Findability and Fundability, and the Impact on Indie Podcaster Success
a look at the two issues top of mind for many, if not most, podcasters
Updated July 28, 2023
For many indie podcasters, ask what the biggest issue is to their success (or lack of, whether perceived or accurate), and the answer is usually around findability. Sure, there may be variations around equipment, marketing, or download numbers, etc, but generally getting their podcast actually found is a key blocker.
It’s why you see so many posts on Reddit, or social media, or other forums asking about the best way to get found:
should they hire a coach (maybe)
should they pay for ads (possibly)
should they pay for reviews (no)
Anything that can help a podcast make that elusive jump from hidden gem to breakout star. And it’s a valid point - I listen to a lot of indie podcasts, and I listen to a few brand/big media podcasts, and the production, research, and presentation of the indie shows far outstrip those of the bigger ones.
Not always, but often.
And it makes me think, if only that podcaster/podcast was better known they’d be in so many more ears.
So, findability is definitely an issue - but it’s not the only one. For me, fundability is also a key issue, at least equal to findability, and they’re both equally interchangeable.
As an example, consider this inner dialogue by an indie podcaster. We’ll call him Danny since, yes, I’ve had this self-talk before.
I really enjoy podcasting, and believe in the quality of the content I’m putting out. I just wish it had more listeners and recognition - I’m sure if it did it’d be up there with the more popular ones in my niche. (Findability)
Maybe if I bought equipment X, I could sound better and then feel more comfortable spending a little money on marketing. But I don’t have enough money for either, and I don’t have any sponsors wanting to give me money. (Fundability)
I guess it’s back to wishing more people knew about my show. (Back to Findability)
The Podcast Fundability Issue
When it comes to fundability and podcasting, there are two areas it covers - having the funds to produce and market, and receiving funding for your show in whatever form that takes. Let’s look at the first part.
Last year, I wrote a piece that looked at the average cost to make a podcast on a weekly/monthly basis. It was a breakdown of how much indie podcasters would need to spend if they were to outsource all the work they do on their own - stuff like research/storyboarding, guest management, production, promotion, and more.
Even at conservative estimates based on national averages in Canada for these positions, and taking into account the cost of gear and hardware/software needed, it still came to almost $1,000 every month for a show that published weekly.
So, the equivalent of $12,000 a year just to produce one podcast.
If you’re a podcaster like me that likes to experiment with shows and formats, and create multiple podcasts, then you can see how that would start to add up.
Now, okay, you might say, that’s tallying up what it’d cost if you were to outsource all the work an indie podcaster tends to do and, fair enough, most podcasters just do that work anyway, as it’s kind of "expected. After all, that’s why you’re an indie podcaster.
So let’s put that aside for a minute and look at the fundability issue from another perspective.
One of the ways that can bring visibility and, by association, findability to your podcast is to win an award. After all, the recognition, respect, and promotion by the awards organizers can help put your show in front of potentially thousands of new eyeballs (or ears), especially when reported on by industry publications.
Award prize winners, too, have mentioned how there’s been a boost in interest after winning an award (though, some also mentioned the long-term boost can be a mixed affair).
But there can also be a problem with awards shows when it comes to fundability, as evidenced by the current negativity around the British Podcast Awards, and that can be the cost of the pay-to-play model. This involves having to pay to submit your podcast which can get expensive for the average indie podcaster, especially if hoping to enter multiple categories.
While looking at some of the more popular podcast awards, the costs of entry vary, with some of the more expensive ones being:
The Webby Awards start at $175
The Ambies are $100 for members of The Podcast Academy members, and $175 for non-members
The Signal Awards start at $265 for early deadline entry
On the flip side are much more affordable ones, including:
Independent Podcast Awards (UK only) with your first entry £30 (about $45), then each subsequent entry £5 (about $6)
Quill Podcast Awards which is free to enter
There can also be the cost of attending the events to collect your award if you win, which is where the British Podcast Awards is coming under further fire. So awards shows can definitely help, but for indie podcasters whose budgets are already stretched thin, even the more affordable ones could be out of reach for some.
How the Industry Can Help (And Is)
Now, this isn’t to say that indie podcasters should feel put off by what seems like a dual-blade sword standing in their way. Yes, findability and fundability can be, and is, an issue and it can be demoralizing thinking about others enjoying success while you’re still ploughing on with a few hundred downloads (or less), thinking that you’ll never be “successful” (read more here on why we need to change the definition of success).
There are many organizations, businesses, and podcasters/creators that are working every day to give indie podcasters the best opportunities, insights, and tools to be as successful as they can be.
Goodpods, a podcast app and website, has made it one of their goals to be the indie podcaster’s friend, with dedicated indie-only charts for podcasts as well as cool features like curated lists, easy reviews and recommendations, and “what your friends are listening to” to help friends of your listeners find your podcast too.
Tink Media, founded by respected industry pro Lauren Passell, created a swap database where you can add you show for free and then run promo swaps with other podcasters on their shows, and vice versa, encouraging more listeners to check out your show since the trust the recommendation of the podcaster you’re swapping with.
Podcast hosting, distribution, analytics, and monetization platform Captivate (disclaimer: I’m Head of Podcaster Support and Experience there) offers dynamic ads, Memberships, exclusive Growth Labs resources and courses, and our exclusive Creator Suite set of tools to every podcaster from day one, on all plans, to offer the kind of features usually reserved for enterprise or bigger podcasts.
These are just some of the ways helping indie podcasters be found, and as little a cost as possible, so any budget they have can be allocated to the most effective place(s).
There are other ways we as an industry can help, too:
more bursaries and funding for indie podcasts
more indie-centric awards and chart recognitions
sponsored courses by audio production companies (hardware and software) teaching how to get the best results from any level of expertise
larger podcast platforms considering paying to stream podcasts the same way they do music artists (this one could be contentious for obvious reasons)
more education for advertisers and sponsors on why just going for the huge downloads shows doesn’t equate to effective ROI, and why smaller, more engaged podcasts can be great partners
These are just some ideas. There are far smarter people than me in the industry that I’m sure have some even better ones, and maybe even how to make them happen.
It takes a lot of work for indie podcasters to continue, let only succeed, at podcasting, and that commitment deserves its own rewards. Answering the findability and fundability questions is a great starting place.