“There is vast potential here, in the space between radio and podcasting, a space in which to seize upon potential complementarities and reap the benefits of a renewed interest in audio.” That is according to Paula Molina, who has just released a study of the interconnection between the two. She has been exploring the connection between the two during her fellowship at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, drawing on her own experience as a broadcaster and podcaster in her native Chile. Molina points out that the “boom” the podcast industry has enjoyed coincides with the 100th anniversary of AM/FM broadcasting.
“Radio has grown and thrived as a medium over the past 100 years by relying on the will of the audience to find their favorite audio content on a fixed on-air schedule by tuning to a particular frequency and signal, on a certain kind of receiver,” Molina writes. “Today, on its first centennial, radio has an opportunity to undertake a comparative analysis of its practices and unique features against podcasting, rethink its identity, and expand its revenue sources by seizing opportunities in the new audio landscape.”
Molina says podcasting is “by no means a universal panacea” with a mix of “progress and setbacks. But taken as a whole, she says it is fair to say that podcasts have the potential to open a new income source for publishers with U.S. podcast revenue projected to be a high $2 billion this year and double that by 2024.
“It’s not just radio that stands to benefit: podcasting brings to all of journalism new opportunities for skills enrichment, to rethink the boundaries and meaning of our work, to find new ways to engage our public,” Molina says. “At a time of professional and financial disruption, experimenting with podcasting may bring opportunities in the form of innovation, audience reach and sustainability.”
The research has led Molina to conclude there is a strong case to be made to link podcasting with both radio and journalism. Not only does it allow for time-shifted consumption, but she points out it opens the door to a diversification of content. “They can be a more suitable format to collect and document diverse experiences and perspectives, or to explain and follow complex and extensive news stories,” Molina writes, adding, “Podcasts also represent a chance to cover issues often postponed by the urgency of the news cycle.” She says podcasts also offer a new way to speak to younger audiences fluent in media languages and platforms outside the traditional journalistic outlets, such as participatory media, interactive media or mobile-first media while at the same time offering a “new life” to traditional media content, such as crime or culture.
“With careful strategic oversight and allocation of resources, podcasting has the potential to create new sources of income at a time of budgetary pressure. There are different avenues to explore to make this sort of experiment have a return on investment,” the study says.
Based on her study and her own experience as a podcaster and broadcaster, Molina says there are several questions radio companies need to ask themselves when they approach podcasting and where their best chances for success lie.
“Broadcasters should ask themselves: could we benefit from embedding a culture of innovation around audio?” Molina says. “At its most basic, that innovation might be to simply repackage live productions for podcasting platforms as a way to experiment with new audiences, engage potential advertisers and sponsors, and get to grips with production and distribution requirements.”
She says broadcasters also need to assess the talent and resources they have already have in-house, while looking for a non-news space where a radio talent or journalist could be deployed in podcasting. But if it’s news where a radio station wants to focus, the study says broadcasters should look for on-air stories that would benefit from the “level of intimacy” that podcasting offers.
Molina says the question of when to move may have some broadcasters nervous about making the leap, but she believes they should seize on an opportunity to set their own goals and to develop their own audio strategies that test the limits of both their content and their relationships with digital platforms.
Per the study, here are some key questions for radio broadcasters to ask themselves to determine the value of creating a podcasting strategy:
Could we benefit from embedding a culture of innovation around audio?
Do we have existing news media material or newsroom talent that would translate well to the podcasting space?
Is there talent or are there topics outside of the news where our newsroom staff might define and capture an audience?
Could our newsroom’s work covering criminal & justice proceedings be leveraged on this medium?
Would our proposed content and/or talent be well suited to the intimate nature of the medium? How could we benefit from that nature?
Would it shift the tone of our coverage from neutral observation to advocacy, and is this a problem or an advantage for our outlet?
The study also includes some key questions for radio broadcasters to ask themselves when creating a podcasting strategy:
Have we defined clear goals and timelines around each production?
Have we defined our promotion plans, and set a budget for this?
Have we clearly defined the audience we want to reach?
Have we clearly defined and communicated our expectations around monetization?
Download the full study HERE.