Why I'd choose 5,000 podcast listeners over 100,000 Twitter followers

Photo: Guy Raz, NPR.org

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This year’s Podcast Movement, an annual industry conference that attracts thousands of attendees, is currently wrapping up in Orlando. I didn’t go this year, but apparently the closing speaker for the conference was Guy Raz, the famed podcaster who hosts TED Radio Hour and How I Built This.

There were multiple people in my stream live tweeting Raz’s speech, and he had one line in particular that jumped out at me: "I would take 5000 podcast listeners over 100,000 Twitter followers.”

This quote really resonated with me, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. Some might read it and wonder why someone would willingly trade such a large Twitter following for an audience that’s 1/20th the size. In this newsletter I’m going to explain the logic behind Raz’s assertion.

Let’s start with a hypothetical Twitter user with 100,000 followers and compare it to a half-hour, weekly podcast with 5,000 regular listeners.

By this point I hope you’re aware that a Twitter account’s actual following is much lower than the official number of followers listed on the person’s profile. If you want to be extremely generous, then you’d estimate that maybe half of them are real followers. The other half consists of bots, brands, and users who follow thousands of other accounts, thereby guaranteeing that your tweets almost never show up in their feeds.

So we’re already down to 50,000 true followers. But because of the speed at which tweets flow through the stream, probably only 10 percent of your followers will see any individual tweet of yours (I’m basing these numbers on my own Twitter analytics and other large accounts I’ve controlled on behalf of my clients).

Now we’re down to 5,000 Twitter followers seeing any individual tweet you send out, which is the same number that listen to your hypothetical podcast.

But the comparison doesn’t stop there. The average tweet takes no longer than 10 seconds to read. The podcast is a half hour long. So the total time your Twitter followers spend reading a single tweet of yours is 50,000 seconds, which is the equivalent of 14 hours. Seems like a lot, right?

Well, the total time 5,000 podcast listeners spend listening to a single episode comes out to 2,500 hours. In other words, you’d have to tweet 178 times to generate the same amount of time spent consuming a single episode of your podcast. That’s 12 tweets a day over the span of two weeks.

There’s a reason why those within the industry claim that podcasting is one of the most intimate mediums. There are very few internet-based platforms that can generate the same amount of loyalty between a content creator and their audience.

So yes. While I would never turn down the opportunity to generate 100,000 Twitter followers, I’d take those 5,000 podcast listeners over them any day.

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at simonowens@gmail.com. For a full bio, go here.

Other articles by me:

  1. He founded one of the earliest tech blogs. Now he edits a newsletter

  2. Why nearly every news publisher should have a podcast strategy

  3. Why bundled subscriptions won’t save the news industry