Dave Ramsey’s self-syndicated radio show has bucked broadcast distribution trends for 25 years, and as a podcaster that model has powered him to a new on-demand audience. Ramsey’s financial advice talk show was the fifth most-downloaded podcast of 2018, according to Apple Podcasts. How’d they do it? We caught up with Brian Mayfield, senior vice president of Ramsey Media. An edited transcript follows.
First off, since Apple just released a year-end ranker, what’s the rough number of downloads to put a figure on that No. 5 ranking?
It’s important to understand “The Dave Ramsey Show” is different from almost every other podcast due to the sheer number we produce. Three different podcasts per day, each representing a separate hour of the daily radio program, on a Monday through Friday schedule means we produce 15 podcasts per week. We are currently averaging 220,000 downloads per day, and when you add in one-off downloads and weekends we are averaging 3.5 million downloads on a weekly basis.
Why do you think Dave’s done so well?
I think there are two factors at play in the success of Dave’s podcast. First is retention. Podcasting is tribal where there is a large amount of recommending, sharing, and sampling. The first step in growing a podcast is not only in acquisition but even more so in retention. Consistency in messaging is paramount. You must give the audience what they want and expect on a consistent basis. There is also a residual effect of this type of consistency as sharing and recommending within the podcast tribe. Second is visibility. Whether we are promoting across our multiple media platforms or experiencing organic growth, consistently being ranked [by Apple] within the top 50 (average is 35) also provides us great exposure and awareness within the podcast tribe.
Have you seen any interesting trends in podcast downloads?
If I had to differentiate, I would say that Tuesday through Thursday are our strongest days, but the fact we are producing daily (Mon.-Fri.), our numbers and success are predicated on consistency in downloads every day of the week.
How are you weaving the on-air show and podcast together?
It’s a fully automated process where we are re-producing the same program. We strip out the traditional “radio clock” with all the commercial breaks, placing our focus on the content. We sell the ads within the podcast separate from what is aired across our syndicated radio network. It’s not the same audience. We see and treat this as a new revenue opportunity that requires a slightly different approach to both sales and messaging. Podcasts have proven to be a very successful revenue stream for our show.
Do you have a sense that podcast listeners are different than the millions who listen to Dave on the radio? Or are folks using it to time-shift?
We actually work from a cumulative listening audience number that is now closer to 15 million. It’s a combination of 9.5 million weekly radio listeners and a little more than 5.5 million weekly digital consumptions, including 3.5 million on the podcast, 1.7 million on You Tube, and 400,000 from online streaming. We have conducted multiple listener surveys that validated our assumptions that these are not a duplicate or time-shifted audience. Radio has remained consistent and digital is growing at a rapid pace. As an example, one sample showed that 85% of our radio listeners do not consume the podcast, and 85% of our podcast listeners do not listen to radio.
Any sense who those podcast listeners are?
According to our data, every digital product is unique in its own right, with slightly different make-up of demographics. Our podcast skews 50%/50% male/female, with an average age of 36, average income $93,000, 64% college degree, with 95% reporting they listen daily and listen to the entire show. Whereas with radio, it’s 47%/53% male/female, with an average household income of $81,000, with 85% reporting they listen an average of 32 minutes per program. Digital is on-demand which translates into intentional listening giving them what they want and they will consume in its entirety.
Any worry about cannibalization of the radio show?
Not at all.
Dave’s been a guy who has helped other hosts launch in the past, like Andres Gutierrez. Do you think that a Ramsey podcast network is something we could see in the future to target a variety of listening demos?
We are already there. We currently have a Ramsey Network of podcast and YouTube Channels featuring The Chris Hogan Show with 36,400 subscribers, The Ken Coleman Show which airs on SiriusXM with a daily podcast reaching 13,000 subscribers, The Rachel Cruze Show on YouTube with 153,000 subscribers, with a new podcast launching in January, and EntreLeadership that consistently tops the Business Category of podcasts with 61,000 subscribers. You will see more on all this in the months to come.
Any thoughts about whether there’s an opportunity for subscription-based podcast content?
We have always been focused on the listener and helping as many people as possible with our content. As it relates to our podcasts, YouTube, and other digital media products, I don’t see there being a play for subscription-based product offerings. We want these to be available to everyone without restriction, and we live by the adage that if you do enough of the right things the money takes care of itself.
How are advertisers responding?
I’m excited at the success of podcasting, especially over the past few years. We’ve come a long way since our first version of a podcast produced in 2004, then joining the Apple craze in 2005 to become an official “podcast” at that time. This medium is catching the eye of the advertising community, where with the consumption patterns of podcasts experiencing 90%+ of a given program—exposure is all but guaranteed. Once this industry catches on that this is not a traditional advertising play – being subject to the “old agency rules” and realizing they can step out and make “new rules” – they will be able to grow beyond direct response advertising with its limitations and begin to command a much larger portion of the advertising market share.
Any final thoughts on the outlook for the podcast business in 2019?
More shows could mean more competition.
Any worries about that?
Competition is something that should never be feared, but rather encouraged. We have our niche and a message that resonates with an audience. The more this medium is exposed and legitimized, the larger the audience will grow. That’s a good thing, and I’m glad we are a part in this industry.
This Q&A originally appeared in Podcast News Daily. CLICK HERE to sign up for daily updates on podcasting by email.