SoundCloud vs Public Radio – Where’s Tomorrow’s Audience?

So I’m celebrating a couple of milestones this month!

One year ago, I completed my business plan for Tiny Spark. And today marks the end of my first week as a SoundCloud Fellow.

To commemorate these milestones, I’ve decided to share a bit about what I’ve learned in the past year and to share some reflections about what I’ve discovered about SoundCloud as a platform for podcasts.

First, SoundCloud:

In my seven days as a Fellow, I’ve already gained a sizeable audience on SoundCloud. Well, not an “audience” really – just 1,300 followers and counting! That love feels great but I know that all the followers in the world are meaningless unless I can turn them into fans and listeners of Tiny Spark.

So, I’m looking at that as one of my greatest challenges during my two-month SoundCloud Fellowship: how do I get someone who simply clicks a “follow” button to actually begin engaging with my content? I’m going to try to figure this out and will let you know what I learn…and I would obviously welcome your ideas about what’s worked for you!

As I continue with my Fellowship, I plan to share some of the other things I learn about working with the SoundCloud platform and its 20 million registered users. I’ll also be posting some audio recordings on the SoundCloud blog in the next couple of months.

Here’s the first intro I recorded as a SoundCloud Fellow.

Amy Costello is a 2012 SoundCloud Fellow by tinysparkshow

I’m hoping that what I learn during my time with SoundCloud will be useful to those of you who are also in the media start-up phase; whether you’re launching a podcast of your own, beginning the foundations of a blog; or even building a freelance career.

And as my first year running a media startup comes to an end, I was very psyched to read about the recent success of Roman Mars and his podcast 99% Invisible which is distributed and supported by PRX.  Mars’ recent Kickstarter campaign was apparently the most-funded journalism project in Kickstarter’s history! In case you missed it, here’s a great article in Current by Andrew Lapin.

“As (Mars) sees it, 99% Invisible is, at its core, a public-radio program,” Lapin writes. “But its limited presence on radio stations hasn’t affected Mars’ efforts to get funding.”

I find Mars’ online success inspiring because it demonstrates all that is possible for podcasts created outside the traditional public radio network. So many people bemoan the state of journalism today but I think there is so much to be excited about. This is the time for independent producers to get their stories heard by huge audiences without ever being “broadcast”. Mars’ success is but one example.

And that brings me back to SoundCloud, which seems to offer huge potential for those of us trying to follow in Mar’s footsteps. Established public radio programs like The World and Marketplace have staked out a presence on SoundCloud. But from what I can tell, most of those actually using SoundCloud are not typical public radio listeners.

According to NPR’s own research, the median age of those tuning in is 49. And NPR’s audience is not diverse. According to NPR’s ombudsman, 87% of NPR listeners are white.

I decided to do an entirely unscientific study to compare NPR’s key audience with SoundCloud’s.  I did this by simply looking at the profile pictures of my SoundCloud followers. (Profile pics are admittedly unreliable but certainly offer some insights.)

SoundCloud users appear to be much younger and more diverse than public radio’s. This may be due in part to the fact that SoundCloud started as a platform for musicians.  I want to figure out if I can get this younger, hipper crowd listening to Tiny Spark, a public-radio style program. If I can, then SoundCloud may prove to be as useful as Kickstarter for helping to launch successful audio programs.

Like many of you, I’ll be following the progress of 99% Invisible, which has more than 39,000 followers on SoundCloud at the time of this writing.  I’ll be curious to see how they use the Kickstarter funds to grow the program and what role SoundCloud and the public radio network play in that growth!


  1. Hey Amy,

    I just stumbled upon your blog today, and boy, I am thrilled that I did. I absolutely love the work you’re doing here, and it’s fascinating to learn about your process along the way. I definitely think there’s a big potential podcast audience for Tiny Spark and the reporting you’re doing. In fact, I think people are hungry for it! I look forward to following your success!

    • Amy

      Thank you so much, Jaclyn! I agree that there’s a big interest in this topic…and plenty of important stories to take on. I’m enjoying this process immensely and hope you will continue to follow along here!

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