Podcasts Offer Low “Barrier to Entry”
     

 
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Podcasting offers many rewards and virtually no risk, radio executives say.

Radio stations have more competition for listeners than ever, but they also have more opportunities to leverage their content. Podcasts, audio shows available for download, have become a popular medium for show distribution.

The 800-pound guerillas over the air, like ESPN and NPR, enjoy considerable success in the podcast arena. But they aren’t the only ones: Some independent stations have found that podcasting offers numerous benefits, including building listenership and boosting brand recognition.

In an effort to understand how podcasting fits into a broader marketing strategy and what it takes to succeed on this platform, Radio World spoke to the producers of three shows: “The B.S. Report” of ESPN; NPR’s “Fresh Air” and “The Bill Handel Show” of KFI(AM).

BOOST YOUR BRAND

Arguably the most important advantage of podcasts is expanding the pool of potential listeners beyond the reach of a broadcast signal.

“Local listeners use word of mouth to introduce the show to their out of state friends,” Michelle Kube, executive producer of “The Bill Handel Show,” wrote in an email. “We’re getting emails from listeners out of state and out of the country that are new listeners to the show.”

And that also helps raise the profile of the station, Kube said.

The podcast “has definitely boosted the KFI brand because it enables listeners, both locally and out of state, to listen on their own time, at their leisure, when it’s convenient for them to do so.”

It also offers another means of generating revenue.

“The B.S. Report” has two sponsors, Subway and Stamps.com, according to David Jacoby, the show’s producer. Exactly how much money it makes is difficult to tell because the sponsorship agreement extends across all of Grantland’s podcasts, not just “The B.S. Report.”

Kube advises against placing more than one short commercial spot before the podcast. One of the principle advantages of this format, the producers say, is that it’s generally commercial-free. Some stations charge for the podcast itself. Such is the case with “The Kim Komando Show.” In order to access her podcast, fans have to pay $5.95 per month to join Kim’s Club.

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

While it may be a different technology, the same ingredients that make a radio show successful are likely to make a podcast thrive, the producers said.

“The most important thing is the chemistry between two hosts or the host and a guest,” Jacoby said.

Danny Miller, executive producer of “Fresh Air,” agrees. Just like on broadcasting, it’s about finding a “compelling guest” and a “good interviewer,” he said.

Being “authentic” and finding “fun and interesting content to provide” are key, according to Kube.

There are, however, distinct advantages to podcasts over broadcasting. One is more flexibility with time.

Kube looks for ways to create “new exclusive podcast-only content” that enhance listeners’ experience. To wit: some of her podcasts have included additional audio of producers’ discussions and behind-the-scenes information about the hosts and topics that were not a part of the live broadcast.

“It’s a fun way to show listeners how things work behind the scenes,” Kube writes.

Turning a broadcast show into a podcast is relatively easy to do, the producers said.

“We don’t really think of the podcast as a different entity,” Williams said. “Fresh Air,” like many other shows, is simply redistributed as a podcast.

One of the most exciting things about this platform is that the “barrier to entry is so low,” Jacoby said, estimating that it only costs several hundred bucks.

This is not to say that podcasts suit every type of broadcast content or don’t present some challenges.

The weather, Williams points out, is a terrible topic for podcasts. It has to be something with a longer “shelf life,” he said.

And in order to maximize revenue opportunities over podcasts, the industry needs to find a way to better measure listenership.

Because of the podcast, the audience for “Fresh Air” has increased, Williams estimates, but the measurable audience number has decreased.

“I think we lose measurable listeners because of the podcast, but we gain a significant amount of listening that’s not measured because of podcasts. It’s a really important issue for the online world trying to measure what the listening is … you can measure downloads, but there isn’t industry standards for measuring listening … That can be misleading. That’s another real big issue in all of radio broadcasting. [And] how can we capture the numbers when we are seeking underwriting?”

Eliza Krigman wrote about “Podcast Success Stories” in January; see radioworld.com, keyword Krigman.


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