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Podcasts Are Helping Radio Find A New Spoken Word Audience.

There was a time when people in radio rolled their eyes when the conversation turned to podcasting, says Amplifi Media CEO Steve Goldstein. Today, that is no longer the case, he says, as the industry has embraced the format. He told the annual Talk Show Boot Camp conference Thursday that podcasting offers a way for typically older-skewing talk radio stations to reach a younger audience.

Edison Research data shows the median podcast listener’s age is 33 versus 47 for AM/FM radio, 56 for broadcast television and 62 for cable news channels. “Podcast’s median age is the best of all the media – this is what advertisers are looking for,” he said noting talk radio’s median age skews even older than radio in general, averaging around 60 years old. “And yet it’s not just young. You can see podcasting growing in all demographic areas,” said Goldstein.

Julia Ziegler, Director of News and Programming at Hubbard Radio’s all-news WTOP-FM Washington (103.5), said for an older-skewing station, new platforms allow them to maintain their reach. “One of the best things that has come out of us being in the podcast space is we are reaching a younger audience and that’s really important for our future,” she said.

Premiere Radio host Ben Ferguson admits he was initially too protective of his syndicated show when launching his iHeartRadio podcast, which offers a daily commentary beyond what is on radio. He learned podcast listeners are different than his radio fans, as on-demand fans seek out more of the story while also showing less tolerance for commercials. “Younger people are going to podcasts – they are not radio listeners – because they are annoyed by the amount of ads,” he said.

Broadcasters have so far mainly offered time-shifted versions of radio shows, but some question how effective that will be long-term. “Original content is how you get people in,” said Ferguson.

But Tamar Charney, Senior Director of News at NPR, thinks content producers should move away from strict “podcast” or “radio show” thinking. “It’s audio content, how do we best get it to an audience in a way that feels really native to them,” she said.

Ziegler said WTOP has begun asking themselves where content will work and whether an audience will flock to it. It is why WTOP is exploring posting clips of their Zoom interviews on YouTube. “Which is a completely different audience than our podcast audience,” she noted. “You have to play in every platform in order to succeed.”

Finding The Audience

WTOP in 2019 launched its first narrative true crime series, American Nightmare. Based on its success the station just launched a second season. The biggest lesson they learned was the importance of marketing a show. Hubbard has leveraged its relationship with PodcastOne to run ads for American Nightmare on PodcastOne shows while also doing interviews about their series with other hosts on the network. “If your podcast promo runs in another incredibly large podcast, you can see the boost in subscribers,” Ziegler said. WTOP also uses its airwaves, email database and social media.

Ferguson said podcasters need to embrace guerrilla marketing, cross-promoting with anyone who has a similar audience. He said a chance meeting with fellow iHeart radio host and podcaster Buck Sexton led to weekly appearance on one another’s shows. And while he is part of iHeart’s large operation, Ferguson said he operates like he’s on his own to promote himself across social media.

Goldstein said with more than two million podcasts now in existence, awareness and findability are critical factors. “The great part of radio is you can generate awareness. You have a megaphone. That is rarified air in the podcasting space today,” he said.

Targeting The Local Market

One of radio’s strong suits is local, and broadcasters said they are leveraging that relationship in the podcast space too. Hubbard just debuted the PodcastDC app that aggregates shows produced in the D.C. area. It has collected about 250 podcasts so far.

Ziegler dismissed the idea that by promoting other podcasts, it will only serve to strengthen WTOP’s competition for audio time. “We are stronger together,” she said. “We can use WTOP as a marketing tool for some of these podcasts and collectively we can help podcasters network with each other, and maybe down the road, we’re able to create revenue opportunities for everyone.”

NPR is also exploring ways to distribute local content through a ten-city test for its Consider This podcast. Working with local public radio stations, it pairs up the national feed of the afternoon drive news series with local news updates. Charney said because there is no way available to localize podcasts, NPR has relied on ad insertion technology to enable stations to insert a piece of news content at the end of the podcast.

“It has been tremendously successful for us – we’re hearing from listeners as we do survey work that they appreciate the fact that there is now local news in their afternoon daily news podcast,” said Charney. By pushing the boundaries, she said NPR hopes to convince the tech companies to create something that allows for localization.

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