Takeaways About Podcasting From The 2015 New Media Expo
April 28, 2015
Two weeks ago, I attended the New Media Expo in Las Vegas. "NMX," as it is known, became part of the NAB conference for the first time this year. I spent most of my time hanging out with the podcasters (I'm a podcaster myself.)
Here are a few of my big takeaways…
1. Radio and podcasting are finally meeting each other
Both broadcasters and podcasters have a bit of a chip on their shoulder about each other. Broadcasters often assume that podcasting is an amateur hobby at which they could easily succeed with it if just they bothered to put in the effort. Podcasters often view radio professionals as part of a bland wasteland of corporate audio content.
As a result, even when broadcasters partake in podcasting, few immerse themselves in the podcasting community at large. (Personally, I love the podcasting community. For me, this event was an opportunity to finally meet in person many of my fellow podcasters from the Google+ community.) Ultimately, this is a lost opportunity for broadcasters, because there's a lot to be learned from this group that is foreign to terrestrial radio: Podcast search engine optimization, online community building, the secrets of hosting, etc.
And podcasters can learn a lot from radio broadcasters, too. Radio consultant Mark Ramsey led a fantastic session titled '7 Radio Lessons That Can Transform Your Podcast.' While his lessons weren't new to me as a 20-year broadcasting veteran, I could tell how eye-opening they were for the podcasters in the room who did not have the benefit of my radio background.
The pinnacle of this radio-meets-podcasting event came when Norm Pattiz, the founder of the new upstart network PodcastOne, was interviewed as the closing keynote presentation. In the audience, the air was heavy with apprehension about the entrance of large commercial interests into the podcasting community. At the same time, it wasn't clear if the people in this young audience fully grasped the way Norm had transformed the radio business with his syndication behemoth, Westwood One. Norm had transformed the audio business once before, and is now looking to do it again.
Hopefully, both broadcasters and podcasters will soon discover that they can learn a lot from each other if they are willing to listen with open minds.
2. Serial did not create a resurgence in podcasting
Rob Walch of the podcasting hosting company Libsyn gave a fascinating presentation which shattered a number of myths surrounding podcasting. Among them: The Serial podcast may not be the game changer that everybody thinks it is. Rob pointed to recent headline after headline declaring that Serial had launched a podcast resurgence. But Rob, who has access to the backend stats of every podcast on Libsyn, sees no such thing. Podcasting has experienced slow but steady growth over the last several years. There was no decline in podcasting consumption prior to Serial, and no explosion in podcasting after Serial.
So how does Rob explain the headlines? Simple: Serial is about journalism, so journalists like to write about it. This appeals to them far more than writing about Adam Carolla, Joe Rogan, or Marc Maron.
3. Google is preventing podcasting from Going mainstream
When it comes to podcasts, Apple is king. In fact, according to Rob, over five times as many podcast listens come from iOS devices than Android devices. Why? Because when you purchase an iPhone or iPad, a stand-alone app called Podcasts comes pre-installed on it. If you buy an Android device, you must first download a third-party podcast app (these are called "podcatchers") and then subscribe to a podcast. This extra step deters most people and discourages listening on Android devices.
This means that, in all likelihood, the one thing that could really cause podcast listenership to explode overnight is not a breakout hit like Serial, but rather Google embracing podcasting by including a native app with all devices that runs its Android operating system.
In the meantime, Todd Cochrane and the folks at the hosting company Blubrry have unveiled a "One Click Subscribe" link for Android. When people with Android phones click on the link, it will determine if a podcatcher is already installed on the phone. If so, the listeners will be subscribed to the podcast in that podcatcher. If not, they will be prompted to download the podcatcher of their choice.
4. Very few podcasts have an audience large enough to generate revenue
While podcasting is growing, it is still very difficult for the average podcaster to build an audience large enough to monetize their efforts. While there are companies, such as Midroll, that handle advertising for podcasters, these companies usually require a minimum of at least 5,000 downloads per episode. Rob revealed that only about 8% of all podcasts reach this level.
Advertisers want 5000 podcast downloads per episode minimum. Most podcasters don't meet this. #NMX— Seth Resler (@SethResler) April 14, 2015
There are very few marketing platforms specifically for podcasters, so most producers must build an audience n their own. This is no easy task. In fact, according to Rob, the median number of downloads per podcast episode is only 173. Unless you launch your podcast with a pre-existing fanbase from another platform, building an audience is an uphill battle.
5. Radio is perfectly positioned to take advantage of podcasting
All of this leaves radio stations exceptionally well positioned to take advantage of the podcasting medium. After all, not only do radio stations have a roster of talent capable of producing the content, but they have a pre-existing platform to promote its podcasts and pre-existing relationships with advertisers to monetize podcasts.
Of course, radio stations have some things to learn before they dive in. It would be useful to participate in the Podcasters Google+ community moderated by Jeffrey Powers, learn some basic search engine optimization strategies from Daniel J. Lewis, watch some Podcasters Roundtable hangouts with Ray Ortega, and attend the podcasting track to be assembled by David Jackson at next year's New Media Expo.
NEXT STEP: See my Notes from the 2015 New Media Expo.