What’s Wrong with your Podcasts, Radio?

This is what radio looks like in a podcast.  Hooray.

One of radio’s great opportunities is to get our communal heads and hands around the form and manner in which we post audio online.  Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded podcasts, people!

If you’re a radio broadcaster then chances are you have a section of your website devoted to show podcasts (assuming you have a show worthy enough to warrant on-demand listening).

Some stations refer to that page as an audio “archive.”  I refer to it as an audio dungeon.  Because only someone held captive against their will would possibly want to spend much time or effort there.

Here are just a few of the problems associated with many radio station podcasts.  Solve these if you have an eye (or ear) to the future:

  1. They are too long.  Okay, long podcasts are fine, but excerpt the bite-sized chunks for me, too.
  2. You don’t know what’s on them.  The tagging is either poor or, more likely, nonexistent.
  3. They are anti-social.  You can’t generally share the audio – only (if you’re lucky) the page the audio lives on.
  4. It takes a thousand words to make one picture.  Podcast tools should be built to enable images to be attached to the audio.  That way, users could scan the images as a shorthand to what’s on the audio.  Consider the fact that YouTube fans commonly upload audio content to YouTube and build a slide show around it.  Is this a poor way to use YouTube?  Or a better way to display audio?
  5. They’re locked away in “archives.”  In a search-friendly world, everything’s an archive.
  6. They are labeled by air date.  How often do Internet browsers Google for “something posted yesterday”?  No, they Google for what’s IN the post, not when the content was posted.
  7. They are not searchable.  If I want to find that moment when your morning show interviewed Joan Rivers, can Google allow me to find it?
  8. They are not easily “scrubbed.”  If your audio is long and contains a gem I’m looking for, can I easily “scrub” to it, like I can in a video?
  9. They are not easily discovered (thanks to many of the reasons noted on this list)
  10. Listeners can comment on the whole audio (sometimes) but not on any part of it.
  11. They are not easily customized.  Can your fans find, trim, and share your audio to their own social networks of friends?
  12. The “hits” aren’t treated differently from the “misses.”  Is every show podcasted in its entirety, or do you pluck out the “hits” to showcase?
  13. It takes a lot of clicks to get to the audio.
  14. Many stations don’t have content worth podcasting, suggesting that nothing on the air is worth being listened to on-demand or shared amongst my friends.  Really?  Is that a feature or a strategy?

And those are the items just off the top of my head.

It’s important to understand that the Internet amounts to something better than free advertising for your brands.  It’s free and easy distribution for every tasty morsel of content made to be discovered, shared, and enjoyed.  That’s exactly the kind of bridge that will lead consumers back to your station, your stream, your content, and ultimately your ratings.

CNN Radio resolves some (but not all) of the above issues, thanks to SoundCloud.

Who else in the radio (or audio) space is doing a great job solving these problems?  Post them in the comments here.

(Note: The image at the top of this post is what I stared at while a 34-minute podcast played on one News/Talk station’s site.  It was archived by date and tagged as “hour 3”).

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  • Another major issue is the belief that the podcast only has to reside on the station website (got to get those unique hits). Would you make a video without uploading to YouTube? Then why wouldn’t you look for multiple distribution points like iTunes, Soundcloud, Sticher…. The more people that can access your branded audio, the better for you – the hits to the site will follow.

  • You bet, Nathan! Thanks.

    Mark Ramsey

  • When the message comes from the top. Thanks Mike!

    Mark Ramsey

  • We use audioboo and it solves most of those issues http://www.audioboo.fm

  • Radio has historically excelled at long form audio where they have a captive audience (read: driver with limited choices). Short form audio rules on the net because people have unlimited choices and as you point out its a much different beast. Radio has the content but it must be presented to the user in a far different fashion. I’m not not sure giant audio blobs make sense.

  • Once again, Michael Robertson is completely right.

    Mark Ramsey

  • Not all of them. And the most important issue doesn’t have to do with the tools. It has to do with the will and the strategy. That’s why tools like Audioboo are so scarce in radio.

  • Lee Cornell

    For radio, technology has created this conundrum of traditional “mass” and selective choice. Just listening around in many major markets to a lot of radio stations across their key payparts and days (yes actually forcing myself to “listen longer” for the exercise) and sadly there isn’t really much content I would consider, repeatable, “on-demandable” or worth forward “posting” etc.
    Maybe a lot of these stations need to think beyond their “air brand” to brand extensions their listeners may really value as dig-deep content. Either that or invest in creating better content on-air. Ironically, often when you listen to some smaller market local stations there is a type of content and engagement that is very much “fingers-in the-community” and some this has a real quality and value for recycling, as thought and talking points etc…. And I’m glad you mention AUDIOBOO, this platform is all about “the conversation”; which as you say is a path and tool radio really needs to contemplate walking.

  • adamg

    When you a radio on air person sends their demo it’s thought through on The best material to send..Thinking about it when archives are not clipped -available it gives a sense of arrogance..”listen to the whole thing” which could leave fans frustrated..Thanks great points Mark!

  • Yes, good point. The same highlights that land a job can land new audiences.
    Mark Ramsey

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