The saying "if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting" is true in a lot of cases, but it's not true when it comes to podcasting.
Podcasting is in constant change. Because of this, those who haven't changed along with it have been (or will be) left behind.
Remember Video Rental Stores?
I know a guy who had a video rental business. From 1985 until 1999, he was making money hand over fist. Even then though, his business was dying.
The DVD player was the fastest-selling piece of home electronics ever. Because of this, the video rental business changed within a very short period of time. However, the Movie Man, because he was in a small town with people who didn't seem to have the desire to upgrade, had a little more time than most before he was affected by this change.
But people did upgrade ... eventually. So he did also. Fortunately, it was an easy transition. The only thing he had to do was replace the videotapes on his shelves with DVDs.
Then DVD-by-mail services, like Netflix, came along. They had a much bigger selection of movies and charged less than brick-and-mortar stores.
He lost some customers, but very few, since not many people in his small town had computers or credit cards. So he lucked out—for a while. But as more and more people started to get computers, he lost more and more customers.
But he had one thing that Netflix and the major brick-and-mortar stores didn’t: porn. And his tiny "Adults Only" room in the back corner kept the rest of his store in business—until his customers discovered the Internet was full of porn and it was a lot less awkward to get titles like "3D House of Boobs" online than from him.
Then Redbox and other automated kiosk services came to town. How do you compete with a service that costs as little as $1, has more locations than you do, and never closes?
His solution was to use fear, telling people that those who used Redbox were at risk for identity theft. Most people aren’t idiots though, and a lot of the ones who are will take convenience over risk, so he lost to Redbox anyway.
In the end, he was bringing in $200 on a good night. There were people who were still interested in coming to a physical store for their movie rentals, but he wasn’t making enough money coming in to keep the lights on, employees paid, and the racks filled with the latest releases.
Why "The Movie Man" Died
The Movie Man is dead because he got attached to a single distribution format. The movie industry though, who was open to new distribution formats, is very much alive.
You may be extremely skilled at getting attention on Apple Podcasts (or elsewhere) today, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful at doing it tomorrow. And it doesn’t mean that Apple Podcasts (or anything else) will exist tomorrow.
Everything about podcasting is constantly changing. If you don’t change with it, you’ll be left behind.
This isn’t something to be scared of; just be aware. Had the Movie Man been paying attention to the shift in his industry, he could have sold his retail store and gotten in on the automated kiosk business. Instead of a situation that ultimately put him out of business, the change in his business could have been an opportunity that made him more money than ever.
How You (And Your Podcast) Can Survive
The same thing that happened to the Movie Man applies to you. The "thing" that can crush you can also be your biggest opportunity for growth.
Podcasting is constantly changing, especially when it comes to how podcasts are distributed and money is made. The way we consume podcasts today is completely different from how we consumed them even just a few years ago.
There will be opportunities to make money that we can’t even dream about now, because the ways we’ll do it don’t yet exist. Some of the things that are working to make money (or get listeners) now either won’t work as well or won’t work at all.
Also, the world will continue to be filled with more and more noise. Even today, anybody can make a podcast, put it online, and have worldwide distribution. The same thing can be done with videos, books, music, and any other form of entertainment. Imagine what that will be like in just a few years.
People are getting bombarded with messages, from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed at night. And because of this, we're getting more and more immune to them.
There was a time when being on The Tonight Show would cause your career to skyrocket. Because there were not a lot of entertainment options, millions of people would tune in nightly.
Those days are over. The Tonight Show audience has been split thousands of different ways, thanks to video games, texting, cheap long-distance calls, online video, pay-per-video movies, video rental, 100+ cable or satellite television channels, online message boards, audio books, 24-hour gyms, and who knows what else. And now that marketing people know we like options, our choices will only continue to expand.
This is why top podcasters, the ones that can get attention, are making more money than ever. If Pat Flynn can use his podcast to bring tens of thousands of people to his blog every month and sell enough copies of his book to hit best-seller lists, it makes sense that he’d expand on that momentum by getting into other business ventures — public speaking, consulting, membership programs, seminars, etc.
Your podcast can be the catalyst that takes you anywhere you want to go in business. But only if you’re willing to change with the podcasting industry.
Forget The "Best" Podcast Distribution
Like the Movie Man, if you get too connected to one way of doing business, one distribution method, or one income stream, you’ll likely die with it. In order to have any longevity in this business, you must be light on your feet and willing to change your approach when needed.
Don’t get attached to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or any other distribution method. All distribution formats, even the ones owned by big companies like Apple and Google, will eventually die to make room for something else, and you don’t want your podcast to die with them.
When publishing your podcast, focus on the best way to get it into the hands of fans at that time. If you don’t know what that is, ask them. And if you haven’t asked them for awhile, ask them again.
Focus on your podcast itself and your relationship with the people listening to it. If you have that in order, the rest will work out.