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Here is what is wrong with Podshow (and maybe how to fix it)

I’ve been collecting Twitters from folks about Podshow’s campaign:

Mike Yusi: Is anyone else on Podshow getting emails complaining about the new openings?
P. W. Fenton: Better question: Is anyone not?
P_Dub: Some podcasters have avoided putting out podcasts until the one minute “suck less” goes away.
Mike Yusi: P Dub: I actually got someone that said they weren’t going to listen to any more of my shows until they change it.
C. C. Chapman: @UCRadio – I have already lost some listeners due to it.
Rob Usdin: Podshow needs to use the radio model – have 5-10 different spots ready to go at the get-go – rotate them. Less listener fatigue.
Rob Usdin: @P_Dub: See my comment to noebie re: having multiple spots ready at one time. Want me to listen? Make it so I have a reason to.
Ranslow: I listen to a lot of podcasts from Podshow. The new intro is annoying after awhile. How about some variation on the theme.
Matthew Ebel: Hey PodShow… the 60-second Suck Less crap is making me stop listening to your podcasts. CC and R&RG are all that remain on my iPod
Britney Mason: Wondering if i listen to too many, PodShow Podcasts…They can suckless by coming up withnew plug for Suckless, tired of hearing it already
Britney Mason: I do luv My PodShow friends, but not sure what knowing how much I make per year has to do with suckingless…
Britney Mason: PodShow should put together a podcast like bluberry does.. let people know whats going on..be open!
Britney Mason: Okay then not to turn this into a PodShow pick on session..where does the $25 mill VC go? equipment?

All of these comments were made publicly on Twitter. They indicate a serious problem in the marketing department and in many ways, in the corporate culture of Podshow. Here’s what is broken about Podshow: Podshow believes it is the most important part of its network.

It isn’t. Not by a long stretch. What is?

The podcasters. The people who are providing the content for the network. Podshow has some of the finest, best podcasts online – Lifespring, Managing the Gray, Digital Flotsam, UC Radio, the Jersey Todd Show, Pacific Coast Hellway, Accident Hash, Phedippidations, Geek Brief, the ReMARKable Palate, U Turn Cafe… I could go on for quite some time. The network derives its value from the content its members are providing it, and by extension, the audience that is attracted to that content.

What’s broken is that Podshow treats its content producers as commodities. What do I mean?

Example: the Super Panel. You don’t need a Super Panel to tell you what listeners want. Listeners do that already with each of the shows they listen to. Look at the comments on AccidentHash.com. Look at the sales of tracks in iTunes from podsafe artists. Look at the subscriber base, server statistics. Listeners are already telling your content producers what they want, and the most successful shows are listening and changing to fit their audiences’ needs.

Example: Suck Less. This may have been funny in a conference room somewhere, but hearing Suck anything in front of shows like Lifespring, which has a dedicated, super-family friend focus, or in front of Managing the Gray, a business show that has executives (like myself) listening, is just inappropriate. Asking your producers, “Hey, what do you think of this new campaign?” before you start putting it in front of their shows is not only a good idea, it’s also professional courtesy.

Example: Podshow Plus. I’ve asked many Podshow-contracted producers about the tools they receive when they sign onto the network or how it’s performing. I’ve been told that frankly, there really aren’t any. There’s no indicator of how large the network actually is (44,067 as of 1:50 PM ET 6/1/07) or how fast it’s growing. What’s more, Podshow controls the Podshow Plus platform – why do their content producers, especially the ones under contract, have to manually DIG people like any other user? Why wouldn’t you give them special tools to reach the entire 44,067 registered users to promote your premium shows?

Example: Contract. Keith and the Girl made quite a show about this, but fundamentally, why wouldn’t Podshow publish a standard contract for everyone to see? At the Student Loan Network, our affiliate contract is public, open, and a matter of record, so prospective affiliates can see what the terms are and whether it’s worth their time to sign up.

Example: Sirius. Did anyone ever explain to the podcasters WHY the Sirius contract vanished so suddenly?

How do you fix something like this that’s broken? Change focus. Your podcasters need Podshow for its ability to aggregate advertising dollars across a network, broker deals, do promotion, and provide tools. The function of the podcast network is a lot like a well-run, ethical record label like Binary Star Music. They take care of all the administrative functions for the artist so the artist can focus on making music. They even help the artist improve their music.

A podcast network needs to do exactly the same and more so. Provide podcasters with great marketing tools – MySpace data managers, mailing list software, podcast widgets, chicklets, blog themes, anything and everything you can use for guerrilla digital marketing. Heck, I give away most of my tools when I present podcast marketing at PodCamps – Podshow should be doing the same thing on a network-wide scale.

Treat your podcasters not as commodities, but as talent, as rockstars. Make them the rightful stars of their shows with tools like inexpensive press releases, search engine optimization for their show notes, webinars and seminars for them to learn how to improve their shows, and more.

I have no plans to start a podcast network. I don’t have enough free time as it is. If I were to, however, I’d invest the bulk of my time helping podcasters who joined the network with so many tools that any independent podcaster who wanted to grow their audience as fast and as large as possible would be insane NOT to join the network. Tools, metrics, advertisers, everything I could find to help them be insanely successful immediately, because the more listeners they gathered, the more advertising dollars I could raise.

Let me also be clear about this: I hold no animosity towards Podshow or any other network except for what it earns. I very, very much want Podshow and ALL podcasters to succeed, to grow, to be able to QYDJ if they so desire, or become new media rockstars. To that end, I want Podshow to suck less by helping their rockstars instead of focusing on the organization itself. The network is nothing without the people who produce for it.

Bottom line: help your podcasters become the very best they can be, and network growth will take care of itself.

THAT is how you suck less.