Fighting for ears: remaining independent in a world of corporate podcasts


‘The thing I noticed first about podcast was the freedom’, WTF with Marc Maron was created because of this. There didn’t need to be a distinct mission statement said Brendan McDonald, Producer, WTF Podcast, he just applied experience from traditional radio. 

Three things the show needed were consistency, quality and contentment. There needed to be a regular show that listeners could have a relationships with. There was also a desire to make a podcast sound like professional radio show. And, within the team it seemed obvious but they needed to feel happy with what they were doing and that they were ‘content’ with the podcast.

They thought the podcast would be a ‘nice side gig’, but this grew as the guests came on board and the podcast became something else. Marc brought attention to the show through guests, style and really dealing with some difficult issue. The turning point came one year after the podcast started when Marc interviewed a friend who he’d fallen out with, this was a break through moment for the show dealing with issues and in a converstation that between two men had not really been heard before.

WTF is an advertising based model, there is no other real revenue stream, this started in 2012. was their first advertiser, they had real audience engagement and they thought they could continue this engagement. WTF has seen relative steady stream/download growth. For the Obama episode the show had a massive spike in listening. They have low overheads and that’s how they like it. ‘The last thing is you lose fear…you might slow down a little, you might not jump as high…but you lose the fear’ a direct quote from Obama on the show WTF. Brendan felt that as they had no fear of failure then ‘that’s enough and anything else that comes is gravy’.

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