RAB Podcast

One of the hottest topics in audio today is podcasting. There are now more than 700,000 active podcasters and recent Edison Research shows that 51% of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast. On the latest Radio On Main Street podcast, Radio Advertising Bureau president Erica Farber and SVP of Digital Dave Casper assess where things stand for broadcasters sizing up the buzzed-about podcast space.

Podcasters learning the language of advertising. Broadcasters have become very good at selling audio based on their nearly 100 years of experience, said Casper. But he believes podcasters are still finding their footing. “They don’t even have the language yet in many cases to talk to an advertiser. And one of the big challenges that podcasters have is the metrics that they’re working with,” he said. “Basically they’re working with one number: downloads. How many downloads their podcast got. When you take that to an advertiser to talk about sponsoring a show, you don’t have a lot to work with.”

New Nielsen service should help. In July Nielsen unveiled its Podcast Listener Buying Power Service, a qualitative measurement service leveraging Scarborough data to connect specific types of listeners with particular advertisers and specific program-level insights. It also matches podcast listeners with their buying behavior. “Podcasters are not really broadcasters and they’re not really digital – they fall right in that seam. They don’t have any of the digital metrics that you would have with the display space,” said Casper. He thinks the Nielsen data will help. “Finally podcasters have this pool of research that they can use to start defining their audience,” he said.

Not a threat for local ad dollars. For local radio operators that may worry that podcasters may siphon ad dollars, Farber said it’s not really much of a threat. “Going to local advertisers isn’t necessarily a solution for them either,” she said. “Just because as the podcaster they’re located in a particular ZIP code or town doesn’t mean their listeners are anywhere near that ZIP code or town.” Casper agreed: “The audience there is so small it’s not really a viable option for an advertiser,” he said.

Broadcasters and podcasters aren’t really all that different. Having attended the Podcast Movement conference last month in Orlando, Casper said some conversations wouldn’t be out of place at a radio industry convention. “Over and over I heard the same language we use in broadcasting to talk about our relationship we have with our listeners—that close and intimate connection we have with our listeners,” said Casper. “Podcasters also have that with their audience. It has to do with the fact that audio is such an intimate medium and its so portable and it can be with people in quiet times and it’s a one-to-one listening experience. Podcasting and radio are in lock step there.”

The growth potential for on-demand audio. Discovery may be an issue for a medium with more than 700,000 podcasts. That may be why Edison Research says only 32% of Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. “There are some things that are holding it down, and as those little problems get solved, I think that audience has the potential to really expand,” said Casper. He points to the introduction of more native listening apps on Android devices, increased use of smart speakers, and the ability to share audio clips on social media. “Broadcasting coming into the space also has a chance to grow the audience for a lot of reasons,” he said. “Our experience in audio really is central to that. But also that large loyal audience that we already have will be very effective at driving additional listening.”

The radio solution? One of the most talked about ways to help solve the podcasting discovery challenge, said Casper, is the proposal that podcasters connect with a radio station or personality. “Because the broadcaster has an audience already and it’s such a natural handoff to be able to promote that podcast to a broadcast audience.”

The big picture: does podcast make sense for radio? “There’s a lot of opportunity for broadcasters in podcasting,” said Casper. “When you look at the experience that broadcasters have in selling audio, bringing that into the podcasting world I think that’s a really promising combination. There’s also a lot of good reasons for broadcast to do this and we also have the experience selling it that I think the podcast community could benefit from.”