Podcast Red 220

Local broadcasters thinking about expanding their brands into the crowded podcast market got some direction – and a dose of hard-nosed reality – from those who have already taken the plunge at last week’s Radio Show in Dallas. Amelia Robinson, columnist, reporter and podcaster at Cox Media Group Dayton, urged those thinking about jumping into the pool to think it through first. “You don’t need to do a podcast,” she said. 

Comparing today’s podcast explosion to 10 years ago when everyone thought they needed a blog, Robinson suggested a few questions to ask before taking the plunge: “Is it something I really need to do? Do I have a topic that will resonate with listeners? Do I have the time?” Robinson said it takes her about three hours to do each episode. “There’s a million things we as media professionals can do so you really have it think: Is this something that is worthwhile to us,” she said during the “Earning Listeners and Advertisers via Local Podcasts” panel discussion. 

It’s early innings for Radio One’s expansion into podcasting. The effort mainly involves podcasts that revolve around some of its morning shows. In addition, Radio One VP of Programming, Colby Colb Tyner said he culled through his archive of on-air artist interviews and used excerpts from some to fuel a podcast. “It’s not a big money maker out of the gate. You have to build it, commit time and be patient with it,” Tyner said. And a host who invests time in the platform may be disappointed if they make almost no money on it in the first year, Tyner added. 

Aspiring local podcasters need to be realistic about how many people will listen to their show. Across all podcasts, the median number of downloads per episode is just 130 and most local radio stations that are repurposing local content in podcast form are in that 130 range or less, said Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn. If the goal is to make money from the podcast, you need to be in the 5,000 downloads range to get an advertiser’s attention, he said. Just 7% of the 750,000 podcasts in the space actually get 5,000 or more downloads per episode. Instead of initially focusing on how to monetize podcasts, broadcasters looking to enter the space with locally targeted shows should have audience engagement as their goal, Walch said. 

And while the numbers may seem low, if you’re not repurposing your personality-based show – even just in piece-meal form – you’re missing an opportunity, said Sheryl Worsley, Director of Audience Development for Bonneville’s KSL Podcasts. “People that want to time shift can’t listen if you don’t,” she said. But Bonneville does more than just time-shift broadcast content. It encourages talent to pitch podcasts about topics that are near and dear to their heart. “If you have a host who is passionate about something, roll with it,” Worsley said. That show would not only attract the host’s P1 listeners but also people who have never heard of him or her but are interested in podcast’s area of expertise. “You’ll have a new product and potentially a new client,” she said.

Worsley said there are three questions she asks aspiring podcasters in her group before they jump into the space:

“What is your goal? If it’s connecting to an audience that’s the best,” she said. Second, define who your audience is. And, third, how are you going to be unique in this space that will differentiate you from the 750,000 other podcasts currently available. 

The panel was moderated by Podcast Movement President Dan Franks.