What Podcasting Isn't

An old friend of mine sent me an e-mail a few days ago that went something like this... "Maybe you can help me out. I'm looking for sponsors for our podcast show."

One has to be a friend to have a friend, so I dutifully visited his Web site and listened to a few of the shows. They were long, vulgar, semi-funny (in a junior high school kind of way), trying too hard, over the top, self- indulgent crap. In other words, they were just my kind of entertainment! These audio sagas were labors of love - pure life imitating art. (oops!) I love podcasting - anything goes and there are absolutely no rules... or are there?

My immediate thought was: No sponsor will touch this - so why do you think you need one? I got back a pretty straightforward answer... "We're paying real money to produce the show. The talent is volunteer, but the production and bandwidth costs money. In a perfect world, the talent would be paid for their time and we would make a profit as well."

Problem one: Back in the day, it was called the "Springer Paradox," although I have heard it called by many other names. To get a big rating -- throw some chairs, a few punches, and curse a great deal -- the more bleeps the better. Add these riveting effects to topics that are way over-the-top, and you will do the kind of numbers the Jerry Springer show posted. But sadly, no major advertiser will touch you. That was then - imagine how it is in this FCC climate?



Okay, take that stuff out or calm it down enough so that a publicly traded company could associate their name with your show. And, very sadly, you won't have a big enough audience to attract a local skateboard shop, let alone a major advertiser -- hence, the paradox.

Problem two: Metrics. So, I asked, "How many people listen?" And the reply was, "We estimate about 5,000-10,000 but we don't really know. We're in the process of setting up a page where people can voluntarily tell us how many people they share their downloaded copies with. If we get a decent sample, we can get a good idea."

Wrong answer! You are not going to attract a sponsor without a demonstrable return on investment (ROI). Advertising executives, of any real size, don't tend to spend money that they can't account for. It makes them look stupid (or worse, gets them fired).

And so, the search for the profitable podcasting business model is on! Unfortunately for my self-proclaimed nerd-esque, shock-jock friend, his particular podcasting exercise is based upon an old fantasy. And simply using a new technology to distribute an old form factor may be great fun, but it's not a business. Now that we've thought a little bit about what podcasting isn't, I am anxious to hear your thoughts about potentially profitable models -- I'll suggest a few in next Thursday's OnlineSPIN.

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