Home » Articles » Discoverability is Uniquely Terrible in Podcasting

Discoverability is Uniquely Terrible in Podcasting

November 22, 2021

This morning I was sent a series of tweets from Marcus dePaula; they weren’t sent to me by Marcus, they were sent to me by someone suggesting Marcus’s tweets were “subtweets” – meaning they were in response to me but didn’t tag me. I don’t have an opinion about Marcus, and all I know about him really is that he’s a good audio engineer and (I recently learned) he’s quite talented at making things out of wood, but other than those things, I know nothing about him. Regardless of my familiarity with Marcus, I’ve still got to respond to what he said because he’s flatly incorrect.

Important: I’m not taking this post down because posterity matters, but I’ve since spoken to Marcus and it would seem that I assented to an untrue interpretation. Marcus has reached out to express that he did not intended this as a subtweet as (some of) my listeners suspected. I have no reason not to believe him. I feel badly that I, and I’m guilty of this once before re: Rob Walch at Libsyn, jumped on this as if it were a direct attack. I owe Marcus an apology for assenting the way that I did and for causing him any undue stress as a result of me doing so. He deserves that apology and I’ve delivered it to him personally. I am, sometimes, like a dog with a bone and I am quite defensive of podcasters re: getting information I feel will not benefit them or that I judge as being poor advice. It’s one of my less endearing qualities but, it is a quality of mine none the less. I could well have written this article and made the same points without mentioning Marcus at all, but I didn’t, and I won’t edit this to make it seem as though I did.

It is exhausting to talk on the same issues so often and still have people come away as if they’d plugged their fingers in and out of their ears as I was speaking so as to only get 50% of what I say right.

First let me tell you where Marcus is not completely wrong

#1 It’s true the artist must do the brunt of the work, of course!

It 100% is the responsibility of podcasters to build their own audiences. Of course. As it is the responsibility of any artists or creative to create their success. I’ve never suggested the fate of a podcast isn’t incumbent, in large part (but not entirely), upon the gumption or talent of the artist.

What’s really interesting about this sentiment (Marcus’s here), is that it’s the same thing as saying “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, which is the same thing as saying “You play the hand you’re dealt and society doesn’t owe you any help” which is pretty similar to saying something like “Social welfare programs should be gotten rid of because it’s not the system’s job to help you find work.” It’s like believing one can control for everything, that nothing can get in your way if you’re determined enough – which is stupid, that’s not how life works.

Maybe this seems like a ridiculous comparison, but I promise you it’s not.

Suggesting that any one person, in any one endeavor, is 100% responsible for their lot, is, at the very least, ignorant. And telling an artist that if they fail it’s because they didn’t work hard enough could be true, but it’s more likely to be something someone says because they don’t, themselves, have a solution to offer and they lack the proper compassion for artists. Given what little I do know about Marcus, I doubt very seriously he lacks compassion… but I could easily believe he hadn’t thought of it this way. I could easily believe no one thinks of it this way.

#2 It’s true your website should be your hub

I’ve spoken so frequently about the value of having a website as a hub for findability, indexability, and marketing purposes that I can’t believe Marcus would suggest I didn’t feel that way… so I’m assuming he was just filling out a thought. He’s 100% correct here, your website should be your hub. It needing to be a “proper website” is less and less true as more and more integrations popup with solutions like Podsites or PodcastPage, but you still need a website and it should still be your hub.

#3 It’s true we should make it easy for listeners to listen

Of course. Creating website.com/subscribe landers that create 1-click pathways to your podcast in the preferred listening apps of your audience members, is important.

Now let’s talk about where Marcus is entirely wrong, but first… this just in.

Marcus tweeted this just now, after a RT of mine letting him know I’d be writing on this. If this isn’t a subtweet, I’ll eat my hat – it’s quite early in the morning and there’s seemingly no other reason for him to be tweeting this right now.

I want to spend a minute on this because it’s a common misconception people have of me

I’m not attacking Marcus. I’m calling out what he said as being incorrect – not as an opinion, as a fact. Discoverability is an issue for podcasters and it is an issue in a way unlike that of any other creative mediums. So, Marcus, dude, if I’m attacking anything, it’s your opinion, not you. And what I reap, is precisely what I sow… and you’d be hard pressed to find me complaining about my… sowing.

Great, now let’s talk about what discoverability is

Discoverability is the process by which information collected about a visitor/viewer/etc is used to push targeted content/material/etc to that same viewer.

Amazon studies you, tracks you, learns all about you, and when you see Amazon suggestions on the Amazon website, they are creepily in-line with something you’ve recently searched for. So if your brand of creative media is books (you’re an author), Amazon is working for you by pushing the visibility of your book to those whom are likely to enjoy its content.

Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok do this as well – but differently.

Twitch does this for streamers.

Spotify, Pandora, and Slacker do it for musicians.

No one does this for podcasters.

And while this is changing with the advent of apps like Goodpods (although Goodpods has cleverly inverted how this is done), it’s still true that a podcaster has zero true discoverability on their side. Apple doesn’t push them, Spotify doesn’t push them, Overcast doesn’t push them, Pocketcast doesn’t push them, no platform is working to put your podcast in front of those who are likely to enjoy it because no platform is studying its users to understand their listening habits and interests (save Spotify – a closed system – and perhaps Apple, but they don’t share that data if they are) so as to match your content with the right listeners; and they’re not doing this because the cannot do it.

You must have the ability to track listener behavior and demographics in order to create a genuine discovery system on any platform and since most podcast talking heads are anti-tracking, they toss their hands up in the air and say “It’s up to you to work harder.”

30% of small businesses fail in their first year. It’s 90%+ of podcasters. It shouldn’t be harder to start a podcast than it is to start a business – period.

Yes it’s up to you to work hard, of course it’s up to you to work hard, who among us isn’t working hard? Maybe there are a few slackers out there, just like maybe there are a few individuals who milk social welfare programs, but, same as in that case, most of us are hustling, putting in the hours, and creating quality content, and it is unfair to suggest in earnest that the solution to this lies in working harder…

One (really good) solution lies in discoverability engines. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.

Photo by Noble Mitchell on Unsplash