More pushback on Netflix for podcasts

We know that of course you can’t watch a Netflix-exclusive show on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. But wouldn’t it be great if you could? With the current open podcast ecosystem, that’s exactly what we have: any show from any network can be played in any podcast client by default.

You might think with my attack on Luminary that I don’t want big companies to succeed with podcasts, but that’s not it. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make money off of podcasting. I just think it’s possible to make money by working within the podcast ecosystem instead of against it.

Here are several great ways to monetize podcasting that preserve and even strengthen how podcasts work:

  • Start your own podcast (or multiple shows on your own podcast network) and build an audience. You’ll then be able to accept sponsors or memberships.
  • Offer an easier way to produce and host podcasts. This is what we’ve done with For $10/month, we’ll host MP3s at your own domain name and give you a podcast feed. Plus we have a companion iPhone app called Wavelength just for recording podcasts on-the-go.
  • Help smaller podcasts with a variety of tasks they don’t have time for, like finding sponsors or editing episodes.
  • Build a membership platform to make it easier for podcasts to be supported directly by listeners with subscriptions. While the user experience for members-only podcasts is not great yet, it is possible to create private podcast feeds that work in many different podcast clients.

And here’s a way to monetize podcasting that will weaken the ecosystem:

  • Leverage the popularity of podcasts by creating a proprietary distribution model with exclusive shows. This requires redefining what a podcast is to include shows that do not have an RSS feed. If you do this, do not call what you’re doing a podcast.

As I wrote in my blog post about Substack:

If we accept calling “any audio on the internet” a “podcast”, we undermine what makes a podcast unique: not just the convenience of delivering audio directly to your device, but the openness that ensures that podcasts work in a variety of players, without a single company with too much control trying to lock down the format.

Companies like Luminary and Spotify will most likely fail to dominate podcasting because listeners want to use their favorite podcast client to listen to podcasts. Try explaining why your exclusive “podcasts” don’t play in Apple’s app called “Podcasts”. But if someone does succeed in creating a “Netflix for podcasts”, it could eventually lead to a couple major problems:

  1. An aggregator on the scale of Facebook or YouTube could emerge for podcasts.
  2. The market could become fragmented like it is for video streaming services.

If either of those things happen, we will all be much worse off. (For more arguments along these lines, check out episode 323 of the Accidental Tech Podcast.)

Manton Reece @manton