According to Edison Research, 21 percent of Americans aged 12 or older said they had listened to a podcast in the past month during 2016 — up from 12 percent three years before.
This works out to U.S. podcast listening growing by 25 percent annually, a startling trend by anyone’s measure. This is why the 2017 NAB Show is putting podcasting in the forefront (see sidebar below) including a session titled “Today in Podcasting: A Radio Station’s Guide to Metrics, Reach, Distribution and Monetization.”
The explosive growth in podcast listenership reflects the fact that “on-demand is in demand,” said Rob McCracken, a director in the E.W. Scripps Company’s Digital Solutions Group.
“Today’s consumers want control over their listening experience. That means listening to what they want, when they want, on the device that’s most convenient to them at the time.”
In particular, the younger audience prefers to listen to audio on demand rather than sit passively and let radio stations choose what to play them.
“If you have kids, it’s an easy answer: Are they listening to the radio?” said Todd Cochrane, CEO of the podcasting company RawVoice/Blubrry. “As a radio person you may be forcing it on them, but the youth and millennials have been trained for on-demand with the DVR at home,” he said. “So they listen to content the same way.”
These facts compel radio entities like iHeartMedia — which four months ago created a new position called senior vice president of podcasting — to expand offerings to build an audience base among youth and millennials.
“Podcasting offers radio stations the ability to create new content from a known host that will offer additional stickiness for the listeners,” said Rob Walch, VP of podcaster relations at the podcast hosting/publishing company Libsyn and moderator of the convention session.
Such “stickiness” gives listeners a reason to download podcasts from radio websites, he said, with the stations reaping the benefits of their page views (for selling online advertising) and providing young listeners with the motivation to tune in to these stations’ broadcasts.
Producing podcasts benefits broadcasters in other ways.
“Podcasts give a radio station an additional outlet for spoken-word audio content.” said Walch. “This can be content that might not be right for the airwaves, but that listeners want to hear, even if they’ve moved outside the station’s coverage area. Podcasting also allows employees to create their own shows and trial them as podcasts first, so that station management can see what works and what might do well on air — or not.”
Podcasts are a good way to repurpose the best content from a station’s on-air shows, in easy-to-access, short-form versions.
“Remember, not everyone can tune in for the full morning and evening drive, so they may miss the best parts of their favorites,” said Cochrane. “Podcasts can make sure they hear those bits, building their loyalty during the day at work and keeping them connected to your radio-branded content rather than Pandora or some other streaming service.”
This said, podcasting is a different beast from broadcasting. “The biggest thing radio stations need to know is podcasting is exactly opposite of how radio works,” said Walch.
How? “Podcasts live forever, while radio transmissions are only at the moment. Users can control the playback of podcasts. Radio playback is controlled by the radio station.”
Further, radio is local, while podcasts have a potential global audience, Walch said. As well, radio “tends to be more broad in audience appeal, subject-wise. Podcasting tends to be very niche-oriented for subject matter. Also there are no licenses that cover music — ever. Podcasts are downloads, and legally a download is a mechanical copy.”
As for what to offer? Anything is possible, said Cochrane, but it shouldn’t be just hours of unedited radio recycled online.
“Podcasts can include coach interviews, celebrity interviews, community calendars and original content,” he said. “But republishing three to four hours of drive is worthless: You need to make sure your audience gets the juicy bits, not the fill chatter.”
McCracken added, “Beyond that, podcasters don’t work under the regulations that broadcasters do, and they don’t have to adhere to a broadcast clock. These freedoms alone lend themselves to greater creativity.”
The moral for radio broadcasters, as far as these experts are concerned, is that now is the time to get serious about podcasting.
“Audiences are shifting,” said Cochrane. “It is a good idea for radio to start investing in digital, to hedge the changing world we live in.”
“Stations and personalities,” said McCracken, “need to look at podcasts as being additive, not subtractive, to their brands. Done right, podcasts can be a powerful extension of the branded production that stations are creating every day for their radio audience. Best yet, podcasts can grow a larger monetizable audience outside the geography of a radio station’s local market.”
The Business of Broadcast program at the NAB Show includes five Podcast Spotlight sessions including the one in the accompanying article. Podcasting also pops up in the Digital Strategies Exchange for Radio (DSX4r), the first one listed:
“Looking (And Listening) Ahead: The Podcast Landscape in 5 Years”
Mon. April 24, 12:05–1:05 p.m.
Speakers from Variety 411, HowStuffWorks, AdsWizz and New York Public Radio. Part of DSX4r.
“Today in Podcasting — A Radio Station’s Guide to Metrics, Reach, Distribution and Monetization”
Wed. April 26, 10:30–11:30 a.m.
See above article.
“Practical Podcasting — Podcasts Your Radio Station Can Launch Next Month”
Wed. April 26, 11:40–Noon
Seth Resler of Jacobs Media.
“Podcast Content That Builds and Audience and Sells”
Wed. April 26, 12:05–12:50 p.m.
Speakers from Geller Media International, KAMP(FM)/The PHP: Paris Hilton Podcast and Financial Survival Network.
“Roadmap to Revenue: The Multiple Ways a Radio Station Can Monetize a Podcast”
Wed. April 26, 12:55–1:10 p.m.
Produced in partnership with the Radio Advertising Bureau.
“Finger Food and Networking”
Wed. April 26, 1:10–2 p.m.
“Light lunch fare and intimate discussions on podcasting and its symbiotic relationship to radio.”