A podcast is only a podcast if you can listen to it anywhere.
Just like a newsletter isn’t a newsletter if you can’t subscribe using any email address, the point of a podcast is that you can listen to it in any podcast app. It just works.
If your podcast only works in Spotify or Apple Podcasts or another proprietary app, perhaps because of an exclusivity arrangement, it’s just serial audio. The content may be wonderful, but you’re missing out on the complete set of potential listeners in order to focus on one app’s existing username.
In some ways that’s fine - after all, you can’t watch a Netflix show in any app but Netflix’s - but it’s not a podcast. It’s something else. It’s just a show on someone’s channel.
The way podcasts work is by releasing episodes as attachments on an RSS feed. You don’t need to know that this is how it happens - all you need to know is that it doesn’t matter which podcast app you prefer, just as it doesn’t matter which browser you use to access your favorite website. The point of these platforms is that you have the choice.
That’s important for listeners, but it’s also important for producers. Tech companies are notoriously fickle, and signing an exclusivity deal with one inexorably ties your future into their evolving business strategies.
It might make sense to make an exclusive deal with a streaming platform if they’re going to give you $200 million like Joe Rogan. (I tend to think this is win-win: Spotify thinks it has something unique, while the rest of us aren’t bothered with Rogan’s show.) But if you’re making a deal for a fraction of that money, know that you’re losing out on reaching out to a whole ecosystem in exchange for tying yourself to the business model of a startup that might change business model on a dime and leave your show - or even your whole production company - in the dirt.
The media industry is littered with the graves of companies that tied themselves to onerous distribution contracts. There’s no need. Podcasts are open, available everywhere, and easily monetizable once you’ve got a subscribed audience. You don’t need to prostrate yourself for a company that, ultimately, doesn’t care about your future.