Interview: The Pod’s independent journalism promise rallied 5,500+ members
André Peschke and Jochen Gebauer started their podcast with a mission: gaming journalism 100% independent from advertising, to be funded exclusively by listeners.
The Pod team produces more than 20 podcasts a month. And the vast majority of those are offered exclusively to their more than 5,500 members. On The Pod’s Steady page, fans can become members and get access to the podcasts. In this interview with Steady, the Pod co-founder André Peschke tells us why he believes this exclusivity is necessary and explains how to professionalize a podcast and get funded by your listeners.
Steady: I know some people who play podcasts at one-and-a-half times the regular speed because otherwise, they get impatient. As a podcaster, what do you think about that?
André: I know many of our listeners do that. I find it extremely efficient. As long as people listen to us and as long as they subscribe, they can hear us at triple-speed if they want. That’s up to them (laughs).
You and Jochen met at GameStar, a more traditional medium and veteran in the gaming scene. How did you get to the point of saying goodbye to those jobs and starting something completely new?
The fact that we quit GameStar had nothing to do with the podcast. There were some months between Jochen and me leaving. The super-short version of our founding story: Jochen and I once planned a joint video format at GameStar. The idea was born because we liked to go out for a beer in the evening and talk a lot about games. So we said: Actually, all we had to do was put a camera over here and it would make a good video.
But when we actually wanted to do that, we were met with a lot of resistance. At GameStar, they said that there shouldn’t be any alcohol on camera. So at first it didn’t work out. But we never lost the idea. Later, once Jochen had already quit GameStar, I suggested to him, “Let’s do a podcast. Then we can continue having a beer together and stay in touch.” That’s how the podcast started.
What exactly was your motivation when you started with the podcast?
First of all, it was just nice to stay in touch. Then we tried Patreon in order to finance better microphones. And then when I quit GameStar, that’s when we said, “We always wanted to start something together, why not this?” Podcasts were still a rather unoccupied field back then. We could just put some of the things we always preached to the public to the test.
So from the very beginning, our goal was to create a completely independent journalistic offering that isn’t financed by advertising. A systemic problem with classic “range magazines” is that they are financed by advertising, which ultimately means that they live on the money that game makers pay them. As you can imagine, this constellation is not a great breeding ground for independent reporting. That is why we have said we are fully focused on ensuring that the podcast is 100% financed by the people for whom it is made.
And that went down well with the people, or how did you manage to build a community that is willing to support you?
We had the advantage that Jochen and I were already well known through our time at GameStar because we were both editors-in-chief there. That certainly gave us a podium. When we started, we had 300 listeners. That was enough to collect some reviews on iTunes, for example, which fortunately turned out to be very positive. That, in turn, took us into the iTunes charts, which then brought us, new people. And all the rest was just word of mouth.
It also helped that we had a lot of guests and were able to be guests on other podcasts ourselves. We were lucky that some well-known colleagues didn’t ignore us and didn’t pull up the ladder behind them: Peter Smits from Pietsmiet for example, or Jörg Langer. But especially Christian Schmidt from Stay Forever, who contributed free of charge to his own format, which is still running today.
And how did you convince your listeners to support you financially?
For one thing, we had already proven for more than a year that we make good podcasts. But above all, we made a promise that helped get a lot of people behind us: 100% independent journalism. There was a need and also a lot of idealism. Many people said: “Okay, I even support that on principle. I want it to succeed.” After about six months it was clear that we could continue with the podcast and even make a living from it. That was liberating.
It sounds like it was all very easy. Do the members arrive just like that, or how do you promote your membership program?
In each podcast, we mention that you can subscribe to us. But we only do that at the end of our show, because we want to avoid getting on people’s nerves as much as possible. But you could be more clever if you wanted to. In the last two minutes, the audience always drops off quite brutally, because everyone knows: Here comes the standard ad for the support model. So if you want to advertise effectively, you need to do it somewhere in the middle, at the beginning or switch it up, so that people are almost always surprised by the mention and don’t create a routine to skip it.
You mentioned earlier that you first started your membership program with Patreon. In the meantime, you have also signed up with Steady. How did that switch come about?
There are several reasons. One: Steady supports direct debit as a payment method. Many of our listeners had asked about this, but Patreon still doesn’t support it. The second reason was the dollar exchange rate. We lost a lot of money because of that.
A third reason was that we were trying to contact Patreon all the time. Back then we were among the top 50 creators on the platform and among the top 5 podcasts, but we still couldn’t manage to get a reasonable dialogue going. They have customer support, but we could never talk constructively with them. It’s different with Steady: there it was possible to work directly together from the very beginning. We can suggest things, for example, new features. Then they react to that and really look to see whether it would be possible. That was unimaginable with Patreon. So for us, it was always this completely unattainable platform.
And it’s not a problem to use Patreon and Steady at the same time?
It’s no problem. But we recommend people use Steady and pay by direct debit. Because of that, we always have a relatively steady flow of members from Patreon to Steady.
You offered many tips for how to professionalize a podcast and get funded by your listeners. What is the biggest lesson for you from your time as a podcaster?
That the value for money has to be right. Of course, the podcast has to be good enough that people want to pay money for it. But in my opinion, there has to be value for money and, for podcasts, the currency is clearly more podcasts. I would advise against offering physical goodies, like stickers, postcards and so on. That’s just too much work.
If a podcast is worth money to people, then they will pay to get more of it. They haven’t signed up for a Netflix subscription to get a refrigerator magnet. They’ve signed up for a new season of House of Cards.
On Steady, anyone can become a member of The Pod: