It’s Not (Entirely) About You
March 11, 2016
First, I suppose I should tell you what happened to last week's column. There WAS a column, but you'll never read it. That's because after I wrote it, I took a moment, re-read it, and decided to delete it, because it was... oh, let's call it "slightly too harsh," in the service of a point that didn't need to be made in quite so powerful a manner. In other words, I took a breath, thought, "come on, it's only radio," and went all Select All and Delete on it. Sometimes, the best you can do is shut up.
And sometimes, you want to say something and realize that everyone else is doing the same thing, and you don't need to add to the cacophony. So I won't do an analysis of the Infinite Dial study here. You'll find plenty of cogent analysis of that information all over the place by now; the summary is that podcast listening is up, fewer people have radios in the house, everyone knows Pandora, and young listeners are less likely to use AM/FM radio for music discovery than alte kakers. It's everything you've seen coming.
The trick is what you'll do with that information. You'll all accelerate your plans to get into podcasting, surely, if you're not there already, to which I say, as an old hand in that arena, welcome and beware. Welcome, because the more established, talented, experienced communicators and business people in the industry, the better. Beware, because you'll find that everyone's declared his or herself an expert now, there's a lot of advice being thrown around, and, still, it's hard to say that anyone has the answer to things like monetization or even what content works best. We can't even agree on what length is ideal for a podcast, and we sure as hell haven't agreed on how to measure listening. It's the Wild West with Zoom recorders on a folding table instead of pistols at twenty paces.
Just a few thoughts, however, from yet another self-styled expert: Can we, and by "we" I mean radio people approaching podcasting, try to avoid giving people what they aren't asking for but which works for us? I'm talking about being careful with sponsored content so that we're not filling the pipeline with what amounts to infomercials. I'm talking about not just throwing whatever we're putting on the radio into podcast form and slapping it into an RSS feed but actually producing material that fits the form and how people use it. I'm talking about making it easy for people to find, subscribe to, and/or download podcasts instead of having to drill deep into your station website (which really needs an update, don'tcha think?). You -- again, radio (I know, I'm changing back and forth from first to second person. It's Friday, I'm tired, just let it go) -- should be adapting to the new world instead of expecting people to adapt to your business plan. If they aren't demanding your current shows as podcasts, or FM tuners in their phones, or whatever else is part of your business plan but not their lifestyles, good luck forcing them to comply. (Even Apple, notorious for doing what it wants and making people buy into it after the fact, is finding that, no, people didn't really want to buy a watch from them, not without a clear use case and a reasonable price. The Reality Distortion Field has its limits.)
But, yeah, all the research is showing that while it's nice to keep touting "93% reach!" and all that, things ARE changing. Even if it's not happening as fast as the research says it is, you STILL need to adapt, because it IS a world in which you have to be everywhere your users are, in every form they desire. Your business plan isn't all about you anymore.
But no matter which medium you're using, you need content. And content, for you radio people, requires stuff about which to wax poetic, or joke, or bloviate. Which brings us to All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, with news items and kickers and bad jokes by clicking here and at the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item. And there's the new Podcasting section at AllAccess.com/podcasts. Finally, read "10 Questions With..." Al Spry of Living Sexy Radio, a radio veteran in the process of building a new syndicated show for both online and broadcast radio.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, a division of Legendary Pictures and Legendary Digital Networks, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities. Which explains the self-appointed expert stuff.
It was nice to see some of you down in Fort Lauderdale last week at Talk Show Boot Camp, and thanks to Don Anthony and Gabe Hobbs for the hospitality. If I seemed distracted for part of it, blame the column-that-wasn't. What was it about? I'll never tell....