Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

If you’ve been keeping tabs on the world of podcasting over the past couple of years, then it’s likely easy for you to visualize how the podcast landscape has transformed into a game of Pac-Man, one in which audio brands compete to gobble up a variety of shows and platforms in their quest for size, scale, and all-out success.

From major acquisitions and exclusive deals to talent recruitment, there’s no doubt about it: Podcasting is consolidating. And more quickly han you think. Back in 2021, the top seven podcast networks reached 50% of weekly podcast listeners. Fast forward to 2022 (and a few substantial M&A’s later), and you’ll find that four major networks wield 50% of all weekly podcast listeners, per the findings of Tom Webster (formerly of Edison Research, now of Sounds Profitable).

Podcast consolidation leads to competition. And they say competition breeds excellence. But let’s be honest: It breeds stress, anxiety, and inevitable burnout. It makes it untenable for new voices and perspectives to hold space and grow. And that’s not what podcasting needs. It needs collaboration and a renewed sense of creative cooperation and compassion at a time where the industry finds itself creeping further toward competitive silos and all-around divisiveness.

In 2023, my hope is for podcast makers to overcome this insatiable need to be the first, the best, and the one-and-only, and to instead focus on being collaborators and audio allies. That means acknowledging some deep, dark truths:

Rcognize that there’s another podcast out there like yours — whether in topic, tone, or target audience. And that’s okay! Given the natural overlap, there’s likely room for authentic cross-promotional opportunities (with ad swaps or even feed drops) and editorial collaborations (think guest appearances or even jointly reported pieces) so that both parties can mutually drive discoverability and listenership. Take advantage of resources like Tink Media’s catalog of cross-promo ideas and connect with companies like The Podglomerate (disclosure: It’s where I work) that have a track record of building strategic relationships with podcasts to encourage audience growth.
Understand that there is always room for growth. /strong> Reach out to like-minded shows or even perceived competitors to create a brain trust or podcast alliance. They likely know what you’ve been through and can help sharpen your ideas, provide insight into new tactics and tech, and solve podcast problems along the way. If you’re looking for a place to start, check out organizations like The Podcast Academy, AIR, Blk Pod Collective, or She Podcasts.
Remember that there is no universal definition of podcast success. Chart rankings, award announcements, and big business deals can be blinding. Focus on the individual purpose for your podcast — why you’re making it and who you’re making it for — and try not to measure up to another. Show support for others and share in their success.

Don’t get me wrong: A little competition can be fun, and it can be fruitful. But in 2023, let’s not focus our podcasting energies toward being “better than all,” but rather being “collaborative with all,” seeking partnerships rather than perceiving rivals, as we work toward a common goal: Amplifying humanity through audio.

Joni Deutsch is vice president of podcast marketing and audience development at The Podglomerate.

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