The Problem With Mashable’s Podcasters

Jan 11th, 2008 | By | Category: Corporate Podcasts, Making Money with Podcasts

mashable logoMark Hopkins at Mashable has penned an new variation on the podcasting doom and gloom story, in response to the recent news that Wizzard Media served up 1 billion podcasts in 2007.

Hopkins acknowledges that “people do indeed love to download podcasts, and that it is a sharply growing medium.” But Hopkins goes on to argue that the problem with podcasting isn’t getting people to download them, it’s getting advertisers to advertise on them.

He discusses his personal trial and tribulations trying to monetize his podcast, and his inability to find a sponsor for his idea for a new Mashable podcast.

His bottom line is that he thinks it’s just too hard for podcasters to get advertisers:

The problem that we cannot make reliable money from monetizing these downloads is the issue that keeps cropping up and preventing the rest of the world from taking it seriously.

Podcasters Need To Take Responsibility For Making Their Podcasts Marketable

We understand Hopkins’ frustration with trying to line up sponsors for his podcast concept. There are a lot of podcasters that have the same frustrations.

But Hopkins appears to be making a lot of the same mistakes that keep other podcasters from making money.

Let’s take a look at what Hopkins is doing wrong, and what he could be doing to make a successful Mashable podcast.

First of all, he’s got a sense of entitlement – he thinks that advertisers should be interested in his podcast idea.

There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts now, most of which are complete unknowns to potential advertisers.

Why should an advertiser be interested in Hopkins’ podcast?

He’s got to demonstrate why.

He’s also disregarding how the publishing world works. He’s got some ideas for a podcast and he’s trying to find someone that would want to advertise on it. That’s not the way publishing usually works in the real world.

Most periodical publications, whether they are print, audio or television, are essentially ad delivery mechanisms. Because of this, big media publishers don’t start by coming up with ideas for new magazines, radio or television shows – they start by identifying attractive groups of advertisers that need a way to connect with audiences.

In other words, they:

  • Find groups of advertisers with money to spend;
  • Find out who would want the advertiser’s products;
  • Produce content that meets the interests of the people that need the advertisers’ products; and then
  • Sell ads.

If Hopkins thinks about the Mashable podcast as a publication that has to meet the needs of advertisers, he’ll have a lot better luck finding them.

Hopkins is trying to sell vaporware.

Hopkins has a more fundamental problem, though. He’s trying to sell vaporware.

  • His Mashable podcast is a concept – it doesn’t have a track record or an audience.
  • Hopkins himself doesn’t really have a track record – his previous podcast struggled and then podfaded.
  • Mashable isn’t committed to the podcast. Hopkins notes that his boss at Mashable isn’t interested in the podcast unless Hopkins can line up advertisers from the start.

If Hopkins can’t get his boss to commit to the podcast, why would advertisers want to commit?
He hasn’t answered advertisers’ questions.

While Mashable’s got a captive audience and a great reputation, potential advertisers don’t know what a Mashable podcast would be.

Would it be a dry podcast that talked about social networking news, like their stories on Yahoo’s Real Estate Portal and GMail adding a group mailing list function? Would it be something that looked at fluff news, like sexy pictures of Megan Fox? Or would it be something else entirely?

Who knows? Certainly not potential advertisers.

Hopkins has to answer these questions and the other reasonable questions that any smart advertiser is going to ask, because it’s their job to not flush their ad money down the drain.

What Mashable Can Do To Sell Their Podcast

The ultimate problem that Hopkins faces is one that a lot of podcasters face; if they want to be professional podcasters, they’ve got to start podcasting like pros.

Here’s how Hopkins should approach his problem:

  • Figure out who’s got ad dollars to spend. What are the companies that want to connect with social network users? What are they trying to sell? For the sake of argument, lets say that there are some well-funded startups that want to pimp their latest widgets for social networking sites.
  • Figure out who the advertisers want to connect with. Let’s say that the widget advertisers want to connect with new users at Facebook.
  • Create great content that targets the right audience for your advertisers. If your advertisers want to connect with Facebook users, create the must-listen-to podcast for getting the most out of Facebook.
  • Establish a track record. Make a great show. Document that you have an audience. Show that you’re not going to fade out. Demonstrate that you’re committed to the podcast. Give advertisers a reason to give you a try.
  • Show potential advertisers that you’ve got what they need. Sell them on your show. And then follow up to them with metrics that demonstrate that they were right to give you a try. Show advertisers that they were right to give you a try.

There’s no reason why Mashable can’t have a great podcast that’s profitable.

But if they want to do this, they need to stop complaining about advertisers and, instead, start meeting advertisers’ needs.

Tags: , , ,

No Responses to “The Problem With Mashable’s Podcasters”

  1. geoff says:

    Good take on their “podcast blues”. The only problem I see with podcasting is that wi-fi, video, and the huge amount of people doing podcasts force the medium to keep evolving. We haven’t been static for any long enough time to develop a true business model.

    What I had last week were thousands of people listening to what I said and watching what I did. An advertiser incapable of capitalizing on that should probably close up shop, and as a content creator, I should probably get on with my sales drive.

    The tough thing is cutting through all the chaff. I don’t want to hear talk of a show “monetizing” until it has proven consistency and dedication to its own cause. If the producer of the show hasn’t got faith in the product, why would they expect a company to?

    Good stuff.

  2. info says:

    geoff – thanks for the feedback.

    You’re right – podcasting isn’t without it’s challenges, and it does need to evolve.

  3. It is incorrect to generalize that “big media publishers don‚Äôt start by coming up with ideas for new magazines, radio or television shows – they start by identifying attractive groups of advertisers that need a way to connect with audiences.”

    Most quality ones start with an editorial philosophy. From that flows the business plan, and not vice versa. Yes, there are plenty of glorified shoppers, but those are not in the business of journalism.

    There is obviously an oversupply of podcasts, coupled with a failure by and large of advertisers to be smart enough to learn to adapt to newer forms of media. That makes our job as podcasters harder, but not impossible.

    You make some good points, but as I said, they need to be qualified. Thanks, Eddie

  4. info says:

    Eddie – Your experiences may be different than mine.

    The publishers I’ve worked with figure out very early on if they have a product or not. What gets published depends on what is marketable.

  5. Actually, I do have quite a track record. The only reason the show pod-faded was to lack of fulfillment on the part of RawVoice. If we can’t get paid for certain new media efforts, I’m not a moron, I’ll move on to stuff that works.

    It wasn’t for lack of interest in advertising, either. Over the life of the podcast we had six or seven advertising contracts, most of which paid as agreed. For the reasons outlined in the original article, though, the management companies (not the advertisers) failed in their end.

    I have a sense of entitlement, you’re right. If an ad rep agrees to something, I’m entitled to them holding up their end of the bargain.

    Your hit-piece response fails on these and many other merits.

  6. Nick says:

    Hey Mark,

    How about asking Pete if you could just start doing the podcast and do it? Pick a format and a feel, and a host. Then tell people about it, they download them, and then you have the numbers.

    Getting a good host and picking a format can make or break the successes of the podcast.

    I know of a podcast that sounds boring: search engine news. Try selling that as a concept. Yawn!!! But listen to The Daily Seachcast with Danny Sullivan. This is a really fun podcast. Danny is so funny and charming, and comes off as super likable. Based on listening to this podcast, I really want to hang out with Danny and I am not really into search. Daily Search Cast attracts advertisers such as Bruce Clay and Looksmart becuase of Danny’s likability.

    In short: just do it. And if these are Pete’s terms (find advertisers first), maybe he is just filibustering you for some reason. Find out why.

  7. info says:

    Mark – if you want to be a new media pioneer, you need to stop complaining, stop pinning the blame for past failures on others and start thinking deeply about the technology and its implications.

    You need to make a kick ass podcast and build up your audience.

    And you and Mashable need to commit to your podcast before you expect advertisers to.

  8. […] is dead. Long live podcasting! January 11, 2008 Posted by Jim Milles in Podcasts. trackback It seems like ever since podcasting began just a few years ago, there were people saying“podcasting is dead.”¬† I started to notice the latest round of gloom and doom when Mark Blevis posted his response to the naysayers.¬† Then Mark Hopkins of Mashables stirred up a lot of indignation from podcasters with his recent posting about the failure of advertisers to support podcasting.¬† Hopkins’s argument was pretty thoroughly answered by today’s Podcasting News: Most periodical publications, whether they are print, audio or television, are essentially ad delivery mechanisms. Because of this, big media publishers don‚Äôt start by coming up with ideas for new magazines, radio or television shows – they start by identifying attractive groups of advertisers that need a way to connect with audiences. […]

  9. […] Podcasting News ¬ª The Problem With Mashable‚Äôs Podcasters We understand Hopkins‚Äô frustration with trying to line up sponsors for his podcast concept. There are a lot of podcasters that have the same frustrations. But he appears to be making a lot of the same mistakes that keep other podcasters from making mone (tags: podcast money moentisation web2.0) […]

  10. […] Dave Winer said that I was “full of shit wrong” when it came to podcasting being in any way a business proposition. Paul Colligan told me to stop advertising and make money other ways (echoing Leesa Barnes’ statement). The folks at Podcasting News were so incensed over the whole deal, they put out a hit piece on Mashable in general (calling our news coverage essentially dry and frivolous), and disparaging me in particular as a podcaster without a track record. They eventually dialed back the fervor a little bit and published a piece that addressed Dave Winer’s points directly, and then agrees with my original piece (although, I’d definitely categorize it as “acrimonious agreement”) with the conclusion that “podcasting is a technology, not a world view.” […]

  11. Todd Cochrane says:

    Mark tries to blame RawVoice yet he is still in a advertising deal with us. He is till the end of January. His show will start receiving payments for his Oct-Jan work in a couple of weeks. And while he points the finger at us let me be very clear that we will pay him as outlined in the insertion order and on what he has delivered to US and Canadian downloads.

  12. […] I was promised late last year that the Association for Downloadable Media would begin their crusade to rid the podcasting community of the hippies this year. Given the conversation arising today as a result of my tell-all yesterday, I have to admit a certain eagerness for them to get on with it.Dave Winer said that I was ‚Äúfull of shit wrong‚Äù when it came to podcasting being in any way a business proposition. Paul Colligan told me to stop advertising and make money other ways (echoing Leesa Barnes‚Äô statement). The folks at Podcasting News were so incensed over the whole deal, they put out a hit piece on Mashable in general (calling our news coverage essentially dry and frivolous), and disparaging me in particular as a podcaster without a track record. They eventually dialed back the fervor a little bit and published a piece that addressed Dave Winer‚Äôs points directly, and then agrees with my original piece (although, I‚Äôd definitely categorize it as ‚Äúacrimonious agreement‚Äù) with the conclusion that ‚Äúpodcasting is a technology, not a world view.‚Äù in Web 2.0. Feed for this Entry Trackback Address […]

  13. […] Then the reaction kicked into gear, argue, argue, argue, argue, argue, respond. Just an amazing amount of energy expended, and from my perspective pretty needlessly. […]

  14. […] This is the most straight-forward, up-front reason why independent podcasters have had a difficult time becoming ad-supported. “Most periodical publications, whether they are print, audio or television, are essentially ad delivery mechanisms. Because of this, big media publishers don‚Äôt start by coming up with ideas for new magazines, radio or television shows – they start by identifying attractive groups of advertisers that need a way to connect with audiences.” […]

  15. […] But we don’t have heavy hearts (just light kidneys, cf Neddie Seagoon). In all the talk recently of podcasts as tools, monetization, and some people feeling disillusioned on their personal projects (ahem, Mashable), here’s a nice spotlight on some nice news. […]

  16. […] Leesa also says things like “And I’ve finally figured out the #1 reason why most people claim podcasting is dead and I must share this epiphany”. That’s pretty weak, to use “most people claim …” I can’t say I’ve ever heard or read a credible person making that claim. It is by inspection obviously false if podcasting is defined as “shows being produced.” There are more now than ever. If you mean “cynical opportunists aren’t able to cash out quickly without putting much in” then sure. We have people like Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins who posted his disillusion with ad networks, which prompted a response from Podcasting News and a counterthrust by Hopkins. This brought on responses by Dave Winer about how he thinks you shoudn’t burden a podcast with paying your bills and Kent Nichols about how to make Ask a Ninja a business they had to do business stuff. OK, end recap. […]

Leave a Reply