The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.
Next week, Anaheim hosts the biggest event nationwide for podcasters. However, it is not just all about digital-only media makers. Podcast Movement will have no shortage of radio movers and shakers as well.
In the last few years, podcasting has exploded as a medium, prompting major investment by radio networks in a content type that still has not hit its peak. Some of the newest numbers indicate podcasting listenership continues to grow, with those who say they listen at least monthly jumping from 21% to 24% in the course of a year. In addition, podcasting is showing fascinating listener developments when it comes to diversity. There is a lot to be excited about.
Behind the scenes in community radio, I know the possibility that podcasting is wooing away donors is creating some fretting. However, community radio earns nothing by running the other direction. In fact, stations can gain a lot by learning about and engaging in podcasting, just as KSJD(FM) has with its Raven Narratives podcast. And there are many more community radio podcasts out there, but certainly not enough. Community radio could go all in with podcasting, and should.
Enter Podcast Movement, an annual conference that has gotten progressively larger since it started a few years ago. For me, Podcast Movement is a time for community radio to learn. We in community media can thrive amid some of the biggest challenges we have ever faced. Community radio has a lot of fans on its side and plenty of supporters to work with.
I am privileged to be on a panel led by the peerless Elsie Escobar, reflecting on podcasts and social impact. If you are headed to Podcast Movement, I look forward to seeing you. Among the scores of sessions, there are many important community and public media voices who will be in the house.
In addition to talented people from WNYC/WNYC Studios, RadioPublic and NPR, attendees will be treated to presentations by organizers at Radiotopia, they of 99% Invisible fame, and PRX, the country's leader in content distribution to community and public radio. PRX is especially essential to watch, as it has managed to navigate services for public and community radio stations while embracing the podcast space, and staying successful at both. This is particularly telling as I have talked to more than a few community radio general managers who have lamented diminished support for particular syndicated programming by blaming podcasting of such programs. However, PRX’s extensive catalog, which features “This American Life” and many more, has ridden the podcasting craze to the top of the charts while still staying popular on radio. Moreover PRX is doing something that community radio can and should learn from.
If you are headed to Podcast Movement, you have opportunities to learn about the latest listener studies. Jacobs Media and Edison Research, two of the space’s best groups on listener data and analytics on where audiences are most tuned in will also present at the convention. And speaking of data, the gifted Tamar Charney of NPR One will be speaking. NPR One has undoubtedly changed the listening game, and NPR’s findings on audience habits will inform your thinking as you consider community and public radio schedules and programming.
In the last few years, radio is as much about podcasting and video as broadcast. It has pushed us all to see our producers of creative, incisive content in a renewed way. Thankfully, you can meet people on the cutting edge of this discussion while in Anaheim. You will not want to miss catching up with the outstanding folks at the Association of Independents in Radio, an organization that serves producers in radio and in podcasting.
In addition, Al Letson will speak at Podcast Movement. Community. Public radio leaders will recognize Letson as host of Reveal, the award-winning program that dazzles listeners each week with its investigative reports and penetrating conversations. You may recall Letson had a stunning interview with white supremacist activist Richard Spencer, who was central to the recent clashes related to the United the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.
If you are in commercial radio, many of the big media hitters like iHeartMedia, Cox Media and ESPN are coming to Podcast Movement, too. Overall, the event promises to present so much for radio as a whole.
If you cannot be in Anaheim for Podcast Movement, you can follow the convention, its myriad presentations and more on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Just check out the #PM17 hashtag.
Podcasting has revolutionized radio in many areas. Community radio has some catching up to do. However, the speed at which technology and audience interest change promises many moments for community radio to make up ground. Stations must be diligent in employing solutions that keep our volunteer inspired organizations relevant and competitive.