Podcast Movement: The Medium Has Matured; But Has Radio’s Understanding Of It?

L->R: Beasley Media CEO Caroline Beasley, Premiere Networks President Julie Talbott, Westwood One President Suzanne Grimes, Hubbard Radio CEO Ginny Morris and moderator Elsie Escobar

It was very easy to identify radio industry folks at the Podcast Movement convention in Philadelphia this week; they were the ones wearing business attire as opposed to casual wear.

Don’t take that to mean that most in podcasting don’t believe there’s money to be made or a lack of professionalism. Podcast Movement 2018 may have been one of the most upbeat industry conventions I have been to. Nearly everyone present was there with a willingness to learn, share ideas, and figure out how to better there crafts regardless if they were a newcomer or a CEO.

At this morning’s executive panel Hubbard Radio CEO Ginny Morris summed it well when describing her company’s podcasting strategy, “Be as open minded as we can and to learn from those of you who know about this space more than we do.” Beasley Media’s Caroline Beasley explained her company’s as podcasting being a natural extension of on-air content and wanting to keep listeners inside their own content ecosystem. To that end the company was promoting their “Beasley Podcasting Initiative” looking for podcasters within their radio markets and promising further details later this year.

“We want to learn from podcasters who are successful in this space because we want to be successful. And hopefully there’s something we can offer podcasters too.” – Caroline Beasley

Sometime the stroke to adapt strikes closer to home as Ginny Morris explained that podcasting was not on her radar until her college-aged son started listening to podcasts each morning instead of radio.

The same panel showed that there still is a divide on whether or not radio broadcasters are on the same page when it comes to monetizing podcasts. After Caroline Beasley discussed the need for standardized download metrics and analytics when selling podcast advertising, Westwood One President Suzanne Grimes countered by stating that download currency is good enough to get started as it shows growth trajectory and return levels of advertisers to show engagement in the ad community. The industry as a whole sees the ROI in podcasting though but are still figuring out the minutiae of how to integrate it at their companies.

It was a pair of on-air talents though who helped clear the divide. Westwood One’s Opie, who recently made the move to podcasting, helped explain in common language basic radio programming strategies and how to adapt them to podcasting.

Opie also went into discussing interview strategies discussing how he enjoyed talking to unknowns more than supposed A-listers as the more famous were likely to be more guarded and unwilling to have a genuine conversation.

Bobby Bones and iHeartMedia’s Chris Peterson

Bobby Bones held court for a session explaining how his podcast and the subsequent Nashville Podcast Network he built off of it has helped his syndicated morning show and how they all tie together. Bones explained how having his podcast has helped him brand in markets the show is not carried in explaining how he has a big podcast following in Dallas and Houston. The podcasts enable his brand to thrive beyond 6-10am as every new technological innovation helps keep listeners attached to the brand. “Streaming, social media, and smart speakers were all supposed to hurt radio listening, but instead it just keeps the audience attached to the brand wherever they are”.

“I’m programming everything for the phone. If they’re listening to me at any time in their life I Win! We’re fighting for everyone’s conscious level, if they listen we win.” – Bobby Bones

He also pointed out two other shows started by iHeartMedia hosts that have helped build their brands. KBKS Seattle’s Carla Marie launched a side-hustle called “Side Hustlers” talking to people who are following their passion outside of their normal job and has turned it into a sub-brand for herself. Elvis Duran Show co-host Froggy launched a golf podcast and just because of the connection to the morning show landed a major equipment company as a sponsor for both the podcast and show.

I’ve long noted that the biggest stars in the radio industry are usually the biggest students of the game. People like Howard Stern, Elvis Duran, Ryan Seacrest, Opie, and Bones all show that the talent difference may not be great between them and some who never made it to their level but understanding trends and connecting those to their audience’s desires are what pulled them apart from the pack.

Lastly, my biggest personal takeaway from the convention took place far from the panels but at a table in the back of the exhibitor space. Three of us were sitting there all working on our own various projects when a man comes up and asks if he may join us at one of the empty seats at the table. He then goes around the table introducing himself, shaking our hands and asking what we all do. “Hi I’m Conrad, nice to meet you.” And with that move it was easy to see how a mortgage broker from Huntsville AL became one of the biggest stars in podcasting this year with one of his shows now airing on the WWE Network. Just by being kind, friendly, and genuinely interested in his fellow humans you can see why people gravitate to him and his shows.

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

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