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Burgeoning podcast business grows

By: Matt Petras, Point Park News Service

Pittsburgh Podcast Network, submitted.

Frank Murgia works over 70 hours between his two jobs as the Pittsburgh Podcast Network executive producer, and Talent Network, Inc.’s digital media creative director. He frequently listens to motivational podcasts and identifies the podcasting business as tough.

“There’s many days I think [the business] kind of jumped the shark a little bit where there’s so many podcasts, anyone can do it, pretty much, sometimes that’s not a good business model to get rich or quit your job,” Murgia said.

Frank Murgia, Photo submitted

Around the country, the massive podcast scene creates an environment in which few make good money and some just do it as a hobby.

Forty percent of Americans over the age of 11 have listened to a podcast before, up 29 percent from 2006 and 4 percent from 2016, according to Edison Research’s 2017 Infinite Dial Study. Per the study, in 2016, for the first time, a majority of Americans, 55 percent, had heard of a podcast, up from 22 percent in 2006.

The Pittsburgh Podcast Network has helped produce and promote podcasts such as the Pittsburgh-centric “YaJagoff!,” dedicated to “calling out the jagoffs that make the rest of us look bad!” and “Wrestling Reality,” a show about professional wrestling. The network bills itself for working with hosts who are taking podcasting seriously.

Many people produce podcasts as a hobby, said Murgia. They’ll say, “‘Hey, I have a podcast, I do it every now and then, I’d like to be on your network to help raise awareness,’” Murgia said, but the company often has to refuse. “We hate to say no to that, but we have to say no to that, because we’re a business. We’re not in the hobby business.”

Podcast networks are a common tool used across the country in marketing.

Joe Coohill, an independent writer and former professor resides in Point Breeze, Pennsylvania hosts his history podcast “Professor Buzzkill” through a network based in Los Angeles, called eOne (or Entertainment One). The network helps with editing, promotion, production and more.

“That allows me to focus completely on the history and writing the show,” Coohill said. “I don’t have to think about, ‘What’s the sound gonna look like? What’s the sound profile gonna be?’ Stuff like that.”

Coohill draws revenue from the 20 hours a week or so he devotes to the podcast every week through advertisements and donations through the crowd-funding website Patreon. As of Jan. 25, 16 “patrons” donate a collective $155 a month to the show through this service. Every month, the show gets 20-30,000 downloads, according to Coohill.

“Professor Buzzkill” came out of a Kickstarter campaign launched in November 2014, which raised $5,017 from 83 backers – the goal was $4,720. Initially, the show included much more comedy, but over time Coohill realized his listeners wanted more of the information and less of the jokes. He cited “Hardcore History” as an example of a wildly successful podcast. Hosted by Dan Carlin, the show is proof of the demand for straight-up educational history content, said Coohill.

“I assumed that people wouldn’t like a sort of semi-serious show with one host explaining something, or one host and one guest explaining something, that it would have to be a panel, comedy sort of show that would have just enough history in it to keep people interested… people didn’t like it,” Coohill said.

Some podcasters, like Steve Cuden, film professor at Point Park University and host of “StoryBeats,” are yet to delve into money-making. The weekly show, which sees Cuden interview an impressive creative mind every week, does not currently have any revenue streams. Once he gets to 50 episodes, Cuden plans to look into revenue streams more.

“Part of it is I don’t have enough people listening to the show just yet… I haven’t really spent enough time developing my listenership,” Cuden said. “I spend some time, but because I work full-time, it’s very difficult to do.”

Cuden sees “StoryBeats” as a definite side-gig, at least as it currently stands. This doesn’t mean it’s merely a hobby for him, though.

“My goal was to have fun with it,” he said, “and then maybe make money with it. If I’m not having fun with it, I see no point to do it. And it’s a blast to do; it’s lots of fun to do.”

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