NAB Show: KSL Podcast Proves That With Proper Resources, You Can Strike Gold.
It’s the ideal case in point: When Bonneville news/talk KSL -AM & FM (102.7, 1160) Salt Lake City decided to delve into podcasting, the station dedicated personnel fulltime to take a deep dive into a compelling local crime story. It scripted the narrative, devoted time to develop sources and record new audio, and it was wholly mindful of the effort becoming a revenue opportunity. The result: 55 million downloads of Cold’s first season, and a No. 1 ranking on the Apple Podcast chart.
The disappearance of Susan Powell was already a closely followed investigation in the locale—and when police abandoned the case after a year—and released its evidence to the public… and thus, the station—KSL knew it had an opportunity. “We are working on the radio side of KSL and our team is going through this material, we're trying to spin out stories in the way that radio would do,” said Cold host Dave Cawley during a Monday NAB Show session in Las Vegas, who worked in the station newsroom before becoming the podcast’s fulltime host. “It’s really hard to take a two-and-a-half year police investigation that included thousands of pages of reports, hundreds of witnesses and more than 800 tips and contextualize that in 30 seconds for the day.”
“We actually split off and made a podcast division,” added Sheryl Worsley, VP of Podcasting at Bonneville, who had been the station’s news director for more than 20 years. “I love long form, narrative journalism.”
At the end of 2018, the station launched Cold, and because the story also had such interest locally, it became a natural to utilize KSL and its sister TV station to continually promote the new product. “The stations were willing to join us, actually doing some of the work in teaching radio listeners how to download and follow the podcast—which sounds like heresy to a lot of broadcasters,” Cawley said—meaning deliberately leading your listeners away from the airwaves. They also utilized website articles, to promote SEO, social media Q&A’s to strengthen listener connections and bonus episodes so that the audience could reengage.
Today, a second season of Cold is in the bag, while the station has several other podcasts produced in-house.
“I'm making money for us,” Cawley noted. “If content is king, then revenue is queen. You need both. My suggestion to you is to tell your sales team to get up to speed (with podcasting), and if they’re not, go find a partner. Or better yet, do both of those things. Because if your sales team is focused on selling terrestrial, that's what they’ll stick with.”
After Cold hit the top of the Apple chart, the station partnered with Wondery and for season two, Amazon (which now owns Wondery). “Amazon recognized what we’re doing is unique and takes skill, and they're willing to fund it. So the lesson is: You need to dedicate resources,” Crawley stressed.
She added, “There's growth in podcasting, and those listeners can be your listeners. Just because they're not listening to your terrestrial stream, they’re still yours. And they will be super P1s tomorrow.”