The Long Tail of Podcasting

The 2024 Living Legends Foundation Black Music Month Series

Ken Johnson
My Podcast Journey: The Long Tail of Podcasting - Ken Johnson, owner of Mean Ole Lion Media and board member of the Living Legends Foundation (Photo Courtesy of the Living Legends Foundation)
Ken Johnson, owner of Mean Ole Lion Media and board member of the Living Legends Foundation (Photo Courtesy of the Living Legends Foundation)

*Since the dawn of the podcast era, my love for this medium has only grown. My journey began with “Political Gabfest,” hosted by David Plotz, Emily Bazelon, and John Dickerson. Their deep, uninterrupted discussions on politics captivated me. They presented balanced views and fact-based arguments, fostering an informed and engaging dialogue that hooked me instantly.

In 2007, I produced my first podcast. With my background as a radio programmer and brand manager, I didn’t just create a podcast; I built a podcast brand. Understanding my target audience, I developed a marketing strategy that included distributing flyers and posters in gyms, grocery stores, and other frequented places by a potential listener. I enlisted a co-worker to model for our promotional materials to market the show, and we produced weekly episodes for a year and a half.

Despite our enthusiasm and strategic efforts, the financial collapse of 2008 stifled our progress. However, our ambition was a bit ahead of its time. The podcasting landscape wasn’t quite ready for the surge we anticipated from the audience and buy-in from the advertising community.

Fast forward to 2017, and podcasting experienced a significant revival. This resurgence was largely due to advancements in technology that made podcasting more accessible and affordable. Another key factor was that increasingly conservative voices were producing podcasts and reaching staggering audience levels. Additionally, shifting listener preferences away from traditional radio played a role, but the full story of this transition is a topic for another day.

While I continue to enjoy both producing and listening to podcasts, the sheer volume of podcasts can be overwhelming.

Mean Ole Lion Media (Image Courtesy of The Living Legends Foundation)
Mean Ole Lion Media (Image Courtesy of The Living Legends Foundation)

With more than three million podcasts available, the challenge lies in standing out amidst this vast sea of content. Within this crowded space, however, there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

While a podcast can be created, edited, and distributed from your iPhone, creating a great podcast requires introspection and clarity. Here are a few critical questions to consider before diving in; why are you creating a podcast, what is it about, and what do you expect to get out of it?

To create a consistent credible podcast your answers to these questions should be fueled by passion. Without passion, your podcast risks becoming just another addition to the millions already out there. Passion is the driving force that can set your podcast apart.

Mean Ole Lion Media (Image Courtesy of Mean Ole Lion Media)
Mean Ole Lion Media (Image Courtesy of Mean Ole Lion Media)

Good reasons for starting a podcast include having expertise or knowledge in a particular subject or field. Whether it’s finance, real estate, business management, cooking, fashion or beauty, your podcast should revolve around something that drives your passion and expertise. Celebrities and media personalities, due to their existing fan base, have an advantage in drawing attention to their podcasts. However, their success is not guaranteed and often hinges on the same principles of passion and relevance.

Ask yourself what you hope to achieve with your podcast. Is it to gain exposure for your business, products, services, or book? While making money can be a goal, it should not be the primary reason for starting a podcast. Passion should be the foundation, and financial success may follow as a byproduct of genuine and engaging content.

My Podcast Journey: The Long Tail of Podcasting / Mean Ole Lion Media (Image Courtesy of Mean Ole Lion Media)
Mean Ole Lion Media (Image Courtesy of Mean Ole Lion Media)

One of the most significant impacts of the internet is the concept of “The Long Tail,” popularized by Chris Anderson’s book. The idea is that niche markets can thrive alongside mainstream ones due to the reach and accessibility of the internet. Steve Jobs and Apple, through iTunes, provided a platform for this concept to flourish.

Today, the long tail is more relevant than ever. Platforms like Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and Audible allow creators to reach audiences without traditional gatekeepers. Independent filmmakers, musicians, and designers no longer need to go through large corporations to share their work. Social media offers a powerful, cost-effective marketing tool to promote your podcast and connect with your audience.

If you’re considering starting a podcast, that’s fantastic. It can be incredibly fulfilling to share your opinions and connect with like-minded individuals on subjects you’re passionate about. Asking yourself the key questions and ensuring that passion drives your answers will help you create a podcast that stands out.

I will add an additional word to your podcast efforts; intentional. If you want revenue to be a part of your podcast, then treat it like a business. Create a plan, review your plan and update your plan regularly. Know your audience and connect with them at every turn, in episodes, social media posts, and any advertising. Always be intentional.

In the world of podcasting, passion is paramount. While it’s natural to hope for financial success, it shouldn’t be your primary motivation. Let your passion guide you, and perhaps you’ll find that your passion not only fuels your creativity but also attracts an audience and, eventually, generates revenue.

In my journey, I’ve adopted a motto that encapsulates my approach to podcasting: “Money is not my passion, but I want my passion to make me money.” By focusing on what truly drives you, you can create a podcast that resonates with listeners and stands out in a crowded marketplace.

To reach Mean Ole Lion Media, go to or email Ken Johnson at [email protected].

Born and raised in Washington, DC, Ken Johnson is the owner of Mean Ole Lion Media, a content creation company and podcast network. He currently oversees programming for “Philly’s Favor” Gospel station in Philadelphia. Johnson recently managed affiliate relations for the Nick Cannon afternoon show from Sky View Networks. He was the VP of Urban Formats for Cumulus Media, where he programmed multiple formats including Sports, Oldies, Hip Hop, R&B Adult, Jazz and Gospel. Additionally, Johnson was the Director of Urban Programming at ABC Radio Network. He was also the executive producer of “The Hughley Truth” podcast, hosted by comedian DL Hughley. He is currently a board member of the Living Legends Foundation and produces the organization’s “Music Day: A Verified Hit” podcast.

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