Podcasting represents a “permanent new way that at least a subset of listeners are going to get talk content,” says Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network. “Any time when you have this level of engagement, with eight or nine people out of 10 who are subscribers instead of drive-by listeners, all of the major outlets and companies are going to take notice.” 

Byrne is one of several experts talking about the platform in the latest Radio Advertising Bureau “Radio On Main Street” podcast, following the recent Radio Show session “The Podcast Revolution.”

Byrne added that with ad skippage rates lower than 20%, the platform has gone beyond traction into real scale. “Westwood One, iHeart and NPR have been in podcasting for years. They all got extremely serious about it in last two or three years.”

For sure, the relationship between radio and podcasting is inseparable, offered the RAB’s Jeff Schmidt, who moderated the podcast. Agreed, said Neal Carruth, Senior Director, On Demand News Programming at NPR: “There’s something about the intimacy and authenticity of the medium that really connects with audiences. There’s great storytelling… and a lot of the stuff that made radio great is central to podcasting.”

Byrne explained that for iHeartMedia, almost 100% of its radio personalities are also dipping into podcast. “Every single broadcast radio station, from Elvis Duran to Ryan Seacrest to Bobby Bones to ‘The Breakfast Club’ are taking their audio files, for starters, and redistributing it as a podcast. That’s just for starters. Some of those turn out to be the biggest podcasts in the country.”

In addition, the likes of Bones launched The Nashville Podcast Network, through which he produces and curates a half dozen original podcasts. “He has really dived into the medium head first.”

Suzanne Grimes, Executive VP Marketing, for Cumulus and President, Westwood One, echoed that its talent is also diving into podcasting. “Equally maybe even more exciting is the reverse,” for instance, The Ben Shapiro Show, which started on digital and then made its way to the airwaves. “He is now distributed on 210 affiliates across the country with a three-hour radio show,” she said. “We’re now starting to do the same thing with our sports podcasts, moving to radio.”

Acknowledging that there may be more than 800,000 podcasts being produced and published—with only a handful garnering millions of listeners, Byrne stressed that that may not matter. “There are actually thousands of shows with meaningful scale… maybe niche scale, but still meaningful to advertisers. They may not have millions of listeners, but they still fill a need for brands.”