Talk about being hidden in plain sight. It’s an industry with a potential valuation that some put at a billion dollars, with a spike in growth predicted at 110 percent in 2020, and a growing library numbering nearly 800,000 titles.
And yet many broadcasters have not yet begun to embrace the medium of podcasting — perhaps waylaid by concerns over content creation, monetization or the way in which podcasting may disrupt today’s radio ecosystem. But podcasting may be poised for even more of an upswing as it takes on an even larger presence at NAB Show.
“The podcasting genre is growing, and there is great content being created,” said Chris Brown, executive vice president of Conventions & Business Operations for NAB. “It’s another important form of storytelling that needs to be part of our broad-based show. And momentum is strong for podcasting, so much so that we have already seen examples of podcasting personalities and content even migrating to television.”
Some broadcasters may view podcasting a bit warily.
Steven Goldstein, CEO of Amplifi Media, will speak at the “The Exploding Business of Podcasting” session, part of the Content Strategies conference. He said many radio broadcasters seem worried that podcasts might disrupt the radio ecosystem.
“But today there is an expectation that content be available on-demand,” he said. “Broadcasters need to get beyond fear and embrace the delivery of content on other platforms. It’s early days on the money side, but not so different than the early days of the internet or cable. In two years, it’s probably close to a billion-dollar business.”
When it comes to finding an audience, he said, radio has a megaphone, “a built-in toolset to promote podcasts.”
NAB Show is addressing podcasting through live shows, a Podcasting Pavilion and a series of sessions in the Content Strategies conference as a way to showcase the popularity and respect that this medium has garnered.
Jennifer Lane, audio industry expert at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said podcasting has grown into a popular form of digital audio in part because it attracts listeners due to its diverse and high-quality content — and the fact that you can listen to it anywhere.
Given these fundamentals, experts say, broadcasters should consider key differences between broadcasting and podcasting. Though they are similar and use some of the same skills, they are different mediums, said Seth Resler with Jacobs Media.
“What works in one may not work in the other,” said Resler, who will speak at the Podcasting Pavilion session “Radio Engage: Branded Podcasts — an Alternative Revenue Stream for Radio Stations.” How are they different? “From an air talent’s point of view, this means that the ability to do a great job front-selling an Ariana Grande song doesn’t mean that you’re ready to host ‘Serial,’” he said. “From a salesperson’s perspective, it means that selling 60-second produced spots based on AQH and TSL is not the same thing as selling dynamically inserted live reads based on download numbers.”
If there’s one thing holding broadcasters back, it’s a lack of time and resources, Resler said.
“This, of course, is a recurring theme in the radio world. As an industry, we tend to be unwilling to allocate resources to anything that doesn’t provide an immediate payoff. I think podcasting is a long-term play for everybody involved, which doesn’t always work with our short-term revenue goals.”
So what are effective podcasters doing today? The successful ones are appealing to underserved niches, whether it be crime, comedy, daily news or fantasy sports, said Goldstein.
The single biggest thing that delineates a successful podcaster from a mediocre one is quality, said Dan Franks, president of the podcast conference organization Podcast Movement.
“Podcasters have learned that although technology has made it easier to just create a podcast, the successful ones have learned that quality of content and audio is still king,” said Franks, who will be speaking at the session “Podcasters Speak: The New and Trusted Voices of Podcasting.”
“The podcasts that see the most success are the ones that are not only well-thoughtout when it comes to formatting the content of the show, but also show care in the production quality as well.”
It’s also important that radio managers keep this reality in mind: Podcast listeners love it, in part, because it’s different from radio, he said.
“Not only in the way it is consumed, but also in the content itself,” Franks said. “Very rarely do we see radio shows simply repurposed into podcasts become successful. The shows we see received the best are ones that contain completely new content, whether it be an extension of a daily radio show, or a completely new show altogether.”
At NAB Show, sessions will introduce radio managers to some newer players in podcasting including iHeart and Himalaya Media Group. The session will also check on industry veterans like Blubrry, Libsyn and Spreaker.
The expanded Podcast Pavilion will also house an “Ask the Expert Area” that will offer insights from professionals on audio production, content, marketing, audience growth and monetization.
Other areas helping to drive increased consumption of digital audio programs like podcasting include connected cars, which Lane from the IAB said are a big factor in driving expanded listening.
“Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth systems have made it easy to connect and listen in the car,” she said. “In fact, 44 percent connect their phones to their car audio system to listen online. This in-car connectivity creates excellent options for advertisers looking to interact with consumers while they are in the car.”
Lane will talk about that issue during the session “Inside the Podcast Ad Space.” Other sessions like “Branded Podcasts — An Alternative Revenue Stream for Radio Stations” and “How Successful Podcasters Break Through” are designed to give broadcasters a closer look at what the medium has in store and how radio can jump into the space.
“What I love about the business is the innovation and trial,” said Goldstein. “It’s all dynamically unfolding in real time.”