With the announcement that Entercom is buying a 45-percent stake in podcaster DGital Media — the latest radio company to invest in digital on-demand audio — it’s clear that our industry’s leadership is well aware of the growth in podcasting.
ABOUT DAVE BEASING
Dave Beasing’ vision as program director of Entercom’s KSWD(FM) in L.A. has helped lift the station from also-ran to classic rock leader. His results speak for themselves — in news/talk for Dick Ferguson’s NewCity Communications, at Viacom’s AC stations in the ‘90s, and as architect of the Modern AC format on LA’s Star 98.7. As a senior consultant at Jacobs Media for 12 years, he provided counsel to hundreds of media brands.
Recently, Dave’s 100.3 The Sound has cut through the clutter using an aggressive social media and video sharing strategy in one of the world’s largest media markets, proving that new radio players can compete with heritage brands.
Here, veteran programmer Dave Beasing joins the Radio World team with the column “21st Century PD,” in which he will explore ways that local program directors and talent can prepare themselves for a digital future.
Let’s begin by asking this question: After you first plugged a DVR into your living room TV, did you find yourself watching fewer live over-the-air programs? A lot fewer?
The advent of digital on-demand TV caused radical changes to viewing habits; so many predict that easy access to on-demand audio will change “radio” listening habits.
According to the latest Edison Research “Share of Ear” study, one in five minutes of audio consumed by Americans is on their smartphones, where podcasts have a standard built-in app. Smartspeakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home are best-selling new gadgets, and — with only a simple voice command for either — Alexa can just as easily play your favorite podcasts as stream live radio.
Digital entertainment systems in new car dashboards also put podcasts front and center. Many new car buyers are opting to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to, in a practical sense, replace their car’s built-in features with the apps on their smartphones, including the podcast “button.”
B.J. Shea and team at KISW/Seattle recording the “B.J. Shea’s Geek Nation” podcast.
TIME OF CONVENIENCE
Amplifi Media CEO Steve Goldstein believes there’s a growing shift from live linear radio to on-demand.
“A good talk show or newscast or feature should be available at a time of convenience. Programmers need to ensure this content is available on all platforms,” says Goldstein.
But while simply time-shifting on-air content can help retain your audience, Goldstein sees a lot of radio content do poorly as podcasts.
“I’m pretty sure no one needs to hear ‘Almost Impossible Trivia’ on demand. People have to seek out and download a podcast, so the interest threshold is much higher than punching up a station,” he says.
Goldstein suggests asking talent to offer a “deeper dive” into their most compelling content. For example, an interview with a superstar music artist could be longer on the podcast, or offered as a podcast separate from the archived on-air show.
“Post what is most interesting and valuable to listeners,” he says. “Sometimes content can exist on both platforms, but a lot of it lives better on one or the other.”
An image from the Infinite Dial report by Edison Research and Triton shows the growing familiarity with podcasting.
RIVER OR TRIBUTARY?
To explain the difference between on-air and on-demand content, Entercom Seattle VP/Programming Dave Richards uses a metaphor: “Radio is the mainstream river, and the podcasts are its tributaries.”
Richards encourages his talent to create original content solely for on-demand listening, asking, “What do you love to do? Chances are you’re not alone. What are you an authority on?”
Goldstein agrees, adding, “Podcasting is growing because it covers so many things most radio stations don’t get to, whether it’s travel, woodworking, real estate tips, e-sports, science. Focus on filling niches and delivering unique difficult-to-duplicate content.”
Richards cautions, however, that some interests might be too narrow even for podcasting. For example, he’s a Rube Goldberg fan but realizes that talking about a cartoonist who died in 1970 is just too obscure.
Consistency and commitment are important, too. KISW morning host B.J. Shea’s daily “Geek Nation” podcast is five years old, and KNDD morning man Gregr writes, produces and voices a new “Nerd Talk” every day.
For local TV stations, as little as 10 percent of viewers still watch using “rabbit ears.” Will digital distribution of radio — with all of its on-demand capabilities — become as prevalent?
“Only time and technology will tell,” says Richards. In the meantime, he doesn’t see a downside in using radio’s enormous reach to extend and grow its talent and brands via podcasts. “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of new distribution channels and get started playing in this sandbox?”
For radio broadcasters, Richards is blunt about the risk of not podcasting. “Remember when the music business didn’t embrace file sharing? Don’t be that guy.”
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