There are approximately 2 million podcasts available to listeners online, according to the business/tech site Earthweb.com. With so many sources demanding listeners’ attention, it can be difficult for locally focused content to attract ears even in their home markets.
Hubbard Radio created PodMN, a podcast app built to spotlight homegrown content in Minnesota, and PodcastDC, for Washington. They are free on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
“Our goal is to give listeners in our Minnesota and D.C. markets access to a full range of local podcasts from their areas; not just Hubbard’s own podcasts, but ALL local podcasts covering sports, news, true crime and everything else that is being produced here,” said Jeremy Sinon, Hubbard Radio’s VP of digital strategy.
PodMN provides a surfable screen of linked icons under titles such as “Minnesota News,” “Purple Daily” (the color of the Minnesota Vikings NFL football team), “Networks,” “At the Movies” and so forth.
A click on “Categories” offers podcasts in the areas of comedy, news, sports, business, music, health & fitness, society & culture, history, arts, TV & film, fiction, true crime, science, education, government, leisure, kids & family, and technology.
In the True Crime category, the podcast “Midwest Madness” features two sisters talking “about true crime, cults, conspiracies and cryptids in the Midwest.” (According to Merriam-Webster, a cryptid is an animal such as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist.)
In designing the local apps, “our goal is to assist listeners in the discovery of smaller local podcasts,” Sinon said. “When you open up the big podcast apps, you’re going to see the big national-type podcasts, whereas the local stuff can get buried and hidden. As a company that produces a lot of local podcasts, it’s an important mission for us to make local content more visible.”
“This is why PodMN and PodDC focus on local, not national, podcasts,” he continued. “This means not only including our own podcasts, but everybody else’s as long as it is local and relevant. We feel like ‘all boats will rise’ in this scenario, including our own.”
How podcasts are selected
The available podcasts are not randomly selected, nor an aggregation of every local podcast in those markets. “They’re all hand-curated,” said Sinon. “In the very beginning we started finding local podcasts through simple web searches. Once we started making relationships in the podcast community and making our brand known on a wider scale, we now have podcasters submitting their shows to us to be added to the app.”
The existence of PodMN and PodcastDC has caught producers’ attention. “We’re at the point where people who are launching new local podcasts are reaching out to us and asking, ‘Hey, can you add this to your platform?’ This is great, because it shows that podcasters appreciate the opportunity we are providing to connect them with local listeners.”
As new content comes on board, Hubbard Radio highlights its arrival to PodMN and PodcastDC users.
Two years into provisioning PodMN and PodcastDC, Hubbard Radio has learned a lot about podcast selection, content aggregation and listener preferences. But a surprise has been just how many podcasts there were to choose from.
“When we first launched this, we thought maybe there’d be 70 to 100 podcasts for us to offer in the app,” said Sinon.
“Instead, to date we’ve curated at least a thousand local podcasts for the PodMN app alone, and the number continues to grow. Now they’re not all big podcasts: A lot of them are smaller, so they aren’t necessarily going to bring big audiences to the app. But they’re all visible and we give them access to a more level playing field on our platform than they’ve ever had on Apple, Spotify or any of the other big guys.”
Sinon says the company views these as beta tests. “We’ll see how they evolve and what we have yet to learn, we’ll then make decisions from there on what’s next.”
James Careless is an award-winning freelance journalist with experience in radio/TV broadcasting as well as A/V equipment, system design and integration. He has written for Radio World, TV Tech, Systems Contractor News and AV Technology among others. Broadcast credits include CBC Radio, NPR and NBC News. He co-produces/co-hosts the “CDR Radio podcast” and is a two-time winner of the PBI Media Award for Excellence.