A majority of podcasts may be consumed on Apple Podcasts right now, but executives at iHeartMedia say it’s they who hold the advantage. It comes in the form of 850 radio stations that can promote new podcasts and expose more people to the medium. It’s an advantage that will become even more powerful as the number of podcasts grows and discovery becomes an even bigger issue for the medium.
“Discovery is becoming near impossible," said Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network. "Apple has very limited real estate, and its promotional work is very manual. We have an unfair advantage right now."
In an interview with Business Insider, Byrne said that while they knew the connection between on-air radio promotion and podcast listening was a powerful combination it was a March execution that proved especially eye-opening. When the new season of Disgraceland was rolled out in March with a debut on 150 radio stations the number of downloads exploded from 800,000 per month to 2.2 million. Since then, iHeart has rolled out the radio carpet for new podcasts like Family Secrets and Monster: The Zodiac Killer.
The biggest issue right now is matching podcasts to radio stations since iHeart is mindful that a lot of listeners are going to those stations to hear music. In the case of Disgraceland that meant slotting the podcast’s debuted on rock stations that tend to have a more talk-focused, personality-driven approach.
“Apple has a unique advantage, and if you don't, you're probably going to be at a disadvantage,” iHeart CEO Bob Pittman told Business Insider. “We have a model where we don't have to spend on advertising. We use our own promotional power. That gives us a unique advantage. We pick the ones we want to push, and we push it.”
The link between broadcast radio and podcasting, which NPR has also capitalized on through the years, has seen others also connect with AM/FM. The podcast creation house Wondery last week announced it had formed a strategic alliance with Cumulus Media/Westwood One to develop and promote new podcasts. Radio companies, including Entercom, Beasley Media Group, Bonneville and Hubbard Radio, are also taking advantage of their on-air platforms to promote their podcast initiatives.