PodCompass: Niche or Not?
Along with the constants of Death and Taxes, there is a third item that is true. That third constant is that marketing people fuck everything up for the rest of us.
Now, I don't want to give you the idea that the early days of podcasting was pure and virginal. For a time, there was even an argument about who invented it. It was pretty much a wild west, with lots of people just throwing something up to see if it stuck. The early pioneers of Podcasting were able to thrive mainly because of their novelty and personality. There are a few still podcasting today, like Keith and the Girl, Nobody Likes Onions, and Adam Curry (albeit a very different show than the one that he started with.)
Back then it wasn't that advertisers were placing a low amount of attention on the platform, it's that there was no attention paid to it whatsoever. Curry, through the now defunct PodShow, was able to get some advertisers to sponsor podcasts. Blubrry, one of the early podcast hosting services, has been matching advertisers with podcasters for as long as I can remember. For many years, very few people were making a living at this without a membership for premium content behind a paywall.
Then, slowly, comedians started seeing podcasts were a way to keep connected with their fans. Carolla, Maron, Proops all carved out their grounds, and with their names, the money started coming to podcasting. Still, the attention paid to it was underpriced. The downside to the money flowing to podcasting is that the marketers came along with it, looking for a way to monetize the platform successfully. I can't deny that they've done that, and I can't deny that along with their success; it invited the big production companies (for lack of a better term) to turn their massive talent (and massive budget) to the platform. That's fine, but this success has created a vast misconception that I, as one of the original pirates, feel it necessary to make clear.
The marketers and gurus who hadn't yet put their mouth to a microphone when I started would like you to find and fill a niche for your potential listeners. Podcasting to fill a niche is the best way to find out what your audience needs, then you create content that speaks to them, you convince them to sign up for your mailing list with a freemium of some kind, and somewhere down the road you create a class, or a book, or a product that they can buy from you. That's the sales funnel. Yes, it works, and honestly, I'm not even mad about it, but...
I remember what it's like to be an independent podcaster, a rebel, a pirate. I still do it for the love of the game. I'm still creating shows that run on content and personality, and not trying to connect with a fraction of a fraction. You do not have to fill a niche, please don't listen to the gurus that think that's the only way you'll ever be successful.
It is possible to be successful without some tight niche to fill. However, to do that, what you lack in a niche you have to make up for in your message, your content, your delivery, and your talent.
Niche-casting is easy. Podcasting? Not so much.