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More Diverse Content, Integrated Promotion Seen As Keys To Podcasting’s Continued Growth.

YouTube’s plans to take a greater role in podcast distribution has elicited mixed reactions from podcasters. As the video platform plans to embrace video podcasts and introduce audio podcasts into its YouTube Music app, it’s not a one size fits all proposition, panelists at the “How Podcasting Can Continue to Grow ” session said at the 2023 NAB Show.

While there is “massive listening” to both podcasts and music on YouTube, Audacy Chief Digital Officer J.D. Crowley raised a red flag about monetizing podcasts on the popular video platform. A “walled garden” like YouTube “can bring a lot of audience and opportunity and it can bring innovation but it can also bring challenges,” Crowley told the NAB Show crowd during a live taping of the “New Media Show” podcast. “It's up to each individual podcaster to figure out: Am I going to use this as a marketing platform to build an audience and then drive that audience back into your podcast player or someplace else where you can monetize? Or are you going to try to use it as a place where you're going to drive audience and actually make money?” Crowley said.

While top shows are likely to have success on YouTube, it’s not an effective way for a lesser-known podcasters to gain traction and build a following, according to Blubrry CEO Todd Cochrane. “They’ve made podcasting simply a playlist promo channel,” he said. “I don't think that there's going to be the effectiveness for those that are not superstars already. It’s really not an effective place to be found.”

Rob Walch, VP of Enterprise and Platform Partnerships, Libsyn, predicted YouTube will never come close to the 65% of podcast listening that takes place via Apple or the 12% to 14% for Spotify. Instead, Walch suggested that it will more likely be in the neighborhood of the 2%-3% that Google currently gets.

The value of YouTube for podcasters may essentially come down to that of an audio search engine, Walch said. And although the panelists were skeptical about YouTube having a dramatic impact on podcasting in the next few years, there was also a feeling that creators should never underestimate the ability of a tech behemoth like Google.

Greater Diversity Of Voices

What is more likely to spur continued growth in the podcast space is continuing to offer a wider diversity of voices, the group said. “The growth of females and women into podcasting is definitely making an impact,” said Rob Greenlee, Founder & CEO of Spoken Life Media. “It's been growing dramatically. I just don't know that the radio side has embraced it as much as I think what's happening on the podcasting side.”

At the podcast hosting company Bluburry, Cochrane said its creator roster is about 50-50 men to women. However, he thinks female hosts “are being more aggressive” about marketing than their male counterparts.

Crowley suggested that the opportunity for diverse creators in podcasting should be the most important topic in the industry today. “If we’re going to look for more audience growth, it's going to come from demos that we're not looking at, from audiences that, frankly, have been underserved by the media industry for the last several years,” Crowley said. “This is an opportunity to change that.”

Integrated Promotion With Radio

While using the megaphone of broadcast radio to cross-promote podcasts seems like a no-brainer for a radio company like Audacy, Crowley said it’s not as simple as it seems. To be effective requires frequency of message, something every good ad seller understands. “You're going to have to run the heck out of those promos,” Crowley advised.

What works better than a spray-and-pray approach is integrated promotion in which air talent talk enthusiastically about the content that they're listening to. “Listeners follow people more than they follow spots,” Crowley said. “Those integrated messages and promos are the only way to really drive success.”

Greenlee encouraged radio stations to embrace podcasting as a way to make their content accessible to a wider audience listening to audio on different platforms. He related a conversation with a programmer who worried that a listener consuming a time-shifted morning show in afternoon drive meant one less listener for the station’s live, linear afternoon drive show. “If your fear is that they're going to be listening to the podcast instead of the live, you've already lost,” Greenlee warned. “Because if they’re not listening to your podcast, they’re going to listen to another one.”

Crowley noted that 30%-40% of consumption of Audacy’s sports radio stations occurs digitally, via streaming or podcasting. For its news and news/talk stations, and some music stations, it ranges from the teens to 20% or higher. “You have to have something that is unique and differentiated and you have to take that and translate it to another platform,” Crowley said.

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