Action is all that matters.

The podcasting world has been obsessing about metrics lately, and I thought I’d pitch my two cents in as a podcaster whose show makes a fair bit of coin in the world of student loans. Here’s the rub:

Action is all that matters.

Forget audience size. Forget CPM, PPC, Adsense, and all of the monetization strategies that are being bantered around, because unless you’re already a highly successful web entrepreneur with a large web-based audience, these strategies will largely waste your time.

Why? Most advertising models are based on mass media. They’re holdovers from the radio and televison broadcast days, when there was no clickstream, no digital tracking. You slapped up a billboard in Times Square or ran an ad in the Washington Post, and they told you how many people roughly might see it, and charge you a rate based on those numnbers.

Those numbers are largely unhelpful. Why? Because podcasting is a high engagement, narrow band communications mechanism. If you want mass media audience sizes, then go work for the mass media and use the existing, established tools that work in mass media systems. Podcasting is not mass media – it’s niche media.

Here’s a question: if you sell Gulfstream airplanes and you want to reach your goal of selling one every two years (which will feed a family of four and house them VERY nicely), how many audience members in your podcast do you need? The answer is: one that buys a plane from you every two years. If you have 100,000 listeners or viewers and none of them buy a plane, you effectively have no audience for monetization purposes. If you have 5 listeners and one buys a plane from you every six months, you have all the audience you’ll ever need and then some.

Action is all that matters.

I sell the services of the Student Loan Network. That means that my audience listeners need to get connected with our services. If I have 100 listeners and 99 are customers, my podcast is a success. If I have 1,000,000 listeners and none are customers, my podcast is a failure.

What if you don’t sell airplanes or loans? Find something that fits your audience well and pays decently, and if you can’t find anything, either start a podcast in one of the industries that pays well, or find a different model to pay the bills and put food on the table. At PodCamp NYC, I mentioned during the marketing session that you already have over 10,000 advertisers at your disposal through affiliate programs, or pay-per-action. Instead of trying to sell artificial sweetener on a technology show, sell technology on a technology. It will better suit the needs of your audience, and will likely put more food on your table.

Why don’t content producers like the affiliate program model? Simple – it pushes the responsibility for sales to the content producer. If your program sucks, but you’re getting paid on impressions (CPM), then you will still possibly earn a few bucks. However, if you work in the affiliate model, your audience will likely never buy a product from you and you won’t make any money at all. That’s why advertisers are willing to pay more for affiliate programs versus other forms of advertising – the risk has been offloaded to the content producer.

Make a podcast that rocks the house. Make a podcast that inspires your audience to become a real community, to lend you their trust and appreciation, and then judiciously connect your community to products and services that are a great fit, and you will make frighteningly good money.

Action is all that matters.

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