James Cridland

Will podcasting eat radio?

Last week saw Edison Research release its latest Podcast Consumer data. It’s a good piece of research that is the most quoted data about podcasting. With over ten years of data, it’s also a good tool to help watch trends.

As part of the data release, Edison Research published an updated Share of Ear study, which shows the amount of audio that Americans put in their ears. Radio is 58% of all audio (AM/FM/SiriusXM); podcasting is just 4% of the total.

It’s tempting to assume from this 4% figure that podcasts are tiny. The research excitedly claims that podcast’s Share of Ear has doubled in four years; but the cynic might dismiss this by saying that twice nothing is still nothing.

In most cases, however, radio listening is a habitual and automatic thing. Start up your car, and you start up your radio, too. The radio alarm clock wakes you up with the radio. It’s altogether too much hassle to spend time producing playlists for the office or shop, so radio typically wins there, too.

Podcasts are different: they’re deliberately chosen and requested. Given that they’re speech, rather than music, they typically have the full attention of the listener. They’re mostly enjoyed on headphones, rather than speakers. It’s very different listening behaviour.

The Share of Ear™️ study is more revealing when it comes to podcast listeners. Of people who say they’ve listened to a podcast in the last 24 hours, podcasts account for a third of all audio. Broadcast radio (AM/FM/SiriusXM) accounts for less — just 30%.

This does appear to show that podcasts have a negative effect on broadcast radio listening. As we discover more podcasts we like, it appears to take a hit on radio consumption.

Some radio groups have a strategy here: sell ads on both. That’s certainly the case in Australia, where NOVA have partnered with Acast, and SCA represent PodcastOne properties. Last week the US’s Wondery partnered with Global’s DAX to sell ads on Wondery podcasts in the UK.

Some radio groups also have a content strategy, too. Australia’s Hamish and Andy finished broadcasting their PM drive show on SCA stations last year, but continue to be available as a podcast through Podcast One. Shorter pieces of content from broadcasters, like news bulletins, are available on most smart speakers. The UK’s Global is producing ‘best-of’ podcasts for, for example, listeners of the Chris Moyles Show on Radio X; Australia’s NOVA Entertainment are encouraging and monetising new podcast-only shows.

However, I can’t escape the feeling that many radio companies are yet to take advantage of podcasting. There are radio studios to hire out; content-makers to nurture; commissions to earn on ads and sponsors. Reformatting broadcast audio for podcast use is also an opportunity (easier if it’s pre-produced, naturally); but producing good, local non-broadcast content that might attract a different audience might also work well.

There are real opportunities in podcasting — both in additional revenue and marketing, but also in future-proofing the radio business as a whole. I’d be keen to learn which radio businesses have properly grasped podcasting; and to understand why so many haven’t, yet, taken the plunge.