JOHANNESBURG - For as long as it has existed, the media landscape has been one of the most transformative spaces and industries in the history of humankind.
If we were to broadly look at media as a platform not just for relaying information, but for storytelling, then one could easily make the argument that one of the earliest forms of relaying intelligence would be orally.
There’s a certain magic that comes with using the voice as a method for storytelling: it’s evocative, it’s engaging, it’s emotive - and it’s able to do this better than almost any other medium.
That’s why, even in the digital era where analogue is dying out faster than your fave’s career, radio remains a media powerhouse, and why the music industry has remained one of the most profitable media spaces in the world.
However, the power of convenience digital media has introduced to the consumer cannot be understated.
It is why content-on-demand is one the fastest growing industries across all platforms, with ReportLinker positioning the audio video-on-demand market to grow by over $165 billion between 2022 and 2026, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 14%.
Gone are the days when you have to schedule consumption of your given vice because with content on demand, you can stream anything you want at any given moment at any rate you want to consume it.
You can listen to music without a Walkman, watch shows without a television, and experience film without a cinema. You can even listen to audio interviews without a radio.
It is then unsurprising that audio-on-demand in the form of podcasts has become one of the most popular media forms, in terms of both production and consumption.
And with the accessibility (and accompanying convenience) of the information era, anyone could become a podcaster. More importantly, in theory, anyone could become a successful podcaster.
All you need is a mic, a dream, and a steady internet connection, and you’re good to go, right?
Here are five reasons your podcast is going to fail, according to audio and podcast strategist Duduzile Masuku.
5 - YOU’RE BORING
With the production becoming that much more accessible with the digitisation of media, gone are the days when one would need an entire team behind them to make it big in these spaces.
Even if you have the bare minimum equipment to run a podcast, you could do it entirely on your own - something that could be as easy to jumpstart as clearing a Takealot cart.
This ease of access, however, can foster the wrong kind of delusion that may feed into unearned feelings of grandiosity, leaving many believing they are the leading experts in being leading experts - or, as Beyoncé once put it, "experts without expertise".
And yes, going into something like fashion because you like dressing up now and again could work for, like, one or two episodes. You might even go viral for your freestyled musings on why you think Rich Mnisi should be selling clothes for the same price that you bought your Mr Price 'Bo$$ Babe' shirt for.
But without the required knowledge, insight, voices, and (perhaps most importantly) passion, your once-fascinating podcast will quickly read as shallow, baseless, and boring, because you don't know what you're talking about, nor do you care enough to invest in finding out.
"When you’re speaking about something you’re very passionate about, you can speak all day without stopping because that’s your thing, it’s your interest, as opposed to coming in and speaking about something trendy, because it will come through the sound that you’re reaching," said Masuku.
"Even if I wake you up at 2 am and I ask you about it, if you're passionate about it, you can give me an answer at the drop of a hat.”
Treat it like your career.
4 - YOU’RE NOT UNIQUE
Let's face it: there are no new ideas. Everything you're thinking of talking about has already been spoken about - likely by someone with ten times more notoriety than you.
And even though podcasting as we currently know it is still relatively new, the aforementioned ease of accessibility means that your uninformed musings have been said before by thousands, if not millions, of others.
As Masuku puts it, it is misguided to say that the market is 'oversaturated', but for every you, there are many, many MacGs.
Why should I care about what you have to say?
All is not lost in the sauce, however, because even if everyone and their mother feel qualified to give their opinion on [insert hot topic here], no one's voice is quite like yours.
Again, treat your product like it's your profession, and ask yourself why you want to be a podcaster. What can you talk about all day; why is this important to you?
“There’s something I call a ‘one-pager’, where you ask yourself why you want to do it and answer it there. If you can’t answer that, you know you’re not going to be sustainable," Masuku cautioned.
"If you can answer the why, then anytime you get discouraged, and even before that, you revisit your why. Go back to that one-pager and remember why you started this thing because that will keep you doing the work.”
Remember: drive, dedication, deliberateness wins the race.
3 - YOU’RE UNSERIOUS
Okay, so you decided to invest in dreams, but have yet to invest in reality. How do you think that will bode?
Sure, again, in theory, all you need is a decent smartphone, some AirPods, an internet connection, a quiet room, and some free-to-use software.
And that might get you by for a (short) period as a rookie in the game, but as unserious as you are about investing in proper, premium equipment and a quality recording environment, it is equally as unserious as the rest of the world will come to think of you - i.e., yet another keyboard warrior with a mic and a Spotify for Podcasters membership account.
At first, it's okay to rely on and make use of what you have and can afford, but at some point, you're going to have to go beyond that, bestie.
“People need to invest in their product. How far can you really go if you’re just going to podcast from your iPhone? Through the ear, digital podcasting gives us the freedom of imagination. You can’t see a person, so you have to use your mind. You cannot have poor-quality sound.
"At first, you can make use of what you have, but as time progresses and you really want your product to sound professional, you’ll then need to go and invest in equipment.”
Also, remember that consistency is just as key as equipment. That Takealot cart means nothing if you're not going to use the things in it.
"You cannot be pushing a podcast, telling people about it, and asking them to support it, but you only have one episode a month. People are going to forget about you."
2 - YOU’RE UNSUSTAINABLE
If you've pulled yourself together and worked on things, you probably have most of the tools you need for sustainability. Good for you, we're almost out of your flop era!
However, we're not out of the trenches just yet, because the media and entertainment space you're entering is notoriously unstable.
Not only do hot topics change in the blink of an eye, but so do hot people: what's new will soon become old, what's current will soon be redundant, and what's popular will soon become irrelevant.
For example, starting a podcast on why the African National Congress (ANC) is not fit to run the country might have a bevy of things to pull from now, but in five to 10 years, what then?
For all you know, the girlies might be out of a job as soon as 2024.
As such, take your time crafting, investing and solidifying a brand that can move beyond its current iteration, and look at things in ways that always keep the bigger picture in mind.
"Podcasting is an art; you need to take your time. If you trust in your product and you’ve put it together well, you need to also trust that it will reach where it needs to reach.
"It's like investing. With long-term investing, if you take your money, put it into a basket, and leave it alone, it will grow over time. That’s how it is with podcasting, and why I consider it as content on demand: it sits there, and people can enjoy it whenever they wish to.”
Now, go back to that one-pager again, and remember why you started doing this in the first place.
1 - YOU HAVE TOO MUCH PRIDE
This goes without saying, but for the stubborn girlies out there, pride will get you nowhere.
For those who have a 'large' pre-existing audience on a social media platform or those who already have some notoriety in adjacent industries: that will only get you so far.
Sure, the nepo-esque access would get your foot in the door, but that in itself is not a guarantee of success if you do not put in the work. Just because you have 100k followers or a booming career in media, does not mean I care enough about you to listen to you ramble for 30+ minutes on end.
"People don’t take it seriously. There are people out there who can speak, but they’re not meant to be podcasters. There are people who are just influencers, or rappers, or singers, or personalities, and they think it could be their side hustle… but podcasting is not a social media platform, it is there to serve a purpose.
"Some people treat this industry with such little care and faith – that’s why they go nowhere. They come out and say ‘This is not sustainable’, but I’m not so sure about that. Maybe they’re the ones who aren’t sustainable in their thinking?"
On the other side of the spectrum, if you only have five followers, don't think you're exempt from the lashings.
Though you may not have the exposure or your foot in the door, you do have the upper hand in growing your audience directly around your brand from the get-go.
However, you have an even smaller chance that people will want to listen to your rambling for even just five minutes.
As such, make sure you promote the sh*t out of the work you've invested so much of your time, resources, and self into. Use whatever following you already have to ask them to retweet a link, or share a clip on their story. Tell everyone in that family group you hate so much to listen to your stuff and share it as much as they can, as well.
"If you know how to use social media, what’s stopping you from creating a page with the name of the podcast and pushing it, and asking your friends to like it and share it? That would be a good start for you, the average Joe, who is just starting out. Marketing through word of mouth works wonders, but just remember that it needs consistency."
You may be true to this, but you are also new to this, so word of mouth is your greatest friend, and when you can afford it, maybe consider hiring a social media manager to take you one step further.
Now, go forth and conquer - but run Masuku and I our dividends when the money starts rolling in, bestie.