Sponge sustainability thoughts


Yesterday, there was much talk with a friend about ads, especially in podcasts.

Anchor is building more features around this, and I am looking into them.

Ads in and of themselves aren’t necessarily bad. These days, a variety of ad platforms are open to indies. They include artists as well as small business owners. They gotta get the word out there, somehow. It’s not just big business that does advertising.

(By the way, the idea that “so long as your product is good, it will rise to the top” is a blatant delusion. Whoever says that needs to try creating something and see what happens if they do nothing. Most likely, what happens will be nothing. Nothing.)

Also, there is evidence (IMO, concrete enough to call evidence) that the existence of ads and the ease of adoption has led to more content, more diverse content, and some would say, better content. That evidence is Youtube.

Would there have been as many Youtubers and viewers as there are today, had there been no ads? I don’t think so. Many Youtubers would not have had the resources to create their videos, had Youtube not generated income. And thus, there would’ve been less knowledge, entertainment, and plain pleasant silliness.

Could paid subscriptions have led to the same/similar results? Nah. The amount of money that most of humanity wants to or can afford to pay, for things that aren’t directly tied to survival, is zero dollars. Nobody ever died from not watching a Youtube video. Thus, a significant enough number of people are willing to trade their attention for happiness (from education, entertainment, etc). But not as many are willing to pay money for content—even educational content.

With a more developed ad market, will something similar happen in the podcast sphere? More content, more diverse content, and (depending on whom you ask) better content?

I sure do hope that more activity in the podcast sphere will mean better discoverability features. With ad money, maybe the various platforms (Spotify and Apple and whatnot) might be motivated to improve that front. Right now, the “search” on these platforms is primitive. I can find almost nothing relevant from the actual podcast platforms, so I don’t even attempt to search anymore. I find podcasts through Youtube. (The irony…) And most commonly, through word-of-mouth.

With speech-to-text tech so common & improving these days, it is an enigma to me, a non-techie person, why search sucks so bad on the podcast platforms. Maybe it’s not a matter of the abundance of data; maybe it’s just that, once again, Google/Youtube are excellent at their job while everyone else, for whatever technological reason that I cannot decipher, continues to be mediocre. As in, maybe it’s not the other platforms sucking; maybe it’s just about Google/Youtube being scarily excellent at what they do.

Buuuuut that doesn’t explain why Google podcast also sucks at its search. 😂 It’s so weird. Something is always super clunky with audio platform search.

So, yeah. A mystery.

Same as with Youtube, nobody has ever died from not listening to a podcast. So, it is no surprise that the core monetization strategy in the next several years will probably be ads, rather than paid content.

(Heck, some folks are suggesting that Amazon should start inserting ads into their books. Because, no matter what book lovers may say, let’s face it: the vast majority of the population does not die from not reading books. Books aren’t “useful” for direct survival. Thus, not everyone wants to pay for books.

I do wonder if ads within books will increase readership. You know, the struggle for survival is real. Just cause some folks can spend $5 on an ebook doesn’t mean they get to snob at people who can’t afford to pay $5. Libraries are great, but not perfect. They have long lines and they have limited budgets too.

Think about how much free education and entertainment a person can get from Youtube, for no monetary cost whatsoever. Makes me wonder if the book sphere would benefit from a system similar to that. Such a system would not need to be mutually exclusive from the current system of retail sales. Plenty of systems can coexist for different types of readers.)

Based on my experience on Youtube as a viewer, I don’t mind ads as a category. In fact, often I will let an ad play through to the end, so the Youtuber I am subscribing to will get paid the maximum amount they can get paid. By now, I just blank out with ads anyway.

The times when I am actively annoyed by ads are 1. When the ad doesn’t make sense in the context of the video, and 2. when there is an audio volume mismatch.

Examples of an ad not making sense in the context of the video include:

  • a meditation video with a bunch of ads interrupting the meditation
  • a video in English suddenly showing me an ad in Spanish

By audio volume mismatch, I mean when the volume of the actual video is significantly softer than the volume of the ad so that, very abruptly, the advertisement blasts through my ears and threatens to tear my eardrums. (I have never experienced the opposite case, where the volume of the ad is softer than the actual video.)

I wonder how Spotify/Anchor deals with this audio volume issue. But I think that I should be able to select where & how often any ads appear within a podcast episode. So long as I have control, it will be fine.

But, speaking of control…

more control over the content of ads would be great. In my previous life, I worked in digital marketing (PPC, SEO, etc). The client was a large global brand, and even with me being a tiny prawn youngling, the budget I managed was in the multi-million dollars. (And there were many more like me, who each managed their own multi-millions.) Them being a global brand, there wasn’t much true targeting. They had money to burn and wanted to. They actively wanted to be everywhere. That was their goal. They were still very much in the offline, billboard mentality. And other brands in the industry were doing pretty much the same thing, so perhaps there really wasn’t much choice there.

And maybe large global brands can’t help but stay in that mindset. But creators, by nature, are specific and personal. Also, they stand for something. That is why people watch them and listen to them and read them. That is why advertising through the creators works at all, for brands, even the global generic grands—because creators can give them the connection to consumers which the brands never could’ve built on their own.

And the creators know their audience way better than the brands. So, neither the advertiser nor the creator benefits from a targeting system that only the brands can control. The creators need the ability to select their ad content—industry categories, at the very least.

Anyway, all these thoughts came up during the conversation due to my desire for Sponge’s sustainability.

Meanwhile, Coil is folding. 😭 😭 😭

I had high hopes for it, but it is folding. I don’t know the exact reason behind it. But with its folding, there goes another methods of monetization.

And monetization is critical. Nobody who is human survives on ether. And it also goes beyond survival. Why should the creators of this world not be rich? I personally have no desires for diamond rings and Lamborghinis, but if a Youtuber or writer or whoever wants them, then why the hell should they not be able to afford those things, in return for the value they bring to the world?

And oh, there is value. Just because many people aren’t willing to pay cash doesn’t mean there is no value. There is plenty value in the arts. And yes, content is one of the modern incarnations of the arts.

Anyway. Many thoughts. I wonder what will happen in the next few years.