The average radio station now produces three podcasts per week according to an annual RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Survey. That is an increase from 2.2 last year. The survey of radio stations nationwide finds noncommercial stations and stations in metro and large markets are most likely to be running more podcasts. “The bigger the staff, the more likely the answer is more,” said journalism professor Bob Papper in a report analyzing the data.
The RTNDA says major market radio stations produce an average of roughly five podcasts per week compared to three in large and medium markets and two in small markets. Papper said three-quarters of stations surveyed said the number of podcasts they produce this year was even with a year ago while 20% said they’re creating more and 5% said they are producing fewer. While those numbers were largely steady, radio has a lead in the podcasting world compared to television where the average is less than one-half.
For many radio newsrooms, podcasting is a way to evolve content delivery. The RTNDA survey finds that nearly half (46%) of radio news directors and general managers reported that they were doing something innovative in radio news. That number is down three points from last year, but as Papper points out, “It’s been a tough year.”
The level of radio news innovation varies based on several factors. “The bigger the news staff and the bigger the market, the more likely that a station or station group did something innovative or tried something innovative,” said Papper in the report. He said noncommercial stations were almost exactly twice as likely to say they did something innovative.
Papper said radio innovation mostly fell into three broad categories. Four in ten said they created pandemic-related content and shifted to a work-from-home setup. Nearly as many (36%) said they innovated in the content realm, with the launch of podcasts and expanded local news coverage mentioned most often. The survey also found a quarter (24%) of those surveyed said they made strategic moves such as adding staff, partnering with others, and launching an app, website, or newsletter.
Among radio stations with local news, nearly all (97.8%) report they have a website. But only 81% said the site includes local news. And the survey found about 18% of the content on the website is only online – not on-air. And user-generated content made up an average of 13% of the content.
“While all TV stations that run local news post that local news on the web, that’s still not the case with radio,” said Papper. “Radio numbers have bounced up and down within a narrow range over the years. This year, the overall number is down a couple points from a year ago. The percentage generally goes up with staff size, but nothing else makes much difference.”
Surprisingly, the percentage of radio stations with apps fell slightly for the second year in a row – down to 59%. Two years ago, 63% of radio stations had at least one app; last year it was 62%. Non-commercial stations are more likely to have an app, 64% versus 57%, but commercial stations have more apps per station. Overall, the average station had 1.2 apps.
Papper said the smallest markets were less likely to have an app. The survey also uncovered one unidentified station – a small market commercial station in the South – that charged for its app.
The RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2020 among a random sample of 3,379 radio stations. Valid responses came from 765 radio news directors and general managers representing 2,310 radio stations.