While much attention has been placed on Apple’s hiring of BBC Radio 1 presenter Zane Lowe for an undisclosed role with whatever the future integration of iTunes Radio and Beats Music, another hiring this week shows the maturation of internet delivery as a legitimate competitor to traditional radio.
Chris Bannon, Vice President of Content Development & Production at New York Public Radio and the longtime Program Director of their 820/93.9 WNYC New York exited to join Midroll Media as Chief Content Officer. Bannon will oversee the launch of a New York studio and office for Midroll, which operates the Earwolf and Wolfpop podcast networks and a sales service that represents many top shows.
While many on the traditional broadcast side were slow to accepting podcasting, public radio has been very aggressive. WNYC has built a large library of shows, American Public Media has launched the Infinite Guest network, and WBEZ Chicago’s This American Life brought podcasting to the mainstream more than anyone with Serial. Midroll (originally Earwolf) was founded by comedian Scott Aukerman of Comedy Bang Bang who started the company after his show was cancelled from the online version of Entravision’s “Indie 103.1” Los Angeles much in the same manner Adam Carolla and Tom Leykis launched their networks.
The big difference separating Midroll, Westwood One founder Norm Pattiz’ PodcastOne and CBS Radio’s recently launched Play.It, are the sales mechanisms. These companies are going all out to monetize podcasts while also building a critical mass. These companies are starting to see podcasting as a viable commercial asset and way to reach the demographics no longer being served by radio.
The hirings of Lowe by Apple and Bannon by Midroll are quite comparable to XM’s hiring of Opie & Anthony in 2004 and Sirius bringing in Howard Stern in 2005. While not big names like those shows, it shows that the internet radio industry is maturing and becoming a viable business. Unlike satellite a decade ago that had the executive and distribution system in place but needed the programming to reach critical mass, podcasting and streaming are coming from the opposite direction. The programming is plentiful, it just needs the distribution platforms and sales resources.