A midjourney-generated image depicting a boxing match between podcast quality and podcast discoverability.

Does Podcasting Have a Discoverability Problem or a Quality Problem?

In the pantheon of classic commercials, very few have had the staying power to be quoted years after it aired.

There was Budwiser’s “Wasssuuppp” commercial. Old Navy’s Performance Fleece. Where’s the Beef?!

But for my wife and me, nothing has been more quotable than Old El Paso’s Why not both? commercial.

It’s so applicable in so many situations…and subtle enough that lots of people don’t know you’re quoting a commercial about hard vs. soft tacos.

What does this have to do with podcasting?

I came across a social media post by a fellow podcast coach that said, “Podcasting doesn’t have a discoverability problem. It has a quality problem.”

I think this statement is patently wrong1.

Podcasting’s Discoverability Problem

X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and YouTube all have algorithms that drive discovery. Someone recently asked me how Apple Podcasts’ algorithm works.

It doesn’t have one. It’s not actively recommending shows to you based on your listening history.

Spotify is the only one doing it even remotely well right now, and they are maybe 30% of the podcast listening app market, skewing towards Gen Z.

There is no single place where people go to discover or listen to podcasts.

In other words, there’s you “YouTube for Podcasting.”

Instead, if a podcaster wants to get more listeners, it’s a grind.

You need to optimize your show for discovery via search — both in apps and search engines like Google.

You need to do podcast swaps to get it in front of look alike audiences.

Maybe even try paid ads.

So yes…podcasting definitely has a discoverability problem.

But what about quality?

Podcasting’s Quality Problem

There was a time when movies could just be people talking on screen and it was incredible. The technology was the draw.

Podcasting experienced the same thing for a while. On-demand talk radio style content was “new” for a long time.

But, just like a movie of people talking in one place wouldn’t be very compelling today (after all, Sorkin’s walk and talks are legendary), unedited conversations for podcasts don’t cut it anymore.

You need a lot of things to make a quality podcast these days like a:

  • Decent mic
  • Good place to record
  • Recording tool like Riverside or Squadcast
  • Plan for every episode
  • Mission Statement

…then you need to actually produce the thing. It requires editing for content and audio quality.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “I don’t edit my podcast — people just want to hear the raw conversation,” I wouldn’t need to sell podcast sponsorships.

Podcasts need editing. They need to storytelling. They need to be cleaned up. Everyone’s audio to be at the same volume.

That’s a lot of work for someone just starting. I can understand why they’d just want to record and release.

You spend a lot of time creating the content, then you need to spend even more time either learning audio engineering or paying someone do to it — and editing can get expensive.

But listeners don’t want that…even if the most popular content feels unedited. A lot of work goes into making something seem natural.

So yes — podcasting also definitely has a quality problem.

In other words…why not both?

Why Not Both?

What the original poster later clarified is that podcasters focus too much on discoverability when they should focus on quality first.

I completely agree with this sentiment. You may not have a second chance at a first impression, so you want a good, quality show before people start discovering it.

My recommendation?

Launch your show with the things I listed above. Focus on good content and storytelling.

Get to a place where you feel comfortable investing in it and hire an editor.

Use the early days to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t.

Then, you can focus on discoverability.

But don’t ignore the fact that podcast discoverability isn’t the same as other content with their algorithmic discovery.

  1. I do think this is a rather frustrating social media trend — make a polarizing point for engagement just to backpedal later.

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