Measuring Success, Today and Tomorrow

Although each of the companies profiled in the case studies are doing well financially, it is still too early to declare any podcast or podcast company a “success,” especially when so many of them rely heavily on advertising for income (experiments with direct support and live events remain just that—experiments rather than long-term strategies). Exceptions include those “value-added” companies such as Audible and BuzzFeed, which are essentially experimenting with audio, but not dependent on it for their lifeblood. Panoply is also notable in its pursuit of alternate and innovative revenue streams; however, one could argue that they too are overly reliant on advertising. Where podcasts seem to show the most potential (outside of advertising and branded content) is as an audience engagement tool that can generate support for direct donation and/or freemium models.

Podcasts are remarkably suited to acting as complements to other kinds of content and to encouraging audience engagement in ways few other media can. If podcasts and podcast networks are to be economically viable over the long term, they must be cognizant of the strengths of the medium, which they should leverage to their advantage.

There are many other questions left to explore regarding podcasting’s greater implications for journalism beyond the issues raised in this report. One route of interest, for example, could be to examine larger, established media organizations, such as CBS and ESPN, to understand how they are developing podcasts in relation to their radio offerings. Also of interest could be a more internationally focused study examining the ways government-sponsored broadcasting corporations affect the podcasting landscape in terms of opportunities for monetization and audience engagement. As this sphere changes daily, I have no doubt new questions, challenges, and opportunities for future research will emerge in the days, weeks, and years to come.

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