Ask any content marketing expert…

They’ll tell you: “You should start a podcast!” “Great way to build an audience!” “Get your message out there!”

But the truth is, podcasting is a huge waste of time and money for most people, despite what these gurus say.

Here’s why…

To even show up as a tiny blip on iTunes’ radar (when they’ll start showing your podcast in lists such as “new and noteworthy”), you need to be getting around 500 downloads per week.

This means that iTunes won’t even show your podcast to anyone unless you’re doing those kinds of numbers first.

In other words, unless you already have an audience — one big enough to be generating 500 downloads per week of your new podcast — nobody’s going to find it!

It doesn’t matter how amazing your podcast is. You could be teaching people how to print money. If you don’t have a “BYO” audience then you’re wasting your time.

How do I know this? John Rivera talks all about it in this episode of the (awesome) Ben Settle Show.

He goes directly against the commonly held belief that any content platform must be good. John points out that by the time you pay for your mic, figure out all the tech stuff, and spend hours producing and uploading your content, you’ve wasted a bunch of time that you could be spending trying to actually build an audience.

Unless of course you already have an established audience you can send to iTunes to download your stuff. (If you can get one in ten people on your list to actually download your show, you’d need a list of 5,000 people to even begin to make it work).

John, a podcasting consultant, won’t even consider working with anyone unless they can get these kind of numbers. It’s just wasting his (and your) time.

This kind of blew my mind. I had been toying with the idea of releasing a copywriting podcast. But it makes perfect sense. There are hundreds of new podcasts being launched every week (and more than a quarter million podcasts already on iTunes, if you extrapolate from previous data). So how does iTunes know which ones to promote? By how many downloads they get, of course. It creates a classic “chicken and egg” conundrum.

Bringing your own audience gives you an unfair advantage over all those people who think they can just start a podcast and an audience will miraculously appear. Once they gain traction, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So why do the content marketing gurus all spout on about how you should be podcasting?

Who knows? Maybe they haven’t actually seen anyone fail at it just from having a small audience to begin with. It worked for them, right? There are so many other factors to attribute lackluster results to. “The content wasn’t good enough.” “The production values weren’t high enough.” “It wasn’t a good niche.”

But the reason most podcasts fail is because they are unable to bring their own audience to the iTunes medium.

The solution? Build an engaged audience first using hard work. Build an email list. Then start a podcast when you want to strengthen the relationship with your audience even further.

So, should you be podcasting? Share your opinion in the comments section below.