Last month, I wrote, “The glory days of podcast networks are behind us.”
A lot of people have asked me about that since then. Many have argued that I’m wrong because some podcast networks are still good or useful, but I hadn’t argued otherwise. I meant exactly what I wrote: that podcast networks, as we know them today, have peaked, much like blog networks did years ago. Like blog networks, they’ll probably always be around as long as podcasts exist, but the era has ended in which being a member of a podcast network is the dominant, default, stupid-if-you-don’t-do-it method of having a popular, well-produced, profitable podcast.
Podcast networks are like record labels: they promise exposure, tools, distribution, and money. But as the medium and infrastructure mature, their services are often unnecessary, outdated, and a bad deal for publishers.
Writers don’t need blog networks to be successful today because of two major shifts since blogging began:
- The tools required to host and publish are now widely available and free (or very cheap).
- Services now exist for publishers to make money without requiring them to be a member of a network.
Networks primarily make sense before those conditions are reached. Podcasting has made major progress in both areas in the last few years, and will likely progress even further in the near future.
Some roles provided by networks are useful to podcasters, but there’s no reason that these roles must be tied to their membership in a network — podcasters are better off having services available that can be hired and fired at will without having to move or lose their shows, the same way web hosts, designers, and salespeople are hired.
Podcasters should own their shows and have contract services available to help, and their choices of such services should be neither apparent to their listeners nor part of their shows’ identities.
Today, ATP’s website is hosted by Squarespace. Its files are hosted by Libsyn. Its ads are sold by Standard. Its domain is registered at Gandi. It’s edited in Logic. If you listen, how many of these were you aware of? Do you really need to care?
None of these names appear in the artwork or domain name. Any of these can change at any time without bothering the listeners. We’ve owned the show, relationships, and audience access from the start, and we intend to keep it that way.
And I’ll do what I can to help and promote this as the way forward for everyone.
Update: About 5by5.