I am now 6 months into starting my own company. I left a great job at a great company (iHeartRadio) to go out on my own in July. I did it because having spent the last 12 years in the podcasting world, I knew I had more to offer than most companies who are just starting. Let’s be honest, there are a lot of “podcast experts” out there who haven’t spent even a year in our industry. In those six months, I have lost my co-founder, made pivots in my business plan and in general figured out that this is a lot harder than I thought...but I love it. Since being on the start-up team at Stitcher I have found that I seem to enjoy the self-torture of startup life and in the words of my friend and entrepreneur John Roa, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
That being said, I have gotten to see and give some guidance to some folks who have entered the space unprepared. I thought it would be a good idea to share with you the things I see that they and I have done wrong. So, I present to you, 5 things to avoid when starting a podcast company.
Not understanding the economics- I can’t tell you how many times I run into folks who simply don’t understand how podcasts make money, what CPM is, what dynamic insertion is, and in general, don’t grasp how hard it really is to make a single dime on a podcast. Do your math before making your content so you can make a rational budget.
Don't listen to just your friends and family- Your support group is great, but they are going to tell you that your show or shows are great even when they are not. To make it in this business your shows need to not only be great but be special. Do some outreach and focus groups on show ideas and first episodes before committing to a weekly or long series.
Not hiring professionals- Getting people cheap is great, but getting people who are inexperienced is not. It’s an old cliche that you are not paying for the hour, you are paying for the fact that a pro has put in thousands of hours to get good enough to finish a product well in that hour. Pro does not mean older or someone with “broadcast” experience, it means someone who has dedicated the bulk of their time to audio, storytelling, or writing.
Not doing a marketing and business plan- This seems like an obvious thing, but for some reason, the DIY vibe of podcasts makes people think they can produce a product and then figure out how to make money from it. You have to think about how you are going to get ears to your show, who is going to sell it, and how much do you plan to make from each show/season. I am not business savvy by nature, but I have learned to be over the years because I’ve made this mistake.
Not doing something new- Podcasting is still, despite all the buzz, in its infancy as a medium. There are still lots of good ideas that haven’t been tried. Before starting something new, ask yourself, “Is this something new?” or am I prepared to do this better than the other guys. Mediocrity will not make it in this space moving forward.
Matty Staudt left his gig as a morning show host and EP of San Francisco’s #1 morning show to help start Stitcher 12 years ago. He’s been helping people get into podcasting ever since. His current company Jam Street Media focuses on podcasts for brands as well as show and company development. You can reach him at Matty@jamstreetmedia.com