Small podcasts can make real money.

I run the Disrupting Japan podcast. Like many podcasts, the show dives deep into a small niche. It has no real hope of mass-market appeal.

It turns out that if you want to make a living from a small podcast, its best to ignore most conventional advice. At least, that’s what I had to do.

But before I explain, let me back up a bit.

Podcast Nation

Japan is not a podcasting nation. Most popular podcasts are recycled radio produced by major media companies. Good independent shows exist, but you need to look for them.


There is a better way to make money in podcasting.

Having to build an audience from scratch in a country where most people have never heard of podcasts, showed me a different path to audience growth, creative freedom, and $170 CPM.

The strategy is not without social risk, but it works. And it’s also a way to bring new ears to podcasting, and that’s important.

Podcasting is at a crossroads today. Edison Research showed that while more content than ever is produced, the number of listeners is leveling out.

Many podcasters have responded by turning inwards and focusing their marketing…

Something interesting is happening in Japan.

Innovation works differently here, and if you look past the cryptocurrency exchanges and mobile-commerce startups, you will find a genuinely new technology coming from the nexus of artificial intelligence, robotics, and healthcare.

And it’s something that might utterly transform our world.

Evocative Rather than Empatic Machines

Machines are unquestionably becoming smarter, and a lot of good work being done on empathetic machines, but evocative machines are not necessarily empathic.

Empathetic machines can understand our emotions and empathize with us, but evocative machines are those which evoke emotions in us. Evocative machines cause us to empathize with them.

So why…

The T-Frend anti-overtime office drone

We were told that technology would fix it.

In 1930 John Maynard Keynes predicted that the work week would need to be reduced to 15 hours in response to improved productivity from automation. It hasn’t worked out that way. Things certainly have gotten better. Economies have grown, standards of living have increased, workplaces have become safer, but we are working more than ever.

It seems that when we ourselves are the problem, technology won’t solve it.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Japan’s toxic overtime culture.

Traditional companies demand overtime as a display of dedication, and much of it…

Cryptocurrency and ICOs are as different as dollars and donuts — literally, one is a medium of exchange and the other is something you purchase with that medium.

Cryptocurrency and ICOs are as different as dollars and donuts — literally, one is a medium of exchange and the other is something you purchase with that medium.

Cryptocurrencies are already becoming and an important part of the economic landscape, but ICOs will prove to be a short-lived fad with most ICO tokens worthless.

This is not a radical prediction. Blockchain technology does not change fundamental economics, and all tokens are not…

Startups in Japan have a problem.

It’s the same problem that faces startup founders around the world, but the misunderstanding is so strong here that it causes a lot of companies to go out of business just as they should be starting to scale.

Too many startups fail to understand the difference between relationship-based companies and product-based companies. All famous consumer brands are product companies: Facebook, Nike, Honda, Apple, Chanel, Google. Customers are attracted to market-ready products and, on average, customers feel far greater loyalty to those companies than those companies feel for their customers.

Marketing managers at product-based companies…

A lot has been written on Uber’s disastrous failure in Japan. Most authors point to the fact that taxies in Japan are abundant, clean, safe and affordable. While that’s all true, it misses a more important truth.

The success of any market entry depends only partially on things like product-market-fit, sufficient capitalization and local competition. Sometimes the secret to success lies simply in not doing what Uber did

You see, Uber represents a new kind of startup. The very thing that makes them so successful in America dooms them to failure in Japan, and watching how this has played out…

I just did what no startup founder is ever supposed to do.

I gave up.

It wasn’t even one of those glorious “fail fast and fail forward” learning experiences. After seven months of hard work and two weeks before we were to start fundraising, we had a good team, glowing praise from beta users, and over $250k in handshake commitments. But I pulled the plug.

My team and most of my investors are pissed, but I’m sure I did the right thing. At least I think I’m sure.

The business had what I considered to be an unfixable flaw. My…

Tim Romero

Host of Disrupting Japan and founder of four Japanese startups. Podcaster, author, hacker, investor, advisor, picker, grinner, lover, sinner

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