly agree with, providing value comes in two forms. Information and entertainment, or ideally maybe a combination of those two.
If you feel have you have some information or stories to share that will benefit your audience or your community in some way, you should share it. Maybe you even have a responsibility to share it.
But share it generously and freely and without expectation of any return. You need to focus on what your audience needs and what your audience finds interesting. And if you do that, the rewards will follow.
The third piece of advice I would have is to focus on quality. I've heard a lot of people say, and I've seen some articles say that really all you need to start a podcast is just an iPhone and an external microphone and maybe some simple software to do the editing and uploading.
And that's true. There's really nothing wrong with starting that way, especially if you're not sure that podcasting is the right approach for you.
But as you progress, I would suggest that you find ways to take the production value of your podcast up a notch or two gradually as you go. And I say that because there's nothing worse than bad audio.
If you listen to a podcast where it's echoey or you can't hear it very well, it's really just un-listen-to-able and people are going to tune it out pretty quickly. So as you progress in developing your podcast, gradually build your studio and invest in better equipment to make your production values better.
Also work on your own chops. Listen to other podcasts and get inspiration and hear what they do well, and feel free to steal some and some ideas. I know I did. There are several podcasts that I listened to that have inspired me and I bake a lot of their approaches into my approach.
Finally, as it relates to focusing on quality, know that you don't have to do it all on your own. You can look for help. There are people out there with the technical knowledge to help you get off the ground and they can share with you the types of equipment you'll need and how you should approach it.
Or there's also people out there who have the knowledge of content and they can help you shape your ideas and edit your thoughts to make it more interesting to your audience.
The last thing I'd say as far as a piece of advice would go would be is start a freaking podcast, if you want to. Don't let the naysayers like this New York Times article deter you. You might find out that it's not for you and you might find out that audiences really just aren't that interested in what you have to share.
Or you might find that there's a better way or a different way to share your stories and your ideas and your expertise. Podcasts aren't the only medium out there. There are blogs of course, and YouTube channels. Or you could do a newsletter or you could do a combination of several of those things.
The idea is about just starting to create content. I'm not just talking about individuals and freelancers here. Companies large and small and other organizations, educational institutions, nonprofits and whatnot, need to embrace the spirit of creating and sharing.
You have stories to share. Lots of them, I know it. Not all of them are going to be interesting to your audience, but some of them will be, and if you explore, and if you experiment, if you learn and grow with your content creation and storytelling, you'll eventually find that you're connecting with your audience on a human level.
And that's really what this is all about.