Treat Every Moment Of Every Episode Like It Is The Last Chance You’ll Ever Have To Do This Thing That We All Love So Much
When creators and networks complain about podcasting’s “market saturation,” it's an excuse. Let’s discuss.
Welcome to Dispatch #40 of The Audio Insurgent. The Audio Insurgent is now old enough to do…whatever it is those who are 40 do, like complain about their children and worry about retirement savings.
Last week I was in Prague to speak at Radiodays Europe (and I’m really, really sick of being away from home--the dogs have decided I am not allowed to travel–my family: more ambivalent about my presence). I spoke there two years earlier when it was in Lisbon and what I said there inspired one of the most-read and most-reposted dispatches I’ve ever shared. Speaking to international (read: not U.S.) broadcasters and podcasters is always so interesting to me, because they occupy the same platforms, but operate in very different environments. It’s a (fun) challenge to go there and speak to things that reflect their truth.
I was scheduled to speak at two sessions. In the second session, I was one of four speakers each given 7 minutes to predict how a topic will change over the next 12 months. The topic I was given: “market saturation.” A response from the attendees at my first session to one of the session host’s opening questions led me to tear up what I planned to say at the second session and start over. I felt a little emotional as I read what I re-wrote for them. That talk is lightly edited for today’s dispatch.
Here we go…
[TODAY’S THING: MARKET SATURATION IS A RED HERRING]
Hello, my name is Eric Nuzum. Along with my co-founder, I run a podcast consulting and production company in New York called Magnificent Noise. I have been asked to talk about the concept of “market saturation” and how I think that will change over the next 12 months.
So, to make sure we are all talking about the same thing, what exactly is “market saturation?” It’s the same as observing that there are too many podcasts, either generally or in a specific category or genre. Depending on whose math you use, there could be as many as 1,000 new podcasts every day. That means in the 7 minutes I’ll be talking, there will be 10 new podcasts when I’m done that didn’t exist when I started. That’s what many feel is a saturated market.
I have struggled with this session’s prompt for two reasons: first, I generally don’t make predictions. I don’t find them useful or interesting. Second, I don’t think that market saturation is a real problem in podcasting.
Before I explain, I want to reflect back on Sunday’s Podcasting Workshop. Sam asked a number of questions to open that session, similarly to what he just did here. He asked, “How many here work in podcasting?” And “How many of you are producing a podcast right now?”
Then he asked: “How many of you are happy with your podcast?”
About one-third of those who said they were working on podcasts indicated that they were happy with what they produced.
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about this. Happy with what they are making?
I’ve created many dozens of podcasts. They’ve been downloaded millions of times. I don’t say that to brag, but to illuminate the fact that I’ve never been happy with anything I’ve ever made.
And if I ever did feel “happy,” I’d be terrified and snap myself out of it immediately.
The reason I fear being “happy” about my work: Happiness leads to complacency. And those who are complacent are those actually affected by “market saturation.”
Market saturation is real for some, but only an issue for those who are satisfied with creating mediocre podcasts. Those who settle for “okay.” Those satisfied with making things that are the same as everyone else. Those satisfied to create things that are only marginally different.
In Sunday’s workshop, Leanne Alie told us about the importance of passion when making a pitch for your podcast. She told us that she values that because the passion needs to infuse itself throughout the podcast production itself.
I couldn’t agree more. And that passion is often accompanied by drive.
Many successful creators share something close to a compulsion that flows inside of them, an urge to always push. Push to make something better, and keep pushing for more. They push editorially. Make their ideas sharper. Work harder on their episodes. Go back again and again to make it better. They can’t stop themselves.
Even after the production work is done, that drive makes them a bigger advocate for their project with others. They push to do the work to connect to an audience, rather than waiting for someone else to do it for them. And when they achieve an audience goal, they immediately reset the goal higher.
Their success comes because they are never satisfied–they always want to push their idea further. They push until the last moment they can.
Look at the podcasters you admire most–and you’ll see that compulsion–that drive–evident in them, their work, and their relationship to the audience.
So here you go, I will make a prediction after all: those who raised their hands to indicate they were “happy” with their shows? They will be back here again in 12 months, wondering why their podcast hasn’t grown and why it hasn’t gotten any better. They’ll wonder why they can’t secure more revenue to support their efforts and they will blame all this on false external culprits like “market saturation” and “discoverability.”
Podcasting’s low barrier to entry allows everyone a chance to share their stories and ideas. That’s great and good–but it doesn’t mean everyone will be successful.
You are not entitled to an audience, you do not deserve an audience, you have to earn an audience. You aren’t entitled to ad revenue or sponsorship, you earn it.
And if you want those things… and don’t have them… don’t be quick to blame external things like “market saturation.” Realize that one of the principal reasons you don’t have those things may be because more is being asked of you to attain them. You need to not be satisfied or “happy.”
I know… that’s work, I’m sorry. But it is true and you need to do that work if you want that form of success.
If there is one good thing to come out of this mild recessionary era in podcasting, I hope it is that people will realize that a primary key to podcast success is passionate relentlessness. Just doing something isn’t the same as succeeding at that thing. Never stop pushing; never be “happy.”
If you really care about your podcast, that drive lies inside you–you just have to bring it out. Realize that by pushing yourself, you are moving your work from good to great. Treat every moment of every episode like it is the last chance you’ll ever have to do this thing that we all love so much. Treat every moment you turn on a microphone as if it were the last chance you’ll ever have to capture the human experience. And every time you speak, treat it like it is the last opportunity you’ll ever have to be heard. Infuse every moment of every episode with its potential–and yours.
There are 1,000 new podcasts today–but make sure even your most skeptical listener and hardest critic would have to admit that there is nothing in the world quite like yours.
My hope for the next 12 months… and perhaps this is a prediction too… is that when this group next comes together, some of you will have heard these words and understood that there is more for you, if you are willing to be the one to make it happen. And that you will come back here and share that journey with others.
And the next time you are at a meeting about podcasting, or a conference about podcasting, and somebody starts talking about a nonsense issue like “market saturation”–run, don’t walk, in the other direction.
Be very wary of the things that wish to distract you.
And make great things.
Okay, that’s it for today.
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Make great things. I’ll be listening.