Podcast: The Offside Rule podcast on the problems of monetisation

It’s not just because of Digital Sport Insider that we keep coming back to podcasts on this site, it’s because they’re really very much having a moment. Over the last few years, the medium has exploded onto the scene as more and more podcasts have emerged covering almost literally every topic.

It lends itself to sport rather perfectly, though. We’ve seen pods start out of nothing mostly because people simply love to talk about the sports they love: be they sports with mass appeal or those without, there’s always a fan who loves to chat about it. And at their very heart, and at their most simple, that’s what sports podcasts are about.

On the Digital Sport Insider podcast this week, things perhaps started to get a bit meta: Dan McLaren sat down with Lynsey Hooper and Kait Borsay from the Offside Rule podcast to chat about the recent boom in podcasting amongst plenty of other things.

One of the biggest topics around this recent spate of podcast proliferation has been around how to monetise your podcasts, if indeed you should. We’ve seen plenty of different methods, too. From sponsorship and brand endorsement to advertising and straight-up subscription models, it seems that everyone is trying something new. But Borsay feels that’s not really something you can set out to do initially.

“You can’t make a podcast hoping to monetise it, really,” she said. “Not unless you’re working with specific brands and you’re experienced and the brands have come to you and said we’d like you to make this content. Most people who want to make a podcast come up to me and say, ‘I’ve got this idea and I want to make a podcast out of it’.”

In the end, if you’re going to donate your time and effort to start up a new podcast, the likelihood is that you’re mostly interested in creating something that hasn’t been done before that you feel is important. Be it podcasts about French, German or Spanish football, for example, or really anything else you feel doesn’t get the coverage it deserves in the mainstream media, to just recording the chat you have with your friends, the ability to record and share using just your smartphone has allowed everyone to add their own knowledge to the pile. But it seems unlikely that you’d have any great success by just deciding to start up a podcast for money.

“Anyone who makes podcasts, or anyone within the industry will know that yes, you can monetise podcasts ultimately, but you have to want to start them because you love audio and you love podcasts and you have an idea that you’re happy about,” says Borsay.

“This has always been a passion project and there have been elements that we’ve been able to monetise through sponsors, and that’s helped pay for our overheads. Last season we had quite a quiet season, we were both busy with our own careers and in a holding place with it. This season we’ve gone full belt braces and there are some exciting things happening for us hopefully… but it’s no surprise after only four weeks of this season of doing a lot of it in every spare minute of our time that we’ve both got quite bad flu!”

It’s clear, then, that a large amount of time and effort is involved in creating a podcast, and especially those which are popular and listened-to by thousands of fans – because they’re all waiting for the next one to drop. But the reality is that this is where the monetisation comes in: scaling a podcast to produce them regularly or even daily is a big commitment.

But it really all depends on what you think a podcast is. Is it a piece of journalism? Or is it something else? Can it be a hobby and work at the same time?

“I’m really not a fan of the crowdfunding model for personal ventures,” says Borsay “which is what I think it is. This is a labour of love, it’s something we enjoy doing and I don’t expect someone else to pay for us to do it, and I certainly don’t expect our audience to pay for us to do it. And if it had to fold, it would have had to fold.”

“For a dilapidated theatre that may not get the funds to open again, yes. For us to go and interview someone who anybody on the street would love to go and interview as well, I’m not so sure.”

So there’s still a big debate over what podcasts even are let alone how to monetise them. Are the audience listening in to people chatting about something they love? Or are they tuning in to consume a piece of audio which is, somehow, the modern equivalent of a fanzine, magazine or even a newspaper sports section?

Podcasts don’t look like fading from existence any time soon, but there are still some big questions for the medium to answer over where it goes from here.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 723 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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