“This is the third wave of podcasting,” Jake Shapiro told the Radio and Internet News (RAIN) Summit in Atlanta today.
The summit is a lead up event to the annual NAB Radio Show, which begins tomorrow American time.
Shapiro is an internet broadcasting pioneer who now heads up PRX and a podcast aggregator business called the Radiotopia Network.
The first stage of podcasting began when audio was mixed with RSS alerts to create the idea that audio could be pushed to consumers via podcasts. The second wave was when iTunes got into podcasting but, in Shapiro’s opinion, didn’t take it to the next level. “They licked the cookie… no one else wanted to eat it after they had licked it.”
The current wave of podcasting, according to Shapiro, has evolved with the advent of easier to consume podcast interfaces, big hit shows such as Serial, and the migration of talent to the format.
The highly produced Serial has had 100 million downloads. It has been successful “because it is a story driven sound rich podcast,” said Shapiro.
Podcasting has “fundamentally changed in the past 18 months,” because it is mobile and intimate, it is on-demand, it is beginning to make money and good talent is getting interested in being on podcasts.
Some good podcasts are getting up to $100 CPM ad rates.
“Podcasting is very democratic… There is a lot of poor talent out there, but there is also good talent that is beginning to emerge from adjacent industries to radio. The surge of talent that transformed the video industry is coming to radio… There is competition for talent in this space.” said Shapiro.
“Major music platforms are starting to bolt on podcasts to their platforms because they can see that 100 million downloads for Serial is a good reason for them to want to be in this space. But I don’t think spoken word content will stick within the music space. There’s a lot up for grabs.”
Shapiro’s company PRX has created the Radiotopia Network which now distributes podcasts such as This American life, The Moth, 99% Invisible, Strangers, and other top rating podcasts. His company also monetises the platform so that content creators can make money.
RadioTopia Network launched in Feb 2014 and now has 9 million downloads per month. Revenue is through a combination of sponsorship, events and crowd funding (with over 20,000 backers). “There is now the possibility of monetising true fans and making money from them,” Shapiro said.
In another session on podcasting, titled Podcasting is the New Black, delegates heard that “the planets are aligning across the industry” for podcasting.
Kit Gray from Podcast One said: “There is a new found appreciation for listening which has been enhanced by the new access to audio and cars are finally embracing connected audio.. There is a much bigger opportunity out there, we are just at the beginning… The fan base just loves podcasting, they share it with their social networks and that’s why I think its growing.”
The biggest driver for the increase in podcasting is the proliferation of mobile. “Smartphones are the new radio.”
Technology, community and quality content are converging to change consumer behaviour – they want it here, now. The most successful shows are those that engage with their audiences. Social media is also a big factor in ensuring the success of podcasts, with hosts “reaching out to people online, teaching them what is podcasting and how to download and set up their favourite podcasts.”
Rob Proctor from AudioBoom told delegates: “With 25% of ads being blocked and bots creating unrealistic numbers on the internet, podcasting is a way of ensuring your message gets to real listeners. You can’t ad block the audio in a podcast, bots can’t listen to audio.” Podcast One has over 60 brands that advertise in their podcasts, but it’s not just standard 30 or 60 second spots that are being aired, branded content that is integrated into the program and has an interactive element in it has been found to be the most successful within podcasts.
What about podcast listening habits? An Edison Research study showed that you have to grab listeners in the first 7 minutes. “By 7 minutes, 40% of listeners have dropped off. The other 60% who stay beyond the 7 minute mark usually listen to the whole show because they are very engaged.” Many of the old rules of making good radio apply just as readily to the podcast format, tell the listeners what you will give them, deliver what you promised without waffle, find good talent and make it an engaging conversation.
People who are addicted to podcasts listen to 3 to 7 episodes a week. They are engaged, spend money and respond to brand and embedded advertising. Podcast listeners in America spend about 2 hours more listening to audio than other audio listeners.
In America there is more of a tradition of independent production companies than there is in Australia, so some of the trends being observed for independently produced podcasts in the USA would be more likely to be taken up inside radio networks in Australia.
John McLeod of Rivet Radio says his company concentrates on shorter audio. “Let the host earn the listenership… don’t go more than 15 mins at first, if the audience wants longer form content then extend it. When people see the length of an item in iTunes as one hour they ask themselves do I really want to bother with that. But once you have got them they will listen for as long as you can give them once they are engaged.”
Audio listening is one of the most intimate experiences, as long as the content is good people want to set and forget it. They will just listen through unless you give them a reason to turn off. “In internet radio you’re not answering to the clock you’re listening to the consumer. This technology can make sure that people are engaged for a longer time. We have shorter daily shows and longer weekly shows, people have a habit of listening to these guys.”
Rob Greenlee from Spreaker said: “Most of the most popular shows today are over 45 mins long. They have been around for a while and they engage the audience who commit to listen to the whole thing. Length is not a downside in this space, it’s all about the content. There are opportunities for both short and long content in this space.
While there is a good level of success at the top of the podcasting ladder, there are also a lot of podcasts on the internet that started as an enthusiastic hobby but faded away after a few episodes. There is a word for this… Podfaded.
“Podfaded is the term that is used for amateurs who do a few shows then give up. There’s a lot of people who want to have their own radio show but when they get into it they find that to keep it up you have to make it more than a hobby, you have to take a professional approach to it. About one third of iTunes 300,000 podcasts have podfaded. There only about 3000 podcasts that are getting any real traffic. The top 1% is making money, the rest are not.”