Podcasting's Lack Of Blockbuster Hits Is A Feature, Not A Bug

If the majority of the world isn't talking about one single must-listen podcast, the industry is dead. Right? Wrong. So very, very wrong. Here's why this mythical success metric needs to die.

Podcasting's Lack Of Blockbuster Hits Is A Feature, Not A Bug
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Every time there's a negative article focusing on podcasting's inability to generate blockbuster hits, I get a little stabby. Because here's the secret: you don't need to create a blockbuster podcast—because podcasting does not need blockbuster hits.

I know that seems at odds with other forms of media. There's a blockbuster movie every three or for years that everyone is talking about. Every fall, there's a TV program or two that seemingly captures the entirety of the world. A single hit song dominates the airwaves for weeks or months, and there are best-selling books that "everyone" seems to have on their shelves or talks about over coffee.

But in podcasting? Not so much. Not since 2014–2015, by some yardsticks. Here's what I have to say about that:

So what?

You were probably expecting me to break down all the reasons why podcasting is different from those other blockbuster-driven media channels. Like the distributed architecture we built into podcasting from day one. Or the relatively low entry barrier for creating and distributing podcasts. Or the fact that "it's a podcast" tells a potential listener nothing about the audio's actual content.

All of those things are true and certainly contribute to why podcasting doesn't have blockbuster hits like other media forms have blockbuster hits. I shall return to my secret once again.

So what?

Podcasting doesn't need blockbuster hits to survive. Podcast creators—at least those who understand our industry—don't need blockbuster hits to survive.

Yes, the podcast industry must demonstrate that popular shows can attract and retain large audiences. As more shows enter the space with much higher production costs, that will continue to be a driving need within our industry.

But a podcast's audience that qualifies as "large and retained" need not mean everyone. That's another power of podcasting: Establishing an audience that's many orders of magnitude below everyone can still make the efforts pay off for all of a podcast's creators.

That's what matters for many podcasters. That's what matters for many podcast networks. That's what matters for many podcast service providers who build the tools and services necessary to power podcasting as an industry.

If you're looking to make a blockbuster, I advise looking at a media form other than podcasting. Podcasting is a great place to be if you want to build a show—or a service—that can only work in podcasting. And be pretty rewarding.

With that, I shall be back next week with yet another Podcast Pontifications.


Podcast Pontifications In Your Inbox is written by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.

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