2017 is going to be a weird year for radio

I’m not exactly sure what to expect from 2017.  I don’t know if anyone can predict what will happen next.  To me… what will likely happen (*plus a lot of random thoughts):

** Podcasting will continue to grow as an emerging medium.  In September, Ken Doctor published his thoughts to Nieman Lab called Inside the business of the podcasting boom, which to me was the standout article for the year.  You can look at podcasting as a stand alone industry.  I saw it first hand this year at the Podcast Movement conference in Chicago.  If you’re interested in my notes from the conference, you can find them here, and here,  and here, and here… and here.

After talking to a lot of podcasters, I realized that the bar was set extremely different for everyone.  Some people were happy with 500 downloads a podcast, while others were looking to break 10,000 downloads… while trying to find that secret to the magical 50,000 downloads an episode mark.

What I’ve come to realize is that radio is having a hard time converting their audience to downloads.  I think part of the problem is trying to do the same thing over and over again… expecting different results.  As a radio programmer, it’s going to be very important to identify ‘different’ styles that might not work on-air, but will translate to a broader audience on-line.  The quirky, the funny, the dorky… the science-y… think about what would make a great headline (that would you to click on an article) and then having someone to actually back it up with some entertaining content for a worth while pay-off.

I think in radio, we rip and read so often that we don’t have any authority to pull off an effective pay-off to the catchy headline.  So the things we try to convert to on-line content often fail.

What we need to do is categorize what we’re doing on-line and align ourselves with the standard that’s already set with the podcasting community.  Call it a talk show if you’re doing a talk show.  But don’t try to produce the next Serial if all you’re doing is creating a talk show that reads headlines… because it’s not going to work.

Radio is a year behind on ‘content curation’ because we didn’t take it as serious as we needed to in 2016.  But we can change that in 2017.

** Radio will fall further behind on the video trends.  YouTube is changing.  It’s starting to favor longer form entertainment in an attempt to compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.  As a result, TV will have a HUGE advantage in capturing audiences.  Unless your personalities are prepared to market themselves as entertainers with a visual component, they’re going to lose out on this audience and only produce minimal numbers.

** We’re reaching the next level of multi-media talent.     “Back in my day… we played records and carts, and you had just one job and that’s all you had to do.”    “Back in my day… we played CDs and doubled as engineers.”  → “Back in my day we didn’t have to do 3 jobs at once, but that’s just the way it is now…”  “Back in my day, we were told to maintain a digital audience.  We had enough on our plate and didn’t have time.”  

Luckily I think companies are starting to figure out that building a digital audience is going to be a top priority to building non-traditional revenue, and the talent that knows how to engage that audience will be extremely valuable.


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Shout out from Tim Conway Jr.

Tim Conway Jr. on KFIThis made my morning.

A BIG thanks to Tim Conway Jr. for the shout out.  Kudos to KFI in LA for creating more web content, particularly videos of their talents behind the scenes.

On February 25th, 2016… Timmy aired this on his show during the 6PM hour:

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Podcast Review: Reply All

Narration of  a story is becoming a very popular style of podcasting, at least for the podcasts that are becoming very popular.  When it comes to digital audio, I would say there’s a demand for content that doesn’t sound like traditional radio talk shows.  NPR is dominating that field.  In fact, Perry Simon from AllAccess.com / Nerdest said it best –there’s two types of podcasts… NPR Style and everyone else.


I was first drawn to the podcast Reply All from Gimlet Media through The StartUp, a podcast that documented the rise of Gimlet media through it’s founder, along with the struggles of starting the business.  Reply All is a great addition to their roster.  The good — the stories they tell are amazing.  The bad — I’ve skipped a few episodes that sounded really good because they warn of bad language at the start of the podcast, which is a deal breaker if I’m traveling in the car with my wife and kiddo.

Two great examples from Reply All:

** @ISISCovering the war on terrorism, and tracking / communicating ISIS as a journalist 
** The Man In The FBI Hat story of  Robert Hoquim, who through fraud stole a lot of money from a lot of people.  But it turns out he made a lot of friends too living this secret identity 

They have a certain NPR style to them… which makes sense since they come from an NPR background.  So in the spirit of the two types of podcasts, they would be in a class categorized as not your traditional radio.

Maybe commercial radio will catch on.  But it almost takes a full time job to make great content like this.   I’m not sure you could be expected to do a 3 hour talk show a day, and still be able to produce the same level of content like they do here.  I think the most successful commercial radio hosts are able to reach their audience on an emotional level.  I’m not sure Reply All does that… it’s more of an admiration level.  I simply admire the work, the style, the information, the storytelling and the ability to bring me something I didn’t expect… but it doesn’t make me connect with the hosts.  It makes me connect with the content (as someone that loves great content.)

Overall this is a gem of a podcast.  It’s one worth adding to your favorites and checking out on a weekly basis.  It’s one you’ll share with your friends, and it’s one that you’ll eventually stealing an idea or two.  Great work all around from the crew on this project — I hope it lasts a long time.

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New Articles Posted On RadioInk

I’ve got a few new articles posted to RadioInk.com, with the addition new published articles in their magazine every month.
There’s a lot to share here, along with some thoughts on The Conclave — the Radio Learning Conference that needs to get some love.

Digging Into The Hubbard Deal — I wouldn’t say it’s a gold rush on podcasting, but what I will say is… Hubbard is the 4th major company to make a financial commitment to their future in digital audio, and that doesn’t happen by accident

Radio Takes Giant Podcasting Step — This is the deal that happened just a few weeks prior to the Hubbard deal.  It’s interesting to see a company outright buy a giant in the podcasting realm.  It also makes me excited to know that Midroll is now a commercial radio entity.  It’s kind of like when David Beckham came to play soccer in the United States.  Remember the hype?  People were saying, “this will make soccer mainstream in America.”  Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

Steal These Ideas — When attending this years Conclave, I took the opportunity for “Speed Mentoring” and asked it to a wide variety of people — “What’s ONE digital idea that excites you?”


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The Podcast Bubble

I enjoyed reading the NY Times article about podcasting posted today, written by Farhad Manjoo.  One of the questions he raises was the long term sustainability and/or growth of the medium.  Will podcasting ever really compete with radio, or maybe even overtake it as a more consumed medium?

An Edison Research study says roughly 17% of Americans listen to at least 1 podcast a month.  That’s up 5% in the past 5 years, and they estimate the audience is around 46 million people.  That’s a lot of people.  But the slow growth over the years would lead me to believe it’s a sustainable growth, and one you can trust in the terms of advertising revenue.  Maybe that’s why companies like Gimlet Media and Panoply have invested so much time and money into producing high quality podcasts.  They’ve learned that if you can get an audience, you can garner some pretty great ad rates.  The article says, “ad rates on top-tier podcasts approach $100 per thousand listeners.”

Bulk may be the name of the game when it comes to making big bucks.  But you might not need it to be self supportive.

I don’t think if you’re a radio station you’re job should be to convert your listeners into sole podcast listeners.  Another Edison Research study shows that if you’re a regular podcast consumer, it’s become the bulk of your listening pattern, surpassing traditional AM/FM radio and even other digital music and CDs.  The goal should be to give your listeners content that they can take with them, something entertaining and can carry with them to consume when they want to consume.

Think of your radio station as the restaurant with your listeners eating at your table every day.  Podcasting should be more than offering them a dogie bag that they can open and enjoy when they’re not at the restaurant.  Podcasting should be like giving them the option to order out or order something off the menu.




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Same Content, New Medium

Wired Magazine had a great write up about NPR and podcasting.  To put how far ahead NPR is in the podcasting realm, here’s the TOP podcasts at the moment:

1. This American Life npr-logo
2. The Late Show Podcast
3. Radiolab from WNYC npr-logo
4. TED Radio Hour npr-logo
5. Mystery Show
6. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! npr-logo
7. Serial npr-logo
8. Lore
9. Freakonomics Radio npr-logo
10. The Moth Podcast

That’s 6 of the top 10 podcasts in the United States

The common trait for top podcasts?  Great storytelling.  From the article: “We don’t have to change the essence of who we are to get a younger audience. We just need to tell great stories,” Mohn told the AP.

NPR president / CEO Jarl Mohn said the medium of podcasting is how to reach a younger audience.  It’s the nature of who consumes that kind of content.  And it’s working.  “For the first time in six years, National Public Radio, better known as NPR, is on track to break even financially thanks in part to the rising popularity of podcasts.”

So how do you make money in podcasting?  First you need to get an audience.  The company Midroll.com has a calculator with some ballpark figures.  Let’s say you do 1 podcast a week, 52 weeks a year.  Here’s what it comes out to:


I think the key is getting to the 10,000 download a podcast level.  If you can hit 10,000 listens a podcast, and you can commit to 1 show a day, roughly 1 hour podcasts (250 shows a year)… that number goes up to 43-80K a year.

IF you get that popular, which is really hard to do… That’s the point where you consider adding a second show, and doubling that number.  Now you can understand why NPR is making so much money recycling their shows in podcast form.  For example, one of their podcasts, Serial has racked up 73 MILLION downloads.  We’re talking BIG ad dollars that can be drawn from advertisements.

Alex Blumberg told nymag.com , “Now that everyone is walking around with a radio in their pocket at all times, and now that all cars are going to be connected, the form can flourish again.”

So the big question now is — what is your plan to flourish?

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Podcast Review: RELEVANT

I had a chance over the weekend to preview a podcast from RELEVANT, thanks to a recommendation from my friend Ben Reynolds on Twitter.  It’s a weekly show — and a long-running podcast with an assembled cast of personalities.  Since 2005, they’ve produced this extra content in connection with their magazine, meaning a decade of podcasting… well before most invested (or even believed) in the value of creating additional content past their main focus.


Their following is impressive.  Over 46K followers on Twitter, and their magazine has over 224K likes.  I can understand the fan following for this podcast — it’s a group of professionals that have really honed their craft over the past decade.  Naturally I’m drawn to this podcast because of the description, “discussing faith, culture and nonsense.”

I don’t think many understand how hard it is to actually pull off a multi-person podcast, especially when some of the personalities are in different locations.  In this case, the cast of 2 in-studio in Orlando with 3 others outside of the studio is a very large cast to manage, and even traffic when it comes to who contributes at the right time.  Having so many personalities outside of the studio is setting up a train wreck, but they don’t step over anyone’s toes.  It’s quite impressive.

What’s equally impressive is their on-line presence.  The episode I previewed was on June 12th, 2015 with their main interview being David Crowder.  I can’t understate how great the podcast is laid out, full of additional information, sponsor information, music used in the show, and even bonus video content.

As for the podcast itself, they had entertaining topics, it didn’t seem like the benchmarks were over done (upcoming music and movies), and it didn’t feel like they were stretching for time to fill the over an hour production.  I like how they broke up segments with music, and it seemed natural as a reset into a new topic or interview.

As for the interviews themselves, I thought they were fair.  There wasn’t any great stand-out moments in it, or anything I took away as a great in general.  The phone quality for David Crowder could have been better, as it was hard to me to understand what he was saying at times.

Overall, this is a solid podcast.  It’s fun, it’s timely and it’s not all nuts and bolts, rather it’s a great use of personality as they all told some sort of story.  It’s not always easy to tell an entertaining story, but somehow they found a way with a large ensemble of characters.  It’s a good listen, and I’ve marked this as one of my favorites on TuneIn to check out again in the future.

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Major Trust Issues

Recent findings from the Pew Research Center have pointed out that trust may just be a fleeting perception for high end talk talent.  In some ways, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers are similar in their overall trust or distrust of news sources.  But when you break down the Big 3 (Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity), they score terrible with the younger demographic.

Among those between 18 and 33 (Millennials born between 1981 and 1996), only 3% said they ‘trusted” Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck, and 4% trusted Rush Limbaugh.  But the 1% difference didn’t help Rush, as 32% distrusted him compared to 21% for Beck and 17% for Hannity.

My first take away is that Millennials don’t like being told what to do.  The website Next Web posted an article in May about communicating with the whole new generation.  “Rather than trying to impress, be impressive. Don’t appear innovative, innovate. Don’t tell us about your values, do valuable things. Millennials are unlikely to take your word for it anyway. Show them, us.”  There was a time when Rush was innovative, but that time has passed.  Now, it seems a lot of time is spent telling the audience to trust them.  It’s a technical disaster that has backfired greatly.  You can’t tell millennials to trust you because it clearly doesn’t work.  It explains why shows like The Daily Show have been grabbing their attention.  It’s flashy, it’s catchy, and it’s a reflection of their life through entertainment.  No wonder they trust that show.

Combine that revelation that nearly 50% of Baby Boomers talk about about politics a few times a week. That number is 35% with Millennials.  I’m not sure what’s worse for those who are seeking political discussion — that the content is being ignored OR the content is being rejected.

So you’re wondering what Millennials trust?  In order… CNN, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, New York Times, Google News, BCC, MSNBC, and PBS.

The solution may be harder than most talk stations want to face.

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Heading to Conclave 40!

I’m happy to announce I’ll be part of Conclave 40 — a panelist for Video Consumption Is Exploding.  It’s truly an honor to be asked to contribute to our industry.


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Content Creation Series

It turns out I'm not the only person that's interested in content creation -- so is Radio Ink!  I'll be producing some videos in the near future where I interview content creators... and I couldn't be more excited to do it.

I want to thank Phil Hendrie, Craig Benzine and Dick Taylor who spent some time to share a little part of their craft.  These are some really creative guys in their own rights, and they're part of a small group of people who just 'get it'.  If you want to check out the interviews:

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