Imagine going to one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant. He makes you his signature dish – Beef Wellington. After eating what is sure to be the best Beef Wellington you’ve ever had, you go to the kitchen to give your compliments to the chef. You notice he has some cooked steak left over. You say, “You’ve already done the hard part. Why don’t you just serve it for lunch tomorrow?”
He’s going to explain to you that the left overs won’t be nearly as good tomorrow as it is tonight. That the steak was made for his Beef Wellington and he’d need to exert effort to create a dish fitting for lunch, for the left over steak.
While I’m no Michelin chef, I do create a lot of content. And you can’t just throw the left overs out there and expect the same quality content. So why are WordPress.com and Spotify telling us to do that?
WordPress.com and Anchor/Spotify Announce Partnership
At Spotify’s recently streamed event, they announced a partnership with WordPress.com where you could easily convert your blog post to a podcast using a text-to-speech function, which would upload the audio to Anchor.
While there are definitely accessibility benefits to this – perhaps a text-to-speech audio version is better for sight limited folks – that’s not how WordPress.com is billing this feature. In-fact, here’s the opening sentence:
If you’re a blogger, you’ve already done the hard part by creating great content — so you should share that content as widely as possible!
They also say things like, “you can make your unique blogging voice actually audible!”
While I’d love to see tools actually make it easier to turn blog posts into podcasts, this isn’t it. And this can hurt podcasting.
Why This is Bad for Podcasting
Simply converting written text to speech isn’t compelling content. Like I said earlier, there are accessibility benefits, but you can add those without adding a podcast. One plugin that helps is Amazon Polly (know named AWS for WordPress). But this announcement doesn’t mention those benefits. They want you to know that making a podcast is easy.
So what’s going to happen? I suspect lots of people will use the text-to-speech feature to “launch their podcast” and podcasting directories will get flooded with some of the most boring podcast content imaginable. Don’t believe me? Check out the example they listed on the page:
The intro, which was pre-recorded by an actual person, leads into a robot reading a blog post. The difference is stark enough that I’m shocked they didn’t just use an example that was completely text-to-speech.
Matt Medeiros makes the point perfectly1:
Bad Quality = Bad Rep for Podcasting
You might think, “Who cares? There are so many podcasts it’s not going to matter!” Here’s the thing though: according to data provided by Buzzsprout on the Smart Passive Income podcast, there are around 377,000 active podcasts right now. Worldwide.
That is not a lot.
It’s unclear how many WordPress.com blogs there are, but OptinMonster seems to take a shot here and say 60 Million. Now let’s say 1% of those take advantage of the new text-to-speech feature. We’ve nearly tripled the amount of active podcasts. But that’s not even the worst part.
This Feature Minimizes The Hard Work of Making a Good Podcast
Let’s go back to that first line: “you’ve already done the hard part.” Yes. You’ve done the hard part of writing. That doesn’t mean you’ve done the hard part of podcasting.
On Twitter I said, “Why not then have that audio sent to YouTube? 3 birds! Who knew creating content was so easy!?”
I teach podcasting. I consult on podcasting. And I make podcasts for other people. I know how hard it is to make something worthwhile. I wish it was as easy as pushing a button for my students and my clients.
But I also want to manage expectations. I certainly don’t want to make it seem like phoning it in will yield good results. Here’s another line from the blog post:
By converting your blog into a podcast, you’re leveraging the power of audio to grow your brand, audience, and income — without any extra work.
This line, more than anything, fills the reader’s head with false dreams. You need to make your content worth listening to. You need to put in the work.
WordPress.com and Spotify benefit because it’s a value-add for them that probably improves algorithms on both sides. And they are selling you coal and telling you it’s a diamond.
As a rule of thumb, I’m instantly skeptical of anyone telling me “it’s easy to make money.” This is no exception. Because even though Anchor has built-in advertising, you don’t get money if no one listens to the robot reading your words.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn your blog into a podcast.
How Can You Actually Turn Your Blog into a Podcast?
The announcement gets one thing right: you can repurpose your blog content into podcast episodes. But you have to do it. Read the script, record the episode, with passion in your voice.
Let your personality shine through. Don’t outsource your voice to a robot.
As for hosting, you can still use Anchor if cost is a concern. I recommend Castos if you can swing it though.
In fact, this WordPress.com / Anchor deal apparently lets you record and upload. But that’s a blip in the post when it should be the main feature. “You wrote your script. Now record it and create a podcast episode, all in one place.”
- You might be wondering, “what’s that about Anchor?” That’s a whole other blog post, but while I do recommend Anchor to people, it’s more like, “If you absolutely can’t afford podcast hosting.” Anchor has an interest EULA and has been subject to considerable piracy since they let you bypass the Apple Podcasts submission process…which by the way, makes your podcast show up as theirs as far as Apple is concern. Something to think about. ?