The business of podcasts
The podcast business model is much more 60’s flower power than it is Wall Street. It’s about shoutouts, inclusivity and cross pollination rather than backstabbing, hostile bids and thick lines of cocaine on the boardroom tables. That doesn’t mean it won’t get there eventually.
But for now, it’s all about you liking me and telling your friends how amazing I am and then raving about the podcast on Facebook or any other social media.
Like Entrepreneur on Fire, one of the most successful podcasts to date. It eulogises about start up businesses and podcasters, opens their books to their listeners and happily discusses every penny that has gone in and gone out. Most of it, going in. It’s all about transparency. And trust.
I’m a child of the 60’s so maybe that’s why the business of podcasting resonates so strongly for me. I’m an African too, with an entrepreneurial fascination in new things. Win win
Podcasts are an invitation for entrepreneurs to come to the party. Sell their goods, spread their message.
Nikiwe Bikitsha is a podcaster with a season ticket to ’the party’. As CEO of Amargi Media and about to launch her own podcast in South Africa, she says: ‘Podcasts are appropriate for the African continent; there is a high penetration of mobile phones – a growing number of smartphones, a population that is used to seeking information and entertainment online; but at the same time mindful of the data costs. That makes downloading series or watching endless YouTube clips overly expensive. The beauty of the podcast is that it can deliver information, entertainment and education for relatively small bandwidth costs. Add to that a large commuter population and there is definitely a niche of potential users.’
Think of it like this; traditional radio advertising is like sitting on a crowded beach in Kenya where every trader is bombarding you with the same wares, none standing apart from the other. A Podcast is the one trader in that crowd that finds a way to make you buy his bracelet. A podcast speaks directly to you, and because you have chosen to listen to that podcast the advertisers have a very good idea of what sort of person you are likely to be and what you may be interested in buying.
Money moves in the downloads. The more downloads the more money. They are called CPM’s, if you really want to know – the cost per 1000 downloads or impressions, and that is just one of the ways podcasts are monetised.
And when the presenter reads an advert or sponsorship message. In the mornings as I’m getting my 4 year old twins ready for school and listening to the latest podcast I like eating oats….Very personal, and very expensive, especially if the presenter is well known. It is costing me, the listener nothing, the advertiser a lot.
It is that personal touch (it is called native advertising) that makes advertising on pods so valuable. There is a 63% click through rate which means you are likely to visit the website and/or consider purchasing their product or service afterwards, compared to 0.03% on YouTube ads. So for advertisers, a multicoloured audible dream
Earwolf’s Adam Sachs says; ‘There are smaller shows with a higher premium listenership like tech shows – the CPM rate may be higher because of who is listening. The margins change based on Earwolf’s involvement in the show, and that affects the revenue share.’ As CEO of one of the biggest podcasting businesses on the planet, he has overseen the production of 35 podcasts in studios in LA and New York, and the monetisation of 235 big podcasts including entire networks.
There is also crowdfunding to raise money, merchandise linked to the brand, road trips where the audience can buy a ticket to seeing the podcast being made live, video of the podcasts uploaded to YouTube pushes it into another league…and charging a small monthly fee allows access to the archives of a show and so too ushers in the era of the VIP pod listener.
Possibly the best thing about it, is the low cost of entry. All you need is a mic, headphones, skype and a recording app. That’s around 200 dollars max to get started. So even my four years old twins who can’t write but can build a house on Minecraft will probably be hitting the airwaves near you soon….
But a word of warning from Adam; “you need good content, and passion. In a world of nearly 400 000 podcasts, most won’t generate enough money to provide a living. If you are doing it for the money you will be disappointed but if you are hosting it because you are passionate, that is a really good start.’
And if the success of a podcast is by word of mouth – Serial is considered the gold standard of a show doing just that and holds the record for most listened-to podcast in history in its first season – then Africa is well suited for a podcast boom. We do like to talk, and if we love it, we will make sure people know about it.
As Nikiwe says; ‘The first humans to develop language and culture sprung from this continent. There Is a rich tradition of storytelling, with an emphasis on the human voice as a primary medium, so again, podcasts seem appropriate.’
As if they have come home. Man.
Look out for Nikiwe’s new series called SA Confidential due for launch later this year.
It’s based on one of her favourite podcasts…This American Life.
Adam presents his own show about the business and future of podcasting http://www.earwolf.com/show/wolf-den/
Other’s worth listening to under the Earwolf stable include:
Beautiful Anonymous — Anonymous callers tell stories about their life, universal stories – touching and real.
How did this get Made – One of Earwolf’s biggest. It’s a show about bad movies and all that drama that goes on in the background. http://www.earwolf.com/show/how-did-this-get-made/
UtalkingU2tome — Hosted by two best friends chatting about breaking down the group U2 and also about their friendship. In the last show they dropped in the real U2, as a complete surprise to the 100 000 subscribers, and they went nuts, the subscribers not U2. Turns out that U2 had listened to every single episode.
Jane Dutton, Al Jazeera Presenter, podcast fanatic – and piloting the soon to be next big podcast on Africa – please take a listen to African! on this link. https://soundcloud.com/janedutton/african
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