Mubashar Iqbal (@mubashariqbal) is the most prolific indie hacker I know. He's got nearly 100 side projects under his belt, and more than a few of them are serving the burgeoning podcast space. In this episode, Mubs and I discuss opportunities for indie hackers to serve the podcasting market, what Mubs is working on in the space, and whether or not Spotify is building the Death Star.
What's up everybody? This is Courtland from IndieHackers.com and you're listening to the Indie Hackers Podcast. More people than ever are building cool stuff online and making a ton of money in the process. And on this show, I talk to these Indie Hackers to learn about the latest ideas, opportunities, and strategies they're taking advantage of, so the rest of us can do the same.
If you've been listening in and enjoying the show, do me a favor, leave a quick rating for us on Apple podcast. In this episode, I just sat down for a casual chat with Mubashar Iqbal. Mubs is one of my buddies. He's been on the podcast before. He's probably the most prolific Indie Hacker that I know. He's got something like a hundred side projects under his belt.
And, today we talked about the podcasting space. How much bigger can podcasts get? Where are the opportunities for Indie Hackers to build cool stuff here? And what is Mubs himself working on?
We're still right at the beginning of this thing in terms of podcasting. Yeah, I know it's been around since like what, 2005, I think was the first podcast or whatever?
So it's been like 15 years, but it feels like there's still so much room for people to kind of really make a lot of money in this space and to, yeah, and just for a lot of interesting things still to happen, I think. Especially from the content side, like New York times has been on a posting spree as well, where they've been acquiring a podcast as well.
So, I think from the content side, there's a consolidation happening. From the creation side, you know, there's been some acquisitions there, but I think they're just like the number of tools and designing stuff that are just popping up to make recording podcasts and video as well like really easy as well.
And so, yeah. So I think there's like lots of different avenues in terms of, the sort of industry isn't just about making a simple, "Here's a podcast and here now you can listen to." But kind of as we talked about, there's like podcast studios who were kind of organizing around like a whole slew of different podcasts, but then there's all these tools that are...
...coming up as well. And yeah, it's just a really active and really interesting space.
Yeah. So, you're working on Founderpath right now. You're full-time on Founderpath.
But, being Mubs, obviously, you got a lot of other stuff going on, on the side. And a lot of the stuff you're working on is in the podcast space. So, maybe we should start just by talking about what you're working on. I know that you're working on Pod Hunt, which the last time we spoke about, I haven't checked out the website and maybe a few months, but I've seen it's probably still the same.
It's basically like Product Hunt for podcasts. So if you want to discover the best podcast episodes, you can go to Pod Hunt and it's like every week or every month you take the best podcast episodes, everybody can upload them. And then you can discover what you want to listen to.
Yeah, it hasn't changed much because it doesn't really need to change much. Like there's not really too much functionality I totally add there in terms like the core functionality of the sort of site itself. Yeah. It's just, like you said, people come in, they sign up, they can submit episodes, they can upload episodes, and then we just have kind of like this daily reader board of what people have upvoted and what people have submitted.
Like I said, it's been around for about 14 months now. Yeah, I'm still the most active user on it, which is, I don't know if that's good or bad, but you know, it kind of it is what it is. But yeah, but people are, I mean, like every week, you know, people are submitting their own episodes, people are spinning other people's episodes as well. So, I feel like the traction's increasing rather than decreasing, which I think is obviously a good sign.
And so, yeah, so that's an interesting one, you know, it's an interesting one, mostly because just like with Product Hunt, I don't really see like a clear path to like making lots of money with it because, you know, it's one of these interesting things that people would use if it's free, but I don't know that people would actually pay to kind of use it.
Like if Product Hunt went to a fully paid model where people had to pay to use Product Hunt. I don't know that people would use it that much.
Yeah. It seems like one of these ideas where you probably just try to make it big. And once it's bigger, you look for avenues to make money with it. And right now you've got a cool kind of part of it, which is the newsletter.
And it says get the best new podcast delivered to your inbox weekly. I think the newsletter could be an interesting avenue because so many people are making money on newsletters nowadays. And even if people don't build a habit of showing up to podhunt.app, your website, and habitually checking that every single week or every single day, they do check their email every day.
And, if every day they're getting a list of the best podcasts to listen to, and it's pretty much like in the startup slash tech space, those are all the podcasts that seem to get up uploaded to your site, for the most part, I could see people paying and subscribed to that, especially if there's some like editorial behind it, where like maybe you, or maybe you bring in someone who wants to start a newsletter and can't really get off the ground, doesn't have an audience, but they can just come run your newsletter.
And it already has 600 subscribers. Maybe they do like a revenue share with you or something. So they're producing the content, editorializing it, and you split it. I could see people paying for that, that aspect of it.
I think everyday would probably be a bit of a stretch, but I think once a week, I think would kind of work, especially if we're focusing in that kind of startup, kind of Indie Hackers scene, kind of that space, just because I don't think there's that many podcasts coming out every day that would kind of make it worthwhile.
You basically have like one episode every day, which would probably wouldn't be too interesting, but no, having kind of a recap of the episode in there so people can kind of know what's in there, but then also look at the impact of like, you know, if like, you know, we were just talking about the podcast industry.
So, if there was a podcast talking about the podcast industry, having some other information that somebody could kind of pull in, just kind of expand what's there as well, I think would be a really interesting thing as well. So, I think that's absolutely something I've kind of considered, you know, it's not something I can do with a full-time job as well.
It's not a full-time job, but it really would be quite a lot of work, I think to kind of make something that really works.
And what's your goal with it? Like what do you want to do with Pod Hunt?
I built it mostly just because I like listening to podcasts and it's a tool that I thought would be interesting. I use Product Hunt, obviously I've been using that for five years now. And so, it's just one of these things that didn't exist that I thought should exist. But yeah, I mean, I think longer term my plan was always just to use it as kind of like a honeypot to kind of attract other kind of avenues of making some money.
So like, build some applications for either podcast listeners of a podcast host, of podcast studios or whatever, and then just kind of use it as like a honeypot to go and I'm going to make money kind of elsewhere instead. That was I think always the longterm plan, obviously with Founderpath being, you know, my main thing now. It's still kind of the plan, but it's also not like I see urgency for an important part of the plan.
Yeah. I was talking to Daniel Vassallo a few weeks ago on the podcast. And he had, he's got like a SaaS app that he's working on, but he kinda like abandon it to work on other stuff. And in the meantime, it just kind of growing in the background. We got it to the point where it was no longer like a cost center for him.
It was actually like breakeven slash making money. And now it's just kind of growing slowly in the background. And I like how you've got so many things you're working on at all the times, basically. You can kind of set it and forget it too. So you can create Pod Hunt, put it online and now people can contribute to it.
It's really working. People can send them to the newsletters, it's all growing, even if you don't really work on it in a given week or month or something like you'll come back and there'll be like slightly bigger.
So it's always there for you to come back to.
Yeah. I think that's one of the interesting things that if you look at my, I worked on a portfolio of the, you know, how I'm not going to count how many things are on there right now.
But, if you look through most of those, you'll see are like, probably about half of them are on like this autopilot thing, where it's like, I made it, I was really excited about making them, I still use them, but I don't really update them anymore, but they're all kind of fully automated where they just go pull some API content from somewhere or they go scrape some content from somewhere.
And the people are still finding value there, because the website is still up to date. That's why I built a website three years back called New Movies Coming Out, it's a website that just list. Because I was tired of like IMDB and those big news, big movie sites that yes, they list like what the movies are coming up and they make it so hard to find, and, you know, I don't know what's coming out next and I have to go like six levels deep to find that list of what's opening next week or opening the week after that.
So really this is a one page website. I think I went back to it about a year after I actually launched it, and there was like, 1,100 people on the email list. And I was like, I haven't touched this since I launched it. And like, where did 1,100 people come from? And so, yeah, so that's always been kind of one of my strategies is like, yeah, I don't want to spend a lot of time working on this stuff, but once I launched it, I don't really need to, but I can always come back to it and say, "Look, here's a new feature I want to add now."
I mean, now I can email it out to 1,100 people who are actually finding value there as well.
How many different mailing lists do you have right now?
Yeah, that's probably a bad thing, but yeah, I think I probably have, I know there's probably like 20 or 30 mailing lists that I have that all have somewhere between…
You've got, I'm on your portfolio. You've got 97 projects listed.
And you've got a status for some of them like dead, autopilot, active, sold, zombie. What does zombie mean?
Zombie just means I've stopped updating it. It needs to be updated, but the site's still up and is still, there it still has value from like old archived content.
Kind of dead.
It's kind of dead, but it's...
It's the living dead.
It's the living dead, exactly.
And a few of them are podcasting. So you've got Pod Hunt, which we talked about. You've got Podcast Hosting Review. You've got Podcast Ping, you got other stuff. Why are you building so much stuff in the podcast space?
Like I said, I think it's still a lot of opportunity there, but it's also an industry that I'm really interested in as well, just because I listened to a lot of podcasts.
I talked a lot of people in the podcasting space all day long as well. And I think it's an overlap of something I'm interested in, something I see a lot of opportunity for in the future. So why not? You know, if I'm going to be spending my free time working on something, I'd rather be working on something that has potential to continue to grow rather than something that would just kind of already reached its plateau.
I think a lot of people would question whether or not podcast have much room for growth. I mean, it seems super saturated, but then you could also go look at what some of the bigger players are doing. I think, the founder of Spotify was talking about how he thinks that podcasts are still kind of early days.
And, they're obviously investing super heavily. They spent like $600 million in the last year, just acquiring podcasts and podcast hosting companies and podcasts tools and podcasts networks. And they're just talking about the fact that podcasting is going to blow up in the future. And so even if you are an Indie Hacker trying to research and like do your own market research and you're coming up short and thinking, "Hey, podcasts look saturated."
You can kind of place your faith in Spotify's market researching teams who clearly think there's a lot of growth coming in the future for podcasting. And I have like anecdotal evidence for this too. I mean, I have a lot of friends who started podcasting. I've had a lot of friends who started listening.
My mom listens to podcasts now, which is crazy to me, even though it's just my podcast really, that she listens to you. It just seems like there's a lot of room for growth.
Yeah. I mean, the way I see it is across all the mediums there's been this natural trend of, you know, people start this new way of sharing content, whether it's newspaper content, whether it's TV content, whether it's radio content; it all typically starts as a hobby somebody puts some something out and they share it with their friends or whatever.
Then it becomes kind of a little bit more mass appeal. Again, it's typically free at that point. And then there's kind of a tipping point where it starts to get, "Oh, there's enough people listening. Now we can kind of do advertising on it," things like that. And then it gets to the point where it's like, "Oh, now we're going to start charging for the actual thing that we want to do." So if you look at like TV and movies, it probably took, well, 80, maybe a hundred years to go from TV's being, yeah, people producing content in terms of posting pictures stuff.
And yeah, people were charging for like Hollywood movies, you know, for a really long time. If you look at TV, for the longest time, TV was free over the years. You didn't really have to pay for anything.
Eventually we got cable TV and there you have to pay for specific channels. And then you got things like HBO, and now you've got things like Netflix, where you have to pay for specific things that you want to watch. And so, I think, if you look at that parallel in terms of podcasting, we're just about to that point where it's like, pamphlets just started, right?
Like it's, I think we're kind of at that point. And if you were investing when Netflix just started kind of making their own content and charging for it, I think I'd like to invest in that kind of space. And so, that's kind of where I think podcasting is right now. We've still got a good, maybe still a good five or ten years where it's really going to mature in terms of people creating and charging specifically for really high quality audio-based content.
Let's talk about ideas, cause I got, I wrote down some ideas that I have for people who want to be involved in the podcasting space as Indie Hackers. The first one I have is to start a podcast network. A podcast network is basically, instead of just doing one show, you partner with other people who have shows or you hire other people who have shows, and you kind of work together as a group to basically produce shows under one brand.
So you have Gimlet Media, which did this. You have Barstool Sports, you have The Ringer, you have Wondery; there's a lot of podcasts that work and have done this successfully. And I think pretty much all the ones I just listed have gotten acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars. It's super lucrative.
They all raise money from investors. They use that money to acquire listeners for their podcasts. It's really hard to get listeners to your podcast even if you have a really good show, unless you have access to some really solid distribution challenges. It's difficult to grow through word of mouth alone.
So, if you can raise some money, you can now start advertising or paying for podcast ads and other shows, you grow super quickly. You have this group of people that you can learn from. So, when you're doing a podcast by yourself, it's kind of hard to figure out, like there's not very much insight into why you're growing or why people are downloading, but if you've got like 10 other podcasts that you're working with, it's way easier to bounce ideas off of each other and figure stuff out.
And then, what's the end game? Either make a ton of money from ads because you're getting all these listeners or you just get acquired by one of these podcasts listening companies like Spotify or Apple who are trying to own the podcasting space.
I think the biggest struggle for the Indie Hacker space specifically is, you know, a lot of people want to stay independent, they want to stay separate. They don't want to go raise money in terms of spending and things like that. I think it's a good idea.
I think there's also some legal things that you have to be concerned about, like in terms of like, you know, just understanding, especially if you're joining forces at kind of different times in terms of how long the podcasts have been around for like, you know, somebody is going to bring listens a month and someone's going to bring along 5,000 listens a month, or even, you know, kind of under that, whatever the scale is.
So, just understanding what the legal, you know, how you kind of organize yourself so that everybody has a kind of a fair shot at kind of being part of it and can understand who owns it. I think if there was a template out there that kind of outlined how you could kind of structure something like this, I think that would kind of alleviate a lot of people's concerns about how do we even start something like this.
I think you just have to talk to people, I think that's the, cause there aren't that many podcasts networks and there media networks and like other mediums, so there just aren't that many podcasting networks. So, I think you just have to figure out who's doing it. I mean, I'm working on this for Indie Hackers and I'm just emailing people and kind of talking to people.
And I'm in a kind of a different situation because Indie Hackers doesn't have any revenue. I don't have to make any money. And so, I don't have to like, it's a very easy sell if I go to a podcaster who's got like a bootstrapping related podcast and say, "Hey, join the podcast network. I'm going to try to get you more downloads and give you some mentorship. And I want nothing in return. I'm just trying to spread the word." But I think if you were not me and you're trying to do this yourself, I would talk to people who started podcast networks. I think you probably need some sort of advantage. So, maybe you can do this if you already are a media company with some sort of distribution advantage, or do you just have money.
Like maybe you're a SaaS and you've got extra money to spend or you've raised money.
Yeah. And I think it's also interesting to think about who would you want to partner with as well, right? Like, I think that's also the important, you think about where's the overlap in your audiences. Is there an overlap in your audiences, you know, is what they're trying to do?
You know, are you going to partner with a competitor in your space in some way or something like that as well? Which might not be bad thing to do, right? Like, I mean, just cause again, you're trying to grow the industry as a whole, rather than what's my share of the industry. So, if you can build a network that's going to spend more word about your industry, you know, like the food industry used to do this a lot, right?
Like, the pork industry with all of the pork farmers would kind of form a coalition or a cooperation or whatever, and they would spend all that money on advertising to have people eat more pork instead of eating chicken and stuff like that.
So, I think that's actually a really good idea if you're trying to grow an industry as well, and having a podcast where people can hear more about your industry and kind of what's happening in your industry is an awesome way to kind of make your industry expand as well. And I think also, you can just think about it as a way of cutting expenses too, right?
Like if you're paying an editor to edit your podcasts and stuff, if you can have three or four podcasts come together, you'll probably get a cheaper per podcast episode rate for kind of editing that. And also for hosting, it will become cheaper as well cause you're paying less for hosting per podcast as well.
So those economies of scales that come in and that's part of the reason that Spotify is buying all of these things is because they've already got the infrastructure and the back office operations that they are this incremental cost of running another podcast for them is tiny because they already have all of those.
They have the sales team, all ready to kind of sell the ads. They already have the hosting already kind of squared away, so it's not a big deal. And any extra income they make is just all profit. So, yeah. So it's not just about, you know, putting out more episodes, but also think about the sort of infrastructure cost.
I think that especially early on, I think, it would have a huge impact, I think as well.
I think that's a super smart point. And like you said, like this happens in other industries too. I think things kind of get unbundled. You see people, you know, starting individual newsletters, "I want to be my own media company or have my own podcast."
And eventually people realize like, "This is ridiculously hard. I don't want to do all this stuff. We should bundle back up let's partner together and start like our own group or media company or something." And also you've seen us with YouTubers and TikTokers and Twitch streamers who are like combining forces and living in these houses to produce content together.
So, I think this is going to happen with newsletters. You see a lot of people on Substack, like you know, doing their own thing. I think a year or two from now, you're going to see a lot of people who have joint newsletters or newsletter media companies, where they all partnered together and they have different voices and they sort of outsource a lot of the work.
So, you know, they don't each have to take on all these repetitive jobs like editing and copy editing and promotion, finding advertisers. Maybe it'll happen with podcasting too. I think maybe there's like a room here, there's room here to build another platform, like a hosting or publishing platform where you cater specifically to people who want to build a network.
And so right now, everything is kind of catered toward individuals, but you like specifically targeted people who want to group up, you build a bunch of features in that direction, and you go around pitching people who either already have these early networks, or you helped them form these early networks.
Maybe there's some space here where you're doing something that nobody else is doing, and you're kind of preempting the way the industry is going to go.
Actually reminds me a little bit what happened in the blogging industry as well, like 10 years back there. Everyone was doing their own blog, right?
And then they realized, "God trying to find advertisers to sell the little square ads in your little side bar," which is hideously hard and to kind of manage it all in terms of putting ads up and taking ads down. And how do you share traffic? You know, what if you don't publish every day?
You know, there's all these little blogging networks that popped up. The things like Iron Rules was one of those that I was kind of around a lot, sort of at the time as well. And it was the same. It was just like, yeah, we produce content. We don't produce content every day because when we're not redoing blogging, per se, you know, we kinda run an agency, but we want to blog too. We were kind of building some software, but we want a blog too.
And so blogging wasn't like the end of kind of what they were trying to do, but they understood that there was value there, and there were value posts, their finishing whatever they were doing that would continue to have value for the next project, and probably the one after that too.
And so, yeah, so I think if you want to look for a model, I think that's a really good model in terms of, it doesn't have to be like, you know, in terms of everybody agreeing and kind of giving over control. Cause I think this is kind of what you're doing with the Indie Hackers podcast.
Not really taking any ownership stake, you're not really telling the podcast what they have to do, but you're saying, "Look, we're going to build a distribution hub essentially for content of this particular kind." Obviously, with Stripe, it's a little bit weird, but eventually if you're like, "Okay, now we've got a hundred thousand people coming to this website every month to find new content."
Now you can start to advertise as well and kind of make some money as well. But obviously, like I said, with Indie Hackers, it's a little bit of a weird situation.
I like this idea though of, cause you're comparing it to like blogging networks where there isn't necessarily an owner who's profiting off of all of this.
It's just kind of a coalition of people who are all loosely networked together. And I think that avoids some of these particular problems with, like I messaged Sam Parr and Shaan Puri this morning about a podcast network. I was like, "Have you guys ever considered this?" Cause they have a really cool show, My First Million, I listen to it all the time.
And well, like, you know, how do you scale up a show? Either to show us to get really big or you get to turn into a media company. And Sam was basically like, "Hell no!" If you start bending like this, you know, working with creators, they can very easily turn into diva's and it's super true.
Like I've seen this with Barstool Sports. They have a pretty big podcast network and they got such a huge distribution channel. They have so many fans that they can take pretty much unheard of people, put their show on their network and start distributing it and just blow them up. And so they just go out and find really talented people.
Like they found these two women who had the show called Call Her Daddy or something, and they were super entertaining and super talented, everybody loved them. The show went from like a hundred downloads a month to like, I think millions of downloads a month, right after they got added to Barstool Sports.
And now it's just hella drama because any creator who's in the situation is going to realize how much they're worth.
Why stay there?
Yeah, exactly. Like, why should I stay here with you taking a cut? Why don't I go independent? And then you've got to figure out how to keep them on and keep them happy, but not pay them like a hundred percent of the revenue.
And it's just, Barstool is smart about it because they just publicize literally all of the drama and they make podcasts without the drama going on inside. But I think most people don't want that kind of drama if you're trying to start a company.
Yeah. And it's funny. I mean, if you think about how Spotify started, it was basically just a music network of artists, right? Like, because again, they didn't own any of the music that they had on Spotify, but yeah, they figured out, obviously it's a little bit different with the way that the industry works from the royalty side of things.
But essentially, they just got content, they built a hub, they just attracted people at the hub, and then they paid a percentage of the revenue back to the sort of people that were actually listening to the music. And I think you could do something similar. Obviously with podcasting, it's a little bit different because you don't know who's playing what episodes and all that kind of stuff.
But if you were going to fund the network with advertising, you could do that in terms of, "We know how many people visited your particular podcast page on the network, so we're going to give you X percent of the revenue of the ads." You know, you can organize it like that. I think it would be probably pretty easy to spin up something like this.
And once you get to a certain amount of scale to sell ads I think it would be really easy as well, because people who are not on your network, but want exposure on your network would pay for the ads. And the people who want exposure, but they don't actually want to pay for, would want to be part of the network instead.
So, I think there's lots of different opportunities there to kind of attract more talent, but also attract people who want to pay you to be a part of it as well.
I'm curious what you think about Spotify, because you mentioned that they started off with just music and their founders talked about how he just realized, like he said, "Oh, when I started Spotify I thought it would be nothing but music, but now I've realized our mission is really all of audio.
And we're going to do is capture the podcast space." And you know, they've been doing that. They've been buying every big show, it seems like every big podcast network, they just bought a big podcast host yesterday called Megaphone for like $250 million.
They're just trying to own the podcasting space. And there's this idea called embrace, extended extinguish, have you heard of this?
Yeah. It's kind of funny. I mean, Microsoft did this in the nineties and the justice department investigated, this is the exact phrase they use internally in the company. This is not something that other people said, like Microsoft executives saying, "Yeah, we embrace a standard.
So the standard might be like RSS for podcasting or HTML for websites." You know, they use it, everybody loves them, they play nice. Once they're big, they extend it, and add also proprietary features. And then they extinguish it. They try to kill everybody else, so they are the only owners.
That's what Microsoft did with Internet Explorer. Because they embraced open standards at the beginning and then they're like, "Well, we got to add this little thing that only works in internet Explorer and it's proprietary, nobody else can implement it." And yeah, that's kind of how, they killed the market there. I have mixed feelings about that story.
I mean, I like what they're doing. I think, obviously, apart from the content side of things, like in terms of buying the Joe Rogan podcast, obviously, you know, at some point they're going to make it, I guess that's the one thing with podcasts, right? Like it's very difficult to not let people listen to podcasts at all on other platforms, because you've got this, at least at this point, you still got these RSS feeds and things like that.
And even if you look at iTunes, is that even though iTunes has original content inside of their kind of podcasting space. It's essentially just an unpublished RSS feed as well, just because it has to feed into the iTunes application as well. And so if you know what the RSS feed is, you can figure out, you can listen to it on whatever platform you want to listen to it on.
So, as long as they don't push too far down that road of like, you know, really putting in that walled garden around their content and make it so that you have to listen to it within their kind of platform and do that, I'm cool with them doing it.
Because, one, it's just helping solidify the industry. I think like a year or two ago, people didn't really know what was happening in podcasting. Everybody knew it was going to be big, but they didn't quite know how big, and they didn't know how it was going to take up to the next level.
I think Spotify answered that in terms of like, there's a lot of money here, there's a lot of opportunity here, and we're putting a lot of money, you know, in terms of staking that we think is going to be really big. But, you know, but because they're a Swedish company in Europe, I think, one, they're going to be a hamstrung a little bit more than somebody like Microsoft was in the US just because of the way that the sort of legal systems work in Europe as compared to over here.
So, I'm kind of hopeful that the sort of regulators will keep a kind of close eye on things a little bit. And so far, I don't think they've done anything horrible to the industry yet. So until they do something horrible in the industry, I can't really fault them for kind of doing what they have done going up until now.
I don't know. I kind of see it coming, like I'm looking ahead, it's like, "Well, Spotify is a $50 billion public company. They're not trying to make small moves. They're trying to make big moves." And I think you're completely right, like it's very hard to stop people when podcasts are published on this open standard from listening to other players.
But podcast, Spotify is kind of moving in that direction where they're like on the extend step of embrace, extend, and extinguish. So they've got, I think they just introduced polling this year, whereas a podcast host, you can kind of add polls to your podcast. So I could ask a question and listeners right now would see on their Spotify app a poll pop up and they give me like, you know…
Or vote on different answers and see the results, and I can see the results too as the host. And no other podcast player can do that. And so if they keep extending the sort of spec for podcasts and adding all these proprietary features, you're going to see lots of podcasts that like only really make sense if you're listening on Spotify, the poll like this doesn't show up in another player, so you've gotta have to download Spotify and then they've extended it.
But ideally they get a lead and then they can work towards extinguishing every other platform because they've got a monopoly, but I don't think they're there yet. I think if I look at my download right now, it's something like 10% of my downloads come from Spotify and like 30%, 40% come from iTunes and Apple podcast, which is really kind of the internet Explorer of podcasting, where they own the whole space they're built into iOS and Mac OS.
So you all, like everybody has it as their default podcast player and they haven't really done anything to innovate. So they're almost exactly like Internet Explorer.
Yeah, like you said, I mean, I can see it coming too. Like, I mean, why would they spend that amount of money, not to kind of try and control it from end to end, but they haven't quite yet. So like, I can see it coming too, but until they do something that's kind of horrific and horrendous that's going to hurt the industry.
You're going to reserve judgment.
I can't blame them for something they haven't done yet. It's like finality report where you'd be like, you know, like, have they actually committed the crime yet?
I don't know.
I can't sue them for the crime they haven't actually committed yet.
This is like the Empire, like floating outside your planet, building the death star and you're watching them build a death star and you're like, maybe they're going to use it for good.
It's just a really big taxi that they're going to use to take people from one place to another. It's not really going to be something that's going to annihilate the entire planets though.
They did a survey too. I was reading a tweet from a journalist who opened Spotify and got a survey. And it was like, "Let's say there is exclusive Spotify-only podcast content and we had another subscription. How much would you pay for it? $3 a month? $8 a month?" So like they're surveying users to try to lock up some of these content, like these podcasts. Joe, Rogan's going to remove all of his content from, I think, YouTube and other sort of Apple RSS feed.
I mean, it is going to be interesting to see how they do. I mean, like it happened everywhere else, right? So, why wouldn't it happen in podcast? It happened on, in TV, everything used to be over the air, then it went to cable, and now it's all streaming and you have to go buy specific things.
I mean, it happened elsewhere, so it is going to happen in podcasting too. It's a matter of when it will happen. I guess, you know, ultimately too, as long as they're treating the talent well, can you really argue with it too? Right? As long as Joe Rogan's making a whole lot of money from it and he's producing great content that people can listen to and they're willing to pay for it, can you fault them for that either? Like as long as they're treating people well and making a lot of money along the way as well, I don't like it, but I can understand it. I'm just going to have to live with it as well.
We don't have a choice.
What are your ideas in the podcasting space? We talked about Pod Hunt, but you've got Podcast Ping, you've got a couple others. What are you thinking about building?
Yeah, I mean, I think it, you know, it comes down to, yeah, there's obviously, you know, when you think about podcasts, there's things that you need to do. You know, obviously there's things like hosting that you need to do. There's just like any other content, you know, you need to be able to promote your content and do all those kinds of things.
So, you know, I'm thinking about like, what's the life cycle of a podcast and how can we ease that a little bit? How can we make it easier for people to start podcasts? How are going to make people to host podcast and then how can we make it easier to for people to promote podcasts as well?
So, I've kind of got a few things, got to have a few irons in the fire there in terms of, so there's Podcast Ping, which is okay, you've got a podcast, you've got people listening to it, you've got advertising, or you're advertising on it, but now like your website for your podcast, your podcast feed itself needs to actually be up and available so people can access it and listen to it. How do you know if your website is down? How do you know if your RSS feed is offline because of your hosting company or whatever?
So, Podcasts Ping is just a service for podcasters just to keep an eye on all of the different parts of your podcast to make sure that people can access it. And when it's offline, we'll, you know, it will just email you and tell you, "Hey, there's an issue and people might not be able to listen to your podcast."
That's one thing that I've been building. Podcast Hosting Review, which is one of my, as you mentioned when you looked through my "I Worked On" list there. Again, people need to be able to know where to host their podcasts. And like you mentioned, there's apps like Anchor, there's the Megaphone, Transistor, Buzzsprout, like, you know, 50 probably now different hosting options into hosting your podcast.
So, how do you know which is a good podcast host or a bad podcast host? Mostly, you go and find reviews of a bunch of them and see which ones are good or not. So Podcast Hosting Review is a site that kind of aggregates all the different hosts and then aggregates the, views all of, kind of all of those as well.
So, you can make a well-informed choice about which features make sense for you, what kind of makes sense from a functionality standpoint and a price standpoint too, hopefully as well. So, that's kind of another thing. There's a couple of others, which are kind of in the works, that I've had in the works for a while, but you know, can only do so much.
But, one of them is more like if you've got an idea for a podcast, how do you know if it's a good idea? Will people actually want to listen to a podcast about that particular topic?
And so it's kind of like a kickstarter kind of idea where people come up with an idea, they kind of make a page for a podcast that they're thinking about, and then people can and say, "Yes, I would listen to that. Or I would pay X amount to listen to that." So, something along those lines, just to kind of get a sense of, is it actually a good idea to actually do this podcast? Just because you can record an episode about something doesn't mean you should.
These are great ideas. I like the Podcast Hosting Review site. Few years ago, I interviewed Steve Benjamins on the Indie Hackers website. So if you Google Site Builder Report Indie Hackers, his interview will come up. And I don't know what he's making now, but at the time he was making like $40,000 a month as a one-person operation.
And he just had a blog where he was reviewing website builders. And so, when you're thinking about like, "Oh, should I go with Wix? Should I use Squarespace or Webflow?" Like his site will come up and he has like this whole rating system for how he reviews different website builders, which ones you should use, and he's kind of like this objective reviewer.
And he has a standard where he doesn't let any of these companies pay him to influence his reviews. And so, he's just been working at it for years. And then I think he takes like an affiliate sort of fee, so if you end up clicking on one of these website builders and going through his website and buying, you know, their services, he gets some sort of cut.
And, the fact that he can make 40 grand a month doing that, basically just reviewing tools that other people made, he's kind of like a curator. So, the fact that you could do the same thing in pretty much any industry, "Okay, what podcast hosts should I use?" I think the answer to that question is not obvious.
Even to me, when I started Indie Hackers, I just kind of like, I think someone just, he was a listener, after a few episodes, he's like, "Hey, you switched to our hosts, we're new, we're Indie Hackers." And I wanted to support them and I had no clue what to look for. But now I know a lot more, like there are different podcast hosting kind of download measurement statistics.
So, one of the things I realized, I switched the Transistor this year and my downloads dropped like 40%. It turns out there's a bunch of different ways that podcast hosts measured your downloads. And there's a lot of ways to get fake downloads or bots, et cetera. And some hosts are just better at filtering those out than others.
And there's in fact, like an entire standard called the IAB sort of V2 standard and like Chartable uses it, but other podcast hosts don't. So, if you actually want accurate stats, you need to pick a host that uses a standard, which is the vast minority of hosts. So probably most podcasts out there are getting way fewer real downloads and they actually think. So, if you had a site like this, you could tell people about this kind of stuff that they just don't really know.
Yeah. In terms of that kind of stuff, especially if you want to start, you know, having people pay you to kind of advertise on your podcast, having something that follows a standard like that, because you can say that my host is IAB certified, that people know that they're actually getting, or at least industry-wide, they're getting, it's the same standard, right?
In terms of, I've got a hundred thousand downloads now compared to who, but compared to all the hosts who are using that same standard as well. So yeah, it's funny because I do go back to this parallel to like, "It's like the blogging industry a lot," because it is. It really is like a very cause I was, so I was doing some research to see what people were making, just doing blogging and stuff.
And, you know, I found there was probably a good number of people making 20, 30 thousand dollars a month from blogging. And how are these people making money from blogging? Without, you know, plastering their blog with lots of ads on there and stuff like that. And I found the vast majority of people who are making good money with blogging are, you know, showing other people how to do blogging. But how do they make money from that?
It's an affiliate program with all of these different posts for hosting blogs, whether it's WordPress or Bluehost or, you know, any of these other kind of site hosting and blog hosting platforms. And they have pretty generous affiliate programs, some of them were just kind of a one-time payment, but you know, anywhere from like fifty to a hundred dollars if somebody actually signs up. And some people do it more like it's just going to be a recurring amount.
So, if somebody signs up for the amount of time that they signed up, you'll make 10% of whatever they pay the sort of host as well. And so, yeah, so I'm, I'm kind of hoping that, you know, once Podcast Hosting Review kind of established itself, that there's some opportunity either through featuring hosts or doing affiliate links or whatever.
Mostly I did Podcasts Hosting Review as a way to be a kind of a lead magnet for Podcast Ping, right? Like if somebody is coming to Podcast Hosting Review to find a host, at some point, they're going to need Podcasts Ping to know if that host is actually up and if the feeds up and all that kind of stuff too.
So I've got my own reasons for starting Podcast Hosting Review, but I can also see a good opportunity to actually, a way for it to actually make some significant income on its own as well.
It's a cool thing about working on a lot of products at the same time. So they have this, they just like work well together.
And if like one of them works really well and you can use that to help drive a lot of traffic or users or data to another one that may be one of them succeeded on its own, but like, you've got this cool synergy going on. And Podcast Ping in particular, I think is a cool idea because it's a tool. So, I talked to Rob Walling a few weeks ago, and he's investing in companies that otherwise would have bootstrapped.
And he's really big on picks and shovels. There’s a gold rush, people are all doing a particular thing. Don't do that thing that everyone's doing. Just build the tools that they need, you know, sell them some shovels where they dig for gold. And like, you don't have to find any gold, you're going to get rich.
And if podcasting seems to be a big thing, everyone's starting a podcast. What are the different tools that you can make to support podcasters instead of just being a podcaster yourself, which is super competitive and hard and stressful. You can make an uptime monitoring service for podcasts.
You can make a, what else is there? There's Wavve which does kind of like, you know, clipping audio and sharing it to social media. And I had their founder on the podcast earlier this year and they're crushing it. Just selling kind of this tool to podcasters to help them basically get more listeners.
You've got a, I wonder if somebody has like a podcast hosting kind of like a podcast site builder. Cause I was looking at the Syntax podcast and they have a beautiful website that looks nothing like any other podcast website I've ever seen, where you easily got like a list of all the things you can build and they've got all their players, like, it just looks great.
I think they've got, there's an Indie Hacker actually who runs a podcasts page. I think it's Podcastpage.io, I think it is, which is basically just you point your RSS feed at it, and it will make a beautiful site for you automatically.
This is cool.
Yeah. So that's another interesting, they're like, you know, kind of avenue for, it's supporting the industry as a whole.
But you're doing it in an interesting way. Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, obviously if you can make money doing something, you can make money, helping other people do the same thing, right? So, in terms of what your market opportunity is, yes, you can build a podcast and you can build a very successful podcast.
And in a few years you'll make a lot of money. Or you can build a tool that people will pay you right from the beginning, that will help you make some money along the way, and hopefully will become, I mean, like I think Wavve was doing something like 30 or 40 thousand dollars a month now. That's pretty damn good money.
Yeah. We're using Riverside to record this. I've used so many different podcasts recording platforms. So, a lot of people use Zoom, but Zoom isn't made for podcasting. So, back when I started, I was using Zencastr, which is the coolest thing ever at the time cause it's like you log onto the website or you just give your guests a link.
It's like, no fuss, no hassle, they jump in. You don't have to like record separate audio, just recorded locally in your browser and your guests' browser, and then when upload their locally recorded version, so it would be super crystal clear, audio quality. And then I switched to Squadcast, which was cool cause it added videos, I can make eye contact while I'm talking to you.
And I'm on Riverside, which will record the video. And as far as I'm aware, all of these companies are actually doing really well, just creating basically the same tool for people who want to record podcasts.
Yeah. Again, that's just another sign, I think, that the podcast industry is at such an early stage, right? Like this is a very, I mean, tools like this are the fact that they'd really just popping up over the last six or seven months or so, just is another sign that one, there's just a lot of opportunity for people to still looking to improve their workflow in sort of putting out podcasts and things.
But I also think tools like this that make it easier for people to put out more podcasts will just mean that there's more podcasts coming out as well.
Which means the podcast industry, as a whole, even though people like Spotify might try and wall up certain parts of it with the celebrities and stuff, but the cool thing about podcasting has really literally been that anybody can publish a podcast.
And I think tools like this are just going to make it so that more people publish more stuff like this as well. So, you know, that kind of I think, compounds on itself. And I think that's kind of the sort of the other reason that I think I'm just really kind of into the space itself.
Well, listen, we have a million other things on our list to talk about, but we basically just talked for an hour about podcasting, we didn't even get to the creator economy and all this other cool stuff. But I want to have you on later to talk about this stuff, because I think it's very tied in. This idea that you, as an Indie Hacker kind of have this choice, you know. Do you want to be someone who creates content?
Do you want to build tools for people creating this content? Or do you want to build kind of the platforms that connect listeners or readers to the people creating the content? And there's people doing all three of them and there's a lot to be said there and you've got some cool stuff you're working on in both areas, and so do I.
I think the important thing there is like lean into who you are. Like some people are going to be really awesome in front of a microphone, and they're going to want to talk about lots of content and talk to lots of different people. And some people are going to want to write code in the background and things like that.
So, there's no one right answer for kind of everybody, but it's awesome that there's so many different options now. And I think there's kind of a few exceptions in terms of like, there's some really talented people out there who are happy to do all of those. And obviously those are like the sort of elite kind of rock stars out there.
I don't think you should let that put you off. If there's something that you're interested in, there's lots of different avenues that you can explore. And I think there's lots of opportunity there as well.
Yeah. And I'll add to that. I think your kind of funding choices play into that as well. Because if you're trying to build a platform, a platform is almost always kind of a winner-take-all thing.
Like Spotify is trying to own all the podcasts for a reason, and they have to kind of raise a war chest to do it. Whereas if you're in Indie Hacker, you don't want to raise money. I like the tool-based approach that you're going down, that the Riverside guys are doing, that Wavve is doing well.
You don't really need to raise money to build a tool. You can just build a tool in a very short amount of time, make it super quick and dirty and scrappy, sell it to early adopters. And then if you get big enough, you can raise money. Riverside just raised, I think two and a half million dollars, they announced, and they're doing a ton of revenue in a very short amount of time. Like Riverside did not exist this time last year.
So you kind of have that splitting path. So I think if you're in Indie Hacker consider the tools that are missing or the niches you can target.
Yeah. One of the things I had on the list to talk about was the sort of idea, or like what's the valuation of hopping to, you know, they went from eight months ago, not existing to a $2 billion valuation.
They just raised $200 million, I think earlier this week. So, again, that's a tool for doing virtual events because of the pandemic that we're a part of. And so, I tend to find these trends and building a very simple, and it's a very simple tool, right? Like it's virtual events. I mean, people have been trying to do this stuff for years, but because the world changed around them, it went from zero to, I think they were going to do $80 million in revenue, I think it was in the last six or seven months.
Being in the right place at the right time can be really helpful as well.
Super helpful. Well, listen, Mubs, it's been a pleasure as always. Can you let listeners know where they can go to find out about all these different projects we're working on and whatever is top of mind for you?
Yeah. The best place to connect with me is on Twitter, @mubashariqbal. If you want to see the list of the 97, soon to be 98 projects that I've been working on it is iworkedon.com.
All right, Mubs, take it easy.
Alright, thank you.
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Thank you so much for listening and as always, I will see you next time.
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