Tom Webster on podcasting and his new gig: #RDE22

Tom Webster has been at Edison Research for over 18 years, and once again was one of the major presenters at Radiodays Europe.

Wayne Stamm from radioinfo got to spend a bit of time with Tom after his final presentation and asked him about the some of his latest research, and his new job at 

radioinfo: Tom Webster from Edison Research We saw some really interesting research you unveiled for us the other day.

Tom Webster: Yeah, a little bit. Mostly that, you know, the top 20 podcasts in the top 20 podcast genres, four of which are much bigger than the others. Basically comedy, news, society and culture and true crime, which is the catnip of podcasting now.


radioinfo: So and they’re so far in front of that. What is it? The top ten or top 20 podcasts are currently all bar two come from those genres.

Tom Webster: Yeah, that’s right. All but two come from that genre. And one of the two that doesn’t Call Her Daddy is no longer even a podcast… you know, obviously people still listen to it, but it’s defunct. So yeah, there’s a huge demand for, I think, daily topical and regular podcasts.


radioinfo: So do these have a long history? Do they stay in the catalogs for very long or are they culled on a regular basis?

Tom Webster: They do have a long history. And, you know, the methodology of of how Edison does it, where it’s really a rolling average of four quarters, the podcast with a longer heritage will tend to be the hits. Right. But that said, there are things like “Smartless” that pop into the top 20 that were just so huge in the last year that they make it there. But, you know, certainly so many of the podcasts in the top 20 have just they’ve just been around for a while, you know, hits or hits.


radioinfo: So, one does the Joe Rogan one seem to be just so far in front of everything else?

Tom Webster: I cannot explain Joe Rogan. Joe Rogan just is. It’s by far the number one podcast in America, way by far the number one podcast with men and it’s the number three podcast with women. And you know, often when I’ll talk to especially when I talk to women about that, they’re like, “I don’t get it”, and, you know, I don’t get it either, but that just means that we don’t understand a whole ton of women out there that just love that show.


radioinfo: So have we seen an evolution in the way that podcasts are done? And I say this because you did touch on murder in the building, which I thought was a really interesting thing to bring up.

Tom Webster: Yeah, I didn’t love that. (It) was not very complimentary to podcasters, I think and podcasting has also been the butt of the joke on many skits on Saturday Night Live, the big American comedy show, and, you know, it kind of paints podcasters as, you know, strange, strange beings, right, unusual humans, but, you know, with about 40% of Americans listening to podcasts every month, it’s not an unusual behavior. It’s a mainstream behavior. So I don’t think the medium has really been able to tell its story in a positive way in any kind of unified fashion. And I hope that changes.


radioinfo: And we’re not seeing quite the number of new podcasts that we did for for a while, it seems that seems to be dropping away as well.

Tom Webster: I think there was a huge surge of that, I think driven especially by some of the free hosting services like, you know, Anchor is part of Spotify, but you know, doing a podcast is really, really hard. You know, I’ve done some good ones, I’ve done some bad ones, mostly bad ones, it’s not easy to do to do great audio content, this interview excluded, but it’s I do think we’re going to start to see a little bit of a slowdown because it’s really hard to to grow an audience. And it can be really, you know, there’s despair when you don’t grow one.


radioinfo: Do you think that that’s part of it, though? One of the things you touched on was this thing you’ve got to build a habit with your listener.

Tom Webster: Yeah, I think it’s it’s hard to know when to quit. You know, people talk a lot about this concept called podfading , where people start a podcast and then give up in it and it kind of disappears. But I’ve never liked that term because, you know, you think about the the greatest TV shows in history and they’ve all pod -faded, haven’t they? Right. They’re not they’re not being made anymore. So that that’s not a thing, you know, but it does take a while to build an audience. And if you believe in what you’re doing and you continue to get better, then it’s worth pursuing. But no one’s guaranteed an audience, and that’s the hard part.


radioinfo: And then consistency is also an important thing. So weekly or daily or something.

Tom Webster: Something. And whether that’s a period of time or whether that’s associated contextually with a habit or a part of your life, right? So yeah, maybe daily, maybe weekly, maybe when you drive, maybe when you garden, maybe when you cook. But if you can find a way to associate your podcast contextually with something else, that is a habit that is a part of someone’s life, then then you have a chance of making your podcast a part of their life.


radioinfo: Somebody signing up a podcast for the very first time and they go to you for advice and say, I’ve got this great idea for a podcast. Is your first question them “So what are you going to do for the second one?”

Tom Webster: No, my the first thing I try to do is talk them out of it. Yeah, absolutely talk them out of it because it’s really difficult. And you have to know that you’re doing it for the right reason. Right. And it’s easy to say, I want to do a podcast because I am passionate about this or that, but no one else might be right. So it really is about listening and listening to an audience. And, you know, what’s going to, you know, either meet their needs or help them get from point A to point B or bring a smile to their face. But it’s always about the audience.


radioinfo: So let’s talk about this new gig of yours. You’re leaving this wonderful job you’ve had for 18 years behind and moving on to something totally different. Oh, ish.

Tom Webster: Ish. Yeah. So I’ve been a market researcher in, in radio, in audio, in podcasting for 25 years, really, 18 of them at Edison. And I’m going to get the chance now joining Bryan Barletta at to go into consulting to go into advisory services, to do research that is commissioned by us. Right. At Edison I’ve worked for clients and in client research, but we are kind of our own clients now and we have the freedom to be able to commission studies that will hopefully help the space grow and put that out there so that everybody can benefit. And I’m really passionate about audio, about spoken word audio, and I’m hoping that we have our own small role to play in growing the entire space.


radioinfo: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’ll kind of put you on the on the other side of it to a certain extent. But you’ve got all of these tools behind you, which have got to be an enormous benefit.

Tom Webster: Absolutely. And we are and we’re still going to be working with Edison. We’ve signed an agreement with Edison Research to be our research partner for the next year. So we’re going to be putting out a number of studies that are going to be co-branded, and we’ll have other sponsors. Our first study comes out in in June. It’s called The Creators, and it’s the first really credible scientific look at the people creating podcasts in the space. Demographics of podcasters and some of their behaviors. And that’s difficult research to to get we’ve been working at it for a year and that’s going to come out next month in partnership with Edison.


radioinfo: Well I’m looking forward to seeing and talking about looking forward to seeing things, how good is it to see people out and about?

Tom Webster: It’s fantastic. And, you know, I continue to be very wary and cautious on planes and things like that. But, you know, we’re at radio days here in Malmo and I’ve so missed radio days. It’s one of my favorite conferences. I miss not being able to go to Lisbon. You know, I’ve done a number of them in years past, and it’s it’s a fantastic place to see people in it. You know, I’m an introverted person, so conferences are often like the only people I ever see, right? So it’s been really special to get to see people again and, you know, have some hugs and shake some hands.


radioinfo: Tom Webster, thanks for your time.

Tom Webster: Cheers. Thank you.