02/08

Radio’s Lost Podcasting Opportunity

When you talk to radio broadcasters about their podcasting strategy, they tend to see it from the same perspective: The one that relates to their own content. But there’s another way to see podcasting strategy, one that is right in front of your ears.

I have a secret podcast project (B2C, not B2B) launching this spring (it’s gonna be killer), and that has given me the chance to chat up some of the key figures in the “business of podcasting” space.

I encouraged one to reach out to radio stations to pitch the idea that they should run his podcasts on their radio stations. It’s all audio, right? While this is more common in the public radio space, it’s “new to you” on the commercial side.

He reported back to me the outcome of one particular conversation with a large broadcast group, and the news was – not surprisingly – discouraging.

The conversation went something like this:

“What if we license our podcasts to your broadcast group for you to run on your air?”

“Well, they would only fit on our spoken word stations, and most of those are on AM. Since most of your podcasts are weekly, they would fit only on weekends, and these AM stations are selling those weekend hours – one block at a time – to the highest bidder. Unless you want to buy the blocks of time yourself, why should they spend money they don’t have on your content?”

So allow me to translate:

We believe non-music content (other than sports, of course) belongs only on AM and weekly shows can only run on weekends. And those AM stations can’t deliver a big enough audience to monetize via traditional means. So we are essentially selling hour-long blocks on time to whatever sucker values a vanity radio show more than they value a large radio audience. Meanwhile, our insistence at programming crappy weekend content will only serve to drive away whatever listeners remain, thus guaranteeing a downward spiral in ratings, eliminating any chance for future advertising dollars, and opening up a new market for the kind of sucker that’s born every minute – as long as he has money to spend.

The alternative, of course, is to take ready-made, quality content that has a track record at generating audiences and put it on radio stations that could benefit by giving the audience more unique and compelling programming, thus creating larger and more monetizable audiences and more reasons to listen to that station all day every day. And that content is plentiful in the world of podcasting.

Meanwhile, why would we assume that spoken word content belongs only on spoken word radio stations? To be sure, listeners come to radio stations with expectations and those expectations must be met. We would be foolish to break up a music station with a mid-day talk show, for example. But it’s also true that there’s very little on any music station after 10:00 pm that is better, more compelling, or more attractive than a great podcast. VERY little.There's very little on any music station after 10pm better than a podcast Click To Tweet

Plus, doesn’t the entire canvas of podcasting directly address the biggest vulnerability of talk radio, namely: The relatively thin pool of talk radio content, most of which is about sports or conservative politics? Is there anybody out there who thinks America’s interests are broader than this?

And who says that a weekly show belongs only on the weekend? We have weekly shows on every TV and cable network and they happen every day of the week.

Radio stations are so concerned about with the best way to distribute their over-the-air content by podcast, they are ignoring what might well be a greater opportunity: Plug in the right off-the-shelf podcasts on the right stations at the right times and watch your audience grow.

In the long run, quality audio content will either be on the radio or it will live only in an alternate distribution universe which trains listeners to skip radio altogether.

The choice is ours.

* = required field
  • I’ve often wondered “why not” on this topic myself. Thank you Mark for always crafting compelling and thought-provoking arguments.

  • Dale

    Been saying this one for years… so much great content in podcast-land that would improve the appeal and reach of radio. Especially for stations trying to reach a younger demo (I’m thinking of business / marketing / entrepreneurial podcasts on AM radio but this could be extended in countless other areas)… I hope this causes some lightbulbs to go off and a few stations take you up on this opportunity. I would love to program a station and have all this great content available to me.

  • Todd Hollst

    A year ago I began an online radio station which targets my home county in southwestern, Ohio. We run podcasts throughout the day mixed in with a variety of music genres from local artists. While most of our listeners listen to the podcasts via our website, soundcloud, and iTunes, I’ve heard from many who listen to our stream for both the music and podcasts. Podcasts don’t have to be long–I have some as short as 5 minutes and some as long as 35 minutes. The key is compelling content. People will listen if they’re engaged. I worked in radio for almost twenty years and found is it’s easier for managers to schedule music than it is to find and coach talent. If anyone is interested, you can check out the station at mygreeneradio.com.

Dive Into The Blog