As CEO of Soundrise, Harry Clark is committed to supporting a thriving network of diverse and independent creators, with the freedom to tell the stories...Read more
When looking at a chart, whether it be the top songs in a given year or the highest-grossing films of all time, one understands that first place is objectively the best. To earn that top spot they put in the most effort and reached higher than all others.
What the number of streams, the final dollar amount at the box office or the number of tickets sold on a tour cannot convey is the amount of strategy dedicated to realizing that outcome. Our culture is one that prioritizes numbers, the higher the better. More, more, more.
But what happened to quality over quantity?
Similar phenomena — that is, prioritizing metrics in a way that aims to pad revenue and establish some form of predominance — have rippled throughout television, gaming and, more recently, podcasting.
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Some networks have shown the lengths they’ll go to in order to maintain their audience numbers, and simultaneously have built up rosters of hundreds of shows for the sole purpose of creating large audiences.
Marketers and advertisers use data to evaluate potential partnerships, and tactics that create a false impression of traffic are not only dishonest but also adversely affect advertising ROI. When did cheating become the best practice?
Diminishing returns for advertisers, or weakening trust in podcasting as a channel worth investing in ultimately impacts creators, and creates an entryway for a more commercial culture in a space born of rich storytelling and integrity.
Trust Is Foundational to Good Marketing
When creators and advertisers join forces with a network, they place a high degree of trust in it. While that may seem obvious, those building meaningful connections with an audience or those attempting to reach those audiences need to be able to depend on their partners to grow.
In that same vein, consumers operate with a degree of expectation when evaluating a product or service, and when it comes to total market value, trusted companies outperform competitors by up to 400%.
When a network gets so large that they have to fulfill impression levels to match, it can, and does, lead to bad practices such as buying impressions or other means of gaming the numbers advertisers pay attention to. Those tactics don’t serve brands seeking genuine ROI, especially if audiences didn’t meaningfully interact with an ad or show in the first place.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
In the long term, sometimes slow and steady wins the race. Creators and their listeners are equally interested in building meaningful connections, which can be leveraged for more effective marketing.
Great audio has always existed at the intersection of culture and commerce. Podcasting is a deeply personal medium that has generated some of the most successful works of the last few decades.
Nestled among major networks on the podcasting charts are leaders in public media who prioritize journalistic integrity and informative storytelling. Their work was the foundation of the early podcasting industry, a fact that should not get lost amid current reshuffling.
This approach works and has been emulated many times over. However, major networks that build large audiences for large audiences’ sake tend to deprioritize content curation. To what extent, then, is their support of meaningful, quality content at any scale compromised?
Addressing the Balance
Doing away with metrics altogether is neither feasible nor sensible. However, metrics based on scale alone may lead to decisions that have negative business implications. There are opportunities within the space, though, to pair creators of quality or meaningful content with like-minded advertisers.
Creating partnerships based on quality and creating seamless experiences for listeners, while allowing creators to tell stories in the way they’d like, is entirely possible. How the industry moves forward depends on nurturing new talent and fostering an environment where independent voices and diversity in storytelling and thought can thrive.
Ensuring quality audio can be produced is more important than rolling up an industry that still has infinite potential for organic growth.
Seeking out short-term profits or audience growth for the sake of inflating metrics of scale is a disservice to the podcasting industry in the long term. Marketers and advertisers must be able to adequately evaluate programming, especially as current economic impacts are felt.
Most importantly, though, are those creating the content that establishes audiences. Independent content creators are the backbone of the industry and the trends of consolidation and over-quantification ultimately limit the opportunities storytellers have to create content they believe that also generates revenue. Just look at what that same playbook did to commercial radio.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and ideas expressed in this post belong to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those held by State of Digital Publishing.