Last week I discussed the new Apple Podcasts Subscriptions and why I thought it was restrictive to podcasters looking to build a business.
My main bone of contention is the lack of ability that creators have to ask their buyers whether that buyer wants to let the creator stay in touch via email.
But was I too harsh in my assessment?
I'm a business person first. I have been since I was 23 and since then I've only failed to pay my mortgage once.
It was in 2012. We were running our design and digital agency, maybe a year before I started podcasting.
We had some great clients and big retainers but we got let down one month on payment by one of those retainers and, because we'd invested heavily in building out the team during that quarter, the late payment made our directors' salaries two weeks late.
That was ok. A quick call to the mortgage company explaining and all was well.
But it scared me. The agency was my sole source of income and that single event was the entire catalyst for me doing what I do today and how I do it today.
I set my businesses up with three goals:
1. Be profit first
aka. Never rely on investment and build the business model to make money from day one so that...
2. I can look after my team and my family
If I'm burning money as a business then stress appears. In a profit-first business, that doesn't happen because you're able to pay everyone fairly from day one.
Podcast Websites was in profit from day one. Captivate was in profit from day one.
3. Serve my customers better than anyone else, period
Being profit first means that I can focus on serving you 100% of the time, not chasing money because I have bills to pay.
This often surprises people.
Take Captivate for example. People assume that because we're technically a startup that we must have investment and that we must be burning through that investment, ready to make money in year three, four or five.
Kieran and I built Captivate between us. That's it, no one else built the platform and we did it with long days and very late nights.
When we launched, Captivate was making money from day one.
I say this not to sound like I'm blowing our own trumpets, I say this because it's how I approach everything that I create.
With that mindset, I can make decisions that will lead to success. I've practiced it enough now that I have a fair intuition on decision making, have confidence in my goals and know when to say "no".
I also know what I need to do to build businesses.
Primarily I need to build genuine, long-lasting friendships that are not for business but that can develop into relationships that will help everyone.
That's why I spend so much of my own time being jet-lagged, up at 1 am for a flight and generally looking like mould after travelling for over a day to get to podcast conferences. I have deep deep friendships with people there.
And I do the same with "customers". There are so many people who use Captivate that I see socially - and that's not some online entrepreneurial bullshit, it's actually happening.
Kipper, Phylecia, Paul Ince, Chris Ducker, Mike & Callie and good lord, Raf...
That's a teeny tiny amount of them and they use Captivate because they knew me before that and know that if I say something, I'm good for it.
What the heck has this got to do with Apple?
I spoke to another couple of friends of mine who are in podcasting over on Twitter Spaces this week and, without naming names because I haven't asked, they helped me to see another perspective.
I am business first. Even as a creator of content I set up my outlets to work as businesses, just in case I choose to make them businesses in the future.
Don't believe me?
I got a camera and set up a website and brand.
Legit. I haven't done anything with it, but yep, I set it all up just in case.
One of the biggest reasons I do this is so that I can build classically business style relationships with cold prospects. They can come to see my stuff, get on my email list and maybe one day get to know me more and buy from me.
Or, in the case of Captivate, they set up their free trial and then get to know me during the onboarding and stick around because they like the way we do things and the helpful approach that we take to podcasting.
Either way, they swap me a bit of data (email address) for the chance to get to know me and to give me the chance to get to know them and maybe build a business relationship with them.
That's the way of the business world.
The reason I think I was perhaps a little harsh on Apple and the reason that I want to thank my two friends on Twitter Spaces for helping me to see another side, is that not everyone is "business first".
Do I think creators should be?
Yep. I do.
But what if you create something that you love, have never had a business before, find yourself making a bit of money and want to scale that in as many ways as possible?
Remember that missed mortgage payment?
That taught me that I needed to diversify. I needed multiple income streams and since that day I have never, ever had just one income stream - it's dangerous.
To quote one of my Twitter Spaces buddies: "Many streams make the river."
And that got me thinking.
As a creator, the more chances we have to make money in places that our prospects already use, the better.
Apple isn't forcing us to only sell on their platform and so we could do the same on Spotify, Patreon, Glow, Supercast, Captivate et al, too.
Is it more work?
Sure, a lot more work. But if you're a creator who's serious about making money with your content and creations then you already know that you'd need to put more focused work in to scale things up.
The ability to make a few bucks from Apple, from Spotify, from Glow, from Captivate and to accumulate those funds into a part-time salary, to cover your mortgage or take the kids on holiday is a great thing. When you add that to things like merch, coaching and more then hey, you can make a decent buck with the right level of input.
Do I agree with Apple's decision to not even ask the paying listener if they want to give you their email address? No.
Do I think asking a paying listener to join your email list and simply swapping external ads for your own is the best way? No.
Was I a little harsh on Apple's intention from a creator perspective? Yes.
The best products come from two tectonic forces pushing against each other to create something new. Kieran and I do the same with each other every day - constantly pushing each other to think differently.
Apple, Spotify et al are in that tectonic push with the entire podcasting industry now and I hope the thinking from everyone will continue to develop and help podcasters and the open eco-system for years to come.
What say thee?