Anthony comments on my push for 10,000 Marketplace of Ideas subscribers or bust:
Why do you need 10,000 subscribers to continue it? I realize you want to spread ideas, and that's not a bad thing, but you seem so intent on ending it without reaching a larger subscriber base.
Do you need that many people to justify its existence? Is this a self-imposed decision or was it forced upon you? I understand you're probably a freelance journalist and are busy and broke, but if you enjoy it, and your listeners enjoy it, there's no reason to push the boundaries of that relationship. If it becomes a burden then you can scale it back or pander for donations, or even end it. But begging for subscribers has always gotten on my nerves, regardless of the cause.
The only justification I can see for this is that in order to get more high-profile guests, you need an established reputation, and for a podcast, subscriber statistics are the best way to show that.
Strongly encouraging listeners to "recommend" and "share" turns me away. Nevertheless, I wish you success. I just hope you can attain it without succumbing to tired tactics that I've seen too often.
The long and short of it: because I expected to reach 10,000 subscribers years ago. At the current rate of growth, I'll die of liver spots before I can make a sustainable career out of this.
Interestingly, I haven’t had trouble getting guests of any profile; nobody’s even come close to asking for listenership figures. But while I seem able to invite any guest I want, there remain a few things I can’t do, the most urgent priority of which is to make the show without having to burn a huge chunk of my day on a job that has nothing to do with anything. To achieve that state, I reckon I’ll need at least the following:
- A five-figure podcast audience (because I keep hearing the refrain, “Don’t even try professionalizing any podcast with an audience smaller than five figures”)
- Some sort of major-city terrestrial broadcast presence (because, at its heart, I don’t see The Marketplace of Ideas as a fully “pull” medium type of show)
- Not necessarily a rapid rate of audience growth, but at least a constant rate of audience growth (as opposed to an oscillation between audience growth and decay)
- Listening enforced by law in at least 51 percent of Anglophone territories
Much soul-searching tells me that, content-wise, I have already done enough to achieve this, so the sticking point must lay elsewhere. (As Principal Skinner once said, “No, it’s the children who are wrong.”) I choose to heed the golden words of wisdom Conan O’Brien uttered during his interview on WTF (a podcast that, coincidentally, recently hit it big on public radio): “Get into situations where you don't have a choice. I believe that's the definition of accomplishing things in this life.” Hence the decision to rip myself off of whatever teat now holds me back and move to L.A., with nothing lined up, in exactly two months.
I’ve heard the question before, in various forms: “Why can’t The Marketplace of Ideas continue as a hobby?” Because nothing can. Maybe my own personal psychological weirdness causes this, but, broadcasting, filmmaking, or writing, I can’t keep any pursuit rolling viably as a hobby. But nor can I convert them into “jobs,” traditionally defined and separate from “life.” There comes a point when they must integrate with my existence itself or begone — and the clock’s ticking.