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Will Radio Get Off the Dime With Podcasting?

Radio’s spot revenue remains flat to down – and improvement is nowhere in sight.

The author is president of research and consulting firm Jacobs Media Strategies.

All signs continue to point in the same direction. Radio’s spot revenue remains flat to down – and improvement is nowhere in sight. Yet, digital is the bright light, moving in a seemingly unstoppable upward arc. And a piece of this digital growth is podcasting.

It’s not like radio doesn’t have a sense for podcasting’s potential. After all, several radio companies are investing millions in either existing podcasting ventures or they’re creating their own. As on-demand content consumption and voice commands weave their way into the consumer’s media mix, broadcast radio may be better positioned than any other media vertical to cash in.

And yet, podcasting inside most radio companies and clusters is moving at a glacial pace.

The evidence pointing to podcasting’s efficacy as a viable platform for radio continues to mount. Two new studies in the space provide strong evidence that podcasting isn’t just a growing revenue opportunity, but also a better way for advertisers to glean results.

The first study was sponsored by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and analyzed nine podcasting companies. It underscores podcasting’s revenue upside. Conducted by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), the report concludes podcasting revenue will increase by 85% this year. While more modest than other media platforms, overall U.S. podcasting dollars are expected to blow past the $220 million mark (up from $110 million last year).

The study also suggests advertisers prefer their commercials be read by podcasting hosts, rather than produced spots. And direct response ads are the most frequently heard on podcasts.

Those findings are echoed by a second study conducted by podcaster Wondery and comScore. In a survey comprised of 2,000 18-49 year-olds in the U.S., it concludes that two-thirds of podcast listeners took action when they heard ads inserted in their favorite on-demand programs and features.

The reason?

First, the study points to the perception podcast ads are least intrusive. And second, the data suggest podcasts reach a highly educated, well-heeled audience receptive to inserted marketing messaging in their preferred content.

comScore’s VP of Marketing and Insights, Andrew Lipsman, puts it this way:

“The research provides strong evidence for why this sector is very attractive for advertisers. It’s clear that we’re in the midst of a new podcasting boom, spurred in large part by improved accessibility via mobile and a tidal wave of rich and compelling content.” 

That issue of mobile accessibility may have just become even easier for “the other half” – that is, Android users. On iPhones, the Podcasts app makes it brain simple to find and consume podcasts. On Android devices, not so much.

So, the announcement Google just purchased a podcast app, 60db, is sparking speculation it will more aggressively integrate Google Play Music with short-form, on-demand programming. 60db was launched by a small group of a dozen key players just one year ago. The app will be shuttered next month, and its three co-founders left us with their version of a good-bye note on Medium. In their original statement of purpose, their goal with 60db was a follows:

“For content creators, we imagined an ecosystem that allowed niche shows to find audience and facilitated deeper connections with listeners. One that provided data insights to drive better storytelling, measurability for advertisers, and that could support a variety of monetization models beyond advertising.”

And let’s not forget that Amazon is very much in the game – both from a software and hardware standpoint. Their Audible enterprise represents another big stage foray into the podcasting arena, powered of course by just asking Alexa to pull up preferred content. You can feel the pieces coming together.

or radio, the opportunities are in place:

  1. The industry already owns the necessary hardware
  2. Radio is adept at producing high-quality audio
  3. There are sales teams in place to market podcasts
  4. Radio has the “megaphone” – its cume and local station clusters – to get the word out
  5. Most stations have at least one compelling personality to build a program around
  6. Radio maxed out its on-air commercial inventory long ago

That’s a 6-pack of compelling reasons why the radio industry is well-equipped to excel in the podcasting space.

But of course, it’s not that simple.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the radio organization that has made the most progress in the podcasting space – and what it took to get there.

And we’ll talk about how the radio industry should target 2018 as the Year of the Podcast.