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The future of listener-supported podcasts

As the golden age of podcasting blossoms, capitalistic free markets inevitably unleash large corporations to conquer the new frontiers and establish their kingdoms. Like the historic empires discovering new lands, the rumors of untapped gold always usher an era of conquest.

But podcasting, like it’s older brother blogging, is an open ecosystem and highly resistant to centralization. Those good at patterns will notice that Spotify is currently attempting to do with podcasting what Google tried with blogging 15 years earlier.

What will be the result? Ben Thompson writing for Stratechery concluded, “if we are to maintain a thriving podcast ecosystem that is open, we must figure out monetization, and from my perspective, that means subscriptions. The fact that Spotify won’t even allow Dithering to be played on their app only increases the urgency: if the choice is free and closed versus for-pay and open I will always push for the latter — three times a week, 15 minutes per episode.”

1. The pendulum of the ad-supported media has swung too far and the future will see a renaissance of listener-supported media

All things considered, it is yet to be seen if targeted advertising is a net positive:

  • Programmatic ads reduce the value of the content to the lowest common denominator. All creator platforms are valued equally even though one might have far more credibility and influence.
  • Revenue for creators is determined by quantity more than quality.
  • Content quality is gradually reduced to that which will result in clicks and listens instead of that, which needs to be said.
  • Consumers waste hours reading “fluff-content” created with the goal of ranking in the search engines instead of providing value.

This is partly why journalism is struggling and why the media is in a crisis.

2. Podcasts subscribers are some of the best naturally forming communities that are completely untapped

  • Because podcast listening takes time, consumers subscribe to shows which reflect their deep interests.
  • Unlike written words, the human voice is intimate giving podcasters significant parasocial leverage.
  • On average, podcast listeners listen to 88% of the episodes when they subscribe to a show.
  • The more niche the podcast, the more valuable the community of subscribers.
  • Many listeners wish to discuss what they’re listening to, but it’s hard to find someone who has also listened to the same episode.
  • If all the subscribers of your top 3 podcasts were put in a room, you’d probably be friends with many of them.

3. Podcasters would be more profitable and have better content by offering membership communities

  • By having direct access to their listeners, podcasters would be able to get a constant stream of feedback and listener response.
  • Podcasters would have a much better understanding of who exactly is their listener.
  • Podcasters would be able to experiment with content easily.
  • Podcasters would be able to build relationships with their listeners and not suffer from economic downturns if their advertisers back out.
  • Podcasters would have the freedom to speak their mind and not depend on advertiser sensitivities.

I believe in a future of podcasting where the listeners are in a community and participating in the creation of the content.

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Paul Mikhaylenko

Paul Mikhaylenko


Founder & CEO @ Listen App | The most advanced podcast community platform. Go deep when everyone is going broad.