Podcasting has been both a trouble spot and curiosity for commercial radio. While the sector is blowing up, commercial radio is responsible for less than 1% of the audio listened to in podcasting. Part of the slow adoption is a concern among managers and programmers that on-demand audio will diminish the ratings eco-system so important to commercial radio. In short, a fear the ratings will go down.
At last week’s NAB/RAB Radio Show in Austin, I was invited to do a keynote on podcasting. As part of the presentation, I had the good fortune to bring to the stage WEEI, Boston's Kirk Minihane. In addition to co-hosting Kirk and Callahan, one of the top morning shows in Boston, he also hosts his own successful podcast Enough About Me. Since its inception two years ago the podcast, which is released bi-weekly, has grown to an impressive 150,000 monthly downloads.
One of the things which attracted Kirk to podcasting is the ability to break out beyond the restrictions of a fast-paced morning show. "I am not a huge fan of guests on the radio show" he said. He wanted to be able to take his time and interview Boston sports and media stars in a less frenetic environment, and podcasting was the ideal vehicle.
Minihane is a longtime podcast fan, listening to shows ranging from Marc Maron, podcasts about running, comedian Joe Rogan and Serial (first season) to David Axelrod many of which he listens to while running. He notes that ads read by hosts sound better and "seem perfectly natural."
Minihane said the podcast was part of his vision during a contract negotiation and he received a great deal of support. "Management wanted this to happen" he told the crowd. WEEI General Manager Phil Zachary and Entercom VP of Digital Strategy, Tim Murphy spearheaded the venture's conceptualization and development plan with Kirk.
Minihane told the crowd that the podcast is not an island. He regularly plays segments from the podcast during the morning show. For example, he had a contentious 10 minute interview segment with the Mets' Lenny Dykstra which made for great content on both platforms. Kirk said; "It's cross-promotion that wasn't available before."
Answering the question about whether the podcast has siphoned listeners from on-air, he told the crowd that the podcast numbers continue to grow at the same time the morning show ratings have ascended. In fact, the morning show has risen to the top spot in Boston over the past few months and part of that includes a rise of younger (25-34) listeners matching the younger profile of most podcasts.
Asked about whether the podcast attracts new listeners or they mostly come from the radio program, he felt that social media indicators showed that the podcast was exposing him to new listeners, and some who were not familiar with him on WEEI.
Kirk's advice: “If you’re on the air and there’s something you’re passionate about that you don’t get to talk about on the air, do it. If you find a core loyal audience, advertisers will follow. And what I’ve found is that people who found the podcast didn’t know me on the radio, and then have tuned in there and liked what they hear.”
"Enough About Me" is a great audio brand extension for WEEI and a great tool in moving a top market talent onto multiple platforms.
Congratulations to Kirk for the foresight and Entercom for the leadership. It was a pleasure having him during the keynote session, Radio's New Strategies and New Platforms which I shared with Fred Jacobs. Fred covered an important study his firm assembled about how radio can look better in the dashboard. More coverage about both parts of the keynote here