There has been a bit of noise in the tech podcasting space about the validity of the current podcast network model. The only post I personally read was the one from Glenn Fleishman, a Midroll customer, where he mentioned Earwolf. So I feel compelled to weigh in.
Glenn writes, “Podcast networks, including the tech ones I’m familiar with and those like Earwolf, an exceedingly popular comedy network that pupped off The Midroll, which sells my ads, are constructed too much like old terrestrial radio production companies, and not enough like the loosely federated nature of Internet association in which the means and methods of production and distribution have become simple and cheap.”
I’d like to say, first and foremost, not everyone should join a podcast or advertising network. I don’t think those models work for everyone. But they aren’t necessarily broken either.
It’s also important to note that not all podcasting networks are created equal. Some are poorly run. Others are not. We are proud of the value we deliver our artists, as evidenced by our high retention rate and long running shows. Out of the 36 shows Earwolf has produced in a little over 4 years, NOT A SINGLE ONE has ever left to go do their show with someone else or on their own. I think that speaks volumes to the validity of the model for our artists. I don’t know of any other networks that can make the same claim.
Here is the primary argument for joining a network – and I’ll keep this short: you have better things to do. Some people mow their own lawn, others hire a landscaper. Some people buy used home exercise equipment off of Craigslist, others hire personal trainers. Some people make their own dinner, others go to a restaurant. It’s about opportunity cost.
All of us are capable of doing things ourselves, including podcasting. That does not mean we should. Or want to. Earwolf works with people who need what we offer and want to pay for it: expensive and conveniently located professional studios manned by a full-time staff of talented, trained people who do everything for you.
Our artists don’t want to learn Pro Tools, store merch in their house, answer customer service emails, find and negotiate with advertisers, etc. They contribute small amounts of time and never any money. They get to show up whenever they feel like it and have fun with their friends for an hour. Doing all the work on their own show might mean they don’t have time to be in a movie (I’m not kidding).
And if a lot of people listen to their show, they get paid. Some of them, a great deal of money. The others get a free podcast with minimal work on their part. It’s a very simple value proposition.
We also drive listenership; in an increasingly crowded marketplace, the Earwolf logo helps you stand out from the crowd. While we don’t claim to be king-makers, this is not an insignificant value.
The truth is this: I’ve yet to hear a tech podcast have Will Ferrell as a guest. He was in our studios two weeks ago. He doesn’t want to go to your apartment and sit on your futon while recording your podcast. And he definitely isn’t driving out to Van Nuys, either.
One thing that Glenn also mentioned were ad networks. With the exception of a small number of special shows, like the Accidental Tech Podcast, selling ads is very hard. It’s difficult to do and hard to execute. And podcasters are at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding market rates. We have made more money, even after accounting for our fee, for every single show we have that had previously done it themselves. Lex Friedman is very good at his job. Even with ATP, Lex was able to raise rates and create demand for additional inventory, something that will prove very lucrative for as long as they sell ads for their show, long after they left Midroll.
How about we just say different strokes for different folks? No one is forcing anyone to join Earwolf, Midroll, or any other podcast distribution or podcast advertising network. And if you do join Midroll, we have 30-day termination clauses, so if you decide to leave, you can do so pretty easily. That has only happened twice (Mule Radio and ATP), which is a pretty good batting average with over 110 shows.
We work very hard and invest a lot of resources to improve the lives of podcasters every day and it bums me out to hear anyone imply otherwise.