A Scientific Model of Listener-Supported Podcasting


PodMov Daily: Friday, February 5

Episode 366: Week Download Complete

A Scientific Model of Listener-Supported Podcasting

In early 2016, science reporter Alie Ward built a Patreon community for her podcast. However, Ologies didn’t yet exist. Ward spoke with Melissa Locker of Timber.fm about the show’s unusual path to becoming a giant in the genre. Listeners do more than fund the podcast, Ward says. “The moral support is incredible.”

On the show, Ward interviews a wide range of experts (e.g., ecotoxicologists, fulminologists, archaeologists) with curious, relatable humor. Networks were uninterested early on “because the show was a little bit too niche and my listener base wasn’t big enough,” she says. Now, its ad revenue is donated to charities.

“I think what [Patreon] allow[s] people to do is really important in a society where we’re so used to having to get our money from corporate sponsors in the hopes that our listeners will buy something,” Ward reflects. This level of success certainly isn’t typical, but neither is her audience-first approach to podcasting.

The “Fun and Profit” of Podcasting for Celebrities

Near the beginning of the pandemic, “Hollywood’s entertainers were among the most notable figures joining the nearly $1 billion industry.” The trend is likely to last for several reasons, according to Julie Miller of Vanity Fair. Celebrities have joined the game “for fun and profit” as well as instant gratification. 

iHeartPodcast president Conal Byrne calls podcasts “the best sketch pad for ideas in the world right now.” Why wouldn’t Rob Lowe give it a shot? A source told Miller that a six-figure annual guarantee isn’t unusual, “with the biggest actors receiving between $1 million and $3 million to launch an unscripted podcast.”

Repurposed effort is a draw for comedian Adam DeVine, who launched a show with his fellow Workaholics in October. “Realistically, we wouldn’t be able to film this for another two years, but we can do this as a podcast now,” he said. “I’m trying to find all the fun ways that I can work at home and not put on pants.”

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We must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves.

Here's what else is going on:

  • Fully charged: Spotify has plans for podcast subscriptions and à la carte payments, reports Sarah Perez of TechCrunch. During Wednesday’s earnings call, CEO Daniel Ek alluded to a future with “all business models.” This vision includes consumers willing to pay for individual podcasts.
  • That’s hot: Paris Hilton’s upcoming iHeartMedia podcast will incorporate “Podposts,” writes Reggie Ugwu of The New York Times. I Heart Paris mixes in “short (between one and three minutes), stripped-down dispatches meant to mimic the cadence and tone of posts on social media.”
  • Human nature: The synthetic-audio startup Aflorithmic has raised $1.3 million in funding, reports Robert Scammell of Verdict. The ‘audio-as-a-service’ company says that its software can convert text into a cloned voice of your choice, achieving “podcast-quality audio” at lower cost.
  • Energy bar: On Tuesday, Podcast Movement speakers Tangia Renee Estrada (That's What She Did) and Maribel Quezada Smith (DIFERENTE) will lead “Surviving Podfade.” The three-session virtual masterclass and live Q&A will focus on sustainability strategy. Registration is $49.99.

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