Only 8% of Indies Enter Podcast Awards – Here’s Why

Another year, another podcast awards season. But not everyone feels the buzz. In fact, more often than not, when you hear podcasters in the independent community talking about awards programs, the tone tends to be cynical at best. 

And despite this, awards promotion still dominates a lot of the podcast newsletters (I’ll admit, I gloss over those bits, too). 

We surveyed 1,005 independent podcasters to find out how engaged they are with the awards world, and how they think the programs could be improved.

Do Indies Get Involved in Podcast Awards? 

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the number of independent podcasters who told us they’d submitted their podcast for an award was really low.

Just 8% of the 1000+ podcasters we surveyed said they’d submitted their show for an award at some point in its history.

Side note: it’s worth mentioning that many of our readers (and therefore respondents to the survey) are early-stage or beginner podcasters, so this is likely to have an impact on the numbers being so low.

However, what was really interesting about the data was this: Of those podcasters who said they had submitted their show for an award, 66% got past the submission stage to get either a nomination or win.

I think a lot of creators will be surprised by that result. Could this mean your chances of winning a podcast award are higher than you think? Clearly, the content is good enough to win.

Which begs the question: what puts so many podcasters off submitting their podcast for awards in the first place?

Why Podcasters Don’t Enter Awards

For the second part of our survey, we asked respondents to tell us what specific factors or barriers put them off entering their shows in podcast awards. Here’s what they told us.

Some award entry fees are too high

There’s no dancing around the fact that award submissions are a costly business. And yes, there are some podcast awards that don’t charge you to enter, but most do. This makes them inaccessible to a lot of independent podcasters – particularly those who don’t monetize their show.

Some companies likely even use the entry fees to discourage smaller podcasts from applying. For example, a single submission to the Webby’s costs between $175-500. Presumably, raising the financial barrier means judges have fewer submissions to get through and (they think) higher standards – which isn’t the case.

Last year, the British Podcast Awards also came under fire when it announced there would be a £318 ticket fee just to attend the event. If you pay the entry fee and make the shortlist, it’s a major blow to be told you need to shell out £300 to receive your award. It’s hardly surprising that a lot of indies feel these awards ceremonies aren’t created for them.

It’s worth mentioning that the Independent Podcast Awards only charges £30 for your first entry (£5 for any additional entries) and they have a couple of categories that are free to enter too. Submissions are open until May 31st.

Time-consuming application processes

When you ask to be judged on podcast content you’ve already created, you’d be forgiven for thinking the hard work is done. But entering podcast awards tends to come with a fair bit of admin as well as a fee.

Most awards will ask you to pitch your podcast and submit a series of audio clips that demonstrate the best of your show. But choosing short clips that do your content justice isn’t easy, and some awards as for more. One Alitu user recently reached out for support on how to edit together video clips for a reel they were making for an awards submission (a video reel! For a podcast award!).

As one survey respondent put it: “While it’s seemingly good to win an award, the value of winning vs. the investment in the application is a question.”

Clearly, the investment involves a lot of your time and effort as well as your cash. Very few independent podcasters who aren’t in a position to make their podcast their full-time job have much of this to spare.

They think awards don’t favour independent podcasters 

The most common thread amongst the survey responses we got was that a lot of creators don’t see the point in entering podcast awards. They think their chances of success are so low when up against the big mainstream players, that there’s no point in even trying.

One podcaster told us:

As far as I can see, [awards aren’t] dominated by “indie” podcasters but the people I call the “refugees from the BBC” or other big media organisations who seem to dominate the audio space.

Clayton M Coke FRSA, Creator & Host of The Cashflow Show

Here are a few of the other standout comments we received on this:

My podcast is probably too small to be worth considering for awards

“If you’re a small independent, what chance do you have going up against “celebrity” podcasts?

“Podcasting is a two-tier system: the big guys & everyone else! Using Pareto’s Law aka the 80/20 rule, you can guarantee at least 80% of podcasters are making nothing from their podcast but are expected to compete against massive shows with massive budgets. I am just not sure if the juice is worth the squeeze. Maybe that money for entry fees may be better invested in buying advertising, to get listeners, that would in turn attract sponsors, who may pay cash?”

They don’t know where to start 

As I mentioned earlier, some of our website readers who took the survey are beginner podcasters who are just getting started. This is likely why we had a lot of responses along the lines of “I don’t know where to apply for an award” or “never thought to submit”.

But there were also responses that were clearly from seasoned podcasters who also felt in the dark about the entry process.

One podcaster said they wouldn’t “know how to choose the material for submission.” Another said: “I don’t have time to submit my podcasts for awards, or even research which awards are available.”

While a lot of the big-name podcasts will have their own producers to navigate the award submission process for them, indies need to handle everything themselves, and knowing where to start is clearly a barrier for many.

The good news is, Lindsay put together a handy list of podcast awards that includes fees, deadlines and what’s involved in the process.

Podcasters want fairer award criteria 

Unsurprisingly, some independent podcasters don’t want to spend time on award submissions because they know the judgment criteria often work against them.

There was talk of it being unfair that some of the biggest shows with huge budgets and marketing teams being allowed to enter alongside independents as it’s almost impossible to compete. One podcaster suggested they “exclude exclusives, and branded content” to keep podcast awards focused on“free-range RSS only.”

Another respondent spoke about the “big methodological problems” involved in awards programs. These are present even when they try to be fairer by relying on listener votes instead of judge panels.

They said:

“Industry panel votes will tend to be quite insular, understandably. Podcasting is a huge and complex global landscape after all. Listener voting is fine in principle, but it’s going to be dominated by big shows, or by medium shows begging audiences to vote. Audience figures have some merit, but data consistency is barely a thing: Downloads, streams, time spent listening, completion, churn vs loyalty. If we had real comparable data, we could give awards for big start numbers, completion, per listener minutes, loyalty, etc.”

Podcasters care what listeners think, not judges

And finally, I’ll end with a quote that I think will resonate with a lot of independent creators:

“It’s fun to win awards, give speeches, and get respect from peers, but that’s not really why most people start podcasts. The respect of listeners is what we value most (or should), and as many of us were listeners first and remain dedicated listeners, we feel this respect and affection towards our favourite hosts, and it is a treasure.” 

It seems a shame that some podcasters consider respect from listeners and award recognition as mutually exclusive.

Make Awards More Indie-Friendly

The main message here is for awards organizers more than creators: Make awards programs more accessible to independent creators.

The low barrier to entry in podcasting is one of the main things that makes the medium so special. Therefore, it seems contra what podcasting is about to make it difficult for indies to participate in awards.

Our survey shows the success rate is high amongst those indies who do enter their podcasts for awards, so the content is clearly good enough to win. But long, difficult applications and high fees are keeping excellent content from getting the recognition it deserves.

If there’s one thing that independent podcasters can take from this survey, it’s this: your content is good enough.

If you need some guidance in choosing which awards to apply to, take a look at this guide to the best podcast awards in 2024.

Originally posted on April 24, 2024 @ 2:25 am

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