Getting Tonya Harding'd by Apple and Spotify

TFW the future of open podcasting falls to you

The onslaught of anti-RSS podcasting news over the past two weeks has me down. (I assume no additional context is needed for this audience.) There are two things on my mind as we build our podcast hosting service.

  1. I love good software that works.

  2. I’m not interested in making a business for neckbeards. (More on what I mean by this below.)

This leaves me in a tough spot. Tackling the first point: right now Spotify and Apple have the best podcast players in terms of ease-of-use, design, and recommendations. It’s hard not to want to use them.

I tried to make myself use Pocket Casts yesterday and within seconds I was frustrated by how slow the podcast search was. It took two or three seconds for the autocomplete results to appear. It felt like the app was made by people that don’t sweat details. I sweat details.

So here I am preferring the software of the new enemies of open podcasting, Apple and Spotify. And their two podcast players now have certain desirable features that require the use of their own hosting.

Now point two: I also don’t want to make a business for neckbeards. I’m talking about the kinds of grouchy, principled people you probably know that are willing to go through quite a bit of pain to avoid the big companies.

They’ll not use Chrome, Gmail, Instagram. They point you to difficult-to-use password management software and try to scare you with identity theft stories. They have cookies and javascript turned off on their Firefox browsers on their Linux laptops.

Sure they are potential customers, and yes there is a market for them. But if the open podcast ecosystem is reduced to these fine neckbearded people, it’s not for me.

Chris tells me that the open podcast ecosystem will be fine and we need to just wait out this storm. That could be.

He keeps reminding me that 95% of podcasts have no path to monetization no matter what their platform is. They have small audiences and those audiences are going to stay small.

This may be true, but people buy lottery tickets. Will the unlikelihood of subscription money stop people from putting their shows on Anchor for a small chance of hitting the bigtime and monetizing like a boss?

Who is the future customer of open podcast hosting? It’s a group that lies somewhere between neckbeards and the wannabe famous hopefuls. It’s probably not public media because they have to make money to pay armies of creators and I imagine they want the cozy loving embrace of DRM.

Do I want to be the one out here in the cold rain shouting about how your hard work is Spotify and Apple’s easy paycheck? That’s a complex message. Theirs is easy: “Come here and make money with your show.” I want a message that easy.

I need to go and have a long think. Do I want to be doing this? Is the last mile before Timber’s launch worth running with a leg broken by Tonya Harding?

If ever I’ve needed replies to my newsletter with people that were planning on giving our hosting product a shot, today would be the day.


—Nancy Kerri… ahem

—Jon Christensen