I’ve noticed a lot of podcasts offering subscriptions and add-ons, mostly through Patreon, which offers creators donation tiers with tiered access to benefits. But the limit you’re reaching will or has hit others as well.
The indie podcast gold rush came and apparently has ended; it had a good run.
Now the business is shaking out, becoming more corporate: just look at the tens (hundreds?) of millions Spotify has recently spent to buy podcast networks (Anchor, Ringer, Gimlet), with content you’ll only be able to get there coming soon (like their recent deal multimillion dollar deal with Joe Rogan). Spotify was smart, and when Apple zigged and split off Podcasts from iTunes they zagged, incorporated them, and bought themselves a big podcasting network. (And every minute people spend listening to ad-supported podcasts is one minute Spotify doesn’t have to pay in royalties to musicians.)
The biggest podcast networks have large ad-sales departments, and contacts with major advertisers, and even some of them are hurting a bit. Scripps bought Midroll (Earwolf podcasts, Cracked) and the Stitcher network and app, planning to use the audience metrics in Stitcher to get higher rates… yet just a couple of days ago Scripps sold off the podcast business to SiriusXM. (Did they make a tidy profit, or were they feeling the pinch? TBD.)
And there are podcast behemoths you’ve never head of like Entercom which bought out podcast companies and now has programming partners including Conde Nast, Crooked Media, Entertainment Weekly, Goop, Sports Illustrated, TNT, and podcasters like David Axelrod, Kobe Bryant, and Deepak Chopra. Those podcasts are getting the auto and breakfast cereal ads, not small tech-oriented ones.
All the little podcast networks would have had it tough even if the economy hadn’t crashed. Indie tech podcasts have been able to concentrate on niche advertisers, but when the economy drops, they back off, and the more mass-market podcasts tend to retain their (higher-paying) advertisers.
Without good metrics on what people are listening to, as opposed to downloading, and given the current economic contraction, smaller advertisers are buckling down and in, and either not advertising or focusing on more proven streams. When the economy recovers, the big ad-buys will go to/stay with the big podcasting/radio businesses, and the small ones will have to scramble even more than they are now.
Will ‘plus’ subscribers save the day for indie podcasts? For some, yes, but if you listen to X number of podcasts with ads in them you’re only going to support a tiny few, at best.