Punter? Or professional?

His name is Paul Revere

Monochrome betting slips in someone's hand

Gonzo Aussie podcaster bloke Mike Williams put this up yesterday:

The average punter goes to the races with $5 and expects to win $1000.
The experienced punter goes with $1000 and hopes to win $5.
The average podcaster does a little bit of distribution work and expects to gain 1000 listeners.
The experienced podcaster does a stack of distribution and hopes to gain five listeners.

I wonder though, whether the person who goes to the races hoping for a $5 return on their $1000 can be considered a punter. Experienced, certainly, but that’s the kind of person I think of as a professional gambler. And that may be why I have such a poor record of doing what Mike calls distribution. I cannot think of myself as a professional podcaster as long as podcasting does not supply the major part of my income. And as long as I don’t think of myself as a professional podcaster, I don’t seem to be able to do the stack of distribution I need to do to gain a few listeners.

Some money does come in, thanks to generous donors, and it is enough to keep the lights on, more or less, by paying for hosting. I’m grateful for that, of course, because it makes the podcast more than a pure labour of love. It is validation, too. But I’m under no illusions; Eat This Podcast is never going to provide me with much of an income. In that sense, I’ll always be an amateur rather than a professional.

But there’s another, much deeper problem with the distinctions Mike draws. The horse race gambler wins by picking the right horse most of the time. Sometimes — whisper it — the horse may not win strictly on merit, and the gambler is in on the fix. But what is the podcasting equivalent of picking the right horse?

There isn’t one.

Not one of the myriad pages that tell you how to grow your audience actually tells you how to grow your audience. They’re like the tipsters that hang around the Tote windows, giving each punter a different tip and hoping to collect a little something from at least some of them, as long as they can remember which horse they offered to whom.

So, is there a secret to distribution work?

I’ve tried audiograms with squiggly waveforms of enticing snippets, and detected absolutely no additional interest. Those things take real work, and I gave them a fair shake, assiduously doing the work for five consecutive episodes before abandoning it as pointless. Should I have continued?

I plug past episodes when something in the news or on Twitter seems to justify it, with occasional results. Slowly, I’m overcoming my reticence too, so that may be something I can do more of.

I’ve run giveaways, and become disheartened when five random winners in a row failed to claim the reward. The thought of rewarding existing subscribers for twisting the arms of their friends into subscribing in order to win -- what? -- is slightly abhorrent. Maybe I need to get over that and make it happen when the new season launches. Or maybe I should just pay for an advert in, say Overcast, and see what happens.

Eat This Newsletter is, I’ve been told, interesting and informative, and I recently stopped sharing the links anywhere except in the actual newsletter, while still promoting the fact that I’ve sent out a new issue. Maybe I should promote those links one at a time too, through social media.

Then I wonder, why bother? If my podcast is not going to bring in any significant income, why put any effort into gaining a few more listeners? Probably because listener numbers are an even more direct source of validation. I pursue things that interest me and then share them, because that’s what I do. If more people agree that they are interesting, that makes me feel better about pursuing them. And if some of them end up donating, that would enable me to pursue even more interesting things.

Flickr photo by John Wardell

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