How Podcast Works

I was talking about podcasts in a Twitter DM with a friend and he asked some stuff, and I started to write a long reply, then decided I should put it here.

So what I had originally said was: In my opinion, starting a podcast right now is way better than starting a blog, if you’re focusing on the ability to capture an audience. People who listen to podcasts get really into them, and it’s not tough to get a decent amount of listeners (mid to high hundreds) in a relatively quick amount of time.

He asked why this was, I’m just going to go through what I think really quick:

So first: Once a podcast listener decides they like a show, they’re very loyal and will stick with it for a lot of episodes. There are 2 main reasons for this imo:

  1. The default behavior for a lot of people who hear about good podcasts is for them to load it in their podcast app (whether it’s on a device or computer), and in most cases the process of loading it requires you to subscribe to it. This is good app design, because most people who load a podcast into an app want to subscribe. So now that app is saved indefintely in the listener’s app so there’s no barrier to listening anymore.
  2. Conversely, discovering new podcasts is a pain, and everyone complains about it. This makes it especially easy to just go “Ahh, I don’t want to spend time searching for something new, I’ll just listen to this thing that I enjoyed last week”. I remember some venture capitalist wrote something last year about that was like [venture capitalist voice] “Mmm discovery is a pain point, we see definite opportunities here” and then immediately a bunch of startups popped up with plans to do stuff like using advanced iterative regression tree machine learning algorithms to make crappy little embedded web players that do 30 second clips of podcasts.

But the main thing is that to get into a podcast, you have to listen to a lot of the podcast, and the goddamn things are like an hour long usually. It’s a big time commitment for most people, so the way a ton of people get into them is still from having friends say “Oh you gotta listen to this podcast”. That’s what it takes, you can’t just casually stumble across a podcast and suddenly be into it, even if that really would suit a lot of people’s goals.

When you listen to a podcast, the podcasters are all you hear for the entire hour. There’s no pretty sets to look at or cool special effects, you’re just listening to someone talk, and paying attention to what they’re saying the whole time. It creates a real bond. It also doesn’t hurt that most podcasts are run by amateurs and they don’t hide it, so you immediately feel like you’re behind the scenes as they say stuff like “Hold on, John’s mic isn’t working” and then fix it for 30 seconds, and then never go back and edit that out.

I’m rambling here, and it might get worse. But anyway my point is that people who get into podcasts get quite into them. The amount of fan art out there is off the charts, I’ve never seen anything like it. In the old days when you’d go online and you’d go “Holy crap, have you seen these nerds talking about comic books on message boards? They’re pathological and they need help.” — that’s what it’s like for podcasts now too. Google “podcast fan art” if you want to see 1000 cartoons of chubby guys with facial hair:

Look at the people in the fan art and try to imagine any time in history where people like that would have fan art of them — you can’t! People who used to make fan art are now the subjects of fan art. It’s against God and it’s bad, but it’s happening. We live in a dystopian future where astrophysicists can have a side job explaining that movies aren’t real, and it’s hugely popular!

But this massive shift isn’t any weirder than anything else going on right now. I’m honestly pretty sure the world ended in about 2010 and everything I perceive as reality is just the result of random chemicals that used to be in my brain floating through space, occasionally being hit by an electrical wave. Probably what’s happening is that I don’t even exist for thousands of years at a time, but then suddenly my floating brain lobes gets zapped by gamma rays and it causes an illusion that I’m still alive, in a weird, distorted version of 2016 that could never have truly existed in what humans used to call reality. But the only reality for humans now is billions of years of carbon and protein floating randomly through a vast, lifeless universe. They should never have booted up the Large Hadron Collider. All it took was a radioactive Swiss spider to sneak in and that was it, we all died — either from huge spiders killing us, or from the bloody killing orgies once everyone realized the huge spiders were coming and there was nothing we could do to stop them.

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