New Post Xmas Smart Speaker Data - Now One-in-Six Americans

Edison Research and NPR released their latest Smart Speaker study at CES this week, including post-holiday purchase data.  The trajectory, while no longer surprising, is still remarkable.  

Here are a couple of interesting stats and highlights:

Smart speaker 16%.png


With the holiday surge, one-in-six Americans, 18+, own a smart speaker. So in a matter of no time, 39 million Americans have at least one of these devices.  The ascension is remarkable. It took the iPod 4 years hit 50 million users.  3 years after Apple's iPhone introduction, 14% of Americans owned a smartphone (Edison, Infinite Dial).

7% This Holiday

Happy holidays! 7% unwrapped a smart speaker this holiday season.


Amazon echo dominates with two-thirds of the market.  But Google is clearly going all out.  Heavy marketing during the holiday season followed by a big presence at this week’s CES. The stakes are high for dominance in this new category.  For Google, voice search threatens their current ad search business.  Protect ......

smart audio replacing.png

39% Listening Less to AM/FM

The data illustrates pattern changing.  Most pronounced is AM/FM radio which tops the list of time replacement with people using smart speakers.  39% report listening less to AM/FM with the advent of smart speakers in their lives.  Smart Speakers amp up choice with 100,000 radio stations, 425,000 podcasts and 5 major streaming audio services.  


7 out of 10 people report listening to more audio with smart speakers.  It is a frictionless experience with instantaneous gratification.  That's a clear consumer win.  


64% have an interest in smart speaker technology in their cars.  That’s certainly coming.  Toyota for example just announced Amazon Alexa for their fleet.  Car companies are actively integrating the technology which will democratize in-car choice.  

60% play music

60% play music on their smart speakers. That tops the list of things people do by a wide margin. The next closest is "answer a question" at 30%.  13% report requesting AM/FM radio with friends and family.  No mention of podcasts in this report.  

smart speaker rooms.png

52% in the family room

The dominant placement of smart speakers is in the family room or similar location.  This harkens back to FDR's fireside chats with the radio in the living room enabling communal use of audio for the first time in generations. Kitchen (21%) followed by Master Bedroom (19%)

The big story at CES this year by all accounts is audio.  New capabilities and new content are happening fast.  Our Sonic Ai partnership with Jacobs Media focuses on creating great audio experiences.  Great experiences are everything with so much choice. 

Thanks to Edison Research and NPR for tracking this explosive new category.




Why Voice Matters in 2018



With the continued ascent of podcasting and the rocket ship trajectory of smart speakers, this has been proclaimed "the year of audio."  It is hard to know who said it first, but the sentiment is all over.  This week's CES show in Las Vegas will be dominated by the "AI" battle between Amazon's Alexa and Google Home, along with others from Microsoft and Samsung. This is the first time Google will appear at CES and the approach is full-on.  

In a video centric Netflix and YouTube world, the rise of audio is remarkable. Smart Speakers are expected to grow 60% this year, on top of the 279% growth last year.  The arc is to the convenience and control of audio-on-demand.

A lot of people have made the case for audio, but none better, or more compelling than noted marketer and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck.  Gary is his own rich multi-platform juggernaut running a full service digital agency, a podcast, videos and is a frequent speaker.

Gary makes his case for audio in two minutes.  There are a couple of expletives in here, so beware:

Direct link to the video here 

Thanks to Sharon Taylor CEO at Omny Studio for the video



Audio 2018 - Watch These Numbers


Rather than another obligatory prediction column, I've gathered some stats worth looking at and thinking about as we begin 2018.  So, as they say on Marketplace, "Lets do the numbers."



1 million

The number of morning podcasts listeners as well as the number of morning show podcasts is on the rise.  "The Daily" from The New York Times and NPR’s "Up First" were two of the three most downloaded new shows of 2017 with an estimated download audience of nearly 1 million each day between them.  Non-broadcast companies such as Buzzfeed are already in and others such as Vox enter the category shortly, which has the potential to shake up radio’s lock on morning listening. 

One year

It has taken podcasting about 12 years to get to 60% of general public awareness.  Smart Speakers have hit that mark in one year.

25,000 Skills

At the start of the year, there were 5,000 skills for Amazon’s Echo device.  The year closed out with more than 25,000 skills.  With tens of millions of people unboxing Echo Dots over the holidays, they can get Nicolas Cage trivia, taco facts and just about anything else you can think of. Jacobs Media & Jacapps President Fred Jacobs says it is reminiscent of the early days of apps. Remember fart apps?  Well Alexa can do that too. 70% of people report listening to more audio when they have a smart speaker, but there is a plethora of choice.  Will people learn how to “enable” skills and easily find podcasts and streaming radio or will the greatest beneficiaries be the default music services from Amazon and Google?  

30 percent

According to Gartner Research, in 2018 nearly 1/3 of search (30%) will be done by voice interaction and "conversation" with smart machines.  The implications of the shift to voice search is seismic for companies like Google who count on most of their revenue from advertising.  That's around $74 billion and explains the aggressive development from Samsung, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and others.  

58,420 podcasts

There are now over 420,000 podcast titles covering a vast array of topics, but the biggest, by a wide margin is Religion & Spirituality with 58,420 titles.  That represents over 13% of all podcast entries.  For contrast, comedy has 32,000.  You can read a full analysis we did here. We are clearly in a bubble with new podcasts being launched at an amazing rate.  Who has time to listen to all of this stuff?  According to Libsyn, the average podcast has 1,632 downloads (removing the top and bottom 1%).  The attrition rate is rapidly rising as well.  “Pod-fade” is a real thing as many learn the difficulty of producing quality content and garnering a following on a regular basis.   

62 percent

Digital music downloads dropped by almost 25% in 2017, while streamed audio accelerated its pace and is now responsible for 62% of the music industry’s revenue.   How does this affect podcasting?  The streamers are aggressively incorporating podcast content (Spotify) into their offerings.  Look for more from other players including Pandora. Sirius/XM, quietly launched an app called Spoke this past year and now has common financial stewardship with Pandora via investor Liberty Media.  This enables more sources for podcast content across new platforms.

1 out of 5

Over a year later, this is among the most important trend statistics to watch.  It represents the percent of all audio minutes being consumed on smartphones.  This number from Edison Research is sure to rise as the smartphone becomes even more of an entertainment hub.  That number is sharply higher already among millennial listeners which dominate podcasting.

59 percent of iPhone users

Apple released its analytics package just before the end of the year.  Podcast creators and advertisers know little, but now will know more, about actual listening patterns, time spent, drop-off patterns, etc.  Only those with IOS 11 (59% of iPhone users) or iTunes 12.7 will be in the sample.  Of course a fraction of those are podcast listeners, but  the trends will discern podcast winners and losers. Do people sit through six minutes of ads at the start of a podcast? Will overall podcast length tighten up? Count on change.    

2.6 million cable cutters

Cord cutting is moving mainstream.  Pay-TV providers are seeing the escalation of cord-cutting.  MoffetNathanson reported 2.6 million people cut the cord through September of 2017, in addition to 1.7 million in 2016.  In tandem, streaming TV or OTT providers such as Netflix, are on fire.  This explains the Disney-Fox merger as media companies are learning that distribution is challenging content for the king's throne. 

There are so many trends to watch as 2018 unfolds including podcast discovery, analytics, monetization, voice-to-text ..... the list grows.  

This is the year of voice.  Enjoy the ride.  






We have selected a few "best of " posts from Blogstein in 2017 and been running them this week.  Here is one of the more popular.


According to Apple, there are now over 400,000 podcast titles out there. Last I looked there were 35 on the subject of woodworking and over 40 on fly fishing. So, as you think about selecting a topic and leaping in to develop your own podcast, there are some critical questions which jump ahead of which mic to use.

Good product design always starts with the end-user in mind. I didn't know I needed a new blender, but Ninja made a great case. Same goes with podcasting. If your podcast doesn't provide a clear perceived benefit and value right from the start, the chance of garnering a following is pretty limited. 


Content that resonates with listeners successfully answers these 8 key litmus test questions:

  • What is the podcast about? - What is the elevator pitch?
  • Why this podcast? - You could select from a myriad of subjects.  Why this topic? Knowledge?  Authority?  Credibility?
  • Why this podcast now? - Has something changed in the world, showbiz, news-cycle, to make the timing right?
  • What makes this podcast different/unique? - What is the fresh take?
  • What makes this podcast better than others in the category?
  • People click on podcasts with an expectation - What will they feel during/after listening?
    • What will they learn? 
    • How will it make them feel? 
    • Will they smile? Laugh? Cry? Think? 
  • Who is going to listen to this podcast?  - Who is the target listener?  Age?  Location?  
  • How will the podcast be discovered? - Social?  Broadcast? Print? What is the promotion catalyst? Frequency of cross-marketing?

Solid answers to these important questions is a critical component to a successful podcast launch.  There is a lot of content out there, all seeking the play button. 

Happy New Year to all.  





Why Radio Needs to Get Smart Speakers Right

All this week, we are featuring "best of" blogs from Blogstein.  


Today, television is primarily an on-demand medium, having crossed the 50% threshold from "live" a few years ago. People watch shows at a time of their choosing. 

Commercial radio has not yet mastered time-shifted audio. According to Nielsen, listening to time-shifted commercial radio in PPM markets is less than 1%.

All of that is poised for change as smartphones become entertainment hubs and millions of smart speakers make their way into bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens across America.

Radio can now more easily be consumed at a time of convenience on a device of the listener's choosing. 

In a fragmented listening world, new devices and platforms are a remarkable opportunity for audience retention for radio in ways that could never have been done before, and it opens the door to the possibility of increased occasions of listening. 

At-home radio listening has declined significantly and radios are sitting in closets and attics. But with 11% of Americans already having access to smart speakers, and 27 million due to be sold this year, as we like to say, smart speakers put radios back into the home. 

These devices are hot.  This past week Amazon held it's Prime Day and blew the doors off of last year's sales of Amazon Echo and Dots.  Three times as many sold.

Along with the excellent folks at Jacobs Media, we recently started SonicAi, a joint venture focused on developing "skills" for smart speakers. 

Here are some things to think about:

1.     Being there is not an automatic win - Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and thousands of radio stations from around the world are a simple voice command away. That means it is crowded and stations need to think about how they will distinguish themselves. 

2.     What's your name? - Smart speaker systems default to Tune-In, and iHeart, but for your station to be selected, the devices must be able to differentiate station names. There are 55 stations named "Kiss" on iHeart, and 44 named "Mix" on Tune-in. If your station uses a name such as Mix, Lite, Amp, Star, or Z104, "claiming" and registering the station's unique name and creating the proper "invocation skill" is critically important. On Amazon's Echo, if you said "Z100," up until recently, you were connected to a country station in Indiana. 

3.     Think beyond the stream - We are content guys and we don't think the station stream is necessarily the big win on these devices. There is a significant opportunity to create interactive engagement with listeners. 80% of a top performing morning show's content is missed every day. We are working with clients on the vast opportunity to re-think and repurpose "bite-size" benchmark content and create exclusive content for smart speakers to drive traffic. 

4.     It's accretive - If your station is in a PPM market and time-shifted content is listened to within 24 hours, it can mean extra quarter hours for your station. Delayed viewing in TV is accretive and now radio has a time delay strategy.  

5.     Think "bite-size" content - With podcasting, we see stations posting 3 and 4 hours of content and hoping listeners will sift through it. That's a pretty horrible experience. We think curated "bite-size" content works much better in this environment. 

It is truly early innings with these remarkable devices and more (including Apple Homepod) on the way. The arc and expectation of listeners - especially millennials - is that great content be available at a time of convenience on all platforms. We are hyper-focused on getting radio stations past sending all their best content out over the air and on its way to the dwarf planet Pluto. Sometimes technology disrupts, in this case it is poised to aid broadcasting. 

You can see more at




Here is How Radio and Podcasting Work Together Magnificently

We are loading up a couple of "Best Of" Blogs from 2017.  

Steve Goldstein (L) and Kirk Minihane (R) at The Radio Show in Austin, TX.

Steve Goldstein (L) and Kirk Minihane (R) at The Radio Show in Austin, TX.

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. 

The podcast, which is released bi-weekly, has grown to an impressive 150,000 monthly downloads


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. 

People who found the podcast didn’t know me on the radio, and then have tuned in there and liked what they hear

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




How The Dave Ramsey Radio Show Became The Fourth Biggest Podcast Of 2017


When Apple released their Top 20 podcasts of 2017 last week, there was only one commercial radio show on the list, and  it was lodged right up near the top at number 4.  Unlike public radio, which dominates the podcast charts, winners from commercial radio have been elusive.  Except for this one. This is the story of how one syndicated radio show vaulted to the top of the podcast charts. 

In a sea of right wing talk radio, Dave Ramsey’s daily 3-hour show stands out for what it is not – it’s not about politics.  It is a caller-driven show which most often revolves around money and personal finance.  Ramsey is known for consistent and solid advice for getting ordinary Americans out of debt by cutting up credit cards or selling the car they can’t afford.


I have been to the Ramsey Solutions sprawling office campus just outside of Nashville. There are 650 team members creating content of all types which include 11 best-selling books, Financial Peace University attended by more than 4.5 million people, a high school and college curriculum currently offered in 16,000 high schools and educational institutions, and the list rolls on.  

At the core of Ramsey’s success is a highly successful radio show and now, podcast. 

I spoke with Dave’s SVP of Media, Brian Mayfield, about the success of the podcast.


Steve: Congratulations on the big win.

Brian: Thank you so much; we are humbled and incredibly excited.

Steve: How many downloads per month gets you to the #4 slot on the Apple chart for 2017?

Brian: Around 10 million downloads per month.  It’s a three hour show and so we produce three individual hours for podcast each day. This translates to 15 individual podcasts per week.  

Steve: What’s the difference between the over-the-air audience and the podcast audience?

Brian: The terrestrial broadcast of The Dave Ramsey Show has a 50/50 male to female split, with an average age of 47 - a little younger than the national average for talk radio. Our podcast, however, tends to skew heavier male – with a 60/40 split. The income level increases dramatically, with the average age decreasing to 37.

Steve: That’s a big difference age-wise. With the success of the podcast, what's been the impact on the radio show ratings?  Any cannibalization?

Brian: We just completed a listener survey of our audience with a sample size of 116,000 listeners. I can confidently say there has been no negative impact on our radio audience. In this year alone, we've increased our radio audience by more than a million listeners while our podcast continues to grow.

Steve: Are the podcast listeners former radio listeners or new to the show?   

Brian: According to our research they are not the same listener. 85% of our radio show listeners don't listen to podcasts. Conversely, when we questioned our podcast listeners, we found 85% percent do not listen to the show on the radio – it’s a completely different audience.

Steve: Why do you think this show has done so well in podcasting?

Brian: It’s the content. We teach people how to get out of debt, get on a budget and live on less than they make. In an on-demand environment where people are searching for answers on money, Dave is the authority. This kind of advice resonates with every demographic.  Part of our show’s success is that the audience consistently regenerates itself.  

Steve: So, its actionable content for a younger demo?

Brian:  It's on-demand, meaning the listener is coming to us. It differs from radio, however, where a listener tends to be more passive.

Steve: When do you post the podcast?

Mayfield - SVP Ramsey Media.jpg

Brian: It posts daily, an hour following the show.

.Steve: Let's talk about the money side of it.  How do you monetize the podcast?

Brian: We've tested a couple of different initiatives. We started out with one 60-second break in each podcast which was fairly successful.  However, we felt in an on-demand environment a 60-second exposure to an ad could have a less than positive effect on the listening experience. So we adjusted to two 30-second spots within each hour.  

"A limited supply of ad space increases the value of the ad as well as the quality of the program" 

Steve: So only two spots for each podcast download, which runs about 40 minutes?

Brian:  Correct. There's no need to over commercialize. The listener is there for the content, not the commercial.  A limited supply of ad space increases the value of the ad as well as the quality of the program.  We have never taken the route of Direct Response advertising, so we don't need to increase the spot load to achieve revenue goals.

Steve: Are there different advertisers than the over-the-air advertisers?

Brian: It's a healthy mix, about 50/50, which is exciting in that it has opened up a completely new revenue stream. We also have the power of the Dave Ramsey endorsement which allows the ad to flow like content within the program.

Steve: What percent of the spots would you say are Dave endorsements versus other types of recorded spots?

Brian: Ninety percent.

Steve: Are you considering more ads in a podcast?

Brian: No, we have found our lane and are happy with the success. My focus is on growing the audience which will grow the revenue.  Our commitment is to the listener, not the necessarily the advertiser.  Success comes from finding the right advertisers, who when exposed to our listenership, see immediate success through an on-brand connection.  I have found over many years in the advertising business that delivering positive results for the advertiser trumps ratings every time.

Steve: All of the advertising is sold by your own staff, not a podcast network?

Brian: Yes. Our media team manages all aspects relating to syndication of the radio show, development and distribution of digital products, affiliate relations, marketing and national sales of The Dave Ramsey Show.

Steve: What about other podcasts?

Brian: As Ramsey Solutions continues to grow, so does our goal of distributing additional content outside of Dave.  We have a team of individual personalities that do a phenomenal job with this. Rachel Cruze, Dave’s daughter, has two best-selling books and is a regular contributor on shows like Good Morning America, Rachel Ray, FOX News, and more. Chris Hogan is a recognized expert in the retirement space. He hosts his own successful podcast, is a national best-selling author, and is a regular contributor on FOX News as well. We've just launched the Ken Coleman show on the Ramsey Network on Sirius/XM, which is also repurposed into a podcast. Christie Wright speaks to thousands of women through Live Events via her own Podcast and Video blogs, and has a best-selling book. Chris Brown is the host of his own podcast titled Life, Money, Hope.

“The one thing I can promise you is, if you do nothing, nothing new will happen.”

Steve: What’s your advice to radio people who have been hesitant to get into podcasting?

Brian: Don't be afraid to try something new. We continue to grow our radio audience and we continue to grow our digital audience. When you have the right kind of content people will find it. In the digital world, they will actively seek it out. Don't be afraid to try new things in a different space or concept.  We found that the digital world is completely different from the terrestrial radio world, but it is an important extension to our brand. The one thing I can promise you is, if you do nothing, nothing new will happen.

Steve:  How are people discovering and learning about the podcast?

Brian: We have our own marketing team focused on digital audience growth. The podcast community loves to share good podcasts with one another and we have been blessed to grow that way. And we are consistently listed in the weekly "Top Podcasts" on Apple.

Steve: Where to next?

Brian: I want to continue to grow not only the terrestrial audience but have a goal of doubling our total digital audience in 2018 which includes podcasts, online video channel, iHeart Radio show, and digital stream.  There is a huge audience seeking content and we want to meet them where they are.

Brian is right; take great content and meet the audience where they are. That's the mantra.  

I am a guest on Matt Cundill's "Sound Off Podcast" this week discussing Smart Speakers. Find it here.




Which Podcast Categories Have The Most Titles? You May Be Surprised.

Last week we did an X-ray of the top 200 podcasts from Apple’s podcast charts and divided them by subject matter. The findings were revealing and created a good deal of chatter.  Just 4 of Apple’s 16 categories are responsible for over 2/3rds of the Top 200.   You can see the post here.

This time, we were curious about the types of shows that comprise the 420,000 podcasts on Apple Podcasts.  We picked a random day in October. The chart below shows what may include a few surprises.  

Religion & Spirituality tops the 16 major podcast categories in Apple Podcasts with over 58,000 titles

Religion & Spirituality tops the 16 major podcast categories in Apple Podcasts with over 58,000 titles

There are more podcasts about religion and related issues than any other topic. 

Let’s start at the top.  

  • Region & Spirituality is by far the largest podcast category - Put simply, there are more podcasts about religion and related issues than any other topic - over 58,000 individual titles from Joel Osteen to Elevation Church to Tara Branch on Buddhist meditation.  The category accounts for 13% of all podcasts. If you are looking for Oprah, she is in Society & Culture.  
  • Given the arcane rules of music licensing in podcasting, we were surprised that music is the 3rd biggest category - Expected titles such as "Song Exploder" are here, along with lots of mix shows and time-shifted radio shows.  I don’t want to even think about the rights infringement that is occurring among these 41,000 titles.  You might want to refer back to the most-read blog post we have ever run; "Why can't music be played in podcasts?"
  • Arts is #4 - Arts is a compendium of lots of varied topics ranging from architecture to food. You'll find NPR's "Fresh Air," "99% Invisible", book review shows and food podcasts including "Sporkful" in this category of 38,000 titles.  
  • News & Politics - This category drove the second highest number of shows in the top 200 (34) analysis we did, yet is far down as the 11th category in terms of podcast titles.  For some perspective, that's  almost 2/3 fewer than the number of titles in Religion.  We surmise, this has to do with the relative cost of creating effective content in this sector.  
This chart provides a view featuring the percent each category comprises of the 420,000 podcast title in existence. 

This chart provides a view featuring the percent each category comprises of the 420,000 podcast title in existence. 

Last year there were some 460 actively produced shows in all of television, which includes over-the-air and cable. Contrast that to 32,000 podcasts just in the comedy section of Apple Podcasts.

We took the same data and sliced it differently in the chart above.  We show the percent each of the 16 major categories represent.  For example, 8% of all podcasts are related to education.

The data is illustrative on many levels.  For example, those who think that podcast discovery is not an issue need look no further than any single category. As a means of comparison, last year there were some 460 actively produced shows in all of television, which includes over-the-air and cable. Contrast that to 32,000 podcasts just in the comedy section of Apple Podcasts.

Not all podcasts are designed to swing for the fences.  There are many hobbyist and business podcasts, which by design, appeal to smaller but enthusiastic audiences. In fact, Libsyn, which releases monthly data on their large platform of podcasts, reports the median number of downloads in October was 151, and grading it on a curve, dropping the lowest and highest 1%, it comes in around 1,600 per podcast.

There are lots of ways to gauge success in podcasting.  Renowned business consultant Clayton Christensen may offer the best advice - be clear on the job the audience is hiring you to do. 

A great short video on the subject.

Once again thanks to Chadd Hallowed for his remarkable data wizardry.  




What types of shows dominate the podcast charts?

If one were to start a podcast today, what subject matter should they choose to increase their chance of success?  Certainly, with over 400,000 podcast titles in existence and 1,000 more being added weekly, the world isn’t craving another comedy or sports podcast.  Or is it?

It is hard to determine whether we are in the first inning of podcasting, or at “peak” audio with a cornucopia of choice including AM/FM radio, satellite, owned music, streaming, and of course podcasts. The impediments of discovery and limits of personal time are the enemies of so much choice.  

The impediments of discovery and limits of personal time are the enemies of so much choice.  

We know from history, a myriad of factors lead to success in content - execution and timing top the list. We also know that certain content genres tend to perform better than others.  Just look at TV and its ability to constantly reinvent medical drama shows over the years from Marcus Welby, M.D. to Grey's Anatomy.  Some story areas are durable and rich.

When we approached the idea of delving in and examining podcast content by genre, we had no ideology other than being pretty sure no one ever needs another podcast about podcasts – rather we simply wanted to see what is currently “printing” in podcasting as a matter of interest and general direction. 

We confined ourselves to Apple’s 16 major podcast categories as delineated in iTunes.  Some are pretty logical and clear, while others are a bit of a hodge-podge.  None-the-less, it is a good place to start.

We took a look at the Top 200 podcast chart from iTunes on a random day in October to see what categories dominate and in what proportion.

We took a look at the Top 200 podcast chart from iTunes on a random day in October to see what categories dominate and in what proportion.

The Top 200 Shows on Apples iTunes podcast chart one day in October

The Top 200 Shows on Apples iTunes podcast chart one day in October

Here are some of the findings:   

  • Two-thirds (67%) of the top podcasts come from just four categories – Society & Culture, News & Politics, Comedy and Sports. 
  • The most (25%), is driven by just one category - Society & Culture.  It is a wide-ranging category with everything from Dan Carlin’s hardcore history to S-Town, Dirty John and Freakonomics radio.  In fact, Society & Culture is the second largest category with over 48,000 titles.
  • News & Politics and Comedy are neck and neck – 34 and 32 titles respectively in the Top 200.  We were a bit surprised at relatively how few entries are in News & Politics, especially in this rich political cycle.  News & Politics has 18,000 titles ranking it 11th of the 16 major categories. Success in this category is probably linked to the early dominance of public radio and the cost barrier of producing news related content. Comedy, as a category description, is more straight forward and includes titles such as Joe Rogan, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, Marc Maron's WTF, etc. 
  • Sports comes in 4th among the top 200 (23 titles) – Barstool Sports, 30 for 30 from ESPN, The Ringer, Steve Austin and others lead the way.  Sports is the 9th most popular category in terms of titles.  

None of this is a perfect science, but directionally, it is most interesting. We will come back to it with future analytics slicing the pie more finely by adding sub-genres such as crime dramas.  There seems to be an insatiable appetite for murder in podcasting.

This analysis also reveals opportunity not yet realized.  For example, Games & Hobbies, with over 20,000 entries is currently a no-show in the top 200 - but it could be big if the right content were to come along.  Gaming is giant on smartphone apps and YouTube. 

Flanking and originality must be part of the formula going forward. 

There is the famous last-minute decision at CBS-TV, where a key producer was sent by CEO Les Moonves to watch two crime shows after the top programming executives were having difficulty choosing a final show for prime time. One was a typical detective show starring Tony Danza, the other, a science-based crime show called CSI.  After viewing the pilots for both, the producer said he had seen the Danza show "a million times before," but had never seen a show like CSI.  Apparently, that sentiment was shared by millions of viewers after CBS execs chose CSI. The program instantly became TV's number one show in 2004.  

The inverse argument can also be made – fish where the fish are.  In which case, content producers should work on development in hot sectors and create a value proposition in a proven vertical.

Quick thoughts from our analytics:

We know from decades of creating and advising on audio content development and marketing:

  • Choice kills, sameness kills and being average kills - This is especially true in a sea of podcasts.  
  • Duplicating content is generally a flawed strategy - Flank with unique content in underserved areas 
  • Different can be good - Originality must be part of the formula going forward. 

Special thanks to "data monster" Chadd Hollowed.  More to come. 





How Many Will Buy a Smart Speaker This Holiday Season?

In April, we joined forces with Jacobs Media and its Jacapps division and formed Sonic Ai.  We develop smart speaker “skills” for radio stations and podcasters, and have seen the business quickly morph beyond development to advising clients on audio tactics and strategies for this fast-growing category.  If you were starting a video network, you would need to do more than just buy a camera.  It’s pretty much the same deal here.  

These new devices, the Alexa voice Echo and Echo Dot from Amazon, along with Google’s Home and Home Mini, have generated a lot of buzz. Both are aggressively marketing their voice-controlled gadgets at low prices on national television, leading us to wonder whether this will be an “Alexa Christmas” (and Hanukah).

Yesterday, Sonic Ai, Jacobs Media and Jacapps released the results of a flash poll gauging the momentum of smart speakers for this holiday season. Here are some highlights: 

Our national web survey was conducted less than week ago – before Black Friday and Cyber Monday – from November 17-21, 2017, among 1,005 respondents age 13 and older.  So this data is very fresh.

1 out of every 6 households already have one – That is remarkable.  The momentum is astonishing. In May, Edison Research and NPR released a major study on Smart Speakers and household penetration was at 7%. Edison forecasted a sharp rise.  Here we are 7 months later and 18% of all online households report owning at least one of these gadgets (that’s more than in one of every six homes).  

Smart-Speaker-2017-Holiday- 1 in 6_pdf.png


4 out of 10 own more than one - Tracking with previous studies, people who own one are likely to own more than one.  Four out of ten own more than one smart speaker, placing them in various locations around the home

People want them for the holidays - A whopping one in five (20%) of those surveyed say they plan to purchase a smart speaker during the 2017 holiday season for themselves or as a gift.


Nearly 7 out of 10 have enabled at least one “skill” -  Most people who own an Echo have “enabled” at least one “skill.”  That’s a good sign listeners aren’t just using these devices as timers and ways to access the weather.  It also suggests that being in there now is critically important as habits are being formed.  


You can learn more about how your station or podcast can participate in the strategic development of Alexa “skills” by contacting or 888-776-6422 – our company’s partnership dedicated to radio, podcasting, and smart speaker audio strategy.

Thanks to Jacobs Media’s new Research Director, Jason Hollins who conducted the poll.

The full slide deck is here




What Would You Have For Your Last Meal?


Rachel Belle loves food and loves to talk about it.  So, when Bonneville Seattle President and General Manager Carl Gardener kicked off one of the more aggressive podcast initiatives in commercial radio, Rachel was standing at the front of the line.  Belle is a long-time newscaster and personality on KIRO’s popular afternoon show, The Ron and Don Show, and a freelance food writer, who has written for Lucky Peach and Eater. 

Carl and his team ran an internal competition for podcast ideas and Rachel proposed interviewing celebrities about what they would like to eat for their last meal and then digging into the history and culture of that dish.  It is a provocative and fun podcast and Rachel’s platform to talk about her passion – food.  It is also a marvelous example of the ingenuity of radio people thinking beyond the transmitter.

I caught up with Rachel recently.  

STEVE: Which came first, the interest in podcasting or the interest in food?

RACHEL: Oh god! The interest in food! I mean, I've been interested in food since I was a little tiny kid, so before podcasting was invented.


I grew up in one of those families where when you're eating breakfast you're talking about lunch and then you're talking about dinner and my dad, who was born in Romania and grew up in Israel, was just really into food and that's something I picked up from him.  I grew up about 40 minutes outside of San Francisco and we would often go into the city to eat dim sum. I ate chicken feet when I was, like, three years old and my dad used to eat the eyeballs off of fish and so I grew up being somebody who likes to eat weird things.

STEVE: How did you end up with “Your Last Meal?”

RACHEL: It must have been about ten years ago, I was researching something online for a story I was working on and I came across a website, a really crude website, one of those really 90s ones with bad fonts, and it was a list of the last meal of every prisoner who had been executed in Texas. I started reading everybody's last meals -- most people wanted fried chicken -- and I became morbidly curious and obsessed with the topic of last meals.

When KIRO decided that they were going to introduce some new podcasts, they said that we could pitch, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.


STEVE: How was the Mario Batali interview? 

RACHEL: Oh, that was really great -- there's a quality in people… I just interviewed Paula Deen this week and she has the quality as well, where they act as if it's the first time they've ever been interviewed, as if it was the first time they've ever been asked that question. He's just genuinely excited about food, he doesn't seem like he's gone the way of the celebrity chef who is no longer in the kitchen.

STEVE: What’s the difference between a broadcast and podcast?

RACHEL: Moving from broadcasting to podcasting has been a little bit more difficult than I thought.  I record my podcast in the same studio where I record my broadcast stuff and it's hard for me to switch my brain from being more newsy, to being more casual and talking about food and a lighter topic.

I am trying to be more conversational, which is easy for me when I’m doing live radio, and interacting with another host. But my podcast is very produced, and requires a script, so I’m working to sound like myself while reading something.

My podcast means more to me than any other thing I've worked on because it's really personal

STEVE: I am sure you are multi-tasking like everyone else in radio – how important is the podcast?


RACHEL:  My podcast means more to me than any other thing I've worked on because it's really personal. It's not as good as I want it to be because I don't have the time with all my other job responsibilities to do it exactly how I want.

STEVE: What's the synergy between KIRO and your podcast?

RACHEL When one of my podcast episodes can transfer to the talk radio format, I put together a feature story that I can play on the talk show that I'm on with Ron and Don. A couple of months ago my guest was Justin Britt, a Seattle Seahawk and the NFL was all over the news because of the debate over players refusing to stand for the national anthem, so it was easy to boil the podcast down into a feature and promote Your Last Meal on the radio.

We also do this cool promotion where listeners can, for example, text “Pizza” to 98973 and they will automatically receive a text with a link to the podcast. When we announce this on air, we see our text line blowing up.

STEVE: That’s brilliant.  How is the show doing?   

RACHEL: We have been at it about a year and getting about 20,000 downloads per month, so we have a way to go, but every month it is rising.  And we are making money.  We have a sponsor. 

STEVE: Um, so what would your last meal be?

RACHEL: My last meal would be raw oysters. I love them. I don’t even need any condiments. No lemon or mignonette. Ever since I shucked my first fresh oysters, straight off of Washington beaches, I like them plain. Just their natural sweet, briny, mineral flavor.

STEVE : Thanks for talking with us and coming up with such a clever and original idea.

We are pleased to have played a small role in the development and introduction of "Your Last Meal."  It represents the synergy and potential of a passion channeled by a skilled broadcaster.  That is a winning combination.  

Listen to the podcast here

I will be speaking at Radio Ink's upcoming Forecast conference about Digital Audio: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Audio Business

I will be speaking at Radio Ink's upcoming Forecast conference about Digital Audio: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Audio Business




Six Tips To Turn Stations Into Podcast Specialists

This appeared in the October 25, 2017 edition of Inside Radio:


Podcasting is blowing up and radio stations are eager to exploit the growing space. After all, who knows audio better than radio programmers? But extending a brand to a new platform requires presenting the content differently—what works on one may not translate to the other, as one expert stresses.

Amplifi Media founder Steve Goldstein presented the “Six Ways Podcasts Are Different From Radio” last week at the NAB Show New York, in partnership with the New York State Broadcasters Association:

  • Radio Leans Back, Podcasts Lean Forward. Radio basically does all the work for you, from interviewing guests to curating a unique music mix. People have to actively seek out podcasts. “No one will hear the podcast unless they opt in and find it,” Goldstein said. “There is that friction in having to go find the audio somewhere.”
  • Radio Is Joined In Progress, Podcasts Start At The Beginning. “With podcasts, everyone begins at the same place. In that sense it’s a lot more like television,” Goldstein said.
  • Radio Has To Immediately Attract Attention, Podcasts Are Appointment Listening. With radio it’s, ‘be compelling right away or send the audience down the dial.’ Podcasts are destination programming on a topic of interest to the person who went through the hassle of having to download it.
  • Radio Is Mass Appeal, Podcasts Are Narrowcasting. Radio’s mission is to aggregate as large an audience as possible. Podcasting is much more narrow in appeal. “Podcast topics are not designed to hit home runs but a great health and wellness podcast intended for a specific audience can amass great success—without having to shoot the moon,” Goldstein said.
  • Radio Content Is Perishable, Podcasts Live On. After it airs, broadcast content disappears into the ether while podcasts remain available for consumption. “That’s also the downside. It’s always available—among all the other hundreds and thousands of shows.”
  • Radio’s Always On; Podcasts Have Start, Stop And Delete Buttons. Broadcast radio can either be tuned in or tuned out but podcasts have more playback options, such as pausing the content and re-starting it.

Hometown Podcasts That Hit Home Runs


Goldstein also used his presentation to highlight a handful of radio personalities he thinks are hitting it out of the park with their podcasts. Among them are “The Tom Barnard Podcast,” hosted by the top-rated Minneapolis morning man, who’s heard on Cumulus Media classic rock “KQ92” KQRS. Then there’s “Your Last Meal with Rachel Belle,” featuring the KIRO-FM Seattle host interviewing stars about what their last meal would be. Belle then does a deep dive on the dish’s origins, preparation and cultural influence. WTOP-FM Washington, DC’s “Capital Culture” explores DC life beyond politics and traffic. Premiere Networks-syndicated morning man Bobby Bones’ “BobbyCast” offers in-depth interviews with country music makers. And at rocker KISW Seattle, morning man BJ Shea’s “Geek Nation” explores tech while “An Acquired Taste” by “Elvis Duran & The Morning Show” cohost Bethany Watson talks about women’s issues in a light and fun way.

Also, “Enough About Me With Kirk Minihane” gives the WEEI-FM Boston morning show cohost an opportunity to stretch out on topics and with guests in a way he can’t within the confines of morning sports radio. “I wanted to talk with people long-form in a way I couldn’t do on the radio show,” Minihane told Goldstein in a video played at the conference. The biweekly podcast averages 50,000-60,000 downloads but sometimes spikes over 100,000. Minihane says it’s helping turn a younger audience on to the morning radio show. “When something spikes, whether I get into a fight with somebody or I have a big guest, you can definitely feel it,” he said. “We had Lenny Dykstra from the Mets on and we went back and forth screaming at each other for 10 minutes,” Minihane added. The station played it the next day on the morning show to cross-promote the podcast. “When they’re good, we play them and promote them,” Minihane said.

Several of these examples illustrate what Goldstein sees as radio’s golden podcast opportunity: local podcasts. “Local is the missing component in podcasting today,” he said. “Radio is very well equipped to do local podcasts—both public and commercial radio.”

By Paul Heine.

Originally appeared 10/25/17 Inside Radio. Reprinted with permission.   Read it here