I know the title of this Blog posting is enough to make Hugh McGuire from LibriVox throw up. In fact, I’m not sure how we got on the topic, but we did discuss how to monetize a Podcast over lunch on Tuesday. Hugh and I were joined by Julien Smith from In Over Your Head and Paul Shore from the Guerilla News Network, and that’s where the conversation always leads: how can Podcasters make money from Podcasting.
It got me thinking (and, to be totally honest, I have no idea how clear this thought is in my head) that it’s not up to individual Podcasters to monetize their Podcasts. It’s up to Podcasting – as a media channel – to define it.
Here’s where I am going with this: the people who produce the TV show Entourage, don’t worry about how to monetize it. Nor do the people who produce your local FM morning radio show. Most journalists writing cover stories for national magazines probably don’t think much about it either. All of these people are paid by a media company to produce shows – to be creative. In fact, most of these media companies are looking for content to fit around the advertising – because that is the real business. The content is not to be monetized. The channels are. Just put all of this "stuff" (content) around the ads… but make it good "stuff", so more and more people stick around to see the advertising.
Maybe this is where Podcasters are getting confused. Maybe the creative people who love producing Podcasts should not spend too much time focusing on how they are going to monetize their content. I wonder what type of content people like Walter Cronkite, Malcolm Gladwell, or Charlie Rose would produce if they spent some of their time also worrying about how that content was going to be monetized.
We need to be thinking differently about this. Mostly, we need to not be looking at what worked in traditional media (like pre-rolls and post-rolls) because Podcasting is completely different. Granted it shares characteristics like being in audio and video formats… but it ends there. Podcasting is on-demand, able to be ported to different media types, content you can pause, rewind, skip, fast-forward, and content that once it is produced has a permanent air date. Let’s not forget the RSS delivery component either: as soon as a Podcast is produced (and as long as you’re subscribed to it) you don’t have to go out and get it – a Podcast comes to you. It also lingers as long as the digital file is left available.
Looking to radio and television as the model of monetization could be our biggest mistake. I don’t have the answers as to what will work, but I do know that if the responsibility lies solely on those who are passionate about creating the Podcasts in the first place, I think it will lead us down a dark (and boring) path.