Steve G220

While podcasting has long been a natural extension of AM/FM radio, changing media consumption behaviors have only strengthened the case for local stations to participate in the fast growing space. With Americans spending more time at home, where there are fewer traditional AM/FM receivers and more audio choices, podcasts can allow broadcasters to expand their audio horizons by cultivating new audiences on new platforms. 

“Smart speakers and smartphones are changing the way people consume audio. Neither have AM/FM buttons on them and that’s the pressure point,” Amplifi Media President Steve Goldstein said Tuesday.

While lifestyle changes have been accelerated by COVID-19, the digital audio explosion was well underway before the outbreak began. Podcasting is not a niche anymore – 104 million Americans listen monthly and 68 million each week. The medium has become a haven for younger consumers – the median age for podcast listeners is 33 comparted to 47 for AM/FM radio and 56 for primetime TV. 

With just 8%-12% of listening to AM/FM occurring on smartphones and other digital platforms, there’s ample room for radio to grow on the device that a majority of Americans have within arm’s reach for most of the day. 

“A transmitter is not enough anymore, just as a newspaper can’t only be print,” Goldstein said during the “Five Reasons Radio Should Be Developing Podcasts Now” webinar, part of the Radio Advertising Bureau’s Business Unusual series. “But just putting your content on another platform tends to not be a solution.”

Time-Shifting Audio

Even with limited staffs and time, programmers and hosts can get into the podcast game, Goldstein said, by time-shifting existing broadcast content. “P1 listeners are giving you 47 minutes a day for a 3-hour radio show. They’re only listening to 26% of your morning show,” he said. “By making the best content available on podcasts and smart speakers, you give them an opportunity to come in again.” By way of example he noted “The Dave Ramsey Show” is the No. 3 broadcast radio show in the U.S. and a top 30 podcast. Podcasting has increased the show’s circulation without cannibalizing the radio show. “The Breakfast Club,” the iHeartMedia-syndicated, New York-based morning show that consistently makes headlines for interviews that speak to a culture and generation, is both a top radio show and top podcast. Beasley Media Group rocker WMMR Philadelphia produces a daily 20-25 minute “Fun Size” podcast version of its top-rated “Preston and Steve” morning show. 

Beyond time-shifted audio strategies, there are other podcast formats well suited for local radio stations, including an interview-based show, a staple of the medium. “You bring in someone of local import – the mayor, a civic leader or business leader or anybody who is culturally important or would be interesting to a significant portion of the audience,” Goldstein suggested. 

Branded content podcasts built around sponsor-based programming can attract new ad dollars. For example, working with a local hospital, a station could do a series on raising children. “Minisodes” are also suited for radio since broadcasters understand the importance of “snackable” short-form content.

Where The Buzz Is

Another compelling reason for local radio to get into the podcast game: “It’s where the buzz is” with a revenue trajectory fast approaching $1 billion in annual billings, said Goldstein. Plus, with its broadcast bullhorn, radio has a cross-promotional “super power” that non-broadcast podcasters envy.

While most are nationally targeted, local podcasts are popping up in markets across the country, covering food, entertainment and other community topics. Said Goldstein: “You can partner with them, or compete with them but most significantly I would think about content that you can create that’s of interest locally that’s not easily replaced.”