Radio raises $425,000 for Feeding America. What about podcasting?

U.S. commercial radio raised $425,000 for Feeding America yesterday, in a rapidly organized effort called Radio Cares. Hundreds of stations and radio groups pitched in with on-air promotions.

The venture was put in motion by Adams Radio Group President Ron Stone, Cumulus VP Brian Philips, and ex-Cumulus executive Mike McVay. Audio imaging and branding collateral was produced (quickly!) by Benztown. The website was built by Vipology, and its URL donated by YEA Networks. Over 275 celebrity promotions and artist drops were acquired.

Feeding America has distributed 94-million pounds of food, and 79-million meals, since its Founding on March 13.

This epic effort stands alone as a tremendous achievement, benefitting people in need across the country, and giving others an easy way to help during a time of national crisis. The enormous reach of radio is part of the success. But the thrust of the organizational effort came from its founders and the participating companies.

What About Podcasting?

In reporting this, and thinking about it, we have been led to wonder where podcasting is during this time. One way that podcasting benefits the public good is through information — all the Covid-19 listening reports we’ve seen show News podcasts in demand. That’s good — no medium does in-depth news better than podcasting, with its lack of clock and open distribution.

Could podcasting mount an effort like Radio Cares? Why not? The reach is less than radio — 37% of American teens and adults listen to podcasts monthly (Edison Research, The Infinite Dial 2020). Radio’s reach is in the 90s (percentage). But podcasting is a deeply involving medium, with a legendary trust relationship of host and audience. If podcast hosts can successfully drive listeners to buy new mattresses, couldn’t they drive a major charity effort?

The mind turns to The Podcast Academy, launched in mid-February. We know that one purpose of the Academy (as the name implies) is to foster excellence in content creation, and there is a plan for an awards program. That’s fine, but where is the organizational driving force which advocates for podcasting, lobbies for it (if for nothing else, for the legal use of music), and acts as a trade body on behalf of creators, producers, and networks? The IAB fulfills some of that, especially in developing advertising measurement standards, per its basic mandate around interactive advertising. But as podcasting matures, something more akin to the NAB could tie together disparate elements of podcasting, create a broad agenda for advancement of the medium, accomplish nationwide promotion of listening and consumer education, and activate programs helpful to society.

The virtuosity demonstrated yesterday by the broadcast industry, at a time when it is experiencing considerable pain itself, is an opportunity for podcasting to drop the superior attitude it has sometimes expressed. The next evolutionary stage? Become a body. It is possible to develop an aspect of unification — without losing the independence of its creators, and the low barrier to entry for anyone.

Brad Hill