Why Many Radio Station Podcasts Underperform
One of the reasons commercial radio stations seem to have difficulty leveraging successful podcasts is because of basic architectural differences between podcasts and broadcasts.
Radio programmers have been schooled to maximize ratings with formatics designed to keep people engaged for multiple quarter hours of listening, while podcasts are generally built for longer listening and deeper-dives.
For the most part, commercial radio is format-based. People join their Top 40, Classic Rock or Talk station in progress. The show is always on and people join in and drop out all day.
In describing radio station usage, someone once told me, it is like a train which people board and leave at stops along the way. Some ride for just a stop or two, some stay on longer.
Podcasts are constructed and listened to differently. The most significant variance from its radio cousin; everyone starts listening to a podcast at the beginning. In that sense, podcasts are more like TV shows with a distinct beginning, middle and end. Many are story-based, or interview or topic-driven. No matter which form, the expectation of a podcast listener is relatively clear about what they will hear as they have chosen to download and play a specific podcast.
Currently, most podcast audio from radio stations is time-shifted from on-air, and while this makes sense, it is where broadcasters often get stuck. They take a four-hour radio show, strip out the music and commercials and post several hours of audio, leaving it to listeners to do their own curation.
Generally, "seek-stop-seek-stop" is a bad experience and too much work for anyone but the most enthusiastic fan. In this instant gratification world, it is a lot of work and almost always an unrewarding quest.
Don't misread. There is an important and viable market for time-shifted content. The average radio listener misses 80% of their favorite morning or talk show each day. But lazily slapping it up on the internet in long-form ignores the intrinsic difference between podcasts and commercial radio.
Just as show clips have become a vital tool for late night TV hosts, short, curated audio segments can do the same for radio.
Do the work for the listener.
This post originally ran on All Access as part of my AM/FM/PODCAST series.