With all the publicity and hype, it's easy to forget that there are some cons of podcasting that you might want to keep in mind before you invest in that microphone.
Podcasters Will Rule the World!
That was the promise in 2005, when Wired Magazine published an issue with Adam Curry (former MTV VJ, later dubbed the "Podfather") on the cover. In it there were promises of untold riches and unheard stories finding audiences, sponsors, a wealth of free content and unlimited potential with almost no barrier to entry.
Five years later things looked a little different. The big powerhouse podcast startups like Podango had come and gone. Adam Curry's own muliti-million dollar company had undergone several restructuring and rebranding efforts, and a new word was coined: "podfading," to describe the thousands of podcasts that were started with great hope but disappeared into the ether.
The Top Five Cons of Podcasting
Here are some of the cons of podcasting that podcasters didn't see coming, sometimes until it was too late.
1. Podcasting Costs Money
Podcasting can be done for free - sort of. That depends on whether you already have the equipment needed - namely, a computer, an Internet connection and the knowledge of sound editing, web design, and RSS feeds needed to actually produce and upload a podcast.
If you don't have those things, though, they can add up to high startup costs. Even people with all the equipment and their own server to host their podcast have had the experience of having their "show" suddenly become popular - which leads to bandwidth costs skyrocketing as millions of GB of content are downloaded from their site.
2. Podcasting Doesn't Make Money
It's true. It's a sad fact that the user-supported or corporate-sponsored podcast - the ones where the podcaster got to quit her day job and just spend her time creating passionate content - were in reality almost non-existent. One early "success story" was the Dawn and Drew Show, but it was a rarity; sponsors quickly found that their return on investment was not as easily quantifiable as traditional advertising.
That's not to say you can't make some money on your podcast - perhaps even enough to cover the costs in #1. There are other non-monetary benefits as well, but the million-dollar podcast success story is still a myth.
3. Podcasting Is a Lot of Work
There is, unfortunately, more to podcasting than simply talking into a microphone. Depending on your production methods, there can be script writing, talent wrangling, sound editing, mixing, web design, publicity - usually all done by the same person or small crew of people. In addition, there is a tradition of two-way communication between podcasters and listeners that means you're expected to answer emails and maintain a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, and more.Don't forget that the difference between a sound file and a podcast is that a podcast is updated regularly. It needs to be a daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly show - and that means a commitment to that kind of production schedule on a regular basis. Underestimating the amount of time and work involved in a podcast is one of the biggest causes of "podfading."
4. Podcasting Can Be Thankless
Even after all your hard work, there is no guarantee that anyone will want to listen to your show. If you are trying to create a podcast because you want zillions of fans, you are likely to be disappointed. You are far more likely to attract a small but dedicated group of individuals with similar interests - many of whom might be podcasters themselves. Worse are the people who listen and then critique your content, your sound quality, even the tone of your voice. Beware the critics, because their job is to weed out the attention-seeking weak from the truly passionate podcasters.
5. Podcasting Can Be Addictive
Even after all these things happen, there is a feeling you get when your voice is suddenly available around the globe, to anyone with an Internet connection. A feeling of pride and accomplishment when that final iTunes tag is in place, when that last music short from GarageBand plays, when you see the fiftieth download - or the five thousandth - on your LibSyn Stats. All it takes is one bit of fanmail from Germany, or Japan, or Oak Park Illinois, and you are scribbling notes and reaching for that microphone (or going out to buy a better one). Podcasting is a digital tool of self-expression, and like any art form, you get out of it not only what you put into it - sometimes you get far, far more (or less).