Why You Should Finally Get Into Podcasts—Or Maybe Start Your Own
Ron Baetiong, CEO and founder of Podcast Network Asia, on why every young creative should launch a podcast
Enjoyed during our morning coffee or daily commute, podcasts are increasingly integrating into our everyday routines. Covering everything from video games to leadership advice, the medium offers a powerful opportunity for content producers to connect with a readymade audience and forge a community bound by common passions.
While podcasts are well established in other parts of the world, Asia hasn't been as fast to adopt the medium. "The Southeast Asian podcasting industry is still in its nascent stages, and we’re just starting to see momentum now,” says Ron Baetiong, founder and CEO of Podcast Network Asia (PNA), a Philippines-based podcast platform that helps would-be podcast producers get their show off the ground.
PNA works as an incubator for podcast producers, equipping creatives with the tools and resources needed to launch a podcast, from ideation to production and, eventually, monetisation. Its Podmetrics platform also provides audience analytics to its members.
We talk to Ron about the growth of the industry, where it’s headed, and the unique opportunities and challenges presented by the medium.
What are the advantages for podcast producers that are unique to the platform?
There are a couple. The first one is that it’s not live—you can record it without the worry of having a live audience, which can be nerve-wracking if you’re a content creator. Secondly, you can actually do it in your own time, when it’s convenient for you. When producing videos, you typically have to take multiple shots of a certain scene just to be able to get a few minutes of content. On the other hand, podcasts are very good in terms of time consumed for content creation; it takes less time to produce.
What challenges do podcast producers face that are unique to the platform?
One of the main challenges we are trying to overcome is to prevent "podfading". Podfading is a problem that most podcasters undergo: a vast majority of podcasts don’t make it past 10 episodes because things get challenging, you lose momentum, and there are so many things you can’t do [so you stop producing altogether].
What we really provide with Podcast Network Asia is the ability for a content creator to come in with no content of any kind, and we can be the machinery that helps them put out what they want to create. A lot of our shows have gone into their 30th, 40th, 50th even up to 100th episode already, allowing them to really [up]skill and continue to create content that they’re passionate about. Also, they get to give a voice to the community that they represent.
How have you adapted your business to face the challenges posed by the pandemic?
We’re very fortunate because the pandemic actually accelerated our growth into two areas. First off, before the pandemic, our podcasters had to go to the studio to create content. Now, our homes are the studios. We can now enable our podcasters to record in the comfort of their homes, accompanied by a producer and equipped with top-notch equipment.
The other thing that really worked in our favour—and this is pure luck—is that there is now overwhelming screen fatigue. Screen time is at an all-time high for everybody, and there’s a big jump in deliberate audio listening.
What do you think is contributing to podcasts' increasing popularity?
The recent popularity of podcasts is really more about timing. There are a couple of factors as to why it became popular. First off, credit where credit is due, Spotify really changed the game when they introduced podcasts into their library. Ninety-five percent of podcast listenership [takes place on] Spotify, so it’s natural for Filipinos or Asians to consume the shows or the audio content that they love on Spotify. By adding a new category of content that provides immersive, long-term listenership, the platform became really engaging. Podcasts have been around for more or less 20 years, but the synchronous timing of Spotify introducing podcasts and the growing screen fatigue was the perfect recipe. That’s why podcasts have become an up-and-coming platform that a lot of people are now jumping into.
What makes podcasts powerful to you?
What makes a podcast powerful is its ability to narrow down and go deep into a certain topic. Why does that make it powerful? Podcasts are typically niche, and they meaningfully represent a community and what they stand for—whether it’s sex or love, parenting, or adulthood.
[Podcasting is] so powerful because it provides active listening that really sticks through the listenership. The beauty of it is that we’re not bound by restrictions that you typically see in show media, older forms of media, or digital media. We’re here to discuss [topics] in-depth, and we’re here to reach out to stories and give them life in audio format.
Another thing [that makes podcasts powerful] is the ability of the listener to really dive in and get lost in listening to a podcast. That’s very powerful because it provides you with the ability to be very intimate with your listeners.
What has been the most significant lesson learned and why?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is very humbling, yet very enlightening. By listening to podcasts and hearing stories from the communities that we’ve now given voices to, I now realise that I know so little. What I think I know is literally nothing compared to all the information that’s out there. I’m thirsty for more, and podcasts are a great avenue to learn more and share that with the world.
How has the podcast industry and audience grown and changed over the years?
Well, the podcast community or industry did not even exist in the Philippines [until recently], at least compared to the industry in the West, which is pretty mature as evidenced by shows that have been around for like five to ten years now. In the Philippines, the oldest shows that are really thriving now are probably two to three years old and they started around late 2018-2019.
The most impressive thing about [the growth of the Philippine podcast industry] is that first, the consistency of the podcasters has really changed - even though the [established shows] have been around for a while, they managed to evolve and come up with new audiences to engage with.
The second thing that really changed over the years is the quality of shows. These [Philippine-produced podcasts] are now world-class shows that, if you listen to them, really sound like something that’s developed overseas, or at par with the best podcasts in the world.
And lastly, people are now more ambitious. Before, the majority of podcasts were done in the talk show format, which is still the go-to style in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. But recently, we’ve seen more radio drama or narrative shows that have opened up a dearth of really good formats that people can really relate to.
How do you think the podcast industry and audience will grow and change in years to come, both locally and globally?
The Southeast Asian podcasting industry is still in its nascent stages and we’re just starting to see momentum now. I think in five to ten years it will mirror what the YouTube industry started out with: a few successes, record-breaking milestones, and a lot of legit revenue coming in. And that’s very impressive and very interesting because there are a lot of parallels [between YouTube and podcasts]. It’s very exciting to see how that will be realised, because as more creators join, new audiences will be unlocked.
What are some of your favourite podcasts right now and why?
My personal favourite is Podland. It might sound weird that I’m listening to a podcast about podcasting, but it’s something I enjoy listening to because it provides me with a good update on how [the industry] works.
Now I’m a big tech and business podcast junkie so I love the a16z Podcast, I love The Quest with Justin Kan, and my all-time favourite is The EntreLeadership Podcast. I also love local comedy shows like The KoolPals and a lot of the Podcast Network Asia Shows. I try listening to them on a regular basis, but my usual routine starts with mostly business shows at the beginning of the week. Then when I try to wind down, I go local. I prefer local, and typically I end up listening to comedy shows.
What advice do you have for aspiring podcasters?
My first advice is: before you press record, try to survey if there are existing shows for the community you’re trying to represent. The reason I say that is I don’t like seeing a copycat league, one that makes you go “here we go again, the 50th adulting podcast”. If you feel like that’s really the topic you want to cover, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the degree of success that’s waiting for you will be far less than if you were covering a show with a topic that is more niche.
The other thing is, once you get started with whatever your project is, you should keep going. Success in podcasting doesn’t happen overnight. It’s rare that you find immediate success. But however hard it is and no matter how hard it can be to gain traction, you want to be able to find the tribe that you represent.
Lastly, what’s most important is to find your podcast-market fit. If things don’t work and you feel you cannot find traction, which is something you normally see through statistics, feel free to pivot.