Three years ago there were seven people from the radio business at Podcast Movement. That's not hyperbole. Along with public radio and hobbyists, there were only seven radio people. I was one of them. I was the first commercial broadcaster to speak at Podcast Movement. Three years later, it looks a lot different. A significant contingent from the radio business was at last week's conference, including several radio group heads. That says a lot about the rapid ascension of podcasting in general, and broadcasting specifically.
Some of the major themes heard at Podcast Movement:
Invigorating, energetic, transformative, frightening, opportunity, dynamic ad-serving, lots of radio-people, commercialization, smart-speakers.
Here are 8 takeaways from the conference:
- The industry is evolving rapidly – It was a cottage industry dominated by hobbyists, enthusiasts, small business and public radio. Now we see well financed aggregators, radio networks, radio groups, publishers and investors. Even Google was on hand.
- Young demos excited about audio - Sure, it's a YouTube video-centric generation, but most of Podcast Movement's 2,000 attendees are younger than a typical radio gathering and energized about audio storytelling and conversation. There is an intimacy and authenticity about listening to podcasts unmatched in other media, which is clearly attractive to this demo. Forbes Magazine ran a piece recently about millennials eschewing blogs for podcasts. That feels evident here.
- There is money out there – No one could miss the investment in the category. Just in the past couple of weeks Entercom announced its deal with DGital Media (now Cadence13), publisher platform Art19 attracted top investors. More financial announcements are forthcoming. Even some of the smaller podcasters smell the scent of cents, spending time in sessions on subjects like "dynamic ad insertion."
- Radio was there in force – The “Broadcaster Meets Podcaster” track assembled by Jacobs Media was packed. Seeing some radio group heads on hand was encouraging. It finally feels as though there is some traction, but commercial radio has a great deal of catching up to do. BTW, I will be discussing radio's path to podcasting during a keynote at the upcoming Radio Show in Austin.
The hallmark of podcasting is the innovative content and fresh ideas that come from fertile minds not bound by linear thinking and structure
- There is energy in new content ideas – The hallmark of podcasting is the innovative content and fresh ideas that come from fertile minds not bound by linear thinking and structure. I listened to and met people who are fearless in creating something that hasn’t been done before. I met with a guy who runs an HVAC business in Florida and married his knowledge with podcasting. His podcast has rapidly ascended to must-listen status in his industry and along with it, he has attracted sponsors from major HVAC vendors. He is bringing in dollars that would be the envy of any radio organization.
- Public Radio’s leadership is unmistakable – They continue to lead in content, sales and thinking. Listening to Dean Cappello from WNYC, New York and Tamar Charney from NPR detail the thought, planning, R&D, resources and iteration behind their efforts is incredibly impressive. I have been told that podcasting now out bills broadcast at WNYC. When you think about it that way, you can see why the effort is so significant. Jennifer Ferro, President of public giant KCRW, Los Angeles was on a panel I moderated entitled “What Radio Execs Think of Podcasting.” Jennifer said they use their podcast platform of 28 titles to introduce KCRW to younger listeners, many of whom do not listen over the terrestrial signal. They are using their voice effectively on multiple platforms.
- Teach – There is an openness and collegiality of sharing. Conversations abound about best-practices and content ideas that is characteristic of an early-stage industry. There is a sense that everyone is on a common journey.
- Content creators are data-starved – It’s hard operating in the blind. At previous Podcast Movement conferences, there was little data to share or inform. This year Larry Rosin and Tom Webster of Edison Research headlined a keynote with well received podcast data. My company teamed up with Nuvoodoo Media for a well attended session in which we debuted new data and video excerpts of 1-on-1 focus interviews with millennials (details forthcoming). These were the industry’s first significant studies.
Podcast Movement was once again inspiring and exhilarating. As Alex Blumberg said at last year's conference, "it's the second golden age of audio." It sure feels that way.
Here is coverage from All Access
I will be speaking on podcasting and smart speakers at a headliner session entitled: Radio's New Strategies and New Platforms on Wednesday at 4pm at the Radio Show. My special guest will be Kirk Minihane of WEEI, Boston who has brilliantly combined morning radio with a succesful podcast.