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The ability to leverage a broadcast bullhorn to promote podcasts was on full display last week with iHeartMedia ran more than a quarter-million on-radio spots promoting podcasts. The tally from Media Monitors shows those spots came in addition to more than 61,000 commercials that promoted the streaming radio and podcast app iHeartRadio itself. It is the first time since Media Monitors began releasing its weekly data that the three biggest spots on U.S. radio were for podcasts.

The impact of that promotion will become clear when June’s listening data is published by Podtrac. But the May numbers suggest the mix of radio and podcasting remains a formidable one with the top two podcasters — iHeart and NPR — both having the ability to leverage their content skills and then promote the shows they hatch to tens of millions of Americans.

The iHeartPodcast Network remained the top podcast publisher in May. Podtrac says iHeart reached nearly 25 million listeners in the U.S. during the month, an 11% increase from April. Additionally, iHeart’s downloads topped 216 million, an 8% gain from the prior month. NPR’s reach was almost 24 million, a 10% month-to-month increase, with just under 209 million downloads, a 3% rise.

The shows that were in the spotlight last week included the new iHeartPodcast Network show Missing In Alaska, which tells the story of the 1972 disappearance of a twin-engine Cessna 310 in Alaska carrying two U.S. congressmen. It had more than 64,000 on-air promos, according to Media Monitors. The show – which is hosted by actors and best friends Zach Braff and Donald Faison that’s proving to be more than a “Scrubs” re-watch podcast -- also got a big push. Media Monitors says Fake Doctors, Real Friends had more than 65,000 promos on iHeart stations. 

The promotional effort was also behind a show that’s currently between seasons. The Ron Burgundy Podcast had more than 66,000 radio promotional ads aired last week.

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“We use the power of our huge reach radio platform to promote and create demand for our podcasts,” said iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman during a recent investor conference. He said one reason the company has been able to turn a profit so quickly from podcasting is it has been able to leverage its radio assets. “We have this incredible megaphone called broadcast radio that reaches 91% of Americans,” he told the gathering. “We can promote these podcasts with $100 million of free advertising a year and it costs us nothing because it’s unsold inventory. But to replicate it, if you were a third party, you’d have to spend the $100 million. So that gives us one cost advantage.” The company also has studios and state-of-the-art performance spaces already in place in several cities, further eliminating another cost that other podcasters would need to absorb.

There is also a growing link between podcast and broadcast radio advertising. “What’s interesting about podcasting and digital is we’ve had a number of advertisers who’ve come to us for that who didn’t think they wanted to buy broadcast radio and have wound up buying it as well,” said Pittman. He thinks that’s because marketers are beginning to realize the close relationship listeners have with radio hosts is similar to how they respond to their favorite podcasts. “Like radio, podcasting provides companionship to the listener through intimate relationships developed with our podcast host,” said Pittman, adding, “It’s not surprising that advertisers are seeing real impact from a medium that is driven by the power of its host and host-read ads.”