in podcasting

Lessons on Podcast Ownership

From Dave Gonzales comes a distressing post about the fate of his movie podcast, Operation Kino:

I proposed a counter-offer: “Give us control over the RSS feed and we’ll keep posting the podcast episodes on CinemaBlend, nothing will change.” Even though I’d just been slapped in the face by another man’s penis, I thought this was the best-case scenario. Josh doesn’t lose whatever audience we did or did not have and we could quietly migrate to our own server space, owning all the files and connections. No one would be losing anything. This offer was rejected, with the added “fuck you” of “You guys had a good run.” Basically, we didn’t get to record a last episode of Operation Kino because we had dared to suggest we owned the thing we made for almost three years.

I completely sympathize with Dave. As someone who’s spent a significant part of the last five years creating podcast content, it would horrify me to see someone make a power grab and claim credit for something I’d been integral in building. That being said, I don’t think Josh Tyler (a person who I’ve never interacted with) is completely unreasonable in some of his expectations, although, based solely on this post, he may have gone about some things the wrong way.

Here’s the thing, though: a popular website is a viable platform from which to launch a podcast. It is reasonable to expect something in return for providing such a platform. It is incredibly difficult to get podcast listeners. Incredibly difficult. Listening to a lengthy audio program requires a lot of commitment, and the more specific your field, the smaller your potential pool of fans gets. For movie podcasts, that pool is very small. Allowing someone to launch a podcast on your website takes an act of faith and it is unwise to discount the value of this.

Ideally, the relationship will be symbiotic: both the site and the podcast will benefit from each other’s presence. More importantly, parties on both sides of the relationship need to perceive each side’s contributions similarly. An imbalance can result in an unfortunate situation.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work under Peter Sciretta from /Film. Peter not only was savvy enough to create the sizable /Film empire from pretty much nothing, he’s also one of the nicest, most supportive people I know. He has given me a huge amount of creative freedom and a significant amount of ownership in all my online activities for his website. But here’s a lesson I’ve learned during my travels: Most people are not as nice as Peter Sciretta. You’re best off assuming this is the case and taking precautions accordingly.