One of the keys to successful podcasting is finding a support network of other like-minded individuals who are on the same journey. Communities of podcasters provide a great way of filling this need through knowledge exchange and offering inspiration and moral support to one another. That’s why many podcaster communities were started and continue to flourish both online and offline around the world.
Several articles have previously been written about podcaster communities but never before has an in-depth study been carried out, providing a more comprehensive overview of the overall landscape. That’s why at Spreaker we recently decided to survey community organizers, gathering information on podcaster communities that are currently active. In this post, we will look at some of the main conclusions of our study.
Why was 2012 the Catalyst for Facebook?
As the chart below shows, there has been a significant linear growth of Facebook groups since 2012. This is particularly interesting, as one would have expected this to occur in 2014 with the launch of Apple iOS 8, which introduced the podcast app as a default, undeletable fixture on the iPhone and it was also the year when the podcast “Serial” became wildly popular. As we’ll see later on, this growth in communities around 2012 also occurred on the Meetup platform.
When we look at the names of the oldest Facebook groups, we can see a tendency for very broad podcasting topics.
The biggest podcast communities also tend to have these broad categories, although some of the newer groups have more ‘niche’ topics like “Podcast Editors’ Club” and “She Podcasts” (for female podcasters).
If we look at the top ten groups with the most posting activity in the last 30 days, we can see that a couple of them are promotional in nature. These groups are where podcasters share their latest episodes and have little engagement. Self-promotion in podcast communities is common, and other moderators take great efforts to prevent this from overrunning their groups as we’ll see in a couple of examples.
Some of the larger, more active groups that are well-moderated include:
This group was originally intended as a channel for attendees of the Podcast Movement conference (which started in 2014). It has since expanded to encompass all levels of podcasters and inquiries. All conference co-founders are active in the group, which has a strict policy of no self-promotion or posting of podcast links.
Created and moderated by Helen Zaltzman, this group started off with a focus on a UK audience where they held meetups but again has broadened out. There are regular administrative posts allowing people to comment with their latest episode (thus preventing over-promotion) as well as encouraging cross-promotion between podcasts. Taking after the group creators (who are comedy podcasters) the tone is often humorous.
This has less of a focus on monetization than other groups, attracting a more creative crowd of podcasters who are past their first episode and usually about six months to two years in. Group creator Jeremy Enns provides conversation starters and there’s a light tone to the group, set by the initial screening question about favorite ice cream flavors.
This is a great place to ask audio-related questions as well as source your next audio editor. Group creator Steve Stewart suggests if you are looking for a producer, contact him so he can share this with the group.
She Podcasts bills itself as “a safe place for women and those who identify as female or identify as non-binary ONLY, who podcast or who are setting up a podcast currently to ask questions, provide support, share resources, wins, advocate for each other and whatever else they like“. This group is the third largest Facebook group in our study which is particularly impressive when you consider that it’s a female-only group with a creator-only criteria for membership.
What can we learn from Meetup about keeping a community alive?
The nature of Meetup groups is local and in person. We defined this kind of platform as one which is considered ‘active’ if Meetup is upcoming or took place within the last six months.
These communities can be transient and often disband if no organizer picks it up. They will also disappear from the platform if the subscription dues are no longer paid for. This meant that the data we gathered was only representative of the groups that still survive to this day.
This characteristic of Meetup groups is worth bearing in mind when looking at the data. One example of this is with the chart below of Meetup groups created over time which at first glance appears to exhibit the same unusual pattern as Facebook in terms of the early surge in growth around 2013 prior to the introduction of iOS8 and the “Serial effect” in 2014. However, on further reflection it would make sense that groups created just prior to these events would benefit from the subsequent surge in popularity and attention paid to podcasting. There were most likely many groups created before 2013 which died off before they were able to benefit from this.
As expected the USA dominates in terms of the number of Meetups groups, which we can attribute to both the fact that both podcasting and Meetup were started in America and their popularities in those countries.
When looking at the most engaged groups in terms of the proportion of members who actually sign up to Meetups, we can see that many smaller groups are highly engaged.
The largest active groups are all US-based, and we can note that there is a concentration of groups towards the west and east coasts.
Although Meetup and Facebook remain the most popular platforms when it comes to online communities for podcasters, lately community organizers have been taking advantage of other alternatives to build a podcast community, namely Slack, Telegram, Google Groups, Reddit, LinkedIn and Discord.
What alternative podcaster communities are available?
Google groups appear to be particularly popular with the radio crowd where there is crossover with the podcasting community. Public Radio NYC is an email invite only community with over 3000 members and a regular monthly radio club where members meetup and critique each other’s work. This inspired the creation of the UK audio network which aims to bring together “all corners of the UK audio scene to encourage dialogue and opportunity for all”.
Telegram is a messaging service similar to Whatsapp but with some extra functionality around group moderation making it a popular choice for online communities. Union Podcastera is a Telegram group created by Pato Lopardo is a Spanish speaking podcaster community that includes members from all over Latin America as well as Spain.
The Podcasts and podcasting subreddits are both places where both Podcast hosts and listeners gather to share knowledge and discuss. Reddit as a platform makes it relatively easy to filter the most popular and helpful content from user contributions by sorting posts based on upvotes.
Although Slack is a communication platform originally intended purely for team collaboration, many community organizers have leveraged its popularity particularly amongst the tech-savvy crowd, with now over 2000 documented groups reportedly in existence.
#podcasters is the largest group of note with over 600 users and uses Slack’s RSS feed integrations to pull in recent episodes from member podcasts as well as podcasting related news and articles.
The Podcasters Society is a paid members community which in addition to other resources, contains a Slack group where creator Daniel J Lewis provides quick and direct support and advice.
Similar to Slack, Discord is oriented towards gaming communities and benefits from a close association with Reddit and Patreon. It has ‘voice only’ channels which allow users to communicate over audio instead of text as well.
Pod Squad is a group that was first announced on the r/podcasts subreddit as a place to “find quick and immediate insight through others, critique, and live discussion on technology and podcast culture”. “Podcast Problems” is another group set up by Podcast Critic Wil Williams which is meant for both podcast creators and fans, with additional dedicated channels specifically for her Patreon supporters.
The Podcast Technology Resource group is the most notable one on Linkedin with over 4000 members. By nature of the platform, it is one of the more professional and business oriented communities.
In summary, the community landscape in podcasting is thriving. Although much of the activity is concentrated on Facebook and Meetup, lately more communities have been appearing on a variety of other platforms. These platforms provide newer alternatives that cater to slightly different audiences or communication preferences, whilst still successfully engaging the podcast community. Many of these groups are relatively broad in terms of their focus with the exception of some created more recently – this shows a potential opportunity for organizers to capitalize on. One of the surprising results of the research shows that all online communities are using proprietary platforms – no noteworthy self-hosted forums were identified for example.
If you’d like to explore the data we analyzed in detail, you can do so by using our data visualization. We also packed a lot of the information from the study into an infographic which you can find below. Let us know in the comments if there are any other groups we haven’t mentioned so far worth highlighting!
Footnote: For the purposes of this study, we analyzed podcaster communities only – excluding fan groups, listeners or product focused communities. Data for the study was captured during December 2018.
Additionally, as Facebook limits the results of a search to one hundred entries, our data sample for this platform was impacted by this limitation – this meant that some of the smaller, more regional groups were not included. However, all the most prominent podcasting groups are included in the selected sample.