Radio’s podcasting opportunity [AUDIO]

“Radio has all the building blocks to blow the lid off this industry.” –Rob Proctor, CEO AudioBoom, at RAIN Summit Atlanta

In a wide-ranging conversation at RAIN Summit Atlanta, AudioBoom CEO Rob Proctor said that podcasting represents a huge opportunity for radio. Speaking of radio’s traditional expertise in producing high-quality talk programming, Proctor noted: “Most podcasts are just not quality products. Radio stations have a massive opportunity.” (Hear audio above; Rob Proctor’s comments start at 34:09.)

RSA - podcasting panel 02 300wThe Summit panel, Podcasting Is the New Black, featured podcasting luminaries Kit Gray (President, PodcastOne, which sponsored the panel), Brendan Monaghan (CEO, Panoply), John MacLeod (CEO, Rivet Radio), Rob Greenlee (Head of Content, Spreaker), and Rob Proctor. The discussion was moderated by Steve Goldstein, Founder of Amplifi Media.


Program discovery was a key topic. The panelists all agreed that the growth of mobile listening, with the corresponding ease of listening, has helped the podcast resurgence generally. Still, leverage is required to make a hit; the milestone program Serial was mentioned as an example of radio’s promotional power in building audience. Kit Gray described PodcastOne’s education initiatives, aimed at demystifying how podcasts are accessed and played.


Podcast analytics are universally regarded as a challenge for the industry, particularly related to telling a good audience story to prospective advertisers. The bifurcation of plays and downloads was noted in the RAIN panel as a confusing and artificial factor. Rob Greenlee of Spreaker, described three types of podcast playback: downloads, “progressive downloads” (which occur when a program is selected in a listening app, as the show streams), and pure streaming. As Rob Proctor observed: “All that counts is plays.”

The analytics challenge is to develop standardized data about listens, in a category which remains artificially stuck on downloads as the key metric. A downloaded program is not necessarily heard, or heard to completion. Many podcast platforms accomplish their own metrics, but with so much discovery happening in iTunes, which does not share (or possible even acquire) listening metrics, the podcast industry is largely in the dark. “Apple is the 800-pound gorilla, but we offer a better perspective to our creators,” said Kit Gray of PodcastOne.

“Podcasting is one-tenth or one-hundredth of what it needs to be,” stated John MacLeod, who said that massive scaling depends on standardized metrics.


Moderator Steve Goldstein asked about program length, citing recent statistics showing a high degree of listener abandonment of long shows. He stirred laughter among panelists and the audience when he offered this engagement tip to podcast hosts: “Don’t start by talking about the weather, and what you’re wearing.”



The panelists pushed back against the idea that short is necessarily better than long. “Podcast listeners are the most engaged listeners you can find,” said Brendan Monaghan of Panoply. John MacLeod wryly observed that long shows benefit from a “set it and forget it” user habit. Rob Greenlee was more exacting in his praise of long-form programming: “Most of the most popular shows in podcasting today are over 45 minutes. It’s all about engagement of the audience. Length is not a downside in the business.”

All in all, podcasting was acknowledged as growing at a tremendous clip. But there’s a lot of noise — about 300,000 shows currently in iTunes. Rob Proctor estimated that one percent of those shows generate 95% of category revenue.



Brad Hill