This economic crisis has been all about yins and yangs.
Yin: offline businesses related to bringing people together and moving people through space are collapsing. Yang: many online businesses, especially in e-commerce, are booming. And this has brought non-technical founders to the table in unprecedented numbers.
A big part of this new influx of indie hackers? New podcasters.
I'm not the only one to notice. I came across a clever theory on Twitter last week that attempts to explain it:
Anecdotes aside, I reached out to TransistorFM founder Justin Jackson to get a more data-driven perspective on podcasting. Specifically, I asked him if more people are starting new podcasts in the coronavirus age. "Yup," he told me. "New podcasts are up (by quite a bit)."
But if podcast production is the yang, podcast consumption is the yin:
Marco Arment, the founder of the popular podcast player Overcast, more less confirmed the commute theory. He sent me the following graph, which shows Overcast's usage data since February. Each hump is a week, and the the low points correspond to weekends.
Note that listening habits haven't changed at all over the weekends, but only during the weekdays, when people previously had to drive to work or board public transportation.
But people aren't just listening less. They're listening to different shows.
The following analytics from Podtrac break the changes down by category.
News is the clear winner in the new podcast ecosystem (and in basically every other media ecosystem). Comedy shows are also making an aggressive recovery to their pre-pandemic levels. It's like people are self-medicating with laughter after unhappy bouts of news consumption.
For new podcasters who don't do news and don't do funny, this is rough terrain to navigate. But indie hackers wouldn't be indie hackers if they weren't among the people starting new shows anyway.
Toward the end of one of my posts back in March I mentioned that Rich Clominson of Failory was struggling with whether to launch his podcast in a crisis-distracted world. Ultimately he decided to move forward with the project. The Failory Podcast is about founders who have learned from past failures, and despite the fact that there's nothing newsy or comedic about the show, Rich told me he's cautiously optimistic about the numbers so far:
The podcast is going well, I guess. It's my first time in the podcast industry, so I'm not sure about the numbers yet. We've received 4,500 downloads so far (throughout 8 episodes) and we have +150-200 subscribers.
We have 7 more episodes recorded, and that will be the end of season 1, as we first want to validate the idea and see if there's good ROI from all the time and money investment.
As for ad revenue, that's going bad.
The detail about ads is no surprise. Without a backstop of subscriptions, no media company is safe right now. But the Failory founders should be encouraged by their early engagement numbers.
Another new podcast is in the works by No-Code MVP founder Bram Kanstein (who, interestingly enough, was just on the Indie Hackers podcast). He's starting a show called Early Ones, where he interviews early-stage founders about the challenges of getting started.
Before launching, Bram's recording a batch of 15 episodes to gain some momentum. I asked him about his goals for the show in light of the current decline in listeners. His reply:
My goals are 3-fold:
- doing what I love: talking to a new founder every day + learning about their journey in these early stages
- building my personal brand (I think I know a lot about these early stages and want to share that)
- by doing #2, showcasing my offerings: currently No-Code MVP
Making money with ads is something I do want to do, but mainly to try and cover the costs of my podcast editor.
It's all upside for Bram, as far as I can tell. Sure, there's a chance he won't recoup his hardware costs due to the advertising drought. But those costs can easily be reframed as a marketing investment. And in any case, it's a great excuse for him to call other men on the phone and have meaningful one-hour conversations.
So maybe it's wrong to solely view the current podcast ecosystem through the yin-and-yang lens of supply and demand. Especially when you consider that a tremendous number of new podcasters are just using their free time to enjoy a new project for its own sake. No better gateway drug to entrepreneurship than tinkering.
As for the entrepreneurs investing more than just their time into new podcasting projects? Now's a good opportunity to take a long-term view and level up the fundamentals. Those who survive in these conditions will thrive in the world to come. Business podcasts, for example, might not be doing so hot right now, but there's more than a little cause for optimism.
I'm publishing a few of these roundups every month! My aim is to keep ahead of the curve on issues affecting indie hackers and to forward the message along to you.
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