With Midroll acquired by E.W. Scripps a few weeks ago, and this week's announcement of Hubbard buying into Podcast One, the podcast sector is receiving a great deal of attention from mainstream media.
This past weekend I spent time in the 100 degree Texas heat with 1,000 audio enthusiasts at Podcast Movement, a two year-old energetic conference that captures the momentum of the category.
The gathering was populated by hobbyists excited to do a “radio show,” professionals looking to use audio as a tactic to market their business, journalists including NPR and related entities and entertainers aggressively building audience.
It felt a great deal like a radio conference from 15 years ago -- the event was loaded with energy and optimism. Sessions were packed with attendees dedicated to improving their programs by mastering new strategies about how best to construct shows, conduct more effective guest interviews, increase monetization and tactics to grow their audience with social media and other tools.
Keynotes included Sarah Koenig of Serial (downloaded more than 68 million times) Roman Mars of 99% Invisible (over 40 million downloads), Comedian Aisha Tyler and her “Girl on Guy” podcast (6 million downloads) and Marc Maron of WTF who told the entertaining story of having President Obama come to his garage/studio for his podcast (2.4 million for that one episode).
NPR staff and related public radio companies were in full force sharing information about their fast growing podcast effort and the process of writing, creating and editing podcasts which now account for 1/3rd of all NPR listening. Roman Mars talked about the creative process and the $620,000 in crowdfunding his company has garnered. Remarkably, these are fans volunteering to pay for the program.
I was asked to present and offered a session featuring 9 proven and effective tactics from radio to improve podcasts.
Largely, commercial broadcasting was MIA. I was one of only a handful of people from the radio industry at the conference. I counted 8.
It is a noticeably younger crowd than one might see at radio gatherings. Many are millennials who could just as easily be creating content for You Tube but are jazzed about audio.
One could not help but think that while radio commiserates over its "talent puddle" and no longer using overnights and weekends to develop talent, that the next generation of audio people have migrated and found a new place to "work it out." They are tackling targeted programming and fresh ideas.
To be sure, podcasting has its distribution and monetization challenges. Those were covered in great detail and yet there was tremendous optimism and excitement.
They were in Texas. In August. In the broiling heat.
It was very energizing, and yet somehow unsettling.
Did I mention, there were only 8 people from the radio business there?
What an opportunity.