Podcasting is now a crucial part of the business plan for many big media companies, but what about smaller ones?
“It can be daunting to dive into podcasting if a station doesn’t have extra resources in producers or talent,” said Sheryl Worsley, vice president of podcasting for Bonneville International, KSL Podcasts.
“I would suggest managers in this position start small and use on-air hosts and producers who are hopefully motivated and energized about doing something only on digital. Ask your talk hosts to do a podcast segment and use their on-air show to push to the ‘extra’ interview and grow the podcast audience.
“If your station has a newsroom, is there a topic you can expand on in a weekly podcast? You might be able to use more of the interviews you are already recording on that topic for daily newscasts and present as a podcast with much more depth than your format has time for on-air. It will still require production and some writing, but it is a good start in using staff you already have.”
At the NAB Show, Worsley will co-host the session “A Local TV and Radio Station Guide to Podcasting Success” on Monday April 25.
She encourages companies starting out to hire people who are passionate about it, and then stick with it over long periods of sustained effort. She said KSL started small in six or seven years ago, mostly time-shifting some of its shows.
“In 2016 we started looking at the cold case disappearance of a woman named Susan Powell and the vast amounts of case files already released by police,” Worsley said.
“It became clear as radio news reporter/producer Dave Cawley found new information while digging in the materials that we’d need to do some extra reporting. We started to carve out extra time away from his producing duties for the next year. We eventually concluded the best way to tell the story was going to be in a long-form narrative podcast, and that Dave needed to work it as his sole responsibility in order to make meaningful headway.”
It took another year of full-time effort to complete the investigation. The show launched in late 2018 and has garnered more than 58 million downloads in two seasons.
At the conclusion of Season 1, KSL presented a live event, which nearly sold out. Now it has expanded the team and will be announcing more narrative podcasts. It currently produces or distributes 27 digital originals, including several from partners outside our organization.
“Both podcasts and radio shows are intimate and can drive a strong loyalty and listenership,” Worsley said. “In my experience, a loyal podcasting audience drives more passion in both listening and in response to advertising and the research backs that up. However, that motivated podcast audience is more commonly small compared to the massive, if less passionate audience radio has enjoyed over the years.”
She said it’s good that spoken word listening is up so strongly, especially among younger people. Most of that is due to podcasts though, and she expects radio’s traditional dominance to erode dramatically as time passes.
“Radio stations need to amplify their podcast game well beyond making on-air shows available for consumption by download or streaming later. It’s absolutely necessary to expand what you are doing beyond terrestrial to ensure a station has robust listening in the future, whether that be over the airwaves or in downloads or streaming. The upside? Whether terrestrial or in a podcast, those are ALL your listeners.”