The recent death of the IFC News podcast has gotten me thinking a lot about my own endgame and what it will look like. I currently host and produce two major podcasts (plus one side project). On top of this, I work a full-time job and am getting my Masters degree part-time. I am fortunate to have had bosses/professors that are pleased with my work, yet understand that my other pursuits consume a great deal of my time. But my current arrangement cannot last forever.
The fact of the matter is, it is very difficult for me to justify these podcast pursuits as anything more than a hobby. They will never make me a full-time income. I am grateful for countless of people that have donated money to the /Filmcast to keep us alive, in addition to the sponsorship offers we have gotten. They have provided significant help during a time of need and have helped to justify the amount of time that goes into the podcasts.
But the money that we get does not come anywhere close to equalling the amount necessary to sustain a person for a living (nor should it, really). And that goes double or triple when you're splitting the money with other people. I surmise that the only people on the internet who ARE able to make a substantial amount of money from podcasting are people who a) have a large enough audience to attract major sponsorship dollars (e.g. Adam Carolla), b) broadcast daily, so as to multiply the number of impressions generated (e.g. Adam Carolla again), or c) make a sustained fundraising effort each year (e.g. The Sound of Young America, which wouldn't be successful if (a) were not also true for them). I would not be opposed to broadcasting daily, but don't currently have the numbers to justify it. Carolla (and people like him) built his empire on the back of his broadcasting career. I don't have such a history or reputation yet.
For most people, including me, podcasts are something that people do for fun and/or because they're passionate about it. And as a result, like the IFC News podcast or the Scene Unseen podcast or countless other fun, lovable podcasts before them, they can end at any time.
Having podcasted for a couple of years now and spoken with several of the best podcasters/broadcasters in the country, I've learned that often times what ends up happening is podcasts get too big to quit, but too small to derive any significant financial benefit from. They suck up massive quantities of time and cause untold amounts of stress, but do offer some rewards in return: the pleasure of interacting with an engaged fanbase; the pride of producing quality work; the various other perks that come with being a known quantity in your particular field.
In my own experience, I've been blessed to receive thousands of e-mails from people writing passionately about my podcasts and about the subjects that they cover. I've been able to see a lot of movies for free and to meet some of my heroes in the filmmaking industry. All of this has been incredibly gratifying. But it's also exceedingly evident that the overwhelmingly vast majority of fans have no conception of what my life is like. And there are far more people that complain when one of the 4-5 hours of free content I put out onto the internet each week isn't precisely on schedule, than people who say "thank you" when it comes on time.
The world of broadcast media has instilled an attitude of entitlement in all of us. We expect our media to be free and for there to be an excess supply at all times. These entertainers should do what we want! Dance for us! Play us the music that we love! Discuss interesting topics! In the world of podcasting, the expectations are the same as for radio and TV, but the financial rewards for the people involved are infinitesimal by comparison.
I hope that my podcasting projects will survive the transitions my life will go through over the course of the next few years. But the purpose of this post is to say that for me and for many other podcasters out there, the podcasts we produce exist and continue to exist because we love doing them. The things that keep podcasts going are frequently subject to the whims of fate. If you have podcasts you do love, be grateful while you have them.