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Everybody Makes Podcasts. Can Anyone Make Them Profitable?

The industry generates a lot of enthusiasm and little revenue, but that could be changing.
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Photographer: Qiu Yang for Bloomberg Businessweek; Set design: Sarah-Jane Hoffmann

About a decade ago, Hank and John Green, fraternal YouTube stars, founded VidCon, an annual convention in Anaheim, Calif., that celebrates online video auteurs and their screaming teenage fans. As YouTube’s cultural impact deepened, so did VidCon’s. A constellation of amateur creators grew into an industry, with VidCon providing a stage for them to promote themselves IRL. Walt Disney Co. and DreamWorks Animation LLC bought up pieces of the YouTube ecosystem, confident they could transform fandom into fortune.

As VidCon matured, the Greens noticed a stir of creative energy in another corner of the web. The audience for their comedy podcast, Dear Hank & John, in which they offer listeners questionable advice, was growing faster than that for their chatty web videos. So they decided to create a VidCon equivalent. In December 2017 the Greens and a few collaborators threw the first PodCon. Months later they sold VidCon to Viacom Inc. for an undisclosed sum.