Why I’m Not Optimistic About Luminary’s Success


News today from The Verge: Podcast startup Luminary’s co-founder steps down from chief strategy role.

If you’re never heard of Luminary, check out What Podcast Creators Need To Know About Luminary. TL;DR: They’re trying to be the Netflix for podcasts. I’m not optimistic that they’ll be successful.

I like the idea of podcasters getting paid for their shows, but I don’t think this is going to work out well for Luminary.

They are competing for attention with 700,000+ free podcasts (not to mention all the TV shows and other forms of media). Unless they manage to create multiple great shows that are must-listens to justify the $8/month subscription fee, people will simply go listen to one of the many free shows in their favorite podcast app.

That being said, we (the hardcore podcast fans) need to support our favorite creators so they can continue to make the shows we love, and the podcast creators need tech that makes it easy for people to support them financially.

I don’t think most listeners will download a new app or jump through a bunch of hoops to subscribe to a private RSS feed just to give creators a couple bucks a month to support them or get a little bit of extra content. You have to really like someone to do that.

Example: I pay Ben Thompson $10/month for a subscription to Stratechery, mostly because I want to support his show (Exponent) because it is that damn good.

Right now, it seems like the best options for monetizing a podcast are either using the podcast as a way to sell a related product or service (my preferred method), selling bonus content via Patreon (see: Do By Friday), or selling your audience’s attention to advertisers.

Related: Feed-less podcast-like things (Scripting News):

We need a new name for podcast-like things that have no feeds, are locked behind a paywall, can’t be archived, cited or shared, and don’t create any kind of record.

Something like Dead-end-cast.”

Or Business-model-cast.”ooh

Or VC-friendsly-cast.”

October 24, 2019 Update:

From Variety: Former HBO President Simon Sutton Joins Luminary as CEO

New CEO for Luminary. This is my favorite line from the article:

Sutton said he first became familiar with podcasting listening to NPR programming on long drives around California. He declined, however, to reveal what podcasts are his favorites.

I’m going to be meeting a lot of podcast creators who are going to be upset if I don’t name their shows,” he said. I can only lose by answering that question.”

Mmmmmm yes, ALLLL the great shows.

I mean, I guess I sort of like them all.”

Personally, I think the problem is more the business model and less the CEO, but what do I know?